Mental flotsam: a singsong poem on the Mayne Island ferry

Foam, foam, light green foam
Swirly, twirly patterns of foam
Never mind the words of this poem
Swirly, twirly, patters of foam

Rushy, mushy, flows the wake
Nothing to leave and all to take, this
Poem is like an applesauce cake
Rushy, mushy flows the wake

The gulls are turning, the terns are going
Two wide ‘round my head
I’m surely having and slowly knowing
To live the things I’ve said.

If ever there was a reason to live
Surely it must be
The way we feel and the way we love
From far across the sea

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Overpass

Overpass

Drifting awake . . .

Below, the sound of rushing vehicles — the din of traffic that never ends

Poison gases spew from their exhaust,
Swirling upward to where I’m anchored,
Clinging to the underside of the overpass above the freeway

The days blend together — how long have I been here?
Days? Weeks? Years?
I don’t know

A tiny piece of dirt, the size of a kernel of corn
That’s what I am this time around
Stuck to the underside of the overpass

Long ago on that cold and rainy night,
Thrown upward from the mudflap on that speeding truck
Attached now to the concrete piling
On the underside of the overpass

Powerless to move or communicate or influence my environment in any way
Condemned to endure endless days of passing traffic
And poison gases swirling upward from the exhaust

An endless, unpredictable cycle of reincarnation:
At one time you are a human being, another time a tiny piece of dirt
The size of a kernel of corn
Stuck to the underside of the overpass

Pure consciousness, traveling from host to host
Staying only as long as the fates will allow
And then forced to move on

Unable to control my own destiny
Forced to endure the arid summers and frozen winters
Stuck to the underside of the overpass

Hope? There is no hope
There is only yielding to the void
Accepting the fate you are given

There is no memory of lives past,
No knowledge of lives future

Just the traveling consciousness
Embedded in a tiny piece of dirt
The size of a kernel of corn
Now stuck to the underside of the overpass


Leslie Field, 2006

 

 

A Bug Story

A Bug Story

A wet fall morning in Southern Oregon, Joan went out to her ’64 Beetle, heading to town. She sat and warmed up her car as she always does, waiting for the condensation to lift from the windows.

Joan is one of those Gentle Souls who lives her beliefs by example. She and The Beetle have been a team for many years and are identified by the locals with each other; Joan and The Bug, The Bug and Joan.

Joan shifted into first and cautiously pulled into traffic. She reached down to upshift but was met with unexpected resistance from the transmission. “C’mon,” she heard a voice say in her mind’s ear. No movement from the gearshift. “C’mon, we have An Arrangement.” Startled, Joan didn’t know what to make of this. “Uh-uh,” she heard another voice say impishly, from the floor of the car.

[“Who’s the first voice?” Joan asked of Narrator. Narrator replied, “Oh, that’s just Other Side Joan.” “And the second?” “That’s Second Gear, or 2G, as the other Gears call him.”]

“You’ll be SORRY,” OSJ said, more ominously.

“Can’t make me,” 2G said in a childish voice.

[“Narrator,” This Side Joan said, “what’s happening here? I thought you said I’m a Gentle Soul.” “You are,” Narrator replied, “but I’m the one telling The Story. Be patient and try to keep up.”]

Just then, TSJ’s fingernails glowed an Electric Blue, scaring her. In an instant ten blue bolts of energy shot from her fingertips to The Shiftknob. The car popped into Second Gear. TSJ’s fingernails were again their natural colour. A smell of ozone hung in the air, like after lightning.

She thought heard 2G quietly sulk, “you really didn’t need to do that; I would have shifted eventually.” But OSJ was silent, having returned to The Other Side.

“They’re never going to believe this at The Library,” Joan thought, as she motored toward Ashland.

He Was a Small Simian Man

He was a small simian man, a sorry excuse for a warrior. Used to crouching when he walked, weary from the chase, wary to face another foe.

Emerging from the rubble that passed for shelter, his stubbled cheeks lined with a wealth of terrors.

The war had begun before he was born and never had much meaning for him. He had been told to fight but not why and now all those who had told him were dead.

On the run, chasing and being chased, his mind could not let him rest.

The final encounter could come from anywhere — a sniper in the burned-out building ahead, the wild dogs who prowled the streets and could sniff out anyone sleeping rough, or the disease that had taken so many others.

Hungry for food, he clambered up the side of an abandoned truck but it teetered toward him and rolled over, the steel hulk pinning his legs. Unable to move, afraid to cry out, darkness closed upon him from without and from within.

When they found him weeks later they could only wonder how he’d not known the conflict had ended a year ago.

Cherry tomatoes and irises, August 2010

Gail has gone away for a bridge tournament in Seattle for a week and has asked me to look after her garden. I am quite happy to do so. Her harvests are starting to come in: she just took down the ten-foot-tall bower of yellow beans. The kale is colourful and tasty and the cherry tomatoes are in great abundance.

Sunday I stepped quietly out into the garden and looked up at the blue sky. Placed in it were big fluffy clouds.

BIG.

FLUFFY.

CLOUDS.

They seemed to be sitting stock still but they were not. I looked away for just a moment and when I looked back someone had moved them.

I stood very still myself and took in the view all around me. I slipped a ripe cherry tomato into my mouth and bit into it. Yumm. A calliope hummingbird flew down to the clothesline just a couple of feet above my head. We eyed each other easily. After a couple of minutes she was joined by a male. He perched beside her for several moments with his bill slightly open — almost as if he were speaking. Then at an agreed-upon microsecond both flitted away, dive bombing each other above the garage.

It was early afternoon and I looked down at the iris at my feet. I then had one of those experiences I have described before, where the mind is taken by some cue (a smell, a sound, or in this case a particular colour of light) back to a time and place far removed. I was in my mother’s side yard in midsummer before I started kindergarten; I was looking at her iris plant in the summer sunshine. Nothing happened then, no big event. Just a comfortable feeling in the garden, my mother and my baby sister inside the house. But of course that’s it, isn’t? A time of peace and reassurance without worry or complication. The “happy place” we all need to return to from time to time. I don’t remember revisiting that iris before but I now know I can whenever I need to.

And now back to the present . . .

 

 

A Few Words With the Sea

A Few Words With the Sea

I walked down the steps to talk with the Sea.

“Sea,” I said, “I know you can’t hear me but I marvel about how you keep up your multi-layered rushing day-after-day, year-after-year impressing us for time immemorial. I . . . ”

“Hold it right there, Sparky. What is this “day” you speak of, or “year” for that matter. And do you really think I do this for your benefit? Ha! I’m the Sea. It’s what I DO! If I didn’t I wouldn’t be the Sea then, now would I? Tell ya what, Nimrod. Here’s how it works. Winds and Storms and most importantly the Tides ( lunar and solar) move water across my being culminating in the waves you claim to see. Yeah, what you claim to see; I don’t have eyes, you know.”

And I said, “But I just KNOW you sent that big wave up onto the beach to re-instill a sense of wonder and awe and humbleness in me.”

Said the Sea, “Hah! Hey, King Biscuit! Who made YOU the centre of the Universe? Oh, yeah. YOU did, Chowderhead. Talk about self-important! Do you really think I have any time to worry how you’re going to react to a single wave in Crab Bait, Oregon (or whatever you call it), I’ve got a full time job just trying to keep it together. What with the continuous heartburn from that undersea volcano in Hawaii or that typhoon in Indonesia (boy, did things ever get out of hand there!) I can’t be bothered with a little speck like you and what he thinks. I don’t care what you think. Remember, I don’t have eyes. I can’t see you. You mean nothing to me. I have no awareness of who’s on the beach (no eyes, remember?) and frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. And now if you’ll excuse me I have more important work to do.

With that, the Sea fell silent and I stood there, staring into the receding surf.

All of a sudden a giant wave reared up and came crashing down on me. It shouted, “He-e-e-re’s one with you name on it, Gomer!”

Totally drenched, I screamed into the surf, “I thought you couldn’t see us and didn’t play favourites!”

“I LIED!” screamed the Sea, giggling mirthfully.

Dogs and Dreams

Howie Foutch, mid-1950’s

Dogs and Dreams

I met Howie Foutch in elementary school. Freckles. Didn’t wear glasses (I did). His short hair going off in all directions. School picture with his mouth open.

His mother’s name was Beulah Foutch. A plain woman, Beulah Foutch. Howie’s older brother’s name was Al. I never knew his dad’s name. Howie and Beulah went to our church.

I remember going to a baseball practice in 1954. I was 9. Al was practicing with some other kids, all of them older than me. Al came up to bat. On the first pitch he hit the ball hard enough to smack the wall of the school next to the field. I thought he was really good and I wished I could be like him.

We went to Howie’s house. His dog had just had pups. We adopted one. Named him “Boots”. He was mongrel with white feet, just like me.

As we raised him he became my best friend (I had nobody else that close to me).

Over the next year, Boots grew big. He had his own schedule and would wander around the neighbourhood. One day he came home with a note tied ‘round his neck. “Your dog has impregnated my prize poodle. You must keep him under control.” Asked my mother what “impregnated” meant. She was flustered but said, “It’s where babies come from.” I said nothing; I was confused.

Middle of summer. 1957. One afternoon I noticed that Boots was not around. For several days I waited for him to come back. Boots’ friend, “Buster” was seen regularly but no Boots.

Accordion lessons at our house with Millie Crimm.

[Three years before, my parents enrolled my sister and me at the Stancato School of Accordion. My sister hated it; I did not: I could now make music all by myself.]

Back to 1957. Millie Crimm and the accordion. During a lesson, my mother got a phone call. She put down the phone with a look on her face. “They found Boots.” That’s all she said but I knew Boots was dead. I put down the accordion as the tears fell from my face and I ran to my room. I would later learn he had been hit by a car.

A few months later, Howie’s brother Al and his dad were killed in a car accident.

*  *  *

A dream. We had raspberry bushes down below the house. It was a hot summer afternoon. I could smell the tall grass. Boots was there, entangled in a wire fence. As I reached out to free him my arms became shorter and Boots receded into the distance.

*  *  *

A sense of loss. All things are transitory. Nothing remains the same. “Stop!”, I shouted. “Just stop it!” When I realized that nothing would stop “it” and I would never know everything or go to all the places I should go or meet all the people I should meet, I retreated into myself. “If I hide maybe it will stop”. Further into in. And it didn’t stop. It couldn’t stop, no matter how much I might retreat, no matter how much I self-isolated.

*  *  *

The dream. The dream again. This time, though, it is me who is entangled in the fence, lashed to the wires. There is no one to free me. The tall grass is fragrant but I fear it’s going to catch fire.  The more I struggle, the more entangled I become. “Must get free. Must get away from here before . . .  Before what? I don’t know. Must get away.” I make myself very small and escape from the fence. But then I realize I can’t make myself big again.

*  *  *
I stayed  isolated.
I disconnected.
If I didn’t socialize others I couldn’t be hurt.
That was who is was well into adulthood
.

*  *  *

Many decades later, my sister would tell me to come with her to Oregon. It was finally Time. There at Newport I found the ropes that were restraining me loosening. I made friends. I learned that I needn’t fear interacting with others. I found I could love and be loved.

*  *  *

Another dream. I am outdoors. Outdoors on a beach. Nye Beach at Newport, Oregon. I stand tall on the beach, my former restraints resting on the wet sand beside me. I have found myself. The ropes move away on their own, skittering across the beach, receding into the distance. We no longer need each other.

Walking on the beach, smiling and singing into the ocean breeze. Free, free at last, wondering what Howie is doing today . . .

And this dream is true.