Like MacArthur to the Philippines, so I from Arkansas and Mobile have returned. Good times were had by all, if not all at the same time. However, besides fun with family, the prevailing theme of the week was heat. Oppressive, stultifying heat.
Therefore, instead of regaling you with anecdotes involving nephews and nieces, brothers and sisters-in-law, I have decided to mine my writing for pertinent nuggets and to post them apropos of both this blog and the inferno outdoors.
So come inside. Cool off. Enjoy a lemonade or an ice cold ale (you Englanders feel free to suffer your room temperature brews, we less pretentious Yanks will settle for refreshment.)
I hope you enjoy these snippets . . .
Here comes the sot making his ambling way
Down the horseshit cobble of
On saxophone, Max plays requests. I request
Otis Redding and quaint information
To do with the barges on the river—
Going where? Carrying what? Now the sot
Would like a smoke. So light me now, my friend.
She’s hot like hell today, yes, no, perhaps?
Yes, no, perhaps-- time will tell how hot
Hell gets as compared to the horseshit cobble
The efflorescence of May entreats the eye--
Celosia red-hot and pink begonia.
Christ of Mercy potting a row of impatiens.
We’ll see you amidst the mercenary summer
Waves of flame. And tolerate the gathering
Of us in the shadows of the Ozarks.
(from "Christ of the Ozarks")
How loudly picturesque, though,
The house whose death
Comes blazing hot and fast, whose
Recognizable rooms are soon cinder
For the lungs of family and neighbors--
And charred stovetops. The house
Dies long before the fire. The fire
Continues to gnaw and spit after rafters
Collapse into basements.
The fire becomes what is alive. A life
To itself. It burns to burn, to live
In this moment.
(from "Death of a Fire")
We take whiskey neat from coffee mugs
and talk about the war. Neat for want
of ice in the freezer, talk for want
of scratch to bet on our greyhound,
Jesusacomin, who’s four-to-one
at the matinee. “Hell, it’s hot today,”
I say, “think what it must be over there.”
Meaning where the war is, not the racetrack.
Joe says, “I know that’s right.”
No power for three weeks, Joe sits
on a porch that’s sinking prow-first
into a flotsam of empties and earthworms.
The mosquitoes, when you smack them,
smear red and black and somehow green.
Joe just let’s them suck.
He pats his bare, sweating, pelt
of a chest for the pack of Camels
in the pocket of the shirt at his feet.
(from “The Matinee)
Brandy and cream sauce
In lieu of marinara.
Heart heavy, bowels seditious
To my cause. A pasta malaise
Seeks shelter from July swelter
Night in middle Alabama—soggy
As she ever is after tickling
100° Fahrenheit all day
With a goose feather and a view
To collide with a front
From the Gulf of Mexico
No matter that I’m trying,
To get sober.
(from “Poor Robin Crusoe”)
the first of June with sunrise-
Eyes and raisin bran. Today will be hot.
Though not as hot as it could be.
Beginning with the horoscope, she reads
The morning news. Today will be full
Of fortunate meetings. That said,
She had better stay inside.
(from “Second of June”)
Four hours ago, the air outside was almost cool. Now, as I step through the automatic glass doors, the glare and heat of the sun is oppressive. My eyes ache and blink for several seconds. Despite being somewhat blinded, I can tell there is no one sitting by the fountain out front where I expected to find my wife in assignation with her “last pack” of cigarettes. There is, in fact, no one outside at all. The parking lot is half-full with cars and SUVs. The heat wavers on the hoods and roofs.
I can smell smoke. Delicious cigarette smoke from somewhere. Most people, when they quit smoking, say they don’t like being around smokers. They say it is too tempting. Not me. Give me a passel of smokers, circle ‘em up, and I’ll pirouette with a torched Zippo. And it’s not nostalgia, no maudlin psycho-grab for the glory days. The things just smell good to me is all. I walk around the side of the building, following, as they say, my nose.
Fifty yards away, Linda is crying beside a roaring air-conditioning unit. Her hair flows skyward, swooshed by the fan. Not weeping, just barely crying. Like with her eye-rolls, I don’t need to see to know. It’s in the way her left hand cups her mouth and her right arm crosses her diaphragm under her breasts. Her cigarette still smolders in the mulch at her feet. I inhale deeply, savoring the aromatic burn of bark and tobacco, and start to approach her.
The four kids don’t seem to care about the July heat. It does tricks on the pavement like Bugs Bunny in the desert looking for an oasis. Summer is supposed to be hot. That’s why there are Slurpies and Otter Pops and pools at the Y. And shorts and tank tops and flip-flops.
“What’s an oasis,” Nathan had once asked Simon.
“Something in the desert that’s a mirage.”
“What’s a mirage.”
“An oasis that teases you.” Nathan can tell that Simon likes to be smart, knowing stuff like that. It makes him feel old and Nathan likes the way it made Simon be nice to him, so sometimes he asked about stuff he already knew about.
(from “Wet Cement”)
Leonard was already awake and came bounding from the tree-line where George’s property backed up to the swampy woods beyond. In the summer, the bugs were out of this world. Mosquitoes like hornets. Midges like a Moses plague. The air itself was a sauna except it smelled of brine and musk. Leonard joined George by the mailbox, his cougary face like a pin-cushion, full of barbed quills.
The cat purred, deep and throaty. Get, said George, showing the tom his bare foot. Leonard cut George a feral leer and bounded back into the woods. Probably to come back smelling of skunk in an hour, George thought. He picked up the paper and shimmied it out of the plastic. He held it to his nose and took a long sniff. Looking back at his trailer, he saw Venus low against a cobalt sky. He said, Morning Star, out loud for the sake of practice and went back to drink coffee and read yesterday’s happenings.
At ten o’clock, he left for work. On the way out, he put a red-delicious in his pocket. The screen door alerted his mother of his desertion and she squealed, Funnel cake! just as he walked out. Leonard came bounding from the woods, smelling of skunk.
(from “Yesterday’s Happenings")