The Poet


He was tall, maybe six feet, maybe more.  It was hard to tell because he crooked at the waist and tilted his head to the left when he spoke to people.  This was due to nervousness, a type of dis-ease that also affected his hands.  He shook them when he spoke. His head reflected all light:  inside, outside, in the black auditorium under the yellow lights.  He was like a one-eyed bandit in the night.  His head bent any light back out into the atmosphere.  Yellow light, white light, blue light, red light, sun light, moon light, even star light and the fluorescents on the ceiling all beat off his egg-shaped cranium and back onto the walls, floors, chairs, pale mustard carpet.  He walked through the lobby and into the bookstore. Light refracted from his cream colored scalp; wiggling rays bounced off the black and blue and grey and white and red and purple covers of the books on the shelves that lined the walls and sprang off the pictures of famous poets that hung above.  He stepped back into the lobby and the light skipped from the top of his noggin to peoples faces, to their cheeks, their eyes, the tips of their noses and to their glasses; it ricocheted off wine bottles and soda cans until it boomeranged back to the top of his head. He was drinking Saki.

beat baby beat

He’d raise the big green bottle to his mouth, wrap his lips around it and swig the clear liquid.  I watched it travel through his esophagus glowing myrtle green. “Would you like some Saki? Here hold this.” He said.  He gave me the bottle. It sweat in my hands.  “I have to hang up the living poem. I am a living poem.  Did you know that? I am poetry. I am poet. I am.  You should write on me, play me like a typewriter. I am words. I am poem.” He said.  He went outside with the living poem and since I had his sake, I followed.  I watched him tape the living poem on the wall outside of the lobby.  He stood, arms crossed, waiting for the poem to wake up. He wrote on the poem, it is I, who has stood, arms crossed, waiting for you to wake up in brown chalk.  He turned and grabbed his Sake from me.  “See what I mean?” he pointed toward the living poem.  “Would you like a sip of Sake? ” He said. “I’m from Boston via Tampa.  After 10 years I was laid off and I said to myself, ‘self, it is time to move to California.’  So I did and I have and now I live on Sepulveda.  I sold my car and ride my bike. I use public transportation.  I take the bus. I found the train. I peddled here tonight. I brought this bottle of sake to share with poets.  Would you like a sip? You’re a poet, would you like a sip?” He said.  In the auditorium when Caprice, the MC, read E.E. Cummings name from the open mic list, I saw the light kaleidoscope in the dark auditorium as he moved toward the stage. He pulled a chair to the stage and stood on it.  His dome was glowing saffron. “ I’m not really E.E. Cummings.” He said. “I thank You God for most this amazing day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes.” His voice bellowed into the microphone. He jumped off the chair, THUD, and finished reciting the poem.  He danced out of the auditorium, arms flapping over his head.  As the evening came to a close he came to me in the lobby. He held up a small case letter ‘g’ taped to a piece of white cardboard. “Small case g. like a pubic hair in my soap.” He said. Then he held up an ‘x’, “X marks the spot” he said.  A capital ‘A’. “Apple of my eye, would you like to get a drink? Discuss poetry and poets and poems?  Let’s go somewhere, have a drink. Cummings, Olds, Olson, Simic, beat baby, beat, let’s go have a drink, beat, Ginsberg, Kerouac, Burroughs, meow man. Whitman, Shakespeare, Joyce, Kafka, let’s bolt, let’s imbibe.  Bukowski, Kunitz, Komunyakaa, come on.  What do you say?” He said.  His fumes were crippling. I reached in my purse for my sunglasses. “I’ll tell you about James Tate and Lyme, about John Milton and death, about alchemy and Chaucer.  Laughter is the language of the soul, you know who said that? Let’s be poets together and ingest. I’ll quote Neruda and we’ll be two writhing poems.” He unfurled his arms, ink splattered all over the walls.  “No thank you.” I said. I was polite. I smiled. He folded back into himself and swiped a full bottle of two-buck chuck from the snack table.  He walked outside, to the bike rack, unlocked his bike, tucked the wine bottle in his jacket, under his arm, mounted, pushed off and rode toward the beach.  He pulled the moon from the sky, an immense pale silver balloon pumping a 10-speed bicycle down Venice Blvd.