from Rocket Fantastic
April 19, 2013
Apr 19, 2013
Author’s note: These poems are from a large-scale work called Rocket Fantastic. There are, at present, three “speakers” in the manuscript: a young man who is deployed in a jungle war in the late 60’s, his sister who is living in the Hollywood Hills, and the bandleader with whom she has become involved (and whose band is called Rocket Fantastic). I’m not sure how it will turn all out but there’s something in the variation of voices and the way pieces manage to live in a kind of mystery that resists clear narrative while still telling a story that feels intimate and deeply challenging for me as a writer. And that's all I want from my work: to push me to a place where failure is always possible and sometimes really wonderful things occur that transform me.
MAY 5, 1968
Tommye doesn’t care much about the stars, Little Sis.
Though sometimes he’ll play along just to humor me
Or help me if the night gets too quiet or too long.
The nights get long out here differently than they do
Back home. I mean, it’s not like I never lay awake back
There but here I’m either staring at the roof of the tent
Or waiting on patrol somewhere. The waiting’s
The part I hate the most and it’s worst out in the fields
And near the hedgerow. I know it’s supposed to hide
Us but it feels like anything could be in there.
Like that dare we used to do where we’d go outside
The tent and go out from where the campers slept
To the edge of the woods or to some dark part
And turn our backs and wait. I don’t even know
What we were waiting for back then but the sounds
Would send us running back to the tent and it was frightening
But fun. Last week we were out there in the dark
And I tried to pretend I was just up against the trees
Back home. I could wait a lot longer back there, I’ll tell
You that right now. I used to run after I heard the first
Footsteps and remember that one time we thought we heard
A bear and I just hit the ground? Didn’t even run with the two
Of you, just dropped. You don’t even know
What you’re hearing out here, the hedgerow makes
A totally different sound. Tommye says that’s BS
That one branch cracks just like another but I’ve seen
Him scared and I know he’s scared because that’s when
He tells me not to run. He says, “Don’t you fucking
Run.” Where would I go? It’s not like home
Where one darkness is better than another. Am I making
Any sense? Here’s another way to say it, some nights
We’re out along the hedgerow and it gets so quiet
You can hear the new guys start to cry and Tommye’ll
Say, “Hey, Pasadena knows a shit ton about stars. Tell
Us about the stars Pasadena.” And it’s just to get the kids
To look up and not because he’s interested really
But that’s okay. You won’t understand but it is.
I try to feel it He says, Just breathe I breathe in
I try to feel it He says, It’s not so hard. Just smile a bit. I try.
It’s a problem. He says, You have a problem with joy. And he’s right.
I have a problem with joy. It makes no sense to him. I mean we’re here in the mountains.
We’re hours from town. He says, You said you just needed to get away. I try.
I try to feel it. Last night we went for a walk. I tried to feel it.
He said, Tell me about stars, Pasadena (sometimes he calls me that)
I try to think it’s funny. I said, You’ve never even been to Pasadena. It made him sullen,
He said, Why the fuck did we come? I said I’d try
We’re hours from town. I just need to get away We try.
He says, Pasadena, you’re a fucking drag. I say, Don’t call me that. You’ve never even been there.
He says, It’s a nickname. You say you want it to be different. It’s true. I want it to be different.
Before we left, I found him in the pool I breathed in and watched him with the girls
til he looked up and said, Come here. I tried I made it down the steps
Just as Jasper surfaced I said, I need to get away.
Jasper said, This is isn’t Pasadena. I know. I wasn’t even mad.
We’ve shared all sorts of things. And he’s right. Everything’s worth a try.
Before we left, I found him in the pool. I said, I need to get away
Just as Jasper surfaced. I breathed in. I thought, You are not in Pasadena
I wasn’t even mad. Everything’s worth a try. He said, It’s not so hard, just smile a bit
He said, You say you want it to be different. I tried to feel it
I make no sense to him. He said, Just breathe.
And he’s right. Tell me about the stars. You’ve never been to Pasadena.
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April 19, 2013