Poets of the Monterey Bay
Five Poems by David Allen Sullivan
It Isnt You
The car shoulders down into the gravel and grates to a stop.
You step down in front of a boarded-up fruit stand to stretch.
Snow surrounds each bent stalk as if its been dusted
for prints. In the middle distance theres a clapboard house
with an aluminum carport added on. A dogs on the porch,
head on paws, staring down the drive in the opposite direction.
You want this to be your home. The dog to answer
your voice. You want to walk into something fixed and solid.
Somewhere other than where youre going. You want to work
on the wheel-less chassis up on blocks in the carport. Go on.
The highways fence is already sagging, easily jumped.
From there another two hundred yards and youre home free.
But you shield your eyes from the sun touching the tree line
and turn back to your car. You dont even see the dog
turn its head as your door shuts and you lock it. Nor do you see
the headlights cresting the ridge and panning over the house.
Theyre home, and will soon send smoke twirling skyward.
You turn up the radio. Someone is dying of love and it isnt you.
Hiking, my living
daughters asleep on my back
weight of two worlds.
Logging roads snows so
deep Im slogging past this gnarled
pines every fissure.
Aminas head lolls
so far out I think she sees
the deer before me.
I stop. Rapt. My heart
drums so loud I fear hell hear.
Plumed breath fogs my eyes.
Im nothing to him.
He chews barkonly as wary
as he always is.
My girls mittened hand
is written in tracks that cross
leaning towards this sight.
The deers history
daughters asleep on my back
a sheer drop-off.
He takes that way back.
Should I wake her? Let her see
a deer thread the brink?
Each hoofprints smothered
I see a babys smudged feet
my stillborn daughter.
Angelitos come back as
that a dead child leaves
claw or hoof marks in strewn flour.
Let this deer be her.
hood, at the edge of my field
of vision, rises.
Theres nothing I would
not do for hernothing I
can but step wisely.
I match my outbound
strides, re-seeing every tree
through snows ghostly veil.
When a laden branch
dlets go, springing up as snow
cascades down, she points.
my cap with each stepa code
Im half mastering.
I would carry twice
her weight if I could shower
them both with this dust.
Stream ices thin crust
gives way, water soaks through boots
cold cracks and shouts out.
Before every meal
hed draw blood, fill a syringe,
enter his own skin.
It made him careful
he knew statisticsevery
day might be his end.
It made him careless
each hour a gift to squander
before the last wrap.
Reverence would descend
at the restaurant. Wed watch
the prescribed routines,
the instruments wink
into view from his black bag
so he could trick death.
Only his wife was
unfazed, her voice, like ether,
floating over us.
Bill told me once hed
sometimes mis-measure a dose
to feel the edge dull,
lifes colors bleed black . . .
Come to under someones shaking,
or the bite of a slap.
It was, he said, like
swimming down past the light to
a breathless embrace,
knowing that someday
the lover you flirted with
wouldnt let you go.
A can of self-defense pepper spray says it may
irritate the eyes, while a bathroom heater says its
not to be used in bathrooms. I collect warnings
the way I used to collect philosophy quotes.
Wittgensteins Theres no such thing
as clear milk rubs shoulders with a box
of rat poison which has been found
to cause cancer in laboratory mice.
Levinas Language is a battering ram
a sign that says the very fact of saying,
is as inscrutable as the laser pointers advice:
Do not look into laser with remaining eye.
Last week I boxed up the solemn row
of philosophy tomes and carted them down
to the used bookstore. The dolly read:
Not to be used to transport humans.
Did lawyers insist that the 13-inch wheel
on the wheelbarrow proclaim its
not intended for highway use? Or that the
Curling iron is for external use only?
Abram says that realists render material
to give the reader the illusion of the ordinary.
What would he make of Shin pads cannot protect
any part of the body they do not cover?
I load boxes of books onto the counter. Flip
to a yellow-highlighted passage in Aristotle:
Whiteness which lasts for a long time is no whiter
than whiteness which lasts only a day.
A.A.ers talk about the blinding glare
of the obvious: Objects in the mirror
are actually behind you, Electric cattle prod
only to be used on animals, Warning: Knives are sharp.
What would I have done without: Remove infant
before folding for storage, Do not use hair dryer
while sleeping, Eating pet rocks may lead to broken
teeth, Do not use deodorant intimately?
Goodbye to all those sentences that sought
to puncture the illusory worldlike the warning
on the polyester Halloween outfit for my son:
Batman costume will not enable you to fly.
You do not have to choose the bruised peach
or misshapen pepper others pass over.
You dont have to bury
your grandmothers keys underneath
her camellia bush as the will states.
You dont need to write a poem about
your grandfather coughing up his lung
into that plastic tubethe machines wheezing
almost masking the kvetching sisters
in their Brooklyn kitchen.
You can let the crows amaze your son
without your translation of their cries.
You can lie so long under this
summer shower your imprint
will be left when you rise.
You can be stupid and simple as a heifer.
Cook plum and apple turnovers in the nude.
Revel in the flight of birds without
dreaming of flight. Remember the taste of
raw dough in your mouth as you edged a pie.
Feel the skin on things vibrate. Attune
yourself. Close your eyes. Hum.
Each beat of the worlds pulse demands
only that you feel it. No thoughts.
Just the single syllable: Yes . . .
See the homeless woman following
the tunings of a dead composer?
She closes her eyes and sways
with the subways. Follow her down,
inside, where the singing resides.