There is a painting, somewhere, of a lone man in a black suit and bowler hat. Standing in a sea of grey. Back turned. Head cocked sideways, and down. Looking for something.
it was in the impressionism wing of Joslyn. Or SFMOMA. Or maybe you
dreamed it up when you felt alone. Painting it up out of words. Adrift
(one of those “a”-prefixed words crossword puzzles overuse, your father says).
At sea. Like Ocean Beach west of Twin Peaks.
But now here you stand. Faceless, nameless, confused -- and looking for carp.
smoke drifting over four states of mountain ranges erases close and
familiar peaks, and for the day, you are on the hazy plains. Standing in
the mealy water of autumn, after a hot season boiled over. There are
still a few days left though. A few days left of sun that pounds its
fists down, burning your nose, fading your cap, bleaching streaks into
your hair that your mother got with lemon juice in high school.
ploofs of reservoir mud lead the way. Atomic eruptions of what you’ve
done wrong. Of where you haven’t cast or waded quietly enough. Muck
grabs your boots, fingers your calves, makes you trip. Cleaning off your
glasses, all you’re left to do is wait for the water to calm and for
cruisers you can see. Shadows of movement. Nebulous clouds, mirroring
what’s above. In the meantime you cast to tires, reflections, wallowing
Show yourself, dammit...you hear over the planes dropping voluntary people out their side-doors.
Looking up -- that ain’t for real -- you remember. Because it’s daylight, he says...we always jumped at night.
Which also reminds you -- you’re not in that painting.
You’re not a lone man in a suit and bowler. And you’ve always wondered
what’s outside the frame, anyway. Because you know there’s more. You’ve
seen the process of Story -- the photograph to canvas; conversation to
page; fish to rise. And you know there is a lot left unseen, told,
hooked. So perhaps -- perhaps there was another figure in that sea, too.
Another someone standing, looking down. Because before The Lettermen it
was Donne who penned those lines about men and islands. Perhaps you
can’t see see them, still fighting their own way up from underwater. And
you worry, because you need them to. You need them to show themselves.
then again, sometimes what you need is someone standing close by your
side, whispering in your ear that you can do it -- that this fish is