Big Daddy Ross wakes me at six
saying he has moved to Utah as they
tear down Huntington Pier
and the kids change.
No time now for the fine graphic trance
that transformed street machines
into rods that ran like pure combustion
but were better seen as something else
simple street icons
first signs of a time just outside the law
but just, not yet
the Crips or the Bloods or
the Insane Popes
driving stolen cars
past rival members’ homes at night
spitting a rage of automatic rounds
a porch pocked with foreign eyes
speaking a different language.
We were street legal he says
and discontent sure but satisfied
with cruising down Mains and back up
side streets, to yell
sweet nothings across intersections
at overloaded stationwagons
full of light
smooth faces framed in helmets
of gossamer hair the color
and touch of cotton candy.
But nothing crude
when real was what came at us
and somehow unknown had not yet been lost.
Rat Fink and the crazed monsters
of someone else’s youth
now distemper my radio
at six in the morning.
A voice too rough and far off
driving no rod but a beat up Buick
he says across the Utah wastelands
as the T shirt business booms
into its own strange industry
a crack in the engine head of freedom
a quiet semi-retirement
somewhere away from the sweet salt air
the staff of artists cloned to three
Rat Finks across the country
interlinked by phones and monitors
breeding fast like desert rats
beneath a network of inner-city streets.
They are tearing down Huntington Pier
(and now too, or then,
Ken Kesey is driving his bus
across the Great American Desert
to the Smithsonian) and
Rat Fink’s teeth
gleam like polished bumpers
or replicas on model kits that still sell well
to New Age kids for whom age is the problem
soon to be men in their forties waiting
for Big Daddy to reappear
at 60s conventions
to relive the unlived sensations
for the artifacts, decals of lost
or misplaced moments
in nicely patterned but unremembered
lives. Tearing down Huntington Pier
and escaping to the desert
seems the only way like suicide for some
whose lives are out of control the last
great choice to make a freedom to end
the act of making choices.
But I am growing a monstrous go-tee
in my sleep on the purple velvet
rumble seat of an awkward age
just before the alarm goes off at six
and I must shake this ball & chain,
this unhooked anchor rusted
deep in the green kelp of my memories
of Huntington Pier, pulling myself up
into the new day to stand on the flat of time
wondering after those monstrous machines
and the life edge that has not died
while the hot rods are purring quietly
waiting for the light to change.
Patpong Market, Bangkok
I buy four Armani shirts for a dollar,
three bottles of Chanel #5,
and a gold like Rolex watch
that tarnishes before I get back to the hotel.
Gifts for artificially conceived
friends I’ve promised in America.
The watch comes with real instructions.
The watchman smiles to show me
his gold teeth.
In a free market, not so much
is free, and all the world
is either a mirror or a market.
The Armani shirts bleed.
My last day in Bangkok, the sun
has a kind of worn sheen.
Welcome to the West
Leave me alone and let me go to hell by my own route.
Steer skulls made famous by O’Keeffe,
carried from gallery to gallery
on the backs of the homeless children,
who see the meaning of all things in the spiritual
rebirth of Hollywood.
The deserts come clean, wipe away the feelings
of insecurity, and release each of us
to travel, ironically, to a burning man.
No one carries a gun anymore,
except on campus. Fistfights on the screen
are the petroglyphs in the rocks of the West,
all cast out like dice on the high plain.
Hiding in the chokecherry, wild white rose,
I scurry with those rabbit friends
down the postmodernism hole to find
mezzolith and fossil.
I’ll bet my savings
against the mud flats flooding again,
or you riding into the sunset.
The bike a bit bigger
than I recall
from those 60’s movies,
bad boys cursing, drinking,
riding into the nights,
in the shadow of a coming
automatic age. Plus,
if it goes down, the world
will turn you over and
bury you in a single move.
Where you go is an afterthought
to staying upright,
moving in a hallowed direction.
A kid again on a dirt path
to school, magic air in the head,
speed’s true heroine. A drug
hidden in the frame of the machine,
a secret word that you alone know,
the nothingness blurred to distinction
by mothers, girlfriends, all those
who have forgotten
the rotation of the spheres.
The air a drug too, the road
your needle. The day
an absentminded concern,
sun’s good, but rain doesn’t
bother you. Sound a shield
around you as you move,
and, of course, you move through.
Time is the key to invisibility.
Moving through a warp
made of now and the machine’s Tao,
the bike feeds like a leopard,
leaving the sunsets bloody,
your bones clean, baked
to steel beneath a blistered skin.
You wake to speed,
to distances that only
the mind can travel,
the earth’s lane,
handwritten in a code
of the machine, a name
tattooed on the desert horizon,
the litany of red earth rising,
the planet’s future curve.
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