HOW CLOSE TO DEATH LOVE LEADS US

David Meltzer’s death bus came and got me on the edge of a microkingdom I’d been

sharking since spring, when Berkson’s owl bus broke down in the casino

parking lot, crushing a mechanic named Ted Greenwald who was under it

on a wheeled surfboard with Ornette Coleman’s Hasbro saxophone, once choked

at the Maraschino Moon, for banksters in beatnik drag

and sped me to a wood

of tarblack glitter trees, and the breath of sewage wolves

loitered on the high-voltage wire round a white patent plant

called Triton’s Dice, where top-secret heart attacks were flipped

with melted Humboldt Fog cheeze dip, and the steamed goggles of Resistance

pilots built up in the corner like some conceptual raw ramp from a root

canal in the Reagan years, and I had to relearn

everything: how to walk

the walk, talk the talk, balk the balk, ball socks, balsamic Glock cocked,

splitter clocked, wetlands flocked—jumper with the belled Venice

wind gel: like what the clouds use to look cool,

zippers up the ass at black leather scuba school: And the visor on the bus said

MELTZER IS DEAD / flash / DRINK MELTZUH SELTZUH

and the busdriver could recite every line of Belinda Grimsley Nruké, the ghost

of poets past, and every Blake couplet in Blake’s falsetto: a stripling

in lightning! And she (the busdriver) was dressed as Ted Greenwald

when he was crushed, in grease monkey scrubs with a patch

of dry blood and a white patch snared in red thread showing a serpent

swallowing—a cactus? or was it my own head, with its whiskey core

hyperalert to brassieres trembling on other thorns in the spotlight

where the Little Prince moonwalks, where the artist formerly known as Prince

sows doorbells in Desert Storm in a matador’s jacket cut entirely

from hula hoops—and I caught the coyote through icicles

of thirty, no, fifty winters on Grant—the bars changing color and falling off,

poets dying back into their trunks and coyotes too lightning-fast to scar

blinking eyes, ice crosswalks w/ ticket stubs brushed in: Meltzer’s

“biodegradable prose scraps” . . . I found his vented sun hat leaning on a tree

whose roots went dead, print thickening to sap

on telescopes so long you’ve gotta wave.

He would’ve dug this “Einstine Nutcracker” Oona drew. Why is my writing hand

pins and needles? The heat’s on high, sleet at the window

I ignore work, look for the other shoe

in all the wrong laces

I’ve even got the wrong ace up my sleeve: The ace of pretending

not to care replaces the one of pretending to know. I care so much it hurts

and it shows. No more poker face and no more ripping off the farmers

with their selfie hoes. Every blade of hay in this barn is Meltzer telescope,

every Hollywood sunray dances on his sneaker toe—every rib in the carcass

of the gone world sparkles with Meltzer breath spitshined by Meltzer sleeve

motheaten coffee Orion, the pythons of Mulholland rocketing coal cabs the

veil of the forest fire running like dot matrix, I call Topanga

Canyon Berman Canyon you can walk on the tips of scratches on vinyl

there you can feel it through yr soles how Lester Young broke a yolk,

hipsters rare as ghosts—are the hipsters, ghosts! speaking fluent bop to nut trees,

7-11 yellow cake plutonium hershey bar uranium red pistachio tube

straw bags are trying to break into our kitchen while clouds at the peep hole

break it to the mountain, and all the $olid drags on the Grapevine—your “affable creep”

whose cackle swings radio vines over timelines—only ground

your deepdown frequencies. Hey David! it’s a hipster’s life for me!

(“I liked how they dressed.”)

 

​​My father was a clown

​​my mother a harpist.

​​We do not forget

​​how close to death love leads us.

 

. . . Where were we? just outside the San Onofre nuclear reactor, not carrying

nuttin but a turkey sub, mushy tomato fattened in bank lobby, way-too-big

Ray Bans, staples rusting in Ragas, dandelion in drought grass

my daughter’s Christmas telescope (red) picks up

white cells in the vein to the stacks: Are they burning tweed?

Cold coffee in a thermos from yesterday, as it steamed

we were meant to split it, I sip it black

waiting for the hawk . . . kill my phone. Limits of Control

taught me how

to go italic in a dive, the heart of Power warms the skin of fantasy . . .

We’re all making this up together, as we go along. Authority? right,

the author, the one who gets to make up the story. It’s going to be

a happy ending, too, because one thousand chipmunks went into making

Orson Welles. If not more. And Huey Newton once nocked a latte out of my hand

at the Med. I knew an astrophysicist who left a blonde hair

on Jakob Dylan’s breakfast special. I had a neighbor once

who was a deepsea hairdresser. The royal photon taster will see you now. Rain leaves

pops and hisses on the tree across the street, falling lightly

through a sky that shares its color, while wire mesh

on that chimney there, imitates an oscillation

on Ava’s phone.

David’s dead, so’s . . . so’s . . . They cremated him. So’s Broughton.

So’s Patchen. Sleepers Awake.

*

(Title and italic stanza from the Coda of David Meltzer’s The Eyes, The Blood,1973)