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The Transition

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I learned to tie my broken shoelaces in a dirt brown ground down town; the town was so poverty bound that there was not enough money to entice the city officials to contemplate embezzlement. The educational gutter system in sundown town was pathetic and ludicrous at best with little to no scholastic benefit. “The little ninety nine hungry pigeons pecking simple grammar off the walls, little hungry pigeons watching stale eraser chalk dust fall into the dirt” Graffiti written on the dismal unfinished dust blown corridors of this academia institute (what a laugh) was known as our library of congress as it contained most of the knowledge we would obtain while in attendance at this bird flu school. Each day would bring new deposits of words from little pigeons adding to the corridors of our congress some little known facts or formula from future street barons. Ninety nine pigeons bobbing rainbow painted necks in search of newly painted scripts, loud coo’s for those who posted these great unknowns, these pigeon ambassadors with fantastic little quips. Imagine flocks of pigeons never having a chance to fly, although some tried time and again they eventually found the dirt distasteful. Free form flights turned to crash and burn and broken beaks, after enough aborted flights the wingless, left with nothing but our pinkish claws, were left scratching for the little bits of fallen chalk in the dead dirt. We were the dirty little birds.

I do not hold malfeasance against these featherless elders; after all, in this town we could afford the worst of everything.  The common quote written on the walls were always the same, “If one wants to drink from the well of knowledge in this cage, one must bring ones own bowl of water to drown ones self; otherwise one dies from dirt dry inhalation. After I completed my flight simulator training on these hallo grounds, I squeezed through the chicken shit filled screen cage and walked to the nearby military recruiter. I followed the same tracks that for years were worn down from all the prior hungry pigeons. I did what I was supposed to do in wartime with red-eyed regret. After the military depleted the eraser they indiscriminately used on my soul, I created my exodus from this jungle tango, now a dying hawk who flew to low to the fires of redemption, leaving contrails of the darkness behind that I had heaved upon my enemies.  I walked away from this life. Knowing you can never disinfect the four human crying winds of war: the heart, mind, spirit and soul, for if you allow them to become dirty their almost impossible to cleanse.  These cuts run deeply down under thin skin. Down where war wounds can get very dirty, becoming embedded in the memory crevasses, past the relief of any surgical knife, past any therapist sweet dream for you, and at the time I also believed past the praying hands of the offender.  These wounds will bleed for decades and never scab, for they are indeed that part of a person which should never find blood of a brother near their hands or inflict harm on their human souls, but in the great name of war I did, and in the name of our country I did, against everything good I had ever been taught or believed in, I did, and still the military had the audacity afterwards to call this horrific tearing of soul from the spirit, an honor, and pined the medal of honor on a heartless chest. I look back at this episode in my life and wonder how could I have made this leap of faith, yet I did.

This Purple Heart pain, gains no metal from humans nor should it. Therefore, I began the next phase of life, a more peaceful life. I signed up for a writing class in Northern California at a college near the coast; I had heard a writer and teacher with words sown from gold thread taught there.  Maybe he could use his golden thread to sow close my wounds or maybe I could use the sea salt from the ocean to sanctify these wounds of war, and possibly cleanse my screaming dreams.  I needed deodorizing from the lingering stench of this war that tainted and possibly painted eternity on my soul. I did not let my hopes soar yet, for things never go according to the plan like you imagine, do they?  A lesson learned by the age of shoe size six, and taught at the pigeon school.

I attended my first college class with an assignment to write a poem, and it had to be something so close to your heart that the heart touched it while pumping, that’s what my new teacher instructions were to the class. He had a striking resemblance to Cat Stevens the singer.  His brown eyes had that strait ahead stare that inspired one to say something to break the silence; the eyes were mounted under a set of manicured thin cross bow brows. He dressed in a low key manner in order to be comfortable while carrying a massive amount of knowledge around.  I knew my metamorphoses depended on him and this class.  I had determined that being excluded from the light that shimmered in the arts was no longer a viable option, I wanted to write, and I needed to write, about atrocities and the part I had played in those atrocities.  The poets and writers were veterans of the craft in this class, with the exception me; they were here to learn from the master of golden words. I had decided that I would endure and absorb any embarrassment deserving of me in the view of these well-groomed and sculpted disciples of literature. Whatever it took, I knew it was confession time, the teacher wanted something close to the heart he could feel, so be it, although some of my classmates might have to pull the curtains down over their eyes, and maybe, even a shutter or two might be needed.  

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The following morning at 8:00 a.m. sharp, the doors opened full of breeze and freedom as I walk threw them holding tight to my soul.  Placing my poem of life on the heavily grain laden oval gathering table, referred to later as our Camelot, along with all the real true poets in the class I took my throne. The teacher began by reciting the most beautiful poem I had ever heard, it was his. He waded through the waters of each individual line, setting the paragraphs on fire, and synchronizing the stanzas. He began by plucking these words by their stems right out of the ground, and squeezing the juices of a new vibrant language as it began melting threw his golden fingers and into our ears, he explained to us how every word needed a friend in which to cling too, and how we should never leave these words unguarded, these words are your staff and shield, he said; and will compel you to succeed where other dare not dwell. This class, this teacher, was amazing, I was astonished, and I was intrigued, I was out of the jungle and climbing down from my tree. I was trying to shield my guilt free sunny eyes from all this brightness. This teacher just gave a guided tour to that path which we writers eventually must walk if we ever plan to stride, total nirvana undressed and in its barest natural naked form.

 I was sitting between a man with a goatee wearing a Longfellow hat over his yellow hair, and a spicy well-dressed, well-heeled woman with soft lips licking the soft words as they floated down from the cotton ball clouds. I knew this is what twisted my nipples, what would send me to the shifting sands of salvation.  All of my time wasted on the wrong life, the wrong world, the wrong words, and wrong songs.  This cat man sang songs of life, not death.

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 I had found homage in this man reciting poetry who just gifted me the keys to my own palace.  He gave us a Dylan to decipher at the end of the class and told us to ready ourselves to splay open its contents tomorrow morning. As I stepped out of the liquid fragrance posted at the classroom door and into a new infra-gold surreal light,  I found before me lie a new vaporizing world, steaming like a crazy old iron locomotive coming out of a dark tunnel into the blue steel light, smoking the new day.  My threadbare granite world thrust aside and exchanged for a cerulean world. I would find from this day forward, a path of sizzling grass to walk, and follow the long crisp undulating and enduring poet footprints that were laid down since times weaning.  My days in the future would always be too short for shuffling foot, yet strong enough to breech the oceans surface and collect the wealthy riches of mind bouillons. It would take me threw beautifully green landscape gardens of David’s and Venuses’, back alley inquiries of injustices, nights and days filled with lonely tears of despair, those wonderful weeping creeping despairs of enlightenment, and of course my favorite, the exalted stories of spirits and souls lifting off the earth, hurdling themselves towards the ozone of Zen consciousness.

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I serenaded my windows on the following morning while cleaning them with a long version of “I can see clearly now” and a one hour session of T.M., I went to class apprehensive of giving my jewelers loop look on the Dylan’s Poem.  I knew I was the only one in class with that Jonny come lately knowledge of writing, and the lack of my experience was consuming my entire entity with fear.  Thus the hour of T.M., in short I was very intimidated. We entered the cathedral of crystal visions and took our thrones again.  Our teacher was stalking us around the Camelot and quietly peering into our eye panes.  He was like a lion emerging threw the tall grasslands of Africa, very fiercely focused in stalking a delicious dinner. I began thinking it must have been my poem. Maybe it was shit. Maybe he was trying to figure out which imbecile turned in this crap. On the other hand, maybe somebody just farted, I should be so lucky. Whatever the reason I swear to you at that moment I felt myself welding to the steel table legs of the Camelot, Speedo incognito.  What was I thinking?  I did not have the experience or ability required for this type of writing, the only poems I had ever written laid soaking in my dark closet of secrecy. Oh please lord I thought; DO NOT for any reason let him call my name.  Hopefully we will start with the Dylan breakfast grand slam and move onto the breakfast juice. Yet as if on queue, he spoke and my worst fear had come to fruition.

He asked which one of you turned in this poem called “A Walk on Top of Life”?  God I thought, this is going to be more embarrassing than finding a sheep or two in my closet.  With all the courage I could muster I tried to raise my hand, but shit howdy camel walkers, its weight must have been over fifty five thousand pounds, earths gravity would not allow my arm to eject into space.  Everyone in the classroom began darting their eyes with that execution stare searching the room with their innocent pupils, waiting to find out who screwed the pooch first in Mr. Golden ones class.

My mouth was a sand box full of used kitty litter; my armpits could have wringed enough water to irrigate a thirsty Arab immigrant, and the look on my teachers face had contorted to resemble that lion biting the wrong end of a water buffalo.  Pushing from my torso, I think I actually grunted and possibly stained myself, as my hand moved warily skyward. He walked over to me and asked? You wrote this. I said yes, explaining I was new in this class and to writing; this was my very first serious attempt at a poem I told him, stressing the word serious.  He, being the instructor, instructed me to follow him up to the front of the classroom to the podium.

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I do not know what scared me more in that moment. Was it my welded legs ready to crap out so I would crumble uncomfortably to the floor in front of everyone, oozing saliva from my uncontrollable locktite lip? Or was it that I was about to pee freely in front of a group of academically gifted individuals, and decided of all mornings not to wear underwear because I was “Soooo Freee” today.  Or was it the fact that my mouth now had that feeling you get five minute after the Novocain injection plied by the dentist syringe as it streams in, flushing out any resemblance of coherency.  I don’t know, realistically it was all three I imagine.  I barely made it up to his podium as he turned and looked inside my blown up eyes searching for something, maybe to see if anything would actually echo in there. However, I had a fire fly burning in my buggy eyes, I just hoped he would notice it was a fire fly of fear growing out of control, rapidly bouncing off the inside of my bulbs, and if he would just let me leave the classroom right now, I would gladly kill myself outside! I was ready, and had no more desire to sail the seas and find mine treasures.

He stood their looking at my paper glancing up at me and nodding his head from left to right, repeating this move repeatedly.  He asked me, so this is your first serious attempt at writing a poem you say.  Are you serious?  I think… I just told him that.  I then realized he was trying to being funny, ha, ha-ha, ha, not funny.  I did the only thing an ice-age man could do in this un-thawed state, considering I must have inherited a zipper smile, I nodded with affirmation.  He was still peering into my skull bone with strait razor sharp eyes when he finally shared with the class his thoughts, saying; as most of you know I have been writing poetry for over twenty-nine years. I’m been a published author many times over. I’ve read poems, novels and prose for a living, as well as trying to teach young writers like you the passion of thought.  He told the class that he had written for longer than most of them have been spiking their hair or in some cases even had hair.

Then, turning to me he tried to buckle my knees by saying he has never read anything that had ripped, torn, burned, and shredded a permanent bloody scar in his poetic soul as this piece did. I almost collapsed. I did, really. Was this poem that bad? I didn’t have a clue. As he stared at me for what seemed like two days and thirty one hours then asked me if I would honor him, by letting him be the first to read aloud this poem to the class.  Again, I just nodded not really hearing him.  Thank God I thought, his question only required a nod, for I certainly could no longer speak.  Weird thing is suddenly I realized what he had just said, and even though I was getting a lavishly wet kiss complement from a word surgeon of his stature, I was much happier with the news that I did not have to say a word. I was exhausted already, I could barley stand. 

As he read the poem to the class, I stood there a little embarrassed and little bit proud, but mostly embarrassed, and I noticed the class was so quiet that I could clearly hear their breathing as the air was taken in through their mouths and slid across their silver tongues. For a moment, I even thought I heard myself make a little tiny splashing blink.  A woman in the class with famously framed kiwi green colored eye glasses and the Longfellow hat man made noises that sounded like they had something good to eat. I began delving into the faces around Camelot’s table. All of these sculpted poets listening and hanging onto my written words.  How does one not bathe in the astute sensations of these prolific writers I thought?  By poems end, the woman with the soft voice stood up with fish bowl tears filling her eye bubbles and came up to where the teacher and I stood.  There she hugged me with her arms and I think with her life; I kept thinking I needed to control my emotions so as not to pee on this laureate’s floor.  A quick glance at the poet laureate and immediately I recognized the nod and gesture of achievement.  Yes, I thought, this must be Valhalla, Valhalla with a large scoop of warm chocolate fudge on top.  I was flying in a glass plane high above earth’s atmosphere, the view was thrilling at this altitude but at this same time scary as hell. Although I was able to keep both wheels grounded in order to keep myself from falling over and chipping my teeth as she hugged me, again the feeling of both awkwardness and pride hovered over me, this is the first time anyone has seen me get a little glint of eye mist in public “just a glint mind you”. After the class, the writing group met outside for some small talk, a few accolades, and discussions on the Dylan poem that we never had a chance to discuss. The teacher passed by and back slapped me. Heaven.

 However, more importantly each of us in that little classroom in the next six months, along with the teacher, found the sun in our friendships, and I found the sun in my once darkened world. My war had finally ended. Our teacher taught us in those six months that it should always be our quest in life to light the world with glorious colors of pastel and oil words, and when necessary darken the wrongly lit actions in the world, so as others without our vision may count on us to point the way down the path of sizzling grass. I learned in that class that you do not have to be a well-known poet in this world, or have to be a famous one; or one as deep as the Marianas Trench, you just need to have poet friends with good hearts and great painted words, and this alone can fill all your adventures to the top of the glass.  I found out that the woman with the soft voice that had hugged me, her name was Carol, like in a Christmas song.  I also found out later that night, not only did she love my poverty as a poet, but she also was not always dressed so nicely, and her voice was not always so soft, sometimes she would undress so nicely and sometimes her voice was as sultry as the sea mist floating.  If you are by chance reading this Carol of Aptos. Thank you for teaching me the “Poet’s Kama Sutra position” How we loved those nights we spent each other, and later painted all of our naked dreams inside two cheap bottles of Lazy Lagoon wine.  I still think of you when fluorescent words wave at the shine on the red grunion tide.  Paint me a word, won’t you?

Comments (1)

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Your prose has a satisfying richness to it. A fullness thats hard for me to describe. The end leaves me wanting to take a writing class. I want my own carol! Thanks Van.

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