Poems & Prose by Les
Take Off Our Shirts
Just last week both goldfish died.
Juliet meant to brush her hair seventy times but
she stopped at 25.
By the end of August, she’d stand on her surfboard,
a promise she’d written down.
Though it was hot, the heat had an unpleasant
vein of damp coolness through it.
They crouched at the shore, watched the tide
throw up styrofoam cups
When Juliet turned they kissed,
it felt counterintuitive. She thought she
might want him to leave so she could
think about him.
She rubbed sand and salt from her board:
An important moment.
What’s important? Dignity, justice perhaps,
though the former seems rare and the latter
might happen by coincidence. When the stars
She leaned her surfboard by the wall. Let it watch —
love was everyone’s cheap ticket ride.
Juliet’s room smelled like baby oil and sex wax.
Her hairbrush was where she’d left it,
by the goldfish bowl’s green sediment.
Let’s take off our shirts, Juliet said,
she’d always wanted to say that.
He was wiry like barbed wire was, like she’d
seen Iggy Pop with no shirt on on television.
She brought him a teacup with water in it for
his cigarette ash.
Her room had mostly clothes on the floor, pictures
torn from Artforum.
You sleep on the floor too he said like he’d just
discovered they both had blue eyes.
Juliet’s hair reminds him:
The mysteries of the Egyptians were mysteries
to the Egyptians as well.
People who say the beautiful are oblique to their beauty
are wrong: beauty makes the beautiful nervous.
To prove it. To keep it.
Ask Juliet: There’s conditions on it.
They couldn’t stay in the same room for hours.
It was nerves.
They couldn’t suffer the cross-brain static
plus their bodies. They couldn’t explain.
Never Explain: a motto they wanted tattooed.
This happened every sad dusk time
even if they turned on all the lights.
Well there was only one, and the bathroom light.
Or if they turned them all off.
Though cold they had the rule about socks are unamorous.
A big tree crowned the window two floors up.
“A California tree,” Juliet said.
Yeah green not palm.
Undiscipled by frost.
The tact tact tact of her shoes on the floor;
she ran rivers behind, the bathroom door. Kilometers
of toilet paper unfurled.
Later, he checked.
Flaubert wanted to write a book without words.
That’s how they wanted to talk.
Okay, she said putting her hat on.
They looked up its name in his millinery book.
Kind of cloche, and her shoes had
“boulevard” heels it said in that book there
beside the Roses names book on the floor.
Here’s one Souvenir de la Malmaison.
There’s always a light on.
You grow used to being naked.
Your gratitude surpasses expectation.
Here you can smoke if you want
If you’re kind of nervous.
And kiss and kiss.
Really, what did you expect?
Colored scarves draped over lamps…
If you say, if I was king,
You would he. The trouble is: abstraction.
All these Gods walking around concourses,
Storefronts lit from inside
With ideas about allegory and evolution.
At the edge, where it all
Just drops off: the great fog.
How long have you been without air?
See, you can’t even imagine.
THE FLAGMAN signaled the cropduster plane so it sprayed evenly on the fields.
TOOLS OF THE FLAGMAN: A metal triangle of tubular steel three feet wide at the base. Flag (piece of cloth). The flagman’s flashlight at night.
FLAGMAN CLOTHES: Overalls.
THE FLAGMAN’S PROTECTION FROM SPRAY: paper mask never worn.
THE FLAGMAN’S JOB is to swivel the metal triangle and pace off the length of the field. Stop. Wave the flashlight or flag at the plane.
OBJECTIVE: fields evenly sprayed.
ANOTHER FLAGMAN did the same at the opposite end of the field.
THE CROPDUSTER’S BIPLANE flew low, lower, under the telephone wires as it sprayed.
DANGER! The flagman must throw himself down in the dirt when the biplane flies low overhead.
DEAD FLAGMEN stood, crouched or knelt, merely bent.
FLAGMAN APOCRYPHA: If you leaned over the triangle’s point you got driven into the steel. By the struts, or a wheel.
BAD FLAGMEN fell asleep in the dirt at the edge of the field.
THE FLAGMAN REMEMBERED the cropduster’s wife when she pulled down her pants or she pulled up her dress in any half hour they had anywhere.
THE FLAGMAN’S DESIRE was not to be a flagman, among other things.
THE LOADER was pulled by the truck that refueled the biplane; it poured dichlorodiphenyltrichlorethane.
NERVES OF THE FLAGMAN: Shot.
MANIFESTATIONS OF C4H4N2O2 POISONING — He had green-yellow nails, his eye twitched. His hands shook, though that could be the booze. Oh, and forgetfulness.
FLAGMAN MEALS: Chemicals stained his hands and the cheese sandwiches the cropduster’s wife made. She blew cigarette smoke toward the flammable sign as they leaned on the skulled, crossboned drums. She wiped mayonnaise from the flagman and cropduster’s mouths.
FLAGMAN’S PEACE: the dark fields. Lights from the farms and the plane were like stars flung at him. The smell of whatever was growing out there.
THE FLAGMAN PHILOSOPHIZES: He wanted what he didn’t want, he wanted not to want, to devolve into mineral sleep like Freud said we all did.
WHAT THE CROPDUSTER’S WIFE SAID: You’d think we could be someone else but we can’t.
THE FLAGMAN’S SOLACE: the bottle in his overalls.
WHY THE FLAGMAN DRANK is the flagman philosophizes.
IN THE FLAGMAN’S DIRT SLEEP, while he dreamed in the field, the biplane, off course, flew all over the place.
CORRECTION: He turned the triangle twelve times to catch up; how long had he not been awake?
each page was read out loud, one page at a time in his weekly classes, just as Les required of his students.