I’m living in a Dodge sedan
in the foggy shadows
of Mount Tamalpais.
I’m cool. I park after dark
on Panoramic Drive,
and leave at dawn, as if
I’m living in one of these houses
and I’m on my way to work.
One evening I pick up a neighbor,
Sharon, in Mill Valley and give her
a ride back up the mountain.
She offers me dried apricots,
says maybe some foggy morning,
she’ll come to my car, wake me up,
and we’ll do something together.
Another hitchhiking woman,
who calls herself “Mary Gold,”
has me take her to San Francisco,
where we have dinner in Chinatown.
We buy a bowl of boiled rice.
Then, smoothly and politely,
she begs the other patrons
to give us their leftovers.
The sun sets in the west
behind the mountain, but somehow
San Francisco Bay stretches
the purple around the horizon.
I’m conserving my money
enough that I figure I won’t
need a job for at least four years.
This is of course the Pacific Ocean
you hear in the background, crashing
against the big rock where I’m sitting.
It’s very blue today, with just
a tinge of purple from the mist,
which is miles off the coast today,
instead of spilling over the cliffs
like foam on a mug of beer.
Hobbit comes in from Sonoma County,
explaining that his bus broke down
so he couldn’t do the negatives;
Celia drops by with a new box of madness
on index cards (file under “madness”)
and tells me, starting tomorrow,
I can sign checks at Wells Fargo Bank;
Vicky says the Youth Commission
might pay her to volunteer
if I talk to her counselor;
Douglas says he can’t phone models today
because he saw the movies
Women in Love and Midnight Cowboy together,
and it’s just too heavy, and the clicking
of his ten-speed bicycle fades into the sunlight;
Neila mops the floor with too much water;
Guy comes in promoting a world anthem contest;
and Karen, who hasn’t been here for three weeks,
asks me where all the shelves came from.
After the rain, for just a few minutes,
the flow is continuous, falling from trees,
percolating through carpets of needles,
dancing in rivers the width of my wrist.
I smell the scent of a wet rotting log,
or look up through a tree with heart-shaped leaves
to watch the white-and blue of the spaces
between them change as fog blows away.
Single raindrops fall from sunlit edges
of redwood needles, like spiders on thread.
There, one trembles, breaks loose,
and my eyes follow it to the ground.
Fragments of time and space enlarge
as the drops taper off. I am walking
toward the creek, attracted by its rush
now that the rivulets have stopped.
Where current passes over cobblestones,
vibrating spots of sun remind me
of a photograph of atoms in a crystal
of gold, magnified millions of times
to patterns of light like a Persian rug.
The three of us joined hands, listening
to rain outside while twilight dimmed the room
I spoke to be sure my silence was all right.
Linking arms, we gathered into a hug
on the couch, eyes closed and without words,
feeling the swell and collapse of our breathing,
close to the sound of each other’s heartbeats.
Judy said, “Let’s go to the art gallery.”
The rain was soundless, a fresh blur
visible only against the streetlights.
The door was open, lights and voices
and people inside. We went in and saw
an exhibit of the art of children—
when a lady holding a cocktail stopped us,
asking who had invited us.
“This is a private showing,” she said.
“We’ll be open to the public tomorrow.”
So we looked at some paintings through the window.
The artist who had done them noticed us,
unlocked the other door and called us in,
asking why we were standing in the rain.
His paintings silence the flow of water
and evoke another sound in my mind,
a long cry with no beginning or end,
the pure song of a woman’s voice.
I am sitting at the ocean, hearing it
as a harmonic of the wheesh! of waves.
Closing my eyes, I let it draw me into
landscapes from my own body,
winding tunnels of arteries and veins,
the chambered coil of my inner ear.
Waves are splashing unearthly patterns,
momentary fungoid shoots collapsing
to overlapping networks of nerves.
The sea is a blue like twilight on snow.
At sunset I chant OM to the waves
while the foam turns the color of northern lights—
each time a deep breath, my voice becoming
higher and louder, detaching itself
from me to reach for that sound the artist
recorded in paint—then softer, lower.
Birds rustle in the tangle of darkened
brush beside the road. It is night.
A light wind blows my hair in my face.
Calls of insects fade when I step near.
Beads and tiedyed curtains on a stairway,
a polished stone in a pendant set with pearls,
a leather book stamped with gold, a nautilus shell.
The lady wore a long nightgown.
Fire escapes, neon puddles, cat haunted alleys,
a magic echo down apartment canyons.
The lady played her guitar and sang.
We were all artists then.
I saw the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Ocean.
Letters came and went like long Ohio drives.
One day in a phone call she told me she loved me,
but I’d known that for a long time.
When we met again in California
she told me her true love was a woman.
The long night melted down like scented wax.
While we talked she let me caress her hand.
copyright © 1983 - 2005 Carl Miller
Drawing, “Stinson Beach”: 2004, gel pen on paper, 6 x 10 inches.