Thursday, May 3, 2012

Ohio Silver Mine

On Easter morning,
I bought tickets to fly to Ohio
for the release of our new book
‘Selected Correspondence of Kenneth Patchen.’
I can’t get it into stores in my hometown
but Ohio is rolling out the red carpet.


Rain on the windshield
seagulls combing the air
over the parking lot

The airport shuttle only makes it as far
as Burlington, about a half hour down the road
then stops at the local station on a gravel lot
near a Taqueria. The driver explains that our
windshield wipers won’t work. He goes inside
the office, a little wooden trailer for awhile.
Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks on my headphones.

When the bus driver comes back to us
he explains there’s another bus but they
can’t find the keys for it. This is a comedy.

Meanwhile, the sky is clearing to a silver polish.
He tells us he’s willing to risk the highway
without wipers and hopes the rain doesn’t
come back again.

The bus stops at the Tulalip Casino
and a couple people escape off into the night.
The driver is nervous about going further South.
At Everett, we get off the road then back on.
I see the sights returning. We’re going North.
We return to the Tulalip Casino where we
prowl into the long parking lot and stop
beside an older silver bus with Las Vegas
on the destination sign. This is our new bus.
In the black boggy puddles beside us
there’s the sound of frogs.

The day began this way
earlier I guess the tone was set
when I left work early for the dentist.
I was getting my temporary crown
removed and a new one put on.
So they gave me the shots and
prised off my crown and then
they discovered the new one
didn’t fit. With a numb mouth
and my old crown put back on
I left for Ohio.

We finally made it to the airport at 10:15 P.M.
After a long wait getting x-rayed and examined
if I hadn’t been running I wouldn’t have made it
to the closing doors of the gate. I was the last
person to board. The stewardess shrieked at me
“Scan your pass!” The flight was rough. A rocket
to Ohio. 37,000 feet, 600 mph, it was -70 degrees
outside, but I couldn’t get comfortable.

Those little towns
flying over North Dakota
they mirror the stars
we fly the space in between

We made it to Detroit
just before sunlight.

Sleep that rushes in and hurries out
wakes me up with a start and
only a moment has passed.
Oh, but in that gone second
I was on a bed soft as a cloud.

I have four hours to wait
before the next plane leaves
to Akron. Watching people.

On the flight to Ohio, I sit next to
a man who thought I was going to
a seminary when he spotted my

Thelonious Monk book. From then on
we talked the whole flight. He’s going
to visit his grandchildren. After all
those years, he wants to enjoy life
and live simply. He’s been overseas,
been to China to oversee the sale
of his company. He regrets that now
all the hours he spent working
chasing money, it’s all about money.
Now he lives in a 200 square foot pre-fab
with his second wife from Guam.
He wants to fly back there with her
he showed me her photo, standing
in front of a picket fence with their
little house in Rhode Island. His family
all thinks he’s crazy, but they don’t listen.
They work 12 hours a day, they can’t see
what he’s learned, he’s not wasting time
he’s finally happy now.

Tired, I have to wait for my ride.
Tried to wait inside but outside
looks better. There’s a metal bench
out there in the air. In here the TVs
are on, talking about JFK again.
I bought an unsweetened ice-tea
from the fountain and took it outdoors.
White sky, thick clouds, breezy and cold
an Ohio flag  clanging against the pole.

Two ladies get out of a car.
They coo and say goodbye to the driver
who pulls away with a toothpick
in his mouth. A moment later
one of the ladies runs back
stops at the curb and waves
at the disappearing car.
“He’s got my purse in the backseat…”
she tells me. “I ain’t going nowhere
without it.”

When Larry Smith shows up
we drive the long road back
to his house in Huron.
Lots of trucks, the corn fields
grown low, it’s a season in Ohio
I haven’t seen for a while.
When we park at his house
I get out and hear a cardinal.

Good to see Ann again too.
We catch up on things and
Larry and I run through our
presentation. It seems good.

Napping off the jetlag
I fell asleep and woke up
in Ohio.

After supper, we drove to Cleveland.
It’s early. We cross Detroit Street
and went to The Root for chai tea

and coffee. Then back again
to the Lakewood Public Library
downstairs to the big room
filled with empty chairs.


The Kenneth Patchen talk
went great. Over twenty people
were there, including the son
of Jasper Wood, an artist featured
in our book. Everyone was kind
and appreciative, how great to see
people like the work. After the reading
also met Vlad the poet and he gave me
his most recent book of poems
“my best yet.” It has a silver rocket
on the cover. We drove back home
and I watched the clouds and sky
get dark and a white planet shine.

Walking the dog to see the lake
I didn’t think it would be so cold here.
Sunny though. The lilacs and dogwood
are flowering. Lots of starlings making
electronic effects and the sound of
Lake Erie roaring, brown waves
white curled and cold as winter.

At the Goodwill I opened the door
for an old lady pushing a shopping cart
filled with tall metal flower stalks.

Went to the store to get a toothbrush
something I forgot to bring with me.
The spiral notebooks I like are cheaper
here in Ohio, only 89 cents.

I buy a toothbrush for one dollar
and a five cent coin.

All this money, I have an envelope
stuffed with travel twenties. It’s nice
to buy cups of tea and coffee, souvenirs,
and not care what it costs…that is until
I buy two silver charms that cost $20 each.
Then I care.

I drive the Smith car to Oberlin.
I like this countryside, the road
going between farms, mostly it’s all
still winter colored. The Ohio green
is still asleep. We park in town
the bookstore is an old Ben Franklin.
There’s a glass case holding the first
City Lights Pocket Book for sale.

Everytime I come here I feel the radio in me
turning on poetry. I want to write and write.
Is it just stepping out of the routine at home
and being away from the job mentality?
Or is it this place talking to me? Probably.
I hear the birds chirping and over in a yard
a lawnmower is going.

4/27/12 2:20 P.M.

The second time to the beach
the day has warmed up, the wind
died down, the water settled to glass
in the lake. The dog and I make our
footprints along the edge of land
and leave them to the wash.

Holding a baby
that warm weight
close to you

A big feast tonight, homemade spaghetti
salad and angel cake and strawberries.
Four kids playing in a cardboard box
their voices go in and out of the house.
Washing the dishes and stacking them
clean. Once it got quiet again
we watch a movie based on a story
by Raymond Carver.

Knowing how hard it is to fly
I had to sort of struggle to get myself here.
I told my friend Eric, “They want to pay me
to fly out and talk about the new book.
It’s like being a real author.” And he said,
“You are a real author.”

At night, a train goes by.
It doesn’t have that slow roll
of a summer train, the clacking wheels
that go on and on along the tracks
with the long harmonica hello
goodbye. This train is gone quick
then it’s quiet. No cricket sound yet
it’s still too cold. They must be waiting
underground or wherever
with the rest of summer hiding.


A white sky, walking the little dog
a dove somewhere in the tree above
the calm neighborhood street
a vacant lot filled with the gray
round nodding heads of dandelions

Soccer fields
filled with people
swallows and

Sure there’s family
things I don’t know
anything about
we go
our own ways
she lives in
that place past
a gas station
on the corner
where we turn
I have to
control time
when she shows
using a cane
to walk

Yesterday we drove through a town named Ceylon.
Today we watched ‘Footprint of the Buddha’
on the island of Ceylon. The film ends with
the slow walk of a monk in the jungle
the birds singing him along.

Bumping along the white
edge of the clouds
the sun shining on the wing

God bless
the flying mother
caring for her child
she blows and soothes
and walks the aisle
calming down

Now it’s done
back in Seattle
all the lights
like a tidepool



for Larry and Ann 
& The Lakewood Public Library

written during 4 days travel
April 25, 26, 27, 28

cover photos by Larry Smith

"not to handle gold or silver"
Buddhist precept

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