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RECYCLED POEMS PART TWO
PART TWO: JAMAICAN SANDS
SONGS OF AN ISLAND PARADISE
By Daniel Richard Fruit
WHERE ARE YOU GOING?
"Where are you going Mr. Fruit?"
"Well I shouldn't really tell you.
It's not certain anyway."
"Oh Please." the teenage voice implored.
"All right. I'm going to Jamaica."
"Jamaica." she exclaimed, "with who?"
"Just me-" I said.
"Well find some girl and knock her up."
I GUARANTEE YOU
"I guarantee you." the airline agent started.
"That when I finish with your travel plans
"You'll want to go and thank me."
Three hours later. still standing in line.
I wished we had taken down her name.
So I might send a thank-you note.
YOU CAN GET IT IF YOU REALLY WANT
Half my back is tanned and half is white.
Jet lag makes me wonder if it's day or night.
You can get it if you really want.
I watch the younger generation playing volleyball.
The rich kids with their parents who have it all.
You can get it if you really want.
I join them in this little poolside game.
Where we try to fill a leaking bucket to the top.
You can get it if you really want.
I put on a girl's shirt to swim in a relay.
And pull hard to end up swimming the wrong way.
But you must try. try and try.
My back aches so badly that I should soak it in ice.
That's the price you pay for visiting paradise
You succeed at last.
HER KIDNEYS DIDN'T WORK
"How did you guess that I was from Nu Yok."
"It wasn't really hard:
You must be rich."
"No. My husband's a lawyer."
"Do you work?"
"i used to. Before my kidney transplant."
"Transplant? You were lucky."
"I guess I was."
ONE ANXIOUS PARENT
"What did they give the relay winners?"
"They gave rum and Coke to the adults."
His skinny body tensed his glasses focused.
"Letty better not be drinking rum and-"
I could see her across the patio.
She laughed with a teenage friend.
It didn't matter what they'd drunk
His eyes just spoke of guilt.
I looked at her little body,
The one piece held her so poorly
Her child's laugh through her braces
A woman's shake to her hips.
"The kids just had Coke." I said,
Not knowing if this were true.
For a second, I would've pitied him
But I've seen many girls grow up.
The beaches here are clean,
The white beaches here in Jamaica,
Worn clean by patient grinding,
The ceaseless labor of the seas,
To emerge fluffy to the touch,
Like a great feather bed,
Inviting you to lay down,
Tan your mind
Simply lay your hand in the white,
Drop a single soiled can of soda,
Make a castle and fill it with soldiers
And it's not the same anymore.
You might try to leave your footprints,
Like an astronaut on the moon,
But the sea will come in and take them,
Leaving naked sands,
NOONDAY AT THE REGGAE CAFE
There's five of them talking together.
One Jamaican five boys and a girl
She's drinking her beer down fast,
As I consider her attainments.
"No I don't work here."
"That's too bad." a boy says:
"I'm just here to drink and pick up women."
"Well I'm here on my honeymoon."
I drink another cool swallow.
"Then I guess that it's too late;
You don't know of any available?"
She pauses to look in the sand.
"Now there's a blonde right here,
Real shapely girl." she says.
"If I were a man."
I'd think that she was beautiful."
Bamboo huts made of driftwood.
And ironic signs like "Kmart,"
A village made for tourists
Who stray from their hotel.
"Hey Man got something for you,
Gonna clear you mind up good."
Red Stripe beer in bottles,
A bar with a floor of sand,
Boxes for seats and rastaman
Plays his radio for a jukebox.
"Hey Man wanna go outside?
I got sometin' you might like."
Six tourists sitting together,
Loping reggae over their shoulders
At the bar a sign which says:
"No ganga in the bar."
"Hey Joe, we got some stuff,
You wanna come don' wit' us."
Once I would have gone with them,
And maybe tried a hit or two.
Now I see only prisons and children
Walking along with dirtied palms.
"Hello stranger, you going down to dinner?"
she said, speaking peculiarly friendly.
She looked cool in a long, spotted dress
With her whinish little boy in tow.
"I don't know. Do you need a date?"
She already told me of her desertion
And the little boy she called
"A mistaken night in Mazatlan."
She loosed her boy at half past salad.
She asked. "Why are they going to the beach?"
"It's supposed to be romantic;
They've watched from Here to Eternity."
We stared at each other for a while,
And she made some kind of sound decision.
"It's time for me to go to bed." she said
I want to go on tour in the morning."
In the disco I sucked another beer
And watched the couples dancing
Not even looking in each other's eyes
Each lost in his self-delusion.
Then I stood alone under the moon
And watched the waves pass in and out.
Somehow I could see nothing but the dark
And wondered what Jamaica is all about.
ALONG THE QUEEN'S HIGHWAY
There are tracts of untamed wilderness.
Miles of thrusting bush,
Where everything grows that's planted there
Without even the slightest push.
There's grasses tall and thick as a man's leg.
Trees grown crooked in their glee.
Green that seems to grapple and grab for you.
More alive than any man could be.
And here and there stand foreigners,
The Europeans pigs and cows
The yams, rabbits, coffees, corns, and sugar cane.
Stuffing life into their mouths.
It grows in a strange disordered tangle,
Settled and the raw.
The ancient dancing with the immigrants.
Obeying only nature's law.
A single two lane road cuts through the trees
Built to celebrate a queen
And only mankind's constant incessant pruning
Keeps its pathway robbed of green.
For here the soil is too ripe for chemicals
Damn near anything can thrive
Even man can't strip all fertility
From a land so much alive.
THE JAMAICAN ECONOMY
Take the world's second largest source bauxite.
Add some of the world's most fecund soil.
Simmer with a workforce willing to work.
Sweeten with large sugar plantations.
Advertise in tourist brochure's internationally.
Put in rum to taste.
Subtract the intelligent to emigration.
Let the wisest become hotel servants.
Write strange currency laws.
Watch farmers move to Shantytowns.
Let birth have no control.
TALK TURKEY MAN
Two o'clock and the stands are empty
A black young woman in a floral dress
She wears a bandanna round her neck.
"Hey you wanna buy a souvenir.
"Just step inside of my shop."
She points back into her bamboo hut
Like a madam hawking her girls.
"No." I say, "not today, I guess."
She points to her shelf of wooden goods.
"And so you like the wooden cat?"
"I don't know who would I give to."
"Give it to your sweetheart. sir."
Pathetically I look away.
"Perhaps I could give it to my sister."
"Only forty dollars..an." she waits.
"Well here's something every woman wants."
She indicates some bamboo placemats.
"Her cats would eat them up." I say.
"They must be very naughty cats."
"Oh no." I pause, "they are very busy."
"Well how about you get a t-shirt?"
"It would have to have something funny,
Some kind of inside, special joke."
"well how about IRAE. With that
No one understands but you and she.
For you fifty dollars and no more."
"I've seen them for $3.00 U.S."
"I tell you what I do, for you, forty."
I'm hesitating, "It's still..."
"Talk turkey man, I want to sell to you."
"Twenty." Thirty-five." "Done."
All this for a three dollar shirt.
IRAE-all's right in the world.
NOON DAY AT THE OCHO RIOS CAFE
Black men and women in their working clothes.
Long dresses and high collared shirts,
They wait patiently for their orders.
A single cook and waitress run the house.
Not hurrying but not dragging either,
And work in the weltering heat.
Twenty minutes for a sandwich and fries
And sit in the sunshine outside
As a mother feeds her little child.
Studiously no one pays attention to
The white man dressed in tourist shorts.
BYRON LEE AND THE DRAGONNAIRES
Bob Marley and the Wailers
Three girls, one white, two black,
One dressed in fishnet bathing suits.
Bent over on a floating piece of drift
So there little left to fantasy.
That's the Jamaica I paid for.
Where the girls wear fruit upon their heads
And there's three for every man.
A tall man, his hair in snakelike tails,
A body thin from eating fish and plants
His face livid with pain and agony
And a tumor rotting out his brain:
That's the Jamaica I paid for.
Where the girls wear fruit upon their heads
And there's three for every man.
WRITE TO ME
The Silent Plea of a Fourteen-Year-old standing by a Tourist Train With A Pen in His Hand.
"I'm just a little boy,
I haven't any money.
Please write to me
I'll write back to you.
"I'm just a little boy,
My mother has no job.
My father never married,
But he supports us all.
"I'm just a little boy,
I live by the railroad track,
I see the train pass by each day,
And then watch it coming back.
"I'm just a little boy,
My brother smokes the herb.
He's dropped out of school
Says he knows all he needs to learn.
"I'm just a little boy.
Not rich as you can see.
Give me a bit of money.
And please write back to me."
St. James County,
HEMINGWAY HAD IT HARDER
It is midnight at the hotel cafe.
Three teenagers sit with me.
"So all of you are students?"
"Yes we're all in high school."
"Well. I'm a teacher, girls,
And that's why I'm so poor.
I eat across the street each night
Where food's considerably more cheap."
"I want to become a teacher."
"Then you should major in S&M."
Blank stares; the joke is lost.
"What do you teach at?"
"Well I'm a creative writer......"
I see a ghost over my shoulder
He's only nineteen or so.
I met him at a convention
And told him how I planned
To write my way through college.
"No one ever makes it as a writer;
I've only sold a poem or two.
They're all about my girlfriend.
Whose father vowed to kill me."
"Well. what have you written here?"
(Her youthful voice raises "here")
"This is prime experience." I glance
And see her little girlfriends.
All with nothing to do except kiss and drink.
"Your diary, at least, would be...."
I see another ghost, much older
My Buddhist professor with goatee
Staring off into some old Nirvana.
Perhaps he shared in some retreat.
"Yes, diaries are crucial, not for stories,"
He paused and let the neophytes absorb,
"But because they record prime you."
"How much have you written?" she asks,
"Well I've got thirty pages."
The little brunette shakes her head.
"What city are you from?"
"Traverse City Michigan." she answers.
I place her then by that.
I'd met her father earlier:
"Your father went to Albion."
More ghosts outside a little room
Sophomor(ic) creative writing class
Inside Dr. Cellar waits with all my work
She looks through pages and shakes her head.
"You haven't really found your voice.
Everything reads like somebody else."
She looks through her glasses at me
With eyes that would soon go blind
But focus sharp enough to carve.
They leave to go back to their party,
But they don't really leave me alone,
Because in the night I see a circle of ghosts
And they're begging me to talk with them.
For I've got so much more to learn,
And they have so much more to teach.
Two adults and a child,
Alone with just a boatman,
Floating down a curving river;
The river doesn't go anywhere,
The adults are not married,
And the boy asks "How come?"
The boatman does the steering
The adults have nothing to say
Just a pole hits the riverbed;
Every bend holds another little hut,
With two cows and a patch of land,
And a woman selling beer and pop;
The bamboo lasts only six months,
Before, waterlogged, it sinks.
Some days, no one comes and rides:
The man, he works as a fisherman,
He gets a little off his land.
He goes to church each Sunday;
I watch him stroking in the water,
The muscles move on his thin back,
I need to drive my own raft;
Two adults alone with a child,
And a solitary boatman,
Floating down a twisted river.
A cool rain comes down from the sky.
The current rebounds from Blue mountains,
It stirs the mud from underground,
And muddies up the stream.
Humans float along in hollow logs
And down the river from harbor to harbor.
Between the mass of eight point five billions, the contribution of a
single mind. of ordinary means, no matter what he does, or how he does
In a country of two hundred seventy million hustling Americans. the
sum contribution of one individual is....
In a city of 80.000, the sum of the influences of one individual is...
In a bustling workplace of 200, the creative output of one is
In an average family of 2.5, the one member is...
In a mirror one is
Ergo Cogito-Ergo sum.
DANCING WITH THE REGGAE QUEEN
It's my last Saturday night
And I'm drinking yet another beer
Watching the stage and looking
As the audience begin to cheer.
Let's all cheer for the Reggae Queen
Crowned with Pomp and Circumstance.
Her hips and body pumping back and forth
In a liquid parody of dance.
She's built just like a barbie doll.
An hourglass filled with sand.
She doesn't move but gyrates
So that the judges clearly understand.
She been two weeks in London
She says to the microphone
She came here with her sister
And plans to take the trophy home
So now she's in the final round
Just her against her sister.
She does more of her pelvic thrusts
So that the judges can't resist her.
I'd judge that she was twenty-five
Though it's a little hard to say.
They hand the trophy to her sister;
She won it last week anyway.
So now I'm in the disco-tech
I see her stroll in my direction
No royal crown upon her head
Her hair combed to perfection.
I ask her if she'd like to dance
She looks uninspired but nods
See hangs around high school kids
Good looking younger men but clods.
So now I'm standing facing her.
Her blue eyes staring not at me.
The music starts those reggae chords
That speak of love and fantasy.
Ya ke boomba ala seela cula yumba
Sef re nomba kooka seela cula rumba
Simply comba ana doona kum limbo
Asta hra comba e acta lika bimba.
I'm doing all those stranger moves
That made me dance legend of LA.,
But I look into her bluelight eyes
And she is only dreaming far away.
Then, suddenly the song is ending
And for seconds her eyes meet mine
I consider saying something sweet,
But her blank looks show it's not the time.
She indicates an empty bench
To show me that it's time for me to go;
I read nothing in her blankened face
Except she wants to end the show.
"Thank you for the dance" I say.
"Your highness is so nice to me."'
"I'm not the champion anymore."
"You'll always be the queen to me."
THE PROUD MAROONS
They fought the British to a standstill
These descendants of African slaves.
They learned to master a long rifle
And fought for these mountains and caves.
Oh Maroons you lived so well, so proud so true,
Perhaps your descendants could learn some things from you.
The Spaniards let these people go
To harass the conquering Britons.
Instead the Maroons went to the hillsides
And established their own cantons.
They spoke their African tongues
And built fine villages and farms.
They learned to govern themselves
And mastered the white man's arms.
They made their singular culture
A lifeway distinctly their own.
And up in their hilltop farmlands
They asked only to be left alone.
The strongest and the brightest slaves
Came out to join them in the hills
So that the Maroons came to represent
The cream of negro minds and wills.
The wars should've defeated them,
The British scorched and burned their fields;
Instead the British lost their nerve,
For, starving, the Maroons would never yield.
Instead the British bought them off
As they'd done with so many native folks
The Maroons received their freedom, but
Had to return runaways to their yolks.
Maroon towns moldered on thereafter
With no spark of fire from fleeing minds
And no enemies to unite their folks,
A British crop withering on the vine.
Who lives in these old deserted towns
Who walks now these hidden grottoed caves?
All the Maroons have left these hills
To cities run by children of the slaves.
THREE SQUARES AND A BEACH CHAIR
Three squares and a beach chair
That's why they'll give you here.
No tips included, but please be nice.
(You want employees to be nice, right)
And the towels will be dispensed each day
You'll need them for swimming anyway.
And everyone smiles and says "No problem"
Until you know you really need one.
MORGAN DIED OF CONSUMPTION
A brotherhood of pirates
Formed to cruise the Spanish main
Their wrote articles of federation
To give each crewman his share.
Their ships were full of malcontents
The scum of Caribbean slums,
White men who'd came as near slaves
And bought the freedom of poverty.
And Morgan died of consumption;
From all the sweetmeats and booze
It seems sometimes when you triumph
You're only beginning to lose.
Morgan was the greatest among them:
A Welshman who'd fled his land.
He joined a common pirate
And worked his way to command.
When he was in port he'd party,
He'd drag a barrel of rum in the street
And stand brandishing his pistol
Threatening to kill if you wouldn't drink.
This pirate knew nothing of odds
He simply raided where gold seemed most.
He took Spanish ships when he could
And letters of mark from the king.
They said he couldn't take Panama,
But he led his men cross the jungle
And braved Indians and mosquitoes
So he could pillage the city.
And when the gold was divided
The men said their shares seemed short,
But Morgan simply laughed and drank
And no one dared dispute the point.
The king made him governor of the isle,
And he stamped out piracy too.
He bought his own little estate
And lived with his women and clothes.
However many ship he took to torch,
Count all the cities that he looted.
The bounty of king's land he owned,
And buccaneers he hanged aloft.
They could not rouse a body aged
Worn out at ripe old fifty-three
A face ravaged with ghostliness
An image trapped on Jamaican rum.
GREAT JAMAICA AT ITS HEIGHT
Let my Negroes fit your carriage man and water your horse.
Yes, we have read all of Fielding's work.
No one should have to wash his horse himself
Come have a cup of coffee. rum. molasses.
And you can down it with a lump of sugar.
Yes her clothes come straight from London.
You, there, go get my clothing now
And dump that refuse in the street
Yep the chamber pots and all.
And fix your dirty shirt
You've worn it three days past
Without that tear being sewn!
"Now, where was I?
I was speaking
OBEAH (Black and White Magic)
The spirit of the jungle come today.
He gonna get you if you don do it.
He work for the Obeah man,
who cast the spells for that lady.
She's a witch, I swear she is.
She got that long black hair all curled,
And keep that charm in her spirit bag,
And once I saw her talking to herself.
Yes, I seen her talking to herself
She made up these strange lines:
"Everyone wants to touch the gods
You can feel the gods in me."
Dose white men came and called on her.
She light all those candles bright.
She's burn some stuff that smelled sweet
And played a violin and dance.
She draw these gentlemen to her.
They try to kiss her on the lips.
One time one grabbed her close to him;
I seen it through the window.
At first she tried to fight him.
Then she just lay down and laughed
"If you take me. I'll take your soul,
And sell it to the gods of love."
Well, gentleman, he go away
And he came back with soljer men.
He told them 'bout her Obeah.
But when dey got here she was gone.
Her magic was real powerful
For she don disappeared for good.
And man he never forgot the lady
Just like she said to him he would.
He still lives in her darkened rooms,
Thumbing through her calico.
He seems to want to find her
For her spell on him's so strong.
And me I think she gone away
To meet her gods of black and white,
And dance around and cast her spells
Of love beneath the pale moonlight.
The church they say dese gods is wrong,
And we not supposed to sing or dance,
'Cept when we worshipping the Lord
Each Sunday when we dress our best.
But skeleton they don' scare me,
And I can stand the candles and the bells,
Der must be spirits above church pews
And gods who call to you at night.
OH JAMAICA, YOU FOOLED ME AGAIN
I have put my suitcases on the rack.
The bellhops calmly wish me good-bye.
I have spent a long week lying here.
And sometimes I have to wonder why.
The car drives along all the beaches;
The driver says nothing on his way;
He knows we've spent all we will spend;
No tour guiding tips for him today.
I wander round the white washed airport
Looking at the gift rapped fifths of rum.
I've spent two hundred over budget
To what purposes I have come.
The plane rises high over the bay;
The island recedes to a grain of sand;
From four thousand feet it is nothing;
Just a tiny little droplet of land.
Now, I sit at my computer desk
Reducing a whole island to signs,
But if I never touched your black heart
Jamaica, still, I sing, you're lines.
Oh Jamaica You fooled me again;
You washed the smog from my eyes with song;
You couldn't let me bewitch myself:
You sighed, and it was time to move on.
A KIND OF AN EPIC
By Daniel Richard Fruit
SATURDAY: ARRIVAL, FIRST IMPRESSIONS
And In the beginning a voice exclaimed,
LET THERE BE LIGHT! AND THEN...
No, that is not the way it's supposed to go.
What was I about to do with that?
I tear the paper from the notebook then.
I wad it up and blithely throw it out.
I glance around at the dirty station
That's filled with early morning travelers.
Catch your money save by going on Greyhound
Catch your money save by going on Greyhound.
When will I learn the secret is to just,
Leave out the marks until after so that
On some less stressful day I will be able
To listen to the sounds that flow around me.
At this bus station crammed with people with
The poor and disadvantaged of Los Angeles.
They can't drive as an option like I can do
Or think, I guess, that I could take the plane.
These six buck guidebooks are indispensable.
There is one part on food I can't afford;
There is one part on rooms I can't afford;
There is one part on clubs I can't afford;
There is one part on shows I can't afford;
There is one part on stores I can't afford;
There is one part on tours I can't afford.
But at six bucks this high life comes so cheap.
"I came on a greyhound bus, but I'll be walking out if I go.
"Oh lord, sucking on load die upping." *
(* From "Lodi" By Credence Clearwater Revival)
The LA. terminal's an oasis
Of clean surrounded by the skidrow bums.
I walked around this block, suitcase in hand
And heard slurred voices calling out to me;
"Hey, Big Guy. I would like to talk to you."
I walked around past five all too barred doors
Following my rule in such neighborhoods.
Lift up your head and point your eyebrows,
And let them think you know where you are going.
Are great vacations spot just born or made.
Hawaii, for example, is just a piece of fiction,
Where nearly-naked, sexy Polynesians play,
By big plantations decked with swaying palms
And great white hunters come to surf the waves
While finding that perfect dark-haired babe.
The real Hawaii only juts it head
When smiling girls present you with the bill.
My ears pop as we cruise on the desert floor,
The bus makes passages so stresslessly.
It sails us past the peaks as splendid air-
Conditioning breathes seventy degrees.
Camaro drivers pass, arms out like wings,
They scrutinize through tinted Polaroids
Up at our cruiser passing by and shake
Their heads at such disadvantaged folks.
He sits inside his office fiddling with
The buttons of his faithful McIntosh
And lovingly rewords his sponsors words
'Western Cuisine served graciously."
He writes, "Come to the S.F. bar and grill
And you will find some Western food served
To grace 'The Best of San Francisco Bay.'"
So publication seems a certainty,
And you will find it reads so well.
It looks so small, a dot, seen from the hills,
And not the blot that is Los Angeles.
Yet San Francisco has ruled supreme
At least within the hearts of "cultured" types.
I start to count the tall buildings clustered
Around an off-cast modern pyramid.
I grab my no-flight bag and suitcase
To try to figure out this strange new land.
"Where is he." the poor people ask.
"I can't see him."
'He's at the back of the train.
"He insisted on traveling
third class again."*
(* From "Gandhi")
"What is the price for a room for one?"
I ask at every place I see along
the road from where the Greyhound stops.
With each quote that I hear I frown again.
"Do you know where I'd find a cheaper place?"
The hotel desk clerks grimace, but they point
Me onward point the way towards grimmer spots.
And soon I'm where the sun more seldom shines.
The kind of place where people rent for months,
An Indian man answers when I ring
The bell, behind him I smell curried rice.
"What can I do for you?" he politely asks.
A small, dark woman stands behind inside
She wears a look that says she does her best
To make the world inside a place that lives
A life that mocks the world outside her walls.
I waste no time in laying out my things
And put on clothes that do not look so bad.
I walk not even five blocks north of there,
To where I see Mercedes parked by curbs,
And women dressed in expensive clothes,
With teeth that shine like orthodontic art.
The pretty people drive to here to shows,
The part of town that makes this culture sell.
The sign proclaims that "Nothing Sacred"
Is of Russia in the 19th Century,
And people dressed in ties and fancy coasts
Walk in to seat themselves in front row chairs.
I look at my worn jeans and airline bag,
Walk five flights of stairs to reach my seat.
The rich are different says Fitzgerald
But only when they pay the I.R.S.
Wealth is the only difference between me
And the actors and that they dress up
In different and contrasting uniforms.
I look at the and take another swig,
From the Pepsi I bought at the corner.
An inspiration hits me, and I laugh.
"Ha Ha HA Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!
I get so self indulgent when left alone.
"Back in the USSR. You don't know how lucky you are boy.
'Back in US. Back in US. Back in the USSR."*
(* From the Beatles "Back in the USSR.")
New Worlds can rise above the burned out old,
That's what the main character believes.
I look down at the little blonde near me.
"Are you with anyone tonight?" I ask.
"Well yes, but he's not here," she volunteers.
"So you're a college girl?" I ask and watch
Her cross her nyoned legs above her knees.
She smiles, "Oh no, I go to high school now."
I think, "By God, you're making me feel old."
She's gone before the second act, and I
Stay through the ambiguous conclusion,
Then walk up to Salmagundi's for a bite.
I wash my salad down with coffee cups
And toast my precious, wasted Saturday.
So this is life in this big city, and
I wonder what it's all supposed to mean.
SUNDAY: VIRGINS, CHINATOWN, AND DAVID'S PLACE
At 5:00 I jog my daily rounds
And make an accidental detour down,
In Jones street, and I see a little girl
All dressed in Virgin White and looking young.
This street is lined with skirts and debutantes
Whose slashy clothes so grip their curves like knives.
Some glance at me for just a moment but look
Instead for customers, and I turn away.
So I jogged through the mainstreet of Market
Over and past the sleeping bums until
I reached Embarcadero and the shore.
I ran by wharves, immaculately cleaned,
Past all the sleeping dockyards where no one
Had yet arisen to unload the ships.
I finally turned south and past a signal
Retraced my steps to sleep perhaps to dream.
I rose for good at nine o' clock and still
Was nodding as I walked out through the door,
Again smelling the pungent Indian cuisine.
My airline bag was filled with those three books
I think I need to occupy myself.
I take a quick look at the gray hotel
Whip out my camera and snap a shot
That I can show to posterity.
I swiftly walk to old Chinatown
That settling of numerous budget flicks.
I hustle back and forth down average
And ordinary streets lined with odd shops.
It seems that every person peddles junks
Or jade and trinkets and the streets resound
In sounds of words I do not understand
That flip like notes in pentatonic scales.
The shelves are lined with greens and purple hues
With shirts that sparkle with colored patterns bright
And little stores where fishes swim and stare.
I see a chessboard in watery jade
With Emperors and pagodas-for rooks.
Yet prices here are nothing special for
These tiny figurines and statuettes
Of Buddhas who look down inscrutably.
·Boddhisatva won't you take me by the hand.
"Boddhisatva won't you take me by the hand.
"And I'll be there to brighten your Japan.
"Sparkle up your China. Won't you be there?*"
(* Steely Dan "Boddhisatva")
A Guidebook in my hand I walk right past a church
So Christian I figure it's Methodist.
I'm reading about the once, quite deadly streets
That closed this little piece of China off
Where opium sold and yellow girls were let
By scar-faced thugs whose image haunts the screens.
Now Chinatown rolls up its streets at ten,
And Charlie Chan no longer is on call.
"Chinese music always sets me free.
"Even their banjos-sound good to me."*
(* Steely Dan "Asia.")
It's like an oriental pyramid.
Its point the top of gently curving sides.
The walkway leads serenely over streets
That head into the mall under the park.
It's like a bridge and lined with little signs
That tell how certain values came to be
Through deeds of legendary Chinese kings
Embodying respect and loyalty.
I stand poised over passing cars
And see a group of elderly Chinese
All dressed in traditional high-collared shirts
Who laugh and talk to one another,
Their eyes down focused on strange checkerboards
Where four can play a game I do not know.
I look at the most recent of the signs.
Graffiti still cannot obscure its lines.
The North Shore makes me think again about
Some previews from this surfing movie where
"He" has the surf to beat the bad guys, and
He'll win the love of the Hawaiian babe.
I see few babes here, however, outside
The rather imposing Catholic Church.
This is the quietist part of the town:
The kind of place a teacher'd want to be.
The autos snake around the curves of trees
On Lombard street past these pedestrians
That climb to watch and take their photographs.
If this street were located in L.A.,
I can imagine that on Saturday,
Drunk joy riders would smash the sides of beige
And green lines of octagonal houses that
Look down upon this scenic stretch of road.
I suddenly notice the children who
Enjoy the park at Washington Square.
It's now I realize how few young folks
Or families I've seen along this trip.
I wipe the dirt from off my clip-on shades
To try to see through two layers of filth.
I've walked for miles and miles, at times quite lost,
The feel of freedom my companion.
I risk a ride on the electric bus.
The driver takes my money easily
And when I ask a stupid question, then,
He answers it completely to the point.
And so completely accurately that
I feel a sense of disappointment that
To get around should not require use
Of deduction, and reasoning and luck.
Japantown they call my destination,
But it is really just a shopping mall
With lots of stores with wares beyond my poor tastes.
Still there are lots of Japanese near here.
I take the first bus back to see a play
Down at the local theater, but first
Change to my trimmest pants and whitest shirt.
I tell myself, ignore the price of seats.
After the show I walk to David's Place
Of obvious ethnicity and fame.
I give my order to a deaf, old cook,
Here everything is expensively clean.
I sit down at the counter and observe
The gray-hairdo woman waitressing the place.
"You know why you are poor?" she asks a man
"It is because you pay to park your car."
"What comes with this?" I get the nerve to ask.
"A pickle, do you want the special sir?"
Before I finish nodding, she yells out.
"Hey Lenny, get this young man the sandwich plate."
I gave abstractly at the fare:
Two pieces of bread and something between.
And write it off as local favorite
And when my "kosher wiener" is served, I blush.
"Hey do you want some bread?" she asks me them.
"Um," I reply and she gives me more rye.
I try to read and eavesdrop as guests talk
At other tables and about their lives.
The cashier asks about my hometown life.
I read the label an the bagel chips.
"A pound that's way too much." "Here have one more."
But finally exhaustion sends me home.
MONDAY: THE BAY AND PALLACIO DEL ARTE
"They came down to the sea in ships!"*
(* Melville quoting the Bible in Moby Dick.)·
The wharf of San Francisco doesn't seem
Like the kind of salty place such as
The movies show with thugs and thieves and boats.
Instead it is a collection of shops.
It seems a bit more like Niagara Falls,
A place with mandatory wax museums
Of rich and famous people without life,
A similar place is Guiness' Museum.
Bright horses running to a steam run band
And hundreds of children paid to ride
The stallions of Pennsylvania
And the rococo Coney Island mounts.
All circled round in grand amusement parks.
Then there was Tonnewanda
And its more colored Kansas counterparts
That traveled with the moving circus.
I think then of a novel idea.
I could create a character who rides
These fanciful horses and then decides
To go into places of the West.
He thinks he wants to be a gunslinger,
But wisely fears such anti-social types,
So he becomes a dentist for The West.
And I will call it "The Wooden Horseman."
I spend some four hours at these tourist traps
And wonder why I go in places like these.
At last I spot the boats housed in the bay:
The Calcutta; a tugboat; and two more.
Now that I've read "Two Years Before the Mast,"
The sight of rigging puts my back in pain,
And I can feel the deck rock in the breeze.
I wander along the beach towards a part.
The army has a fort perched on the hill.
I guess it guards the fleet of yachts nearby.
The sign says "Fitness levels: see below."
I read and make the proscribed jump easily.
The sign says "amateur repeat five times."
I shrug my shoulders and keep hiking till
I jump each leg and log, "amateur five times"
While for "Medium" fitness is ten times
With "Competition" level fifteen times.
I glance stealthily at the cars nearby.
I down my bag and plant my feet before
A quick breath in, and I start moving "One"
"Two! Three! Four! Five! Six! Seven! Eight! Nine! Ten!'
I pound from leg to leg, increasing speed,
"Eleven! Twelve!" My arms now move into
My rhythm, "Thirteen! Fourteen! Fifteen! Oops!"
But only seagulls hear my ranging curses.
I wander to the Palacio del Arts.
It's done in 2Oth Century Roman style:
A set of pillars crowned by an arched roof
Close to a winding river bed, it is
An artists' conception of ancient Rome.
I see a modeling crew all set to take
Some pictures framed by this late-blooming Rome.
They say it's for a fashion magazine.
"So this is supposed to look like Rome?" I ask.
"Well yes." a painted-eyebrowed girl replies.
"You know, they say that Rome was actually
Quite colorful and painted at its height?"
"Oh yes," she says, not caring; then I save
My remarks about the repainting of Rome.
That covered it so much the prophets
Condemned the "Painted Whore of Rome."
Is this really life in the theater?
I thought, watching the play within a play.
The story of a cast involved on tour
While surviving a "tangled knot" of love.
Act two ends when the prop manager says:
"I'm pregnant," but that line of plot is lost
And left abandoned as too hot to touch.
The price of tickets left me feeling guilty.
A Korean restaurant is still open.
I treat myself to some peculiar prawns.
The three initial dishes baffle me.
I dare not ask the Korean folks around
For fear they'll think I'm just a tourist type.
Instead I take a shot of Saki, wine,
And learn, too late, it's potent alcohol.
I shake my head and eat the wormlike food.
I'm back in my room, my head faintly buzzed,
And collapse onto my stony, old mattress.
So are crustaceans related to worms?
Well, David says that this is not the case,
And David knows it all, or so he says.
I fall asleep and dream of walking up
Through metal buildings laced with iron ribs.
TUESDAY: NATURAL HISTORY, EXPENSIVE GARDENS
"I can fly like a bird in the sky.
"I can give you anything money can buy.
"Oh I can give you sunshine from a single grain of sand."*
Grains of sand, indeed.
(* "I Can't Get Next to You." the Four Tops)
A howl pathetic as a baby's cry,
And I think it must be a kitten but
I'm not prepared to have it scurry in
My room and scamper under my bed.
"Some cat has taken over my room."
I tell the man seated at the desk
Whose wondering what kind of man would complain
About a friendly little kitty invading.
I dreamed last night that David lost his mind.
He stood explaining all his ailments then
To give logical explanations
For problems he had fixed and went berserk.
As colors faded, I saw his gravestone chalked
In gray, the words aligned in order just
Like one of his computer programs, and
I felt more empty then and lost.
I go to do my laundry and regroup.
As several beggars ask me for some change.
I walk across the street and stealthily sneak
Into my room and creep towards the bed
And snatch the ball of fur that hides beneath.
I toss it out the door, and shut it quick,
Ignoring it's mournful cries of "Meow."
At last, its piteous voice fades down the hall.
Sometimes, this city seems so odd with all
Its storybook houses and bums telling tales.
I walk along towards downtown again.
Maybe today I'll ride those trolleys
That clank and clatter on the noisy tracks
That wind around this city built on hills.
I go enter Metro station and learn
which train to reach the Natural History museum.
The long bus west leads through the trees to end
In this smallish rectangular park and
Houses we pass are poor and mostly black,
But every neighborhood is mixed by race.
I realize again how few trees downtown held,
And just this park is no real substitute
To all those kids that'll grow up on cement.
The driver told me where to leave the train.
I walk to the art and Asian exhibits
To see the sign "Closed Monday and Tuesday."
And then dismiss the thought of going back,
I think "What do Dutch and World Masters have
To do with San Francisco's cultural world.
I have to stop myself before I ask
That obvious question of whether this
Country has a culture of its own at all.
The Natural History museum contains
Fossils as well as some living fish.
I start off reading every sign I see,
Beginning with ocean ectoplasms, but
It all seems so familiar to me then.
I realize I've read this all before.
I laugh and start to scan my way around,
And, like a child, see only what interests me.
The pools of sharks, the schools of fish, the surfs
Of lichen, even the protozoan pools
All leap and team with wild activity,
Yet when I watch the one-celled organisms
Devouring tiny forests full of cells
And animals with names more large then they,
There are no cries of pained anguishing
As though there were no death or suffering.
I pass from case to case and read no signs
That tell why death should pass without a trace;
Why some strong creatures like the cockroach brood
Survive no matter what the world brings them,
While dinosaurs and mammoths die away,
After the world they lives has faded out.
Who knows quite when the specialized creature
Named "man" will fail to meet the Earth's demands.
The other building in the park are closed,
So then I stride along the parkway and
Discover a little covered hothouse
And take a dollar tour to see the plants.
I hear a woman talking to her friends
And setting up some seats into a line:
"And you'll serve refreshments sir-" she says.
"Yes, Mam, you'll want them served all night?"
From there I go another block or two
Into an Oriental tea garden sight.
It overflows with spicy smells of herbs.
That waft around its overgrown pathways.
It is a spot of immaculately green
That's garnished with stone figurines and plants
And rivers of stone flowing under its
Pagoda that winds down to dragon's tongues.
I shake my head and wonder how this might
Appear in urban Tokyo amidst and
Surrounded by a modern skyscraper.
In America all one needs is a gallon of
Petroleum to find a wilderness,
Devoid of manicure and images
Of what a forest should have looked like back
Before becoming dreams of nature's look.
I'm running out of city, I think,
As I just catch the bus to downtown
And see again those needle buildings.
The thought of going to another play,
No matter how enlightening its content,
Brings down my hand to count my bills again.
Instead I settle for the theater that shows
Those intellectual films for foreign students.
No female in the audience looks quite
Paupered enough for me to entertain.
I just laugh again at my father's insane
Belief that intellectuals congregate.
He thinks there is some Heavenly cafe
Where Woody Aliens meet to ponder such
Matters as love and death and quiche lorraine
And whether something has social import.
"When they hauled you out of the oxygen tent,
"You asked for the latest party.
"Young girl...They call us the Diamond Dogs
(*From David Bowie's "The Diamond Dogs.")
WEDNESDAY: THE TROLLEY, ALCATRAZ, THE ZOO
It's like a car with metal rolling wheels
And painted in an unappealing red.
Inside a big man grasps a metal grip
That activities a Nineteenth Century
Contraption taking the line in its grasp.
The red car releases its holding braking
And coasts along amid metallic noise
And lets itself be towed up the hill.
The winds blow from the ocean a frost
Even on spring days like today, but I
Stand gripping to the metal cold and steel.
I wonder if I have to pay for this,
Yet then I see a man dressed up in blue
Who walks right through the car and stares
Until I give the required two bills.
And just as soon, it's over, and I'm there.
I get my bag together and walk where
I see a pier of colored ferry boats.
A ticket costs five dollars, but I'm glad
To pay the price for I expected crowds.
That trip is short but choppy and cold winds
Slow even through the portholes of the ship.
Then I can hear a ranger's voice and see
A sign with "Prison Island: Alcatraz."
They called this place "the rock" because
A barren island when the government
Erected gun emplacements on the spot.
The guns of Alcatraz protected us
Right through the Civil War and even in
Our little war with Spain by which time all
The guns were rendered obsolete. and this
Old fort became an army prison site.
In 1933, the Federal government
Decided to make a new, tougher place
To house such luminaries as Capone
And take the dregs from Federal prisons.
They built the barracks up again into
300 individualized small cells.
The cost was high in dollar terms,
A lot to spend on wasteful men.
For guys like Al Capone this cut them off
From their too lucrative crime connections.
But most the inmates here were certified
As psychopaths who would harm anything.
Guys like the so-called Birdman
Who attained the equivalent of 3 Ph.D.s
But who would kill a normal person just
Part of their warped personality.
They kept them in a cell no longer than
Where they had two card tables and a bed.
All had to behave or they'd lose
Their privileges like weekly shower call
Or going outdoors or checking out a book,
And boredom was the real enemy.
I wonder what kind of society is
That feels it awes such types a life at all.
I see the headlines and the paper
The boat is riding back towards the shore:
"Bay gangs may merge into new supergangs."
Perhaps what we should do is gather up
The scumbags of our cities and drop them
At Alcatraz, and each day drop insufficient
Supplies and drinks to somewhat feed the group
And kind of let them "entertain" themselves.
I take two tries to find a downtown bus
And then while searching for the subway stairs
I see a sign for S.F.'s school district.
I walk into the office and ask for
An application for the next school year.
The secretary glances at my old jeans.
But I say "I'm a teacher from L.A."
And take the massive book of bulletins.
Page two, and still I have not figured out
The place where openings are printed out.
The list of programs seem translated in
Some foreign dialect of Acronym.
Well do I really need to live in this,
Another high crime, high rent area?
At last, I shrug my shoulders and nod when
She asks "You found what you were looking for?"
The long and relatively empty stairs
I take to reach the MUNI station step.
I try my hardest not to ask for help,
But after minutes of parading with
My money in my hand and seeing bums
Congregate around me, like sharks, I ask,
Then follow round signs until I take
The slow. gray train that tales me to the zoo.
The train slows from fortiesh top speed
As rails rise up to cross the surface streets.
The driver has to wait for traffic lights,
Like elephants must do in India.
I walk into the zoo and ignore stores
Where lunch would have been cheaper than
The two bucks I'm obliged to pay for lunch.
Now it is threatening to rain again.
It's peaceful in this zoo that features so
Few animals generously apart.
I walk and look and snap some photographs
Which species have the most intelligence?
The jaguars look quite bored and overfed.
This look is shared by most cage denizens,
In animal apartments getting their
Three balanced meals with doctor's care.
At last, it's five o'clock. and I walk north
Back to the little station and decide
That now, to quote my dad, "I've seen it all."
And watch the dirty silver train pull up
And take my final drive downtown that way.
I don't feel much like going out to grasp
Some cultural experience again.
I'm not a very good Bohemian.
I'm running every day the same route now
But almost run right past my old hotel.
It seems so unfamiliar due to the
Two blonde young girls, in tightest skirts. outside.
"I'll see you Friday." the one says then.
"Yeah, see ya," is the other one's response.
They step clear of the gate, and I walk up,
Ring the buzzer, and go back to pack.
By five o' clock I'm waiting by the step.
I have a German epic to wade through;.
I think in Germany I'll eat real cheap
And only pay the minimum to live.
Perhaps I'll last the summer through
Who knows what a determined man can do
If he decides to miser every cent.
By then, my attitude will be looser.
High living is just not in my style.
My Puritanical senses of guilt
Robs me of every costly pleasure that
My money buys-Well then
I can, at least get that pervasive glee
That comes from living cheaper than the rest.
My mind holds that inspiring chain of thoughts
Just like a pair of molded cheeseburgers.
I watch the spires and building fade away
Beneath the fog that hugs the windy bay.
Across the waters, Oakland has to face
And go to sleep beneath the gangster's guns.
I think of metal cars of ochre red
And driver's wearing gloves to guard their hands
That hold the ancient metal levers up
And haul a city up another hill.
And so I turned away at last, so free,
And let the city face the icy, frigid sea.
THIRTY YEARS AND SHRINKING
I used to drink black coffee
And pour the spices on my food.
I used to slurp those logger beers
And sit around each day and brood.
I used to philosopher
And try to understand the truth.
I used to worry about myself.
And be known as a promising youth.
But now I scan the market tags.
And don't remember books I have read.
Rock and roll, like jazz, seen stale,
And Hemingway, I've heard, is dead.
And so my friend you stare at me,
To wonder where the road will go.
I think it's time to set you free,
By telling you that I don't know.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mr. Fruit grew up in the suburbs of Detroit in a bland, but peaceful town, called Sterling Heights, Michigan. Even in grade school, he exhibited the poetic talents you see here. Several of his peens were printed in the elementary school paper. The school secretary, however. made so many typing errors trying to read young Fruit's printing that he vowed some day when he grew up, he'd be his own editor and make his typos.
In school, Mr. Fruit also became an avid music performer. He played in every band possible. As he grew alder, he love of music only expanded and would, in time. alter his original conception of poetry.
He went to school at a private liberal arts college in Michigan called Albion College where he majored in English and history. Mr. Fruit received a full scholarship to attend Indiana University where he attained his master's degree in American Literature. After graduation, he moved to Los Angeles and taught English at Stevenson Junior High School in East Los Angeles, an area plagued by crime and gangs but blessed, according to Mr. Fruit, by "some of the nicest people and best students in this solar system." Mr. Fruit claims his constant contact with "real people" at a "real job" heightened his sensibilities far more than sitting in a darkened room drinking wine and contemplating his senses, like real poets are supposed to do. During this long period, Fruit's enormous poetic talents lay dormant, like some undersired volcano or constipated elephant, awaiting to erupt. The first sparks to trigger the explosion came when Mr. Fruit became coordinator for the school's literary book The Tusitala and later the teacher of the school's creative writing class. Mr. Fruit found himself confronted by what he calls "genuine talents" and gave his utmost to developing those young minds. Somewhere along the way he found himself writing poetry again.
Mr. Fruit's work has to be considered eclectic, or eccentric. Some of the poems in the collection show a rather slavish sense of duty to all those Old concepts of rhyme, rhythm, meter, and the like. others, however, diverge into a new realm somewhere between music and prose. At his best, Mr. Fruit's writing touches the mind, the ear, and the body. At his worst, he sounds like a deaf dog howling at a cloud of smog he's mistaken for the moon. You will see both in this book.
As poetry editor for Laramie, Witney, and Barney, I take great pride in introducing this author to a new generation of poetasters and offer him as proof that, while poetry may be "dead." at least it has someone interested enough to perform at its wake.
ORIGINAL BACK COVER
A LOOSE CANNON IN THE HALLS OF POETRY
Daniel Fruit lets out all the stops in this uninhibited but not uninhabited collection of his poetry. Fruit's lines range around the Western hemisphere include an epic (Yes. an epic) account of a journey to San Francisco, proceeding through a week in Jamaica, and crashing to an ending in the jungles of learning at Los Angeles. Along the way, you'll meet an unforgettable and unforgivable cast of characters and see why Mr. Fruit maintains: "Real men write poetry."
Here is just a sample.
AN OLD CAR NEVER LETS YOU DOWN
An old car never lets you down
You worry that it's past its prime
You fix the engine and the trans
And restore it nickel and dime.
An old friend never goes away,
His face is written in your mind.
You remember how you were together
Before leaving your pal behind.
Your parents are a part of you
Their voices question what you say.
You shake your head and laugh out loud
But find you mind them anyway.
An old poem never goes away
If you recall a single line.
You add some brand new metaphor
Your personal kind of rhyme.
For then the poem's no longer dead,
It's like a river changing course.
It carries on and digs new banks.
And now you see the poem is yours.
An old car never gets you down
Although you worry that it might.
So long as you take care of it;
Then it will drive you home at night.
Laramie, Witney, and Barney, Limited