From the recording He Forgets to Forget
Thanks to Kurtis Lamkin, good friend and one of my favorite poets, for the reading and playing the kora. And thanks to Michael Flynn for the organ and adding the waves for transitions.
He Forgets to Forget
He gets out of his car, walks down to the ocean
Where everything is ending in crashing, slow motion.
Night’s coming on. The glowing sea foam
breaks up like dreams he dared to dream alone.
He pulls off his boots and peels off his shirt
He plans to walk out, where worse comes to worst.
You live long enough
you screw up enough
you spend enough days and nights looking down,
you forget to forget
your broken toys and dead pets.
You forget to look up and around.
He thinks now that even with lovers and friends
all his beginnings were beginnings of ends.
He let all his loves gather dust on the shelf
while he read old road maps to any place else.
It’s as though baby Jesus took a long nap,
and life was a Christmas gift he couldn’t unwrap.
Is he a dead-end alley off a dead-end street
in a town the highway passed by?
Is the way to his home now all overgrown now
with weeds where rattle snakes hide?
Man starts to get up.
And a foot away from his foot, a crab. They surprise each other.
Crab raises its claws, open, ready to defend whatever life it has, or piece of beach it has claimed.
He smiles, says, “It’s ok crab, I’m not going to hurt you.
Crab says, “Man, I thought you were dead.”
Man says: “I came here to die.”
Crab says:“That’s fine. I can feed off you for days and nights. I’ll wait. But you didn’t come here to die. You came here to meet me.”
Crab relaxes his claws a little, but still keeps them up as though singing “Alleluia,” backs toward the water. The man starts to look down again but the crab says, “I’m going up the beach there where the party’s going on, where something’s happening. Might pinch me a piece of hot dog. ‘fore I go, I’m gonna tell you an old Dorothy Parker poem. It goes like this:
Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.’”
Crab goes back to the water.
And up the beach, kids dance around fire,
their music comes to him like a holy choir.
They remind him of something he’d left far behind
about laughter and dancing and a satisfied mind.
What the hell is he doing, silly old coot?
He puts on his shirt, he puts back on his boots.
Now the tide’s going out,
the moon’s coming up
and there is tonight’s first star.
I wish I may, I wish I might…
He laughs at himself and heads back to his car.
He laughs and heads back to his car