BigCityLit - New York Edition

Big City, Little

Los Angeles

Absence of Mermaids
Steve De France

As a younger man
I dreamed of living in exotic far-off lands
Zanzibar . . . Madagascar,
or wandering in a reverie
at the paws of the Egyptian Sphinx.
And there beneath a fresh-made hornéd moon
specters of Coleridge and Keats were at my side,
Eliot is there, too. Wearing only a tie pin.
I tear off my pants, and dive into forgetful crystal waters,
there in swirling foam, mermaids sing to me,
their kisses sweet with amnesia and the salt of sea.
We love like sea horses on the back of dolphins,
and then my voice rings out my poem:
volcanoes explode answering my startled cry for man,
even the dead of Dylan Sea sing in their chains
like the sounds of shrieking stones in the rolling surf,
and my young spirit is large upon the land.
I was a conjurer full of the touch of the poet.
As an older, but no smarter man
I live in Los Angeles.
Parts of my dreams have come true.
many people from far-off lands live all around me.
Many of them pee on my lawn
especially when they celebrate Cinco d'Mayo.
Most of my neighbors don't talk to me.
It's not entirely their fault.
I don't like them much either.
Button-down assholes all.
Accountants, lawyers, head doctors,
and an occasional proctologist,
and up to now
no mermaids at all.
but when the spirits and specters of poetry
are hard upon me, even fornicating in my dreams
I rend all clothes from my body
and stand naked and sagging between
alien houses in this enveloping suburban tract.
And then quite deliberately,
I smile in a Bay window darkly.
And through the pores of the houses,
I clearly hear my neighbors
dying for a dream or two
in their life fermenting modular dark.

(Reprinted unedited from Paris/Atlantic, Fall 2000)