Sunday, July 29, 2007

from popham beach, south

I watched the low-lying clouds envelop the islands off the shore. The lighthouse on the outermost island grew vague, and was left to sound a horn every few minutes. A light drizzle fell around me. Made the sand taut, dappled it with moisture. I walked to one of the allotted campfire pits, and under the bare soles of my feet, the calloused cover of sand gave way, revealed a buttery interior until the next sheet of rain hardened that, too.
Put my backpack and twine-tied firewood among the logs below the bank, below the reedy field above that led to the many winnebagos, tents, my car, highway 209 and through those trees, over the swamps, a few short miles, lay the shipping town of Bath. Popped my umbrella, stuck it in the sand between my back and the wood. Dug out the old black coals, the sand from the previous fire.
Took a piece of wood, then a handful of brush and crumpled-up newspaper, jammed that against the wood. Took a match, bent it around the back of the book, struck it, bent it back, let all the matches catch. Held my hand above the flame, for the rain. The brush caught. The paper caught.
I stood a minute, let it smoke and crackle. Put the next log on. It smarted, despite the rain. I hopped back and forth, danced a little. there was no one left on the beach. Just the fishing poles left by the man, who left the beach as I set foot, who asked would I chase away that rain away with fire, and I told him, I'd sure try. And he watched the poles now, jammed in the sand, from his Winnebago, watched the line run slack into lazy, rain-dappled waves.

And so I’d escaped. Some six-hundred miles I’d driven for this. Up the Hudson. That first night, the north beach of Lake George. Past the batting cages and the miniature golf-course and the town of flip-flops slapping the pavement with so much middle-class entitlement. Past this, into the trees, over the fire where I perched my can of soup that it might boil. Had a beer and a cigarette, saw patterns in that canopy of arms perpetually stretching, above. And then the quiet reigned no more, but the m-80s, roman candles, and the whoop and cackle of so many boys with sideways perched baseball hats. And from the other shore, a mile into that fog, formed when the sun went low, there was a boom like cannon fire; the clouds lit up. The fireflies, too, they joined in as a sulfurous cloud passed from my campsite to the next.

Three hundred miles south, the flag is still half-mast in the city for that cop. The routine traffic stop turned gun battle. His clean-shaven face on half a million newspapers, and he just couldn’t hang on.
To escape: in the city of 14 million people, we’re able to presume not a person out there has woes like ours, not even the man pissing in/out of the doors of the subway, the mute screamer from that train so long ago, the man who fell along the tracks, the second MTA worker to go under in a week. To perish, hang on down there, all tunnels with no light. it was the trains that caused my hunger for the north, the wild.
For that late night ferry from Portland, Maine round the islands there, within gawking distance:

And the trees, on the first island, lit up with red globes of christmas bulbs hung high from every branch, above that boathouse, linen-draped tables, and so many dishes scraped of leftovers, stacked high and glistening.

And the oil tanker that, by the weight of its hull, could not pull closer than a mile to the locks, and so pumped its cargo to smaller vessels. A terrific, monstrous, thing; mute waves lapped it, and the lights were modest, but there was a deftness, a certainty of power.

And the kids, at each dock. Lanky, sultry-eyed teens at each dock. They sat in, on golf carts. They set lobster traps on end, plywood on top, set plastic cups, poured beers. Popped ping-pong balls the length of the table, giggled. Deferred their eyes, brushed thighs against the knuckles of boys leaned against their makeshift tables.

And my rental car, as the ferry docked. My rental car parked on a street run dark under fickle streetlight. How I brushed my teeth, spit in the gutter, curled in the backseat, let my breath fog the windows, found sleep.
It was for this I left, took my escape. Nobody loves the New York August. Not david berkowitz, the mets, or the melting callogen smiles on so many west side crones.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007