Vista Point

I dreamed Dori and the baby
were in the kitchen and it was so sunny
that the sky was all stiff and brittle.
Then the goldfish in the bowl on the table
went wild and jumped out of their water.
Dori ran with the baby into the park,
while the earth split up in chunks
and big palm trees sunk straight down
without swaying, just like phone poles
dropped into water.
Everyone was screaming.
The sky broke like windshield glass
and where the blue pieces fell away
there was the most brilliant white light
behind the sky: it was
so beautiful that I cried.

Lately I’ve been wondering a lot.
Not about anything in particular—
not looking for meaning in the cosmos
or anything like that, I’ve done enough
of that—but wondering about
little things that don’t amount to much.
And the wondering doesn’t go anywhere,
I just don’t know about it.
Sometimes I’m working
and my boss gets crazy about, say,
building the front to this or that
old wreck with wooden plugs and glue
instead of nails. Or sometimes
laying on top of Dori in bed—
once I just laid there for an hour,
watching my seed, in my mind,
seeing it in her,
like a small, eager river,
glowing white inside her—but
a river with a beginning and an end,
just a piece of a river.

I love her more than I can say—
there’s no one else’ll ever do—
but there’s something else
or things else
that I don’t even call by name
that come on me.
Sometimes in the truck after work
I park at the lookout
on the way back to the city and stare
at the sun going under the ledge of seawater.
And it’s like my body rebels and wants
to go after it. I’m like a seabird
whose leash is tied to it, who follows it
at night and pulls it up before dawn.
And I just punch the roof of the cab—
by now it’s got dents all over;
looks like a hail storm’s beaten it in.
I feel so caught
in the things that can be—
some dragonfly in amber—and called
also by the things that can’t be,
a man with feet
and no place for them.
If I didn’t have fists then,
I think I’d just die . . .
I don’t know, I love my wife,
love my son,
but there’s a plastic tether
maybe, made of time and place,
that I’m always stretching, pulling at.
I sometimes think if I went off
after the sun,
I’d not burn up there; I’d be
some kind of fire in my own right.

I have a private ambition:
to build a staircase in a Swiss town maybe
or in some southern church back home
where the miraculous still comes
home from the swamp—
a spiral staircase, much like a barber pole,
and one made without a single nail or joint,
inexplicably made so that no one piece
could have been done
without all the others first being finished.
A puzzle and a miracle I want it to be.
And then when it’s done, I plan to leave
the clapboard town by night,
like St. Joseph, on a mule maybe,
or just afoot with sandals,
never having spoken to anyone,
rector or wives,
leaving them each to wonder
what visitor it was who made this
and if, oh, if they dare to climb the stairs
and if the treads would make them holy.

I’d like to tell the baby about this,
but he’s like the fish sometimes,
steering around the chairs like he was
in corkscrew grass. If he could
he’d uproot it all, let it float: tight, white roots
all naked; chairs, rugs, me, lying sidelong
on the ceiling.
He likes the fish; I show them to him
all the time. I show him the lime tree
on the sill. I show him my picture
of the earth,
the lapis-like mix of the world
seen from above,
looking like an ear-jewel, a marble,
another eye, staring placidly back.
He kicks like a turtle at it.
I wanted to have him with me
at the lookout today after work.
There were a lot of picture-takers
there today, all squinting into a lens
for a picture of the seal herd on the rocks,
all shooting right into the sun.
They don’t bother me anymore. I know they come
and go home to long pants
and high position. They only travel
in order to go back and throw whale fins
up onto their walls for whatever neighbors
they have in their high-rises on the Loop.
To me they’re just little figures
against the sunset,
going down to L.A., going up to Eugene.
They never stay away from the motels
so near to dark.

I was thinking about the baby.
The sun turned a lemon color, then
almost colorless; and the cliffs
turned a brass color, the sky a bird-like gray.
The baby is eighteen months old;
he would have liked it.
When I was there alone,
a row of pelicans flew by. Seven of them.
Just above the horizon,
not touching the sun at all,
as if they’d been burnt by it.
And all at once, I just went wild—
a sort of cold wildness I’d never felt before—
that shook me as if I was freezing.
I was standing all alone
on the cliff edge, taking the peaches,
one by one, out of the crate
I had in the bed of the pickup,
and I was throwing them one at a time
at the sun,
cursing nonsense at it and crying
like a baby, the whole while
it sunk down,
down to Japan and China, to Rome
and all those places they take pictures of.

The fog came in.
I needed the headlights
it was so dark when I left,
the empty crate rattling in the truck.
Oh Dori, Dori,
woman, I love you best and forever,
but there’s ambition in me
which we all need to fear.

:: Richard Ronan, Narratives from America (Dragon Gate,1982)

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