Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sketch For A Big Band Balinese Shadow Puppet Theater

First there were the prince & princess. That was a Saturday, everything looked sacred like a charm bracelet: dancing Shiva, a xylophone, a valentine heart. Green cockatoos flew from the mighty pipe organ at the bijou, where the prince & princess arrive just in time for the matinee. Later there was plenty of strawberry rhubarb pie à la mode: it tasted like a clarinet's c# transformed to a kiss. God was satisfied, why shouldn't he be? There were saxophones hanging in trees, you could hear the St. Louis Blues as you ate your focaccia. Both the prince & princess had wings, they weren't much perhaps compared with a Brooks Brothers' suit or a Coco Chanel cocktail dress, but they felt snazzy flapping down the avenues in their zoot-suits out-jitterbugging Ganesha. They both wore fedoras. Drinking cups of java they each thought the other's sex was a tropical florist's.

& there was just one train that went on for hours barreling out of the clouds, & the turbaned engineer, who was himself a face taken from a meerschaum pipe, ruminated on the transiency of existence. Then somebody closed the venetian blinds.

Then god felt so tired he remembered he was only a bamboo stand with arthritis. That's life. He drank green tea. He'd rather smoke american cigarettes, these Gitanes give him an even worse headache. It's not easy having several arms, just think about it a minute. Ok, that's long enough.

In the next scene they travel to a cafe, it's called the Elephant's Bathtub. It's twilight of course because the sky's swarming with several tons of rhododendrons & silk moths & demons of course wearing bowlers & opera hats & puffing on their Garcia Y Vegas. The prince can't remember the words to I Can't Give You Anything But Love which he's supposed to sing at this point. The princess does her dance of rococo pathos. She's a crumpled pack of smokes.

It makes you think of powder blue snapdragons & revolving doors & god feels like an elevator in which it's raining & he has forgotten his umbrella again. It's disturbing. The birds of paradise & the pink flamingoes have broken loose from the zoo.

It doesn't matter how many Hudsons zoom past, the demons grinning gold-toothed from the running boards. There's no more love in the world, there are no more upright pianos the princess can lean on. There's hardly any dry land. It's a fiasco. There are so many eucalyptus trees out after midnight. There are so many cops. The prince is reduced to a hockshop, the princess has to sling hash for a living. The demons are chuckling like Zippo lighters & the ones that don't look like George Raft look like Edward G. Robinson, & no one can help our two lost lovers now it seems, not even Benny Goodman.

God's living on aspirin. One assumes time passes.

In the next scene they meet at the nightclub known as the Moon's Telephone. Under the palm trees etc under the skylight the devas circulate sporting purple orchids in their lapels until the air's awash in orchids & mambo notes some wearing natty sport coats & pleated trousers & what about those amethyst cufflinks, the rest wearing strapless dresses & pumps not to mention musical

questions hoo-hooing mourning doves fluttering out of muted trumpets. There are 7-ups sending bubbles through the roof. Each one becomes a star of course, they make whopping costume jewelry. The prince gives the princess a 16th note spritzed with rosewater from a vaporizer & with the first 4 bars to I Surrender Dear. God remembers that after all he's really a small hotel & he's dazzling with constellations for neon lights at that. He opens his doors into Sunday. There's plenty of ice cream there. There's the moon & it's ringing: hello— hello.

The demons lam, the devas in pursuit. You think it's Packards & Hudsons until the jalopies grow wings.

There's the scene at the train station of course, you can't forget about that. Here come the prince & princess, they both catch the train on the run, floribunda sprouting from the smoke which may be actually fog which is actually their footsteps. The saxophones swing on the arms of the stars, Ginger Rogers & Fred Astaire should fox-trot like that. God sleeps at last like a big city sleeps. There's cream & sugar for everybody's coffee. Lotus blossoms float in every cup of course. A new one appears each time the clarinetist extrapolates another superabundant note. In the sleeper car which is really a greenhouse the prince & the princess have sex.

& there's just one train that rises on the Ganges into the infinite, & the elephant-headed engineer, who's himself a face taken from a meerschaum pipe, ruminates on the transiency of existence. Somebody draws the shutters.

Jack Hayes
© 1990-2009


Alan Burnett said...

Love it. There are enough good lines to fill a couple of pages in my pocket book. It needs reading to the background music of Lester Young or Coleman Hawkins. Something slow and smokey.

John Hayes said...

Hi Alan: & thanks! Most of my SF poems probably should be read with something "smokey" at least since back then, as they said of Auden, "everything he touched turned to cigarettes!" So glad you liked it!

Poetikat said...

"their zoot-suits out-jitterbugging Ganesha...
cafe, it's called the Elephant's Bathtub...
hoo-hooing mourning doves fluttering out of muted trumpets."

John, you have such a wild imagination, it's like a Wes Anderson movie...on speed (and then off).

Coincidentally, I have been contemplating a rococo reference for tomorrow.

John Hayes said...

Hi Kat: Thanks--I have my moments. I'll look forward to your rococo excursion tomorrow!



Dominic Rivron said...


I'm just reading a Kurt Vonnegut at the moment which is perhaps why, although he doesn't do the rich density, this struck me as Vonnegutesque in places - particularly the bits about God. (As I said, t's probably just because my head is so full of KV right now).

John Hayes said...

Hi Dominic: I read my share of Vonnegut & liked him quite well--it's certainly possible that a bit seeped in! Thanks for stopping by.

John Hayes said...

Hi King of the Camels: Thanks for stopping by & for following!