Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Big Sleep

On the way downtown I stopped at a bar and had a couple
of Scotches. They didn’t do me any good. All they did was
make me think of Silver-Wig, and I never saw her again.
Raymond Chandler

I haven’t been getting much & there were 19
faces pal in that tumbler & none of them mine
some of them looked like night-blooming cacti looming
on the outskirts of Tijuana all they’d ever wanted
was to grow up as purple orchids
lousy break
but I was thinking way too much without much to
show for it 16 charred
valentines in a clear glass ashtray hearts
smoldering amongst the stubbed Kents the 5:00 a.m.
sky was going to look like an immense
pack of Kents the cellophane ripped
but I wasn’t there yet I was wearing
my hat on my heart
& my heart on a frayed black tweed sleeve it hadn’t
slept for a slew of dog years the sleeve lay supine in
a puddle of cocktail glass sweat the globe lamps
broadcast as if
the light were just dead trout or tincture of
iodine or a fruit
cocktail can its lid 3/4 peeled off & jagged & drooling
& I was feeling a bit like Marcel Proust myself with this
for scribbling in bed when I should’ve been
sleeping with the fishes
as if my heart were a cocktail glass humming
Born To Lose all by itself when I’d meant to say
I’m holding my heart in my hat &
my hat’s in my hand & there were
19 faces pal staring &
some of them looked like a roadside hot pink neon
lit motel 10 miles west of San Berdoo with its pine oil
reek & the cable TV buzzing killer bees swarming
headlong northwest from Mexacali they’d never
had a chance to really live as
a Rte 5 fruit stand &
I was thinking way too much in the midst of the white
white stars’ degenerate matter furious
all-night jag
they were bawling
zircon & Tanqueray as though they
thought this was all rock candy & seltzer &
streetcars named
Desire & Mildred & Russian Lullaby hoved by lugging their
Venus on the half-shell frenzies their
freight of ampersands their
yen for mad love shuddering the cables
& I thought this is just asking for trouble the 5:00 a.m.
sky will probably look like a dead fish gawking
blind from crushed ice in a chinatown
market but I wasn’t there yet I was
holding my hat in my heart & my hand had
sunk gurgling under a capsized
gray fedora this hat felt
bitter itself it had
missed its chance to become a conchshell washed up
at Long Beach in the phosphate detergent
foam with the rest of the sexy jetsam as if
my heart were ice in a cocktail glass humming
Rose Of Tralee all by itself as if I’d actually said
Scotch & alkali when the sky at 5:
00 a.m. will actually be a
flat Fresca
green & unbubbly
but I wasn’t there yet I was thinking
Big mistake when I’d meant to say I’m holding my
heart in my hat & my hand’s a tumbler pal holding
19 faces & only one of them actually was a
dirty blonde palmtree brooding next to
Mission Dolores it’s
no one’s fault her brown eyes never got translated into
an authentic Manhattan brownstone brimming with
Caffé Lattes brimming with
steampipes spinet pianos a
hardboiled novel in which
characters shoot the moon through the actual
orchard of spheres I was planted in just then amongst
everloving lemontrees the lovebirds
squawking their nitrous
oxide yuks straight out of Hitchcock clutching
discombobulating boughs I was thinking
when you’re in this line of lost & found
in this sleepless bamboozled eat-
your-heart-out universe pal
you end up doing a lot more of the first

Jack Hayes
© 1990-2010

This poem appeared previously in Chump


Poetikat said...

I think (I'm not sure) this was the first one of your poems I ever read (I followed a link way back when).
It has a much greater meaning for me now, having been exposed to much more of your work.
I just adore the way you describe the sky - the dead fish on ice, the Flat Fresca, and oh, of course—there they are! The valentines in the ashtray—so apt and yet so anti-this day.

That fedora missing its chance—that's a great line.

Each reading just gets better and better.

Happy Valentine's Day to you both!


John Hayes said...

Hi Kat: I do remember sending you a link to my old website with poetry--it could have been to this poem--I've always liked it. I actually believe I may have written it around Valentine's Day 1996. Glad you like it!

Happy Valentine's Day to you & Kevin too!