Postcards from ‘The Neon Cactus’

1 February 2013

I


‘Mother me, sunlight’. Fashionable mantras
pass the time from one damp hand to the other,
anesthetizing the old embarrassments I am
writing you in order to water down.

The hotelier has me make up the rooms,
tart up the palms with tinsel, insert bin liners
in the hollowed tree trunks, sift shells
and rake sand. The service is bare bones.

The guests are festive, not bothering to save
the paper for next year. To flatten and fold it
is too hard a job, post hubbub. It’s over
pretty quick. Each retreats to fiddle with gifts,

leaving on the pretext of a minor lie,
a counterfeit coin come to bear.
Some come
to prefer the company of statues.


II


Hairy stretches of Highway 1 ooze
through me at inopportune junctures —
the way, after driving all day, one drives
in dreams. Your mind drops you off

and drives on. You hold it against me,
but I can hold it, this wheel-like flotation
device, ring of fear. This is the third beard.
Clearly, I lack the moustache.


III


Becalmed by cutlery snug in their serviettes,
I rise before the guests to swim laps of the legume-
shaped pool. I make up the rooms, fold the edges
of towels to resemble flowers, and garnish with actual petals.

As I write, scaly patterns ripple the pool, filling me
with a pride that is undermined by an image
of your ankle pivoting to reach a kick serve,
effort and innocence visible in a ligament.

The scales turn and you are frozen there
forever. Vulnerable, the word is a mouthful.
The surprise sound of ball against fence.
A winner, down break point, I put down

the pen to pour tiny piles of sugar crystals on
diminutive saucers, anointing each one,
Mt Sweet, High Peak, and see the ladder-rail
from the pool is a pair of italicized R’s,

stars of light knifing their spines. And the past,
we must let it run around exhausting itself.
It’ll sleep better tonight, and fall from us
like pool.

The future is mute,
a belligerent ventriloquist’s doll.
Its lips begin to move,
quite dryly, struggling to part.

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