FOUR POEMS | SETH SIMONS
Poem for Los Angeles
At brunch Tess and Sarah got to talking
about cults. Apparently Tess had just learned
of a multimillion-dollar “personal development”
company run by her friend’s father, a theatre
producer with many respectable credits.
Meanwhile Sarah's uncle just published a book
about his time in the Rajneeshpuram
in Antelope, Oregon in the 1970s and ‘80s.
I was thinking about my eggs. I was thinking
about their little cubes of feta and that thing
where there are more stars in the universe
than grains of sand on planet Earth. It sounds
impressive but I bet it’s only one or two stars
more. Sarah asked if I could pass the Tabasco.
She said he left the commune before Rajneesh,
their guru, poisoned the local water supply
in a bold gambit to swing municipal elections.
I was thinking about Sam, whose father’s
soft drink empire somehow includes Tabasco
too. I was stupid in love with her for a spell,
a good spell, but it never would’ve worked
you see, we were like two ships, or I was
like two ships and she was like a human
person with her own inscrutable cabinet
of want. Still, how nice to be two ships.
Sails unfurled, dolphins leaping, everyone
in their white suits. I understand one comfort
of military service is you don’t have to think
so much. Some guy is always telling you
where to stand, they have a whole diagram
of acceptable haircuts. Lately I’ve been living
a diagram-free lifestyle—maybe that’s the problem.
Later we went to Malibu to see Josh's standup
show. Josh is Tess’s boyfriend, though Sarah
suspects their differences vis-á-vis having kids
will eventually prove ruinous. After the show
he and I got into it about his former manager, a man
of considerable influence who until recently
represented the latest sex predator. He had no idea,
Josh said. Are you kidding he had every idea,
I said. You can imagine how this might over
the course of an hour go nowhere. Driving
back Sarah told me what we often tell each
other: this is just what it's like. My contacts
were dry. The lights of the city unfocused
themselves, streaming past us into the dark
promise of mountains, canyons, vineyards
and the other worlds beyond. And these
their cratered faces turned lightward
and were made visible. And being real
finally they were allowed to take shape.
And taking shape they shed ribbons
of their former darkness. And they fell
these ribbons upward into a darker
darkness, the worlds behind them full
of new gleaming. And we moved
onward, my friend and I, into this new.
The Old Wizard's Funeral
Though I only knew him briefly, I was invited to say a
few words. What does one say? “Here he lies, who I
thought immortal but alas was just like us, whose beard
was full of secrets, whose staves commanded thunder and
light, and who, some years ago, when he could have done
anything else, saved me, etc. etc.” Nothing seemed
enough, or close. For inspiration I looked into the orb,
the one he gave me after the ordeal. Through a cloud of
locusts I saw a cornfield, and at the cornfield’s edge I saw
a farmhouse, and behind the farmhouse I saw a well, and
at the bottom of the well I saw him, the old wizard,
climbing slowly upward, and with each step he took the
well grew deeper, the sky a few inches farther away,
clouds darkening with rain. “What have they done to
you?” I said, though of course he could not hear me,
would never again hear me, can never again be saved by
powers unequal to his own.
Nectar-eater. Blossom-sweeper. Creature
of daydreams and sweeter. All afternoon this
afternoon you took from my garden what bees
take too. Blue-bellied leaper from the lilac branch,
you remind me of a lady I knew. I’ll tell the story
later. Or never. She was twice the size at least of you
if I’m being conservative and didn’t murder me ever.
I’m a sucker for that. Heck, I’d fall in love with you
if you laughed at even one of my jokes or looked
at me. Close to me. Somewhere a ghost of me
wanders the library of what I swore not to do.
It must be a disease––introspection, I mean.
When I met her I thought, now there’s a woman
who used to be a cell. And guess what? It was true.
All this time it’s been true. Slender villain in the
bromeliads, thief of the hummingbird feeder,
take everything I have.
Seth Simons is a journalist based in California. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rattle, Fugue, Conduit, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Breakwater Review. He tweets at @sasimons and writes about labor issues in the entertainment industry at sethsimons.substack.com.
Cover image by Zachary Schomburg: photos of walls in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, an area that is very flat. The horizon lines on theses walls mimic that flat horizon line on its landscape.