Journey As A Circle Searching For Itself

Prelude
To A
Mendocino
Suite

 I was driving a cab in New York City living with a woman named Lucinda and a monkey named Zephyr in an apartment near the White Horse Tavern below Sheridan Square in West Greenwich Village where Dylan Thomas, after stacking a pyramid of empty shot glasses on the scarred wooden bar, fell comatose from his stool to the sawdusted floor.

I wrote a poem on that very stool about those years, that relationship. Starvation Madhouse Melodies, I called it.

The poem went up in smoke with everything else.

Except me!  But that was later —the poem going up in smoke—that was after the fire, that was after the baby dying.

When I was driving a cab, at the beginning of this story, I wrote through a protagonist named Harry Hirsch.  He was a man fueled by fear, possessed of a keen sense of humor and a questionable sense of direction.  His writing was intense, image-filled and language-based.  He, like I, was influenced by both Dylans (Thomas and Bob,) Kerouac and the Beats, Grace Paley,  and Jean Rhys, too.

For me, there was also Donovan.  “Seagull fly across the sky to set its nest in a Ferris Wheel.”  That image was poetry.  I got it.  Donovan!  Imagine?  Oh yes, I was on acid.

Hirsch, also like me, journeyed from Brooklyn-born, Manhattan-bound cabdriver to a Woodstock, summer-of-love, California-dreaming, living-in–the-woods-welfare-hippie-poet-Fisherman-HousePainter-Mendocino Man -sort of lifestyle.

We came to writing back in those years. The Taxi Stories, Hirsch, my protagonist. And I met my hippie queen.

All that took a decade.

But we separated, Hirsch and I, in the late eighties and nineties, as our lives took different turns. I was attracted to a wife-kids-responsibilities-Berkeley-career change-we-need-health-benefits sort of lifestyle. Writing poetry and trolling salmon on the open sea were left to the memory of a coastal fog.

On the occasions I did write in those years while raising a family and losing my hair, I wrote of a Hirsch consumed with aberrational weight issues, morbidly obese—-  guilt-ridden binges fed by a fire that could not be extinguished  He was a haunted ghost constantly in need of recovery.

Perhaps his life was a tragedy.

Perhaps not.

For what happened to Hirsch happened in real life. Carved as of stone, cut as in time. 

Belled and feathered spirits rising in silent smoke towards a peyote ingested moon. A man stumbling, struggling, clambering, desperately climbing, hopelessly terrified; finally stopped at heat’s edge. A fire licking, snapping, popping, crackling its way up the makeshift plastic facade enclosing the framework of his unfinished home in flame.

“That’s my baby girl,” Hirsch screams.

He forces himself up the steps to the porch.  The burning house, wrapped in blistering heat, dances like a skeleton on fire;  fingers of flame from the doorway beckon.

“Hirsch,” I scream, pulling him back from the steps, pulling him to the ground, pressing his struggling body to earth, suffocating his grief with my body weighing across his flailing limbs.

“That’s my baby girl,” he cries and cries and cries, over and over again, beating his fists relentlessly into the damp earth until he collapses into his exhausted destiny.  A destiny where words no longer exist, where objects no longer have meaning— and where we bury what we call our past in stories and our poems; fictions and truths.

“That’s my baby, my baby girl,” he cries…

I hold him in my arms. Hirsch.

In my dreams…

And try not to forget.

For Marlene Ryan Cahn Moon
Whose heart holds onto a deeper, truer story …

Mendocino/Berkeley
1972/2019

Interconnecting Circles


Carl Kopman
Managing Editor
Carl is a retired school teacher, house painter, commercial fisherman and NYC taxi driver now living in Berkeley, California.

Comments

  1. Daniel Danzig - October 7, 2019 @ 11:17 am

    Carl, terrific.

  2. valorie olsen - October 3, 2019 @ 5:35 am

    How nourishing to share a morning moment with you. But is my heart now too soft for the vicissitudes of the day?
    Thanks, Carl, for bringing me back home.

  3. Pat Gallagher - September 12, 2019 @ 8:43 pm

    Heartbreaking rendering. – your words, images, purified in crucible of unimaginable pain

  4. Susan - September 10, 2019 @ 5:42 pm

    Always enjoy your writing!

  5. MARLENE MOON - September 10, 2019 @ 10:33 am

    SOON ENOUGH by Marlene Moon for Carl Kopman, life friend

    I wrote a song soon enough, shuffling
    a page or two, without life’s buffering
    no voice from that coastal mountain

    So quiet, I see no light, see no touch
    as no one can feel my silent agony,
    no one would see my speechlessness
    always there, like a steady companion

    Fainting. ‘Baby death’, Hirsch called it
    but in flames no one hears the cry
    while burning the past in a whiff, no
    matter, history was writing as it roared

    I thought I could remain quiet
    in the midst of remembrance,
    easily forgetting others devastation
    for them a love too achingly profound

    Others were taken by guilt, their sorrow
    unfathomable as a forewarning sky.
    On a wind unfamiliar, I rose
    like the phoenix, flying fast against

    The loss, the past, the negativity
    (devouring them as easily as flames)
    I cannot imagine causing such harm
    Screaming, burning, silent no more

    I cannot hold on to it, that house
    of destruction, that fierce Living foe
    grasping, it will not consume me now
    for a different future did unfold

    Still. She. Is. Forever. Mine.

  6. Karen Hunt - September 9, 2019 @ 9:42 pm

    You are amazing, dear heart.

  7. Norman Tuck - September 9, 2019 @ 10:51 am

    Good story.

  8. Jane Corey - September 8, 2019 @ 11:08 pm

    Tears. Images. Memories. Love

Comments are closed.