Just Out of Reach Of a Tangled Web Is Simplicity
By Carl Kopman
While searching for the mortuary box containing Robert Levin’s ashes in the basement of my Berkeley home I found in an anonymous old carton, amongst other things, a poem I’d written back in my day, Gypsy No Eyes!
This poem, its typewritten words faded into the worn paper upon which they lived, was nothing like anything I could ever write again. It was music for the memory of its being: the Elk Kelp Choir, Marcia Sloane’s cello, Joe Shaw’s flute, Mr. Gary Moran’s guitar and voice, Don Shanley, me, poetry, and everyone I knew sitting on hay bales in Shanley’s barn blowing kelp horns like saxophones till the barn shook and the full yellow moon fell into the dark waters way off Cuffy’s Cove in Mendocino.
Robert Levin was there that night.
He recorded the performance as I remember.
“Be-bop Gestalt,” is what Mr. Gary Moran called what it was we did.
“I found Gypsy No-Eyes,” I said to my wife when I saw her later by her desk.
“ I didn’t know he was missing,” she replied. Her eyes did not look up from her twitter account.
“I was looking for Robert’s ashes… Gypsy No-Eyes! The Poem? Don’t you remember?” I was practically pleading.
“Hmmm? That was a long time ago. Sounds a little familiar.”
“Elk Kelp Choir reunion performance. 1983? Shanley’s barn?”
“I wasn’t there. Remember? Your cellist!”
“ You weren’t there? Marcia Sloan. I’d forgotten… That was hurtful. I’m sorry. You deserved better.”
My wife placed her iPhone on the desk; our dog came to her side while she composed herself.
“Well anyway,” she said, “I’m glad you found your poem. Did you find Robert’s ashes?”
“Yes, they were on your grandmother’s table.”
“You didn’t scratch the table did you? It’s been in the family a lot longer than your poem.” I think she smiled.
“No, I covered it with a tarp.”
“ Good, you should let Rabbi Margaret know.”
“What? That I covered the table?”
“Very funny,” she said.
This time I was sure she was smiling so I asked, “Gypsy No Eyes?”
“It was your best,” she said.
“Thanks,” I said. “do you want to hear the rest of it.”
“Not a chance. Now get out of here,” is how my wife ended the conversation.
A few days later I am sautéing garlic, an onion, half a red pepper, mushroom, and sausage in olive oil anticipating my grandson’s eight year old appetite as he pulls himself through the front door dragging his school pack to the kitchen. My wife, having maneuvered the keys from the lock while embracing two paper bags of groceries in her arms, follows behind. And Abbie, holding a stuffed alligator captive in her mouth, her tail wagging, dances back and forth between them.
The timer goes off for the pasta being done … The table is set with red checkered napkins, the onions are translucent and garlic wafts through the air. My grandson stands at the table tearing apart a Base Camp Bakery baguette.
“Hi Oompa,” he says reaching for the butter.
My wife dumps the paper bags on the counter.
“How nice, dinner is ready for this hungry boy,” she says walking across the kitchen to softly plant a kiss on my cheek as I give one last stir to the sauce.
“Father Know Best meets Norman Rockwell. So wholesome,” a cynical voice in my head stabs.
But I hear a better voice… later… when I am doing the dishes.
And I say out loud to myself, “I don’t live to write. Writing is not my life.
My life is my life…”
And that’s the way it should be.