Milk & Honey
He brushed aside some moonlight
from his white hair, felt naked where
his hard-hat should have been,
for he'd no more leave his chalk or
rule behind than he'd forget to wear
his pants or tie his shoes. At night
his head would fill with schedules
for tomorrow, and he was
builder through and through
as he stood among the smells
of dust and excavated soil.
But now, standing by that crook'd canal,
'meander', they'd say, on an illusion
of the valley plain - proximal:
I thought we had a broken pipe to mend;
distal: it seemed a lot of good money
went flowing down that Costa Mesa drain.
It would remain enigma throughout his long
and competent career; and to this day
a puzzle in that aging builder's brain.
Back then, the trucks and cranes would
meet in near collision, and one more time
the gang-boss would survey the route
to where, first thing in the morning,
giant slabs of concrete would swing
above the street in strange aerial ballet.
Now, at his feet, only the wild moon
struck its solitary note upon the ground-skin
of that crazy-patterned sandstone floor.
No more now, than then, did he know
why anyone would spend such a huge
amount of dough on a pile of bean-bag
rock. And he'd recall that cymbal'd hall,
its clang of steel and the groaning koan
of the wrecking ball. It cost a bundle
to be sure, in this place where straight lines
were forbidden and 'plumb' meant something
so uncertain he'd pluck the string, like a fool-
blind actor looking for an opening in the curtain,
to guess that 'true' was somewhere 'over there'
and drive a stake in the approximate vicinity
while that sculptor fellow, Noguchi, yelled,
"That's good enough!"
Jeesus, it was nuts. He'd said as much
to the old man, once or twice before.
Never seen such lunacy; or grown men
who'd bluff it out the way they did,
as if they knew some special mix
would suddenly erase the doubt of where a wall
would end and where the sky begin. Segerstrom?
He'd simply come and stare as though transfixed,
while that other fellow, 'guchi' ran about, shouting
instructions at the crew. They were glad to oblige
as the gang-boss subtracted days from margins
calculated to the dime and wondered how the hell
to bring this job to a conclusion anywhere
in the vicinity of something like on time.
I tell you, this 'art thing' can eat holes in plans
you could drive a cat through, paint and all.
And we'd never a clue to where that Noguchi
might be heading. Damnedest thing I ever saw.
We'd move a little earth and he'd say, Good!
Then we'd move a little heaven too, and I
suppose he'd see me scowl and he'd come
and say, but Roger, its perfect! its Perfect!
Don't worry so much about it. Can't you see,
its just the way it ought to be, that angle there...
Then, once again, the gang-boss touched his
naked hair and watched as a moon-struck
glass facade shimmered in the damp night air
while he thought he heard the thundering sound
of falling falls, and somewhere to his right a pile
of bean-bag rock that seemed to move a little
in the crazying light.
Jeez! he said, What the hell? as he saw
the reflection ripple by his feet, the meander
running high and flowing the wrong direction!
toward and not away from the little bean
that now began to dream its thirst away;
drew to itself and its illusionary house,
the Nicormats and Infomatic Inc.s
that followed in the spirit of the day.
His first thought was he had to call
till he remembered where he was
and when. And so, he simply turned,
adjusted his imaginary hard-hat brim,
made a little course-correction
past those waters that were flowing in;
then wandered off to where he thought he'd been
before, in the direction of some far too distant wall.