On those sunsoaked summer days
long before cyberspace was invented
we tanned kids would walk gingerly
across massive two by two foot ties
of the old trestle, absorbed by
“Little Deuce Coupe,” “Ahab the Arab”
or some comparable pabulum dialed in
on treasured transistors.
In the early days shortly after
the Boardwalk was built
the Coconut Grove Ballroom
hosted many of the greats.
An oily black diesel train
supplied vitals to the oceanfront.
Its filthy spent fuel
meshed with foggy salt air
as it crossed this trestle.
Long gone by my time, the train
didn’t enter into any equation as we
often had to cope with vertigo,
looking down between the ties.
We’d temporarily lose balance
as we watched the mucky San Lorenzo
push river water into the tide.
You had to be crazy or a football star
to hurry across those ties, counting
each as you went, to honor the rules.
By then iron beams and rivets
of the trestle dangerously corroded.
We couldn’t be bothered by that,
instead focused on the noisy midway
just down the road. We could see
the Mad Mouse ratchet
on steel tracks, riders delirious
as those cars sped unto the undead.
Sunbathers and Volleyballers
The social network grinding overtime,
grist for the daily great escape:
that’s why the sunbathers come here,
avid volleyballers too.
For this is where
continents split, collide and fuse.
It’s difficult to recognize
that Earth ends here
but it does, as evidenced
by the family of blue heron
that form a makeshift V overhead
then wander apart, reunite
as they sail due north
embracing a jagged coastline.
At Stinky Feet
The row of toilet seats
where patrons sit and play
at the Stinky Feet booth
no one come to roost at the moment.
The object of this game to shoot
a steady stream of water into balls
of the feet of hand-painted women.
Those faux women holding their noses
as marksmen vie to fill feet and legs.
Standing in front of Stinky Feet
is a brown-skinned boy with an afro.
He gazes up at the Sky Gliders,
sun directly in his eyes.
The Sky Gliders creep along
thick stranded cables:
the passengers’ feet dangle,
passengers awed by the view
out over the ocean, yearning
to touch a curved horizon.
They wouldn’t know if a foot of snow
were to fall on the Mojave
at any given interval.
They’re not gliding high enough,
and not naturally inclined to sense
anything dramatically different
at such a gradual speed. Lovers
snuggle in their little blue gondolas,
wiggle and kiss,
draped by antisemantic joy.
In some cases you’d even think
a cuddly kitten escaped
from cyberspace had joined them.
Lucky Stew, semiretired professional
perhaps from the tomato trade,
suddenly becomes unmired
from invoices, freight, pesticides,
inspections, any such annoyances.
Enamored, he thrusts his date’s head
against his chest so that she can’t help
but inculcate his pounding heart.
For his part this is an impish ruse,
his motive to drive her excitement
and lubricate the expectation
of him planting a juicy one
on those sultry copper lips.
Paused on the Boardwalk
The soul of Coney Island
multiplies and divides
across a permissive sky.
Salt water taffy, candy-coated
and Gilroy garlic fries
tackle the mustarded corn dawg:
they swamp your gut like a beehive.
Girly girls browse. Arms get tangled
as the crowd mounts
along a palpitating Boardwalk.
Joan in stilettoed high heels,
hot pants rimming her butt,
looped tin earrings bouncy,
remarks how radically cool
the tats on the lad quite burnt
like a ripe
Gargoyles squat on gray brick pedestals
straddling the entrance to this dismal den.
Admission booth shaped like a gaping
shark’s mouth, wide open, horrifying,
sharp blood-stained teeth gnashing.
It’s the only portal through which
to purchase a ticket if you dare.
Before you do you may consider:
once inside, something ghastly
could happen, like the scene you
watched streamed over the web:
a savage Nigerian chops this
porn princess to pieces for lack
of a week’s rent. Unless you help.
You wouldn’t want to revisit that scene
any more than letting the devil’s blood
that runs through the ventilation
inside Fright Walk turn your veins
to sand. Nothing to fret unless
dragons and Gorgons unexpectedly
seize the day, decide to divebomb
and fry your seismic fantasies.
Mostly, beware of gnomes.
They’re notorious for gobbling
skin off of unwary visitors,
gulping it, to regurgitate
into the mouths of soldiers
enlisted in the Argonaut
So easily forgotten in the fog lights
of blanketed history,
the pirate Drake sailed past this beach
en route toward San Francisco bay
where eventually a Barbary Coast
was established, its brothels
and infamous gambling halls
drawing gold seekers en masse.
The arcade jammed with analog games,
no venue for newfangled
Teenagers playing hooky overwrought
with pleasure as they shove quarters
into slots and run up big scores.
At the far end of this stuffy building
the miniature golf course sits
as it has as long as memory stretches.
The afflated Blackbeard supervises
from the head of a ship orchestrated
by taut pulleys. It rocks,
peering down on diminutive fairways.
Bulbs blink like impromptu galaxies,
circumnavigate to the gait
of thunder blasted from the soundtrack.
Be selective: choose a putter
consistent with your height and weight.
Don’t bank on any divine guidance
to steer your ball into holes
over a course peppered with obstacles.
And when you’ve exceeded par
trying to tap that bright orange ball
through a crocodile’s jaw
past the rain forest waterfall
to the shrieking of one-eyed thieves
who attack the nerves unabashedly
you’ll arrive at the final hole,
a bamboozling mini Kilmanjaro.
The Giant Dipper
If you buy into the dubious wisdom
that nothing explains everything
it follows that something explains nothing
unless you’re living in Tibet. But Tibet
is out of mind here on the Pacific shore
where cyber palaver permeates
ocean, air, even time.
As I ponder my impending escapade
I look upon 327 thousand board feet
of lumber used to assemble
the coaster’s chassis, and notice dry rot.
The quality inspector doesn’t mind,
but I’m a bit concerned:
the coaster is scary enough
without constant apprehension
about potential structural collapse.
I join a parasocial milieu, somewhat
jittery, antsy in the queue.
The line progresses well
since the ride only takes a minute
and 52 seconds. About right
to acquaint one another, click,
advancing up the fancy
“It’s a Hollywood set,” says the classy
grandmother with two clean-cut boys.
“Take your picture?” she offers.
I’ve enough of me today, instead
snap one of her and the boys
with a yellow Nikon. And then
we split apart and finally seated
in hard plastic cars.
I take a deep breath, reflect:
millions of citizens
from all over the globe
have sat as I do as if
every nanosecond revealed
a separate destiny.
Sting II, Sudden Impact, Criminal Minds.
No wonder those producers chose this ride
to film unspeakable thrills: we lurch, bolt,
torn at top speed, instantly enter
a tunnel where black stares back, more stark
and wretched than the lowest African slave.
Then immediately emerge to a steep incline
during which I hear chains groan, and a loud
clinking that gives me an inkling the thing
might soon go into overdrive. It does: once
it reaches the summit there is a plunge
that outpaces space itself. Screaming
commences, arms thrown high to prove
how brave you are. No knave,
I’ve been there before. But today
I take a pass. It’s all I can do to
hold on as G forces torture.
I feel as though my genes disperse,
reach out and conduct
every live tentacle in the universe.
The coaster rips, unrelenting,
tosses us without mercy.
It lunges, dives, curving,
rises and dives again.
World without end? Yes, ended,
I unboard with the others, flummoxed.
We each have waiting for us at the exit
a photo capturing
where we’ve come to a halt:
frightened, exalted, transmogrified,
and most certainly not denied
the race of many an incarnation.