BigCityLit - New York Edition

Big City, Little

Los Angeles

Absence of Mermaids
Steve De France

As a younger man
I dreamed of living in exotic far-off lands
Zanzibar . . . Madagascar,
or wandering in a reverie
at the paws of the Egyptian Sphinx.
And there beneath a fresh-made hornéd moon
specters of Coleridge and Keats were at my side,
Eliot is there, too. Wearing only a tie pin.
I tear off my pants, and dive into forgetful crystal waters,
there in swirling foam, mermaids sing to me,
their kisses sweet with amnesia and the salt of sea.
We love like sea horses on the back of dolphins,
and then my voice rings out my poem:
volcanoes explode answering my startled cry for man,
even the dead of Dylan Sea sing in their chains
like the sounds of shrieking stones in the rolling surf,
and my young spirit is large upon the land.
I was a conjurer full of the touch of the poet.
As an older, but no smarter man
I live in Los Angeles.
Parts of my dreams have come true.
many people from far-off lands live all around me.
Many of them pee on my lawn
especially when they celebrate Cinco d'Mayo.
Most of my neighbors don't talk to me.
It's not entirely their fault.
I don't like them much either.
Button-down assholes all.
Accountants, lawyers, head doctors,
and an occasional proctologist,
and up to now
no mermaids at all.
but when the spirits and specters of poetry
are hard upon me, even fornicating in my dreams
I rend all clothes from my body
and stand naked and sagging between
alien houses in this enveloping suburban tract.
And then quite deliberately,
I smile in a Bay window darkly.
And through the pores of the houses,
I clearly hear my neighbors
dying for a dream or two
in their life fermenting modular dark.

(Reprinted unedited from Paris/Atlantic, Fall 2000)

~ . ~

Brian P. Katz
from "A Commentary on Self as Someone Else"


There is a corpse of unrecognizable people lumbering to their graves.

This is my life:

                     a hard two-by-four of incongruous distinctions manifested by a triumvirate of cats and a clique of individuals that make up this whole vessel of bowls.

I am being slugged on the noggin by this tactless billy club.

I move from Brooklyn to the Valley in order to be with my wife.
I live in a pit of suburbia, a basin of fast-food and strip malls caging small, characterless pockets of urban sprawl.

I will never make fun of New Jersey again.

I live in a pocket of third and fourth tier Hollywood types — people who do the credits, hosts of cable shows, secondary characters on sitcoms, f/x creators, make-up artists, and Scotty from Star Trek.

I am surrounded by a mall that is surrounded by a mall — in fact, the whole Valley is a shabby, poorly built, overheating mall — of useless shops that I'll never patronize and will probably never discern among all the gaudy signs that sunglasses cannot even protect —

There is an awful glare to this terrible polish.

I long for the web of uneven streets, unjust destiny, and characteristic                                                               flaws.