Mudlark Poster No. 12 (1998)

Fernand Roqueplan

Hearing the Surf...
So Damn Tired

Fernand Roqueplan lives in Olympia, Washington, where he is a partner in a steelhead fishing guide service. His work has been published in Indiana Review, Laurel Review, Flyway, Texas Review, Florida Review, Critical Quarterly (London), and the anthology Anyone is Possible (Red Hen Press, 1997). He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop.


Ambition’s the keyword and capstone: every cafe
a waitress poises over a pad, someone thinking
he’s better needs Pammed eggs & Kona decaf—
look  at him—we shared a room in Culver City
on his way down and mine up. He's still a player—
kneed-in face, pits reeking, benzened suit aglow—
still pinching big Ideas from his flat pockets,
still giving Irene orders, his bitter-half rinsed
in misery, bleak ice-mask framing ashy teeth.

There’s Bud demanding fresh Boddingtons, angry
the kids have learned to like it. “Manchester’s
a slum,” he snarls at a plump shaved Berserker:
“You’d get your slobby ass kicked there.” Bud’s
descended from colliers & navvies but went to Oxford
then taught drama at Iowa before being fired in ’93
for “turpitude.” Ashamed of having taught
he tells the kids who ask that he’s a janitor.

Why tell the truth—it’s boring lubrication. Rousseau
was a selfish prick, but a talented one. He over-
emphasized memoir; a karma policeman rear-ended,
in the end, by graft. There’s a little known fact
about park-crow behavior after bread’s thrown:
the crow-children chase their parents, cawing
plaintively to be fed. Though crusts litter the turf
they go crying only for morsels spotted
in a parent’s beak. Seems the world’s an open grave

rimmed with stone-beige ice-benches speckled
with mohair & lint where the parishioners, freed
from Lent, have sat to smoke & commiserate & frost
grasped their coatbacks and trouserseats and skirts.
Under the benches hothouse daffodils with mushroom
gravy petals brush old banana skins, rubber-banded
stems crushed and frost-blackened. Who brings

daffodils to a funeral? I love the idea of a corpse
like mine adoring daffodils, baby’s breath, the collar
sprays of embalmed crocus and hops.

Hearing the Surf, I Promise to Love You Better

      Usually drunk when I made these promises
to your sleeping head, I promise to promise
the best ones sober, maybe they’ll stick
and the least ones work too. The surf
is aahhing as it does between low & high
tides and you just kicked off the calico
blanket, tracked me with pebble eyes,
rasped “cat’s not in Tacoma now.”
“Want some water, baby?” I ask but you’re
asleep again. I replace your blanket
then promise, aloud, to love you better.
Of course the cat’s not in Tacoma—
I killed him those days we still fought
so vehemently the cat would sidestep us,
arching & hissing, to claw the sofa as if seeing
in the cheap floral fabric our faces—that night
he revved up like a mad re-upholsterer I shouted
“damn you!” & threw my drink on him
and he slid under the shredded couch. I made
a fresh 7&7, opened the front door to stand
outside to cool off then Sherpa shot between
my legs and under an auto on Division Avenue
before I could stall him.

    Why is it you make it through the really big
stuff—infidelity, downsizing, addiction,
baredom—like a pro, then the small calamity kills you?
That goddamn cat, last night I hit my Timex Indiglo
to find my lighter under a pizza box and I remembered,
in that flash, how Sherpa’s eyes glowed that same cute
sinister green after I triggered the garage door every night
coming home from the pulpmill bank or bars and he’d stare
down the Dodge’s headlights, cat-proud & patient
at the door alongside the shelf of pruning shears,
motor oil and canned peaches, to be let in.

So Damn Tired

    Slowed by snow yet finally unlocking our peace-
bunker on Cannon Beach, the hue & cry city of work-
stations & promotion choreography far behind,
the Lindemans bin 65 chalking our mouths like Tums,
the iris-scented corks underfoot jamming then releasing
the accelerator at 85 outside Kalama so we screamed—
maudlin vaudeville—just to stay awake. On the darkening
spit fronting Webb's Scenic Surf the small lights of quaint
cheaper homes float lanterns to guide us to the gull-laden
estuary. Christmas, and so damn tired Ivory soap feels
good as hard water armors the skin and hair with a paraffin
batter of minerals & the lovely brown-vinyled dorm fridge
has four of a Rainier six-pack abandoned by the last guest.
    At Port Orford kestrels and gulls clash over bay shrimp
and the offal of fish & crab detritus from the dressing
stations. The brine-shellacked haystack rocks, sea-blasted
baked Alaskas featured in too many bad paintings cooked
for tourists, are actually simply beautiful. Thunder-eggs, soap-
stone meadowlarks, spiny grapes and mauve agates crunch
comfortably underfoot. The stacked crab pots smell
of pepper & ammonia, surprisingly pleasant with piquant
fir and a dash of diesel as the dim sun photosynthesizes
jackhammer moss spackle-fattened atop leaky skylights.
The gas-log on Hi is hot enough to dry our sand-caked Nikes
Reeboks & Filas until the ancient baseboards come to life
pinging & clacking like moths in a carriage-lamp.

    And tired? I am nothing next to the whooping crane’s
angelic snicker—god those bourboned Texas nights vacationing
from the Marines to jack-light marsh-deer, hoping to christ
later bouts of tiredness wasn’t Lyme disease
from the tick-infested hides or AIDS
from anything else—always wondering why? too late to save
one’s grown-up self more jaded than wise. Only later claiming
the guts and wherewithal to reverse the b.s.—stumbling over drift-
wood on a frigid, moonless Oregon beach where the surf-lights
have burned out & six bucks a pop for halogen bulbs is better
spent on cheap chianti & malt liquor; my guests must drink.

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