PLANET OF SPIES
Recently, oh, last week
I went very far forward in time
and landed on the planet of Spies.
In the capitol city of the planet of Spies
everyone is invisible.
They haven’t learned to trick light
but they’ve all accepted
that do not allow them to recognize the human shape.
Brains love tricks
and fill in the background details
behind the bodies they ignore.
The weather is pleasant there.
Mostly nude, Spies almost always
wear visible hats and carry shiny canes
to identify themselves
and prevent bumping
in the halls or on the streets.
I used to think
that progress was editing a manuscript,
improving it even through mortal pain.
Then I thought
that progress was rearranging furniture,
creating distance between now and boredom.
On the planet of Spies
I learned that progress
is the tossing of a sleeper asleep.
HOW TO GET THROUGH A SONG
I recently slept my way through a performance.
The load-in was tiresome, the set list looked boring
and the manager was tedious. The audience
looked two dimensional, like cutouts of couples at tables.
The television at the bar was on,
and though I couldn’t hear it over our racket,
I could see it was The Devil at Four O’clock,
with Frank Sinatra as a convict on a work gang on an island
and Spencer Tracy as a tough priest.
In the background there’s always a huge volcano.
I was walking my bass through some blues
and I walked right off stage onto the island.
I couldn’t hear the band any more. I couldn’t hear anything
and the pretty girl Frank and I were looking at was blind.
They started freaking about not being able to hear anything either,
“The birds have all gone quiet!”
I was like, let’s all get in position to act out this earthquake,
then I want to go over and look at those flowering trees,
they’re incredibly gorgeous.
Blue Eyes, you can have the blind babe, I’ll take the fruit trees.
We all shook some, then Spencer Tracy came around
believing in God. I didn’t believe in the movie I was in,
but it was better than the song I was playing.
I went blind for a minute
and looked back at the drummer,
but he was mouthing the words with his eyes closed.
I wondered who he was singing to. Back on the island
Frank and Spencer were violently agreeing to disagree
so I whispered in the blind girl’s ear, “Who’re you looking at?”
“Marilyn Monroe. They ought to let her have a serious role.
I like to imagine I’m her and they’ve let her play this role.”
“Yeah, yeah, Marilyn Monroe.
But you’re not supposed to be blond,
and you’re not. You’re doing a pretty good job
of being a South Sea Islander.
Are you Hispanic?”
“Are we on camera? My character
is supposed to be very isolated from the people around her
and you’re whispering so close my ear feels soggy.”
I thought that while I had the chance, I might leave the island
and give Marilyn Monroe a therapeutic pep talk.
Or maybe Phillip K. Dick. On the other hand, if I stuck around
there was a rickety bridge to cross before the volcano blows
that I could maybe help Frank with.
Later, it’s so sad how the blind girl stares off the escaping ship
and can’t see the big fireball.
If there was a beautiful blind girl who loved me in the audience
I wouldn’t have come to this godforsaken island.
If the singer and the drummer
ever talked to each other silently during the song
the way blues men are supposed to, we could end our songs right.
Ka-boom! They clap, and we don’t die.
Tracy and Sinatra are both well past arguing about God this year.
Girl wearing scorched flowers,
staring a hole through the amplifiers,
this next thing is for you.
Ross Taylor’s previous appearance at New Pop Lit was his review of a book by Robyn Hitchcock.