: Once Upon a Time in Monterey Hills :

an excerpt by Alex M. Frankel


That summer of spaghetti westerns

it felt all right to be forty-seven:

nights on the terrace with a laptop,

some mosquito spray and bossa nova,

until a lifeguard broke through the walls

of cyberspace, became flesh,

smelling of hip hop, beach volleyball,

naïve, hungry,

body brown, rich with barrio.

He waited like a waif in Mother’s armchair,

waited to teach me,

pry me open to his teenage music:

Chuy Barajas

all lean, brown, glorious,

thirty-four minutes, maybe thirty-five,

the way his mouth eagerly took over,

fed me all the apathy of the world

before he shook my hand, shut the door.

A day went by

of just listening to a simple harmonica

and weeks and weeks

of a simple worthless tune.

Body brown, thirty-three minutes,

it shouldn’t be allowed, to vanish like that,

it shouldn’t be allowed,

the stiff bird I found one night

lying on the living room floor

folded-up, worthless.

A year and years, decades, a lifetime

of Sundays and big-box stores,

pop stars sneering from their billboards,

buses burdened with the numb and the dead.

Why do I try to book a flight to Martinique?

Why do I hand a hundred dollars to a homeless man?

Why do I spend nights roaming around a drugstore?

A store that sank to the seafloor years ago

with its load of musak and champagne.