FREE on Amazon Kindle, Sept. 29
I set out to give my heart to a woman. Instead, I gave it to America: the songs of Hoagy Carmichael, Conde McCullough’s bridges, five pinball machines, the city of Pittsburgh, and Jack Kerouac’s nickels. But the story begins with Carolyn Johansen, who was the best screw I ever had.
I met her at The Wit’s End, a bookstore in Seattle’s Fremont district that hosts a weekly poetry reading in its cave-like back room. Carolyn’s schoolmarm features – spectacles, curly blonde hair, a small, brilliant smile – had an immediate effect on my nerve endings, but there was nothing I could do about it. She was a bad poet. Sooner or later, she would roll over in bed and say, “Honey? What do you think of my poetry?”
She wrote what my pal Rob calls “emu poems” – flightless creatures that roll along from exit to exit, taking you exactly where you figured you were going. He tags it with the foulest word in his vocabulary: “discursive.”
But then, something wonderful. Carolyn began to ask questions. What do you mean when you say an image is “trite”? What is a line-break supposed to convey? What is the point of a surreal leap in an otherwise linear poem?
The human mind responds to change, I said. When you throw in something unexpected, you re-engage your audience, put a bend into their thoughts.
Oh! she said. And the brilliant smile, a rectangle of teeth.
At the next reading, her poem sprouted an eskimo. A week later, an elephant. Then she began a series of prose-poems about a mulatto rodeo-rider, written in first person.
She joined us for our post-game blitz at the Triangle Lounge. I asked her out. After the movie, she was at my apartment, at my disposal. I was hesitant, looking for half-measures.
“Carolyn, have you ever tried mutual masturbation?”
A week later, we had dinner at her house, near Lake Washington. It turned out that poetry was a first step out of chronic fatigue syndrome. (I had always been skeptical; I considered it a physical manifestation of ennui.)
Two poets seeking intimacy tend toward Scrabble. We kept up the pretense till the occasional meetings of thigh and shoulder caused us to start losing pieces of clothing. Soon we were naked, in her bedroom. She knelt before me.
“You’re so good at that,” I said.
She took me out and laughed. “My old boyfriend said I was ‘unafraid of the penis.’”
Given my previous hesitation, she was surprised when I pulled out a condom. From there our activities were underscored by enthusiasm, which means much more to men than we will ever admit. Maybe it was the years of fatigue, the years without sex, but Carolyn simply adored it, and exploded twice a minute. I enjoyed her enjoyment so much that I wore myself out. She removed the condom, washed me off with a warm cloth, then used her mouth to bring me back to erection.
“What can I do to finish you off?”
“Get on top,” I said. “Face away from me. Now. This’ll take some effort, but lift yourself into a squat, and when you go down ... don’t go down all the way.”
Now I had the all-important visual element, Carolyn’s generous white bobbing ass. It didn’t take long.
A week later, we met up again at The Wit’s End. After the reading and the Triangle, I walked her along Lake Union. Her car was parked beneath the soaring towers of the Aurora Avenue Bridge. I began with a kiss.
“You know I’m leaving tomorrow?”
“Yes.” She smiled shyly.
“That’s why I’m trying so hard not to make promises. I want this trip all to myself.”
“By the way,” I said. “You’re becoming a hell of a poet.”
Photo by MJV