When I Whistled to Robert Mitchum, Wintry BeneathPeter Shippy
ME In January the ocean was linguaceous. A ridge of ice formed the length of the tall, monocled men of the North Shore who lined Scortatory Point at Whistler Beach. White caps and freezing spray engendered fat chewing and null chitchat about the Galaxy. Celestial teas were poured into titanium thimbles. Bearing and icy spew converted their expert hair into fright wigs—somehow apt for these men, for these men were practiced in the practice of abiogenesis— the notion that life, sweet life can come into verve from nonliving materials solely for chassé delights. I stood back, watching, scared stiff but rapt, hovering between vowel gradation and a case of incurable frondeur. The tremors I felt were mooning around the daily practice of being a solitary vagrant, out of doors and out of luck. When I whistled to Robert Mitchum, wintry beneath life’s foul balls and slim fizz, he howled like an incorrigible mutt, like a dallied revolutionist— a spinner who must pretend not to perceive the dark witness behind each pickled gesture. Frisbee and bacon frisson would no longer satisfy us. At the other end of the strand the retinal painters were wrestling with their easels. Plein-air breathing was all the rage with the unbuttoned class. When I was a boy in Haddam I lacked the outwit of ordinary boys. MY OLD MAN All things crack, but it’s graceless to render a big squawk. Take it like a New Hampshire steeple takes the tipple out of stipple. I SAID The plenipotentiaries accused me of acute pleonasm and sent me to Montauk Tech to learn moraine theology. THE PLENIPOTENTIARIES We accuse you acute pleonasm and sentence you to Montauk Tech to learn moraine theology. ME The rest, as they say, carried me here, here where the eyewear shines like headlights or those meteors mistaken for stars that led Captains to new continents and pilgrims to incubator factories. ROBERT MITCHUM That is the lesson of the sea. I bite his ear ME As the tall, monocled men of the North Shore renounced the beach, Robert Mitchum pulled my chain and I ran. ROBERT MITCHUM Run! ME It was January. The water was lingua franca and I ran.
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