In the poppy fields outside the Gates of Oz
A young man’s body lay at rest, long has it lain there,
Corpselike in repose yet ever-smiling never aging quite alive
Puer aeternus the eternal boy
Pollen grains gather in the corners of his eyes like sleepies
The man however went walking on in accordance with the rules of Time
Motion locomotion insanity repetition doing what they told him he must do
Keep moving move along move along move along
The boy without moving gathers pollen
Lives on light and love and dew
The man like some oblong overweight hummingbird flitters about
Trying trying dying on his feet racking up miles getting nowhere.
His face is a dog-eared atlas of the American road, an outdated and unwieldy book of maps
Pre-internet, torn cover, open at Nebraska, wrinkled as an origami turd.
In a white suburban ghetto outside the city walls, the man sits slumped in a therapist office.
On the wall a parchment: Masters Of Jungian Ozology
The therapist stirs him from his stupor.
“I asked you what stops you from reaching your potential?”
He lifts his head from his hands.
He hasn’t spoken in near half an hour
“You know, like the proverbial glass ceiling.”
So she lays it out for him. The whole truth about his real spirit, his soul laying in wait for him in a poppy field he cannot see or smell will not find on any Google map nor cannot iPhone app his way to on the 51B to the 88 to the 75R nor any other bay area bus or rapid transit train will ever take him there.
“Life itself…is experienced as a prison,” she said. You speak of barriers, so I thought.. Does any of this resonate with you?
And from him then there emptied out a font of dark events as when an emergency valve opens to unburden a flood-imperiled dam. At night. In the dark.
My life has been a series of cages, yes. And blunders that left me wondering about this thing called adulthood like the time while in the running for a Rotary Club scholarship to do graduate study in Nigeria having already passed the local and and county levels I had just one more key interview for the state finals before a panel of men in Sausalito. It was a simple question: who founded the Rotary in 1905? Was it the puer in me that jinxed it or was it some higher power putting words in my mouth to keep me from a fate that was grossly off-track from my own? I know not but I replied, Paul Harvey, naming the talk radio celebrity rather than the founder Paul Harris, and thus ended my career as a Rotary scholar.
He watched himself as he spoke. There were no tears. No great sorrow. No bereavement. Just a listing of dark moments from the past. With detachment. Like the migraine symptoms he was currently experiencing feeling trapped here with her under her scrutiny in her office were of more trouble and pain than any of the events he now described had ever been.
Last night L was reading my play and she hit upon the molestation scene and asked me if that had happened to me and I shrugged and said, “Maybe.” It had. It did. I was twelve and not yet sexually aware, so it didn’t register as a sexual experience rather as something weird and peculiar and yes, as something of a cage, a feeling of entrapment, of being trapped by this much older boy of 18, legally a man yes, wanting something from me and spending many hours of one summer night on Martha’s Vineyard trying in vain to make it happen. Then there was the time a few years earlier when some older neighbor kids trapped me and a boy from church in a very solid little clubhouse my dad built me in our back yard in Melrose and held us there for what seemed a few hours. The same boys later trapped me and some friends in the basement of my house. And my bedroom in that house was something of a trap, L-shaped it provided no direct line of sight into the hall or the light of the hall and thus the safe proximity of my parents room. Years later on a summer job during college a female boss fed me meds prescribed for our duel-diagnosis campers and used my body while I was barely conscious. I told the camp manager about this and he told me no one would believe me so to keep quiet. It was another case of feeling trapped.
The most terrifying example of a cage in my memory came less than a year after graduation from college on a brief visit back to my college town. I needed a place to stay one night and accepted the hospitality of a retired gay man who had been a congenial neighbor for over a year and to whom I had often talked openly about many things. His name was Jack, and that night I saw a side of Jack I had never seen when I’d formerly had the leisure to say goodnight and retire to my cabin nearby. That night he used everything he’d ever learned about me to manipulate me into a kind of psycho-sexual mental prison of shame from which I found escape extremely difficult. I was under his roof far longer than planned, how long I have difficulty remembering. Hours not days. Perhaps as much as 24 hours after my initial realization that I was trapped.
But now looking back on it, this thing is happening in my mind that always happens. This voice is saying: but come on Rick. Really! You’re a grown man. You could have walked out. You should be ashamed of yourself. Indeed. Same voice speaks when I recollect the workplace rape (as I am now sure it was) of 1989. Come on, Rick, you’re a man. How can a woman rape a man? Fast forward: how can a 63-year old gay man utterly mentally disempower a 25-year old man? Shame. Shame is how. And more shame came of it.
He dreams that Amelia Erheart teaches him to fly. Drunk she insists they fly at night, that she ride behind him in a biplane where she will have no control, she tells him she has faith in him. On another night in the first of two migraine dreams, he is leading a group of children up the west side of a mountain. Reaching the crest, he espies the moon rising in the east and calls back a challenge to the children, “Last one to see the moon is a rotten egg!” When all are on top, the mountain suddenly becomes alive with scorpions the size of squirrels and they come snapping in attack. The dream ends. In another dream, he is hiking down a steep grade on Big Sur with his partner and two friends. At the bottom of the grade, they step off the road and onto rocks that reach out into a lake to make way for a truck coming down the narrow highway. In the confusion, his partner falls behind and when he looks back, he sees that not one but two mountain lions have approach her. She is carrying a loaf of bread and an child’s Igloo lunchbox. The giant cats walk right up and take the items in their teeth but she fights them. “Give them the food!” he shouts. He hopes she will surrender to them what they want. The dream ends.
One day years ago he wrote a poem about a choir boy with a woman’s face
He wrote that something about this “ancient archetypal face” was familiar
it is his face, the face he left behind outside the gates of Oz.
I caught a touch of some bug going around and spent 18 hours in bed, five of it watching Das Boot, the rest sleeping and dreaming.
In one dream I was in a barn showroom fair situation booth vendors etc, booth for The Frog an FM radio station out of the lakes region in Minnesota holds a contest for classic cars, from 1911 and up to 1977. “Do you have a car?” I start to say no I don’t, then remembering, “Yes, actually I do have a car, in a museum.” I tell them about my 1977 Ford Granada. “But how will you win the contest?” they ask referring to Duke being mothballed and far away. Indeed. Good question. I awoke shortly thereafter in a rush of images and impressions. Among them: the clouded seniors at Chaparral House on Thursday, navigating none to well the murky skies between this life and this next. And Duke. And WT Burge should be copilot. The sense that I must get Duke back on the road. The firm conviction suddenly that my SERVICE to humanity will never be in humble moments like reading haikus to drooling seniors and organizing their CDs and sitting by patiently and being the lone applause while another volunteer with a karaoke machine sings for them a whole run of lounge singer songs. My service is my art, my writing, all that my so-called puer personality brings to the world so fuck that PhD asshole and his indictment of the puer aeternus.
In another dream, I am in a cabin or simple house of some kind, perhaps a business with no bathroom access. I excuse myself to find the bathroom go outside, enter through an exterior door as one would at a gas station, find myself in an anteroom with floral pattern or paisley wallpaper on all four walls and doors such that doors are nearly indistinguishable from surrounding walls. Closing door behind me, I attempt to open door to my left, find no doorknob, turn and find that the door I have come through has disappeared into the pattern wallpaper and that it, too, has no doorknob on the inside. I claw at the seam and bang on the door. A sense of panic creeps in. The panic is tempered only by a sense of openness above, light, either in the form of a skylight or the absence of a ceiling gives me some hope.
A week later in a dream, K is showing me our house, her house, the house we lived in together but not the same house and so it goes in dreams, all decorated like Duke inside and out, one special feature an old 1950s neon-trimmed carnival ride out front, see-saw like, and because it fits right out front of the house too small to make sense outside the dream, like a scale model of the real thing. The inside of the house all bedecked and she now married but alone this moment there in the middle of it all, a warm sunny summer evening ten years hence explaining to me that she has preserved it all this way and added much she says “Because I love you and..” she says two other things now forgotten, obscured by waking. Note to any future reader of this: I do not interpret this dream to signify any chance of reunion with K, did in fact immediately feel it had to do more with my identity, my soul, with not forgetting who I am, and the first thing that came to mind was Duke and a desire to go and reclaim that huge monument to my Self or (as it occurs to me as I write) build a new one to rekindle that spirit.
In the dream I was on a small commuter plane talking to an older airline steward. As the other passengers disembarked he told me how he had entered the field with certain expectations and how everything had changed, how now he felt his job had all the prestige of a bus driver. I told him that like sleepwalkers most people get stuck in corners and end up staring out of the same window for so long that they forget they are living in a vast mansion with an infinite supply of light from an infinite number of windows, and that likewise, were they to stop banging on the door in front of them and turn they would find that they have not one door through which to walk but an endless array of doors leading to an infinite array of possibilities.