Wednesday, February 2, 2011

On Andy Clausen’s 40th Century Man

On Andy Clausen’s 40th Century Man

My junior high Spanish teacher
taught me to pronounce the date:
mil novecientos noventa y cinco, that was years
before this bill was printed, years before
I could speak any language with proficiency,
decades after George Hamilton posed
for the original portrait, eyebrows sloping,
hair waving like amber waves, jaw line
graciously airbrushed when airbrushing was
simply a stroke of paint and bristle.

The corner of his mouth threatens to
pull into a smile, a toothy reaction
to Mrs. Hamilton and the children making faces
as their puerile father poses in Lincoln’s armchair
for hours, for days, always in his best
kerchief, high collared blouse,
always a bit self-conscious,
and occasionally surrendering the corner of his mouth
to a knowing half-smile, hiding
an unimaginable burden behind green eyes.

The weighted face, holding the page
of the poem I was reading while waiting
for a haircut, before I was butchered.
“Jesus Horeseback on the 4th of July”
teaches the definition of hypocrisy,
teaches the belief system of a Ramblin Man,
one who refuses to equate favor for Jesus
with wealth, like the bill that saves my place.

The negro on the high-rise is distracted
by a blonde butterfly.  There is smog
in the San Francisco backdrop and we are
questioning the likelihood of a butterfly
enduring with calico wings
the wind at that height.

What possible reason could he have to ascend
to that level? What motivates a creature
to leave the comfort of flora and sunlight and
trickling streams and soft, manageable winds
to climb the metallic, impersonal heights –
without oxygen, what good are the views?

Andy Clausen was divorced.
Andy Clausen was in Alaska with 48 inches of rain
when Kerouac died.
Timber!
he said, in reference to a falling tree.

And as George Hamilton unwinds on the patio,
straw cap shielding his eyes, he puffs his green,
cross-hatched cheeks and blows a gust like Triton
in the direction of the flying insect, buzzing
and bothering the lip of his drink.

George ducks under an eave, enters
the tight, dark bar, slides a bill to the barman
and shouts, for all to hear:
Timber!
as if to suggest
the drinks are on me.

--JIM DAVIS is a graduate of Knox College and now lives, writes and paints in Chicago. His work has been selected to appear in The Ante Review, The Café Review, Chiron Review, Midwest Literary Magazine, and Red River Review, among others. In addition to the arts, Jim travels the world as an international semi-professional football player. See his artwork at www.paintstrong.com.

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