How It Returned: Tripping In Vinnie’s Garden

[This year is the 20th anniversary of Cape Cod Light by Michael Hattersley. The other parts of this series are here.]

Michael’s drug of choice was the cigarette; he was a chain smoker and I can’t help but think that his was one of the many lives saved by flame-retardant furniture. Later, especially after David died, he added the screwdriver to his regular diet.

It all eventually caught up with him, but to some degree that was intentional: he always appreciated Mick Jagger’s notorious line about rather being dead than sing “Satisfaction” when he’s 40, and, unlike Jagger, I think Michael meant it. He watched his parents get old and die and I think he never wanted any part of it.

The core of the “Fern Circle Bridge Club” (as they called themselves) in the basement of my grandparents’ house. Michael is in the lower left, his sister Vanessa has the cat, my mother is in black on the right, my father David is in white at the bottom. Beverly Boehmke is in the center; Gary Oleski is to her left, Larry Gill is behind her, and Eric Dautel is back right. The phosphorescent paintings on the back wall lit up under black light.

Michael was no stranger to the other drugs, though, and was certainly a fan of pot. Being a poetic child of the 60’s, I suppose he was obligated to write about one of his trips.

The fifteenth poem in Cape Cod Light is How It Returned: Tripping In Vinnie’s Garden. Vinnie was a friend of Michael and Nessa’s in Provincetown. Bret Duback, who would have been right there tripping with him, tells me the poem was probably written either in the late ’70’s or mid ’80’s.

How It Returned: Tripping In Vinnie’s Garden

What they stirred into the wine
And poured into beakers on the oak table
Was so we might not be lost to them
Living in disguise in their own world.

The stone ducks on the lawn
Preserved someone’s idea
Of grace under pressure; lying down
Among them I was a picture nobody took.
The furniture of earth and sky encompassed me.
Something stopped. It was
Orchestrating itself, and watching.

Just when I thought I was revised
They retrieved me, merely by being themselves.
My resentment was nothing personal;
What permanence, after all, had they displaced:
The pigments of faces assembling in the dusk
Looming down towards me, like moons.

The next poem is here.

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