The Tunnel

I wrote this poem after what I will always remember to be one of the best nights of my life, and it was all because of Raj…

(A kick-boxing Johnny Rotten

slipped it into my pocket during a warm


It didn’t stay there long.)

On a Saturday night,

green country hills,

seven hours away,

are swallowed by the rear-view mirror,

becoming distant towers of

a surreal monastary

which soon disappears like a

screen-saver, biding its time,

then vanishing at a keystroke.

In its place, vitality, virility, the essence of now

shimmers under smokey intellibeams

in a west-side warehouse club.

Anywhere else, the bass drum

is ominous, physically perceptible, in fact.

But mathematical beats are only a subtext

inside the V.I.P. lounge. Their gutteral punch is

absorbed by the silver-clad bodies draping the private entrance.

Inside, where the bridge-and-tunnel people

are often turned away,

a chosen congregation awaits its spirtual

cleansing of hedonism. In this ritual, the drums conjure

common movements, pulses,

and the beautiful many-headed monster

stirs and finally dances.

My brother, his friends and I huddle in a booth,

waiting for our shamens

to make the slow crawl

from kidneys to conciousness.

We pass the time with introductions:

I realized I was not my self, but my brother’s brother.

I am welcomed as a travel-worn stranger,

unaware of the delights of civilization.

My brother and the others leave and I remain with a japanese girl.

We enjoy our names and faces,

never struggling with vocabularies built to

include mundane things–times, places.

Then, suddenly, painlessly,

we feel all the temperatures at once:

warm sweaters on december nights,

crisp a.c. from the vents of a sun-stroked car,

clean spring, silent autumn.

Our blood vessels open

like hi-hats, keeping time

for the sultry voice crackling from

its record. We become instantly aware

of our own clinging clothes,

their seams

and folds.

Our hands touch.

A moment later we realize how we’ve never really

touched skin before. Or its never felt quite as soft.

And there’s so much more.

I look around and realize

we’re all fellow travellers,

passing the same run-down

Chevron, paying the same

poor soul in the toll booth.

I tell her this, and she enjoys

the warmth of my western inflections.

Our eyes, faces meet innocently,

amidst the knowing, quivering crowd,

and we’re just kissing hello,

but wait, the beats keep coming,

time must be moving but we haven’t, I–

I inhale her,

twice breathed smoke,

and I understand at once

how the universe was constructed

just this way, perfectly,

to include

menthol cigarettes.

25 September 1996



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