Great new poems by irreverant Chuck. Funny as hell

THE SECRET MEANING OF MOVIES, MOSTLY OLD AND IN BLACK AND WHITE, AS WATCHED ON SNOWY, LATE-NIGHT TELEVISION IN CHEAP MOTEL ROOMS OF LONGING, DESIRE, AND FLIGHT, LIGHT FLICKERING ACROSS SPARKLING CEILINGS LIKE NIGHT SKIES THICK WITH GALAXIES, OR THE REFLECTION OF CAMPFIRES IN ANCIENT INDIAN DREAMING CAVES.

 

 

A

TARZAN AND HIS MATE (1934) is considered by most Tarzan fans to be the best of the Johnny Weissmuller-Maureen O’Sullivan Tarzan films. Surely it was the sexiest, with Weissmuller and especially O’ Sullivan nearly naked during the film’s 105 minute running time. Picking up where 1932’s Tarzan The Apeman left off, avaricious ivory hunters arrive in the African jungle in search of the fabled Elephant’s Graveyard. Tarzan is shot and left for dead, but rescued by his simian friends, Tarzan races towards the elephants’ burial ground and its precious ivory, where the evil poachers have already been eaten by lions, and Jane is next on their menu. But a convenient elephant stampede, heralded by that classic Tarzan yell: ahh-ee-yachhh-ee-yahhh, saves Jane from the lions’ fangs in the nick of time.

Themes: treasure hunts, daring rescues.

Tone: rousing, sweeping, tense.

Keywords: civilization, elephant graveyard, hunting, ivory, jungle, lion, poacher.

 

1

Back In High School When Jane Played Tuba

(Poem With Beautiful Quarterback And Blowjob)

 

**

In the marching band & Jane was brilliant

In Latin & editor of the yearbook

Jane was famous for giving exquisitely sensitive

Albeit dramatic head

But during Jane’s extravagant going down

While Jane was merely disguised

As some beautiful quarterback’s

Lap of bouncy hair,

Jane would star in

Passionate movie-dreams of love

Rescue & escape

From Jane’s sad, boring, brown-eyed

Failed, mousey, blowjob life

With happy endings

In Jane’s passionate movie-dreams

Jane is no longer a fatty & drab

& Jane’s face is no longer

A pimple plantation

No, Folks, Jane’s flawless complexion

Is peaches & cream

 

Jane’s tropical-sun kissed skin is golden as yellow roses and ripe

Jane’s mane of hair blonde & luxuriant

& Jane’s blue, eager eyes

Seem almost too large, too luminous

For Jane’s fresh pretty petal of a face

This beautiful, blonde girl, Jane

(Probably a Lost Princess)

Discovers herself time after time

In great peril, & Jane is such

A delicate, helpless, albeit voluptuous                                                                                                  

Little thing

Once the creepy Clay-People discover a sullen Jane

Hiding out in the Sunken Forest

& since Tarzan is not on hand

To save Jane, Jane is easy

To capture. As Jane struggles & struggles

To twist free

From the crumbly fingers

Of the creepy Clay-People

The long sleek muscles

Of Jane’s smooth arms & legs

Flex like the shadows of leaves and flowers

On flowing water

Much as the long hair of Jane’s mother

Tangled in the twisted roots

Of Jane’s father’s tree

 

2

Tarzan Dives From The Dangerous High Cliffs

(Poem With Blonde Helpless Girl, Cave Creature, And Black Tragic Water)

 

**

As Jane struggles & struggles

To twist free from the crumbly clutch of the creepy Clay-People,

Jane’s Jungle-Princess gown of spotted skins

Negligible to begin with

Is torn in revealing places, & now

A large section of Jane’s smooth, downy tummy,

Jane’s supple left shoulder

& the soft upper swelling

Of Jane’s perfect left melon of a blonde breast

Are bare.

Deep in their hidden caves

The creepy Clay-People chain Jane

To a spongy pillar

Where the damp soil

Begins to hungrily engulf Jane

Like the movement of some madly sporing mold

Over moist, sweet white bread, or a waterfall of wildly flowing foam full of blind fish, the ravenous

Mud will spread over Jane’s lovely flesh

Flesh like yellow roses luminous in moonlight

Until Jane too will become a zombie of goo

Deaf & dumb, a mud babe

Ugly as a turd

But this will never happen to Jane

Beautiful, sun-kissed, blonde girls are always rescued

In the nick of time

Tarzan is hurrying to Jane now, now!

Tarzan’s hard muscled body arches

As Tarzan dives from the high cliffs

Into the dangerous water far below

Dangerous deep, dark water

A black lake with no bottom

(The local natives sing

In their creation songs)

Tarzan swims underwater, suspended

Seemingly in the fluid

Silvery center of Jane’s movie dream

Dreaming itself to life                                                                                                                                      

Floating between worlds

Waiting to be born

Tarzan rises like a bubble from the bottom

Of Jane’s brain

Hooked and reeled by the light of Jane’s movie-dream of love

In his night-sea journey

To his real life’s beginning in the waters

Of Jane’s movie imagination

Tarzan swims into what is missing

With no shadow yet to trail behind him

Like a flickering fin

Tarzan does not see the starlight drifting on the surface

Of the dark water above him

Beneath Tarzan there are other water beings

And fish blind in the black water of night

Nobody has ever seen before

Beings and blind fish that

Like submerged stars blink

Deeper than thought or language

Like a wondrous water plant’s blooming

Tarzan’s hair sways & sweeps

About Tarzan’s head

A halo of submerged light

Or the nearly luminescent wings of fish

Tarzan’s bulging eyes are black with awareness

& expectation

Tarzan surfaces inside a cave

Whose moist shadowy ridged walls rise

High out of sight into unfathomable womb-like darkness

Tarzan braces his arms upon a ledge that feels like wet flesh

Tarzan takes a well-deserved breather

It happens in a heartbeat

The ropey muscles of Tarzan’s shoulders shudder

Tarzan is pulled backwards into the tragic water

As waves of night rise about him

His skin seeing down deep beneath him, as it does in dark water

Tarzan chops desperately at the entangling tentacles

That pull Tarzan deeper & deeper

Into dark, tragic water murky as

Afterbirth                                                                                                        

 

3

Pussy-Simple Apeman,

(Poem With Steaming Rainforests, A Land Time Forgot, Perfume, Ugly One-eyed Angel)

 

**

 

The huge glowing eyes of the old creature are

Unblinking eyes, yellow, luminous

Wild with mourning

Tears flowing from them like falling stars

& yet there is no hatred

In those terrible eyes

& when Tarzan plunges at last

Knife in teeth toward them

There is no evident fear

& no evident pain

As Tarzan’s knife slashes those tragic eyes open

Like the soft translucent flesh of testicles

& as milky foam spews

From those ragged wounds

Those torn, ancient eyes give no sign

Of terror or anger or anguish

Or even regret

Only a sort of sorrow maybe

That there is no surprise ending

That as real as ritual

Tarzan will clutch Jane’s slender body

Tight in his bare, muscled arms

Tarzan’s wild breath hot on Jane’s face

As vine to vine they swing

Through slippery green air

Of steaming rainforests

Ahh-ee-yahhhh-ee-yahhhh

To where Tarzan’s enchanted escarpment rises into the clouds

(Star Penis, the pygmies call it in their prayers)

Where in a land time forgot

Jane will swim naked in endless moonlight

With that pussy-simple apeman

Jane’s own inner eternal Tarzan

So, folks, the last laugh is on

That old dumb hopeless myopic motherfucker

For rearing its old hoary, bald head

Once again when it shouldn’t have

Again & again & again it does it

In backseats after ballgames

In the dizzy perfume of balconies

That old ugly one-eyed angel never learning

Its proper place

Ahh-eeyahhhh-ee-yahhhh

So there you have it, folks

The end of Jane’s passionate movie-dream of love

Not to mention famous, flamboyant blowjob

& once again that old hapless goofy Black Lagoony creature

Will be the one to suffer

For the simple fact that time

& the passionate story of True Love

Are always on the side of

The blonde & beautiful

The exquisite & escaped

Jungle Jane                      

Ahh-ee-yahhhh-ee-yahhhh

 

Tarzan and His Mate was the last of MGM’s Tarzan series to be targeted for a strictly adult audience. The remaining MGM Tarzans, made under stricter censorship guidelines, were geared for the whole family.

At age nine, Weissmuller had contracted polio. At the suggestion of his doctor, he took up swimming to help battle the disease. In the 1924 Olympics, he won five gold medals and one bronze. He won fifty-two US National Championships and set sixty-seven world records. Weissmuller starred in six Tarzan movies for MGM with actress Maureen O’Sullivan as Jane and Cheeta as his pal Chimp. The last three also included Johnny Sheffield as “Boy.” He became the definitive Tarzan and the first to be associated with the ululating, yodeling Tarzan yell, which was created by splicing together recordings of three vocalists to get the effect — a soprano, an alto, and a hog caller.

 

While playing in a celebrity golf tournament in Cuba in 1958, Weissmuller’s golf cart was suddenly captured by rebel soldiers. Weissmuller got out of the cart and gave his trademark Tarzan yell. The socked rebels began to jump up and down cheering “Tarzan, welcome to Cuba!” and then provided Tarzan and his companions an escort to the golf course.

 

For his contributions to the motion picture industry, Tarzan has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6541 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood.

 

In 1979, after suffering a series of strokes, Tarzan entered The Motion Picture & Television Country Home and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California, where he regularly frightened the other elderly residents by wandering through the halls while calling out for his jungle friends: ahh-ee-yachhhh-ee-yahhhh, and at the graveside service in Acapulco, as his coffin was lowered into the ground a tape recording of his yell ahh-ee-yachhhh-ee-yahhhh was played full volume three times

Ahh-ee-yahhhh-ee-yahhhh

Ahh-ee-yahhhh-ee-yahhhh

Ahh-ee-yahhhh-ee-yahhhh

 

 

 

 

 

B

HIGH SIERRA (1941) is an early heist film noir written by W. R. Burnett and John Houston and directed by Raoul Walsh. The movie features Ida Lupino and Humphrey Bogart, full of hard-boiled vitality, as “Mad-Dog Roy Earle, a complex human being, a former farm boy turned mobster, a gunman who can befriend a mongrel dog (Pard), and goes out of his way to help a crippled girl, and who finally only wants freedom for himself. The film is notable as the breakthough in Bogart’s screen career, leading to a succession of iconic roles that earned him critical acclaim. Upon its release, High Sierra was touted as the consummate gangster film, providing a heady mix of everything a gangster film should: speed, excitement, suspense, and that ennobling suggestion of futility, which makes for irony and pity, with the perfect epilogue in which the gangster dies rather than surrenders.

 

 

1

Another Star Kissed Goodbye, Poem With Gunmoll, Get-Away Car, Camel Or Lucky Strike, And Close-up

 

**

The gangster blasts his way out

Of the can into the illusion of a new life

On the lam from the law & the Lord

The gangster gone wild running through the badlands

Cactus and sand of Death Valley

The gangster goes gushy at a cheap motor court

Over a crippled blonde girl with big blues

After a hard bitten

Lifetime of despair and desperation

The gangster & his gunmoll played

By a lovely, luscious young Ida Lupino

Were too hot & heavy traveling together

That motel clerk had already spotted them

Thanks to their front-page fame & even little Pard,

Their outlaw puppy, had his mug in the paper

Bogie belted the clerk, locked him in a closet

Bogie would drive on into L.A. for his cut alone

Ida would escape by bus

They would meet up later, disguise themselves

Somehow, settle in a small town

Somewhere in the middle of America

Raise a family, live on the lam forever

If it came to that

For some quick cash instead

Bogie sticks up a store in broad daylight

Bogie makes the inevitable gangster getaway pell-mell

Over dusty backcountry roads

There is a dizzy spinout & crash

There is a mad scramble

Up a rocky mountainside

Only to be cornered by swarming lawdogs

In the High Sierra cliffs like

A rat in a hole

Or still-born in a birth canal

Gunfire from the cop’s gats

Exploding like popcorn in a heavy iron skillet and poured

Into an old brown grocery bag

Greasy and secret

To sneak into the drive-in movie

So this is the way

This gangster flick ends, Bogie

Firing up a final Camel (or probably Lucky Strike)

(Medium shot) reflects

Sizing up his dire gangster getaway situation

His gangster grin tight

Ironic in a closeup

Though not really in despair

So do not pity the poor gangster

For Bogie is weary of it all

Being on the lam is no life

A price on your head

The constant fear

Of being fingered

The constant fear of being shot down

Like a mad dog in the street

Or walking unaware out of a Chicago movie house

With a foreign woman wearing a red dress

Nowhere finally to turn

For solace, for grace

For the love of God

The end of the alley, curtains

For the gangster-man

Sacrificial and sad in his sentimentality

Sacramental in his ritual role

Of redemption

Bitter within the hard approximation

Of justice confused

With the fate of stars

Like gods who eat themselves

Alive, Red Giants devouring

Themselves as they fulfill their fates

To burn brightly and devolve

Into White Dwarfs who dance off the stage

At the end of that vaudeville called

The universe

Just another star kissed goodbye

Imploding before our eyes into

A black hole from which

No light can ever escape

The gangster only longs at last

For his human heart to stop beating sowildly

The gangster prays to snap his fingers and vanish into the bright light of dawn

And for his burning star to come to rest at last

A star only half seen anyway, or seen for merely a moment

Out of the corner of the audience’s eye

A remote viewing at most

A star only of the mind, an apparition

Of flame and flickering fame

The gangster has always felt most

Alive anyway in the imagination

Of his audience

The gangster longs to touch her hair just one more time

The gangster longs to feel this way about his gunmoll forever

Over and over again

A being of light and projection

The gangster feels the unbearable mass of absence most

A gangster with no eyewitness

Is only black space, a vacuum of nothingness

An abyss from which no cry for pity can rise                                                                                                                                                  

There are just two kinds of death for a spectral gangster

Sooner or later

With an empty sealed box to bury

During a starless night

There is no celestial navigation

For a gangster ghost

 

 

2

Ancient Gangster Dream, Poem With Screen Door, Primitive Chanting Preacher, Circling Black Shadows, And A Dying Mother’s Screams

 

**

 

 

And all last night, while the lawdogs waited armed

In the forests below, Bogie

Freezing in the zero High Sierra darkness

Had curled childlike

About his last dreams

Fearful dreams but his own dreams

Dreaming himself born

His dying mother’s screams

The July sun burning into the tar-paper roof

The bumping of flies against the screen door

A primitive, chanting preacher

The huge, black shadows that had circled relentlessly

For three days about the coal camp

Finally Bogie had dreamed for a last time

His ancient gangster dreams

Of jobs & shootouts & getaways &

Of gangster deaths

Bullet ridden, leaking

The last closeup

The last words

Bubbling from Bogie’s dying lips like a cartoon balloon

Of blood, Mother of God,

Is this the last

Of Mad Dog Roy Earl?

Bubbling from Bogie’s dying movie star

Lips, a blood bubble of ancient

Gangster prayer

Father, why hast thou bugged out on

Your only begotten gangster, your own

Mad Dog Roy Earl?

 

 

 

3

Ancient Gangster Grin Of Regret, Poem With High Gleaming Granite Cliffs, Bullet With Number On It, Cheap irony, and Lawdogs Armed to The Teeth

 

How

Did I ever get my moviestar butt

In this grade-B, black & white bullshit

To begin with, Bogie reflects, flicking

Another fag out into the cold

High Sierra morning air

They wanted Raft to begin with

Agents, Bogie reflects, producers

Assholes

In a slow pan

Down the steep, rocky mountain side

Bogie watches the early morning light

Begin to glisten on the granite cliffs

To shine bluish from the firs far below

Where the armed law waits with a bullet

With Bogie’s number on it

I hope I don’t piss

Or shit myself when I eat

That hot lead, Bogie reflects

I hope mine

Ain’t a kicking, snapping, foamy

Gangster death

The gangster only longs now

To be down from this mountain of doom

Bogie reflects upon the ironic poetry of following

His own fresh footprints

And traces of feathertips down through the snow

Of the mountainside

The gangster picking his way, armed and dangerous, among clouds

Transparent as angels with wings of transcendent forms

Wings of snowflakes and frozen fearful breath

The gangster falling like a cruciform shadow

Over the snow and rocky grimace

Of the mountain’s skull

Now if I was a fancy-dan like little Freddy Astaire

I could just fox-trot my ass out of this low-rent gangster flick

Hell, I could have been a hoofer

I could have been a song & dance man

Here at the end of the movie Bogie admits

Everything, spills the beans, rats

Himself out. Cops a plea. Bogie

Owns up at last to his final movie star

Gangster great sin, that

Attitude whose name is Cheap

Irony. Bogie acknowledges that

Ancient movie star gangster

Regret for all his lost

Chances as a cheap movie star gangster

For true American movie

Martyrdom

As a heroic shot soldier. Or sailorboy drowning

In dreamtime and baptismal belief

A philosophical, world-weary Bogie

In the final

Frames of this last gangster flick

Reflects that at least the lawdogs could never

Nail him for that capital

Crime whose name is

Anonymity

 

4

ENDLESS FRAMES

 

**

Bogie hears the barking

Faintly at first, then suddenly near

As little Pard, that cute gangster puppy,

Races on cue crazily

Up the steep, rocky slope toward

That outlaw whose name

Is Death

Bogie flicks his last fag into the cold

Mountain air. Bogie knows

This is the big kiss-off

Bogie steps out now to the edge of the cliff

To look for little Pard, exposing himself

To the deadly waiting aim

Of that lawdog sniper

Who has made his way above Bogie’s

Hideout hoping to get just

Such a clean shot as this

To end the movie on schedule

Sometimes I go around pitying myself

Like a punk, Bogie reflects

As Bogie waits patiently at the edge of that cliff

For all of gangster death

Where in the eternity of those final

Movie-moments Bogie’s Mad

Dog Roy Earl movie corpse

Will forever fall

Freely in those endless frames

 

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Welcome

Lots of great interviews and a piece Chuck wrote.  He now has Honeymooners A Cautionary Tale and Last Mountain Dancer available on Smashwords.com.  Leave a comment, connect your blog, have a great day!

From Open City #17

The Girl with No Face

I don’t know how many folks outside of West Virginia remember Dagmar anymore, but once she was famous. Back in the early and mid-fifties, Dagmar had been black-and-white TV’s version of Marilyn Monroe, or, maybe more accurately, of B movie queen Jayne Mansfield. Dagmar was the resident dumb blonde with big breasts on the old Milton Berle Texaco Theater, where she cultivated a funny, startled, deceptively stupid look. She also appeared on the TV variety show Broadway Open House, and even had her own short-lived Dagmar’s Canteen in 1952, where Frank Sinatra was once a guest.

Dagmar had been my own first hope and inspiration for a future beyond the ordinary. She had become the source of all my earliest discovery and flight and fame fantasies. But I let Dagmar and her famous big breasts slip through my fingers.

Dagmar’s real name was Virginia Ruth Egnor, and she was born in 1924 in Huntington, West Virginia. When I was a boy, Dagmar’s folks had lived three doors down from us on Waverly Road in Huntington for several years. There were no fences around the small-frame houses on our road back in those days, and we kids darted in our games like free-range chickens across that little prairie of backyards. In Dagmar’s folks’ backyard there was a spreading old oak we often used as homebase, where I relished the role of being “it” during hide-and-seek. Being “it” meant that I could hover about that homebase old oak, where it was only a matter of time until one day Dagmar would discover me. Someday Dagmar would be visiting her folks, maybe sitting out at the kitchen table sipping coffee one morning with her Mom, when through the back window she would spot a swift, singular, beautiful boy fearless at his play, and with a mere glance Dagmar would recognize the shining of his inner star.

Dagmar would stub out the cigarette she had been languidly smoking, while trying to explain the enigmatic nature of fame to her old Mom, and she would rush out the backdoor to that special splendid boy, rush to enfold him in her fame, not to mention extraordinary bosom, her famous nipples fiery red through her filmy clinging negligee (I loved those words: nipples, negligee, nipples, nipples, nipples, which were among those magically learned juicy words of my childhood I would roll around on my tongue like holy cherry Life Savers.)

And then it really happened. Dagmar had actually shown up at her folks’ home on Waverly Road the summer I was ten. We awakened one August Saturday morning into all the ordinariness of our own lives to discover an enormous car parked in front of Dagmar’s folks’ little house. It was a CADILLAC! It was a Cadillac CONVERTIBLE! It was YELLOW! I loved that car at first sight. The neighborhood was abuzz. One of Dagmar’s prissy little nieces kept sashaying out of the house to preen and prance and keep everybody abreast of the radiant blonde being within. Apparently Dagmar had brought her latest husband home to meet her folks for a real low-key down- home family visit. I skulked and lurked about the little frame house like all the rest of the obscure neighborhood minions that Saturday morning hoping to get at least a peek at the inscrutable face of fame, but to no avail.

Around noon my Dad, or Captain as everybody called him, piled as many neighborhood kids as would fit in his old battered green Plymouth station wagon, as was his Saturday afternoon custom, and hauled us down the road to a public swimming pool called Dreamland. Dad was called Captain because he had been the captain of the Second World War, which he had apparently won pretty much single-handedly. He was famous for this. When he had mustered out of the army at the end of the war a hero, some folks had encouraged him to get into politics. Captain was a big, gregarious fellow with an easy booming laugh, a full-blown sort of character folks always declared was a dead ringer for John Wayne, and it was true. Some folks even declared that Captain would be a natural for governor of West Virginia, although he was by nature neither a drunk nor a crook. Captain, who was a generally unemployed hero, hauled all us rowdy kids out of the neighborhood on weekends so that my Mom, who was an emergency room night shift nurse, and who pretty much brought home the proverbial bacon in our house plus cooked it up, could collapse in peace.

I recall Dreamland as a vast pool of wavy, faintly blue-green water splashing with sunlight, air thick with the pungent puzzling sweetness of chlorine and suntan lotion, joyful screams and squeals strangely echoey, smooth oiled teenage girls parading imperiously with their movie star sunglasses and implicating smiles and the sweet shadowy secrets of their shaved underarms. Music was always blasting from a huge white-stucco two-storied clubhouse trimmed in blue, and blue onion-shaped domes rose above dressing rooms on a knoll at the far end of the long pool. Dreamland was a Taj Mahal of a swimming pool I both loved and feared, a site of excitement and profound failure for me.

Dreamland was where I learned to swim my first spastic strokes, and where I failed repeatedly to muster courage enough to attempt swimming out to the deep end. I was not afraid of drowning in the deep end. It wasn’t that. It was, for one thing, my fear of not looking cool and sleek swimming around like the older boys, but dopey as a duck as I thrashed about in the water of the deep end. I was afraid of being embarrassed if I swam out to the huge circular concrete float in the deep end where the older boys hung out as they strutted and flexed their fulsome brown muscled bodies. Mostly, though, my fear of the deep end was because of the bad dreams.

We piled out of Captain’s old Plymouth station wagon that Saturday and charged for the ticket counters, bouncing about impatiently as we inched along in one of the two endless lines. And then I spotted her, in the next line, the famous monster girl with no face. I had seen her maybe two or three other times, and it was always a shock. She was a monster girl whose face had no features. It was like looking at a blur of a face. You got the impression of holes here and there for what could have been perhaps nostrils and a mouth maybe, and eyes, like unaligned marbles amid folds and flaps of flesh and hair that looked like fur and feathers. There were rumors that the girl had been born that way, or that her face had burned off in a fire, or been cut to ribbons in a terrible car wreck or by an escaped convict crazy man with a knife. Her blur of a face was at an angle to me, and I stared at it. I couldn’t help it. I blinked my eyes trying to somehow adjust them, to get them into focus, to compose something recognizable as the regular human face of a girl amid that pulpy mess of skin. Suddenly the monster girl turned her head in my direction and I jerked my eyes away. But she knew I had been staring. I could feel she knew I had been staring, and my neck burned with shame and embarrassment for her exotic horribleness. I couldn’t think of anything worse than being her, a person whose face could never show her sadness, or happiness, if she ever had any, whose only expression would be horribleness. How could a girl with no face ever leave a dark room? How could a monster girl ever crawl out from under her rock?

Let’s head for the deep end, Soldierboy, Captain said to me the minute we laid out our towels on a grassy slope above the pool that Saturday. Let’s go kick that deep end’s ass, Captain added, laughing that bold confident winner-of-the-Second-World-War laugh of his, and he gave my shoulder a poke with his finger that about knocked me down. I was this boney kid who had at best a baffled sense of balance. Then Captain gave me a snappy salute, which meant that I, his little soldierboy, was supposed to snap him a salute back, a little private father-son camaraderie he had initiated when I was maybe one. I knew what this meant in a heartbeat. This meant that my cowardly ass was grass and the Second World War was the mower. I hated the Second World War. This also meant Mom had ratted me out to Captain about the deep end and my cowardliness and I resolved at that moment to keep my heart hidden from everybody forever.

At noon each day when I came home from playing or school for lunch, there would be two pans heating on the stove. One pan contained simmering Campbell’s tomato soup. I loved Campbell’s tomato soup. A syringe and needle were being sterilized in the other bubbling water. After I had enjoyed my Campbell’s tomato soup, which I slurped with infinitely slow appreciation while nibbling with elegant slowness upon the crumbs of Saltines, Mom would lead me upstairs, and I would trudge forlornly behind her like the proverbial prisoner going to the gallows. I would lie face down on my bed with my butt bared, until such time as I had worked up enough courage to gasp into my pillow a feathered, fluttering little birdy whimper of that word: now. Whereupon Mom would deliver into my shivery little boy butt via that needle the approximate size of a harpoon my daily dose of raging male hormones (I had had a little undescended testicle problem that took four visits to the famous Mayo Clinic to eventually make all better). While I was working up the courage to say now, Mom would let me jabber my head off, as I stalled. If I sensed Mom growing impatient with me, I would attempt to distract her with entertaining albeit inscrutable stories. Sometimes I would be forced to pretend to confide in Mom, telling her what I hoped would pass as truthful, private things, making my revelations as puzzling and painful as possible to engage her interest and sympathies. Hence I had told her more truthfully than I meant to about my fear of the deep end, and then I had told her about the nightmares I had had for years that as I was swimming along happily, some horrible scary creature who lived on the bottom of the deep end would awake and see me up above on the surface of the water. Whereupon in my nightmares I would feel something grab my feet from below, and pull me screaming down under the water to be eaten raw.

So there was Captain treading water in the shivery blue green water of the deep end, throwing salutes my way and hollering above the pool racket to jump on in, soldierboy, the water’s right. But soldierboy just stood there looking down his at toes, curled like scared worms over the pool’s edge. You can swim like a fish, soldierboy, just jump on in and swim to your old dad. I’m right here, son, nothing will happen. You won’t drown, hollered Captain. But soldierboy knew he wouldn’t drown. That wasn’t it. Soldierboy stood there trembling. Like a cowardly leaf. Soldierboy wanted more than anything to be under the water of his beloved shallow end, holding his breath in the currents of uncomplexity at its bottom where nobody could see him. Come on now, soldierboy, Captain implored, gritting his teeth. I stared at my worried worms. Come on now, Goddamnit, Chuck, jump! Captain encouraged me and slapped the water with a cupped hand. It sounded like a shot. I flinched violently. Why don’t you go ahead and jump, chickenshit, a neighborhood boy said from behind me and hooted with laughter. They were all around me, the neighborhood boys and girls, all those creepy kids with their giggles, their laughter. I spun around and ran. I pushed my way relentlessly through hooting human beings who knew me.

I skulked around that lake of a pool and slipped into the shameful shallow end on the far side, among the comforting presence of strangers, where I felt at home. I bobbed about in the shallow water, a floating head, keeping a wary eye out for Captain or any of the evil neighborhood kids, while I plotted my revenge. If only I could transform this once sweet Persian dream of a pool into a lake of acid. Or have schools of gigantic piranha churn the waves into a foam of blood. If only the creature of the deep end awoke while Captain was swimming out there all alone, when suddenly it happened, and with but a shudder of his great muscles Captain would be pulled down into the deep end, and although my old man wrestled heroically with the groping tentacles, for he was such a big brave shit, they slowly entangled him, pulling him into the dark water toward the deep end monster’s huge yellow crazy eyes, and great bloody maw.

Then I heard an announcement over the clubhouse’s loudspeakers. They announced that we were all honored to have Dagmar, the famous star of screen and television, as a special guest that day at Dreamland. I stood up in the shallow end and looked around wildly. Dagmar, man oh man! I saw a crowd passing slowly along the side of the pool by the clubhouse stairs toward the picnic area on the same slope where we had our stuff laid out. In a momentary parting of the excited throng, I was certain I caught a glimpse of utter blondeness. For a moment I considered returning to my site of shame, swallowing my pride in order to see that famous blonde person and her wondrous breasts up close. But I didn’t. I had my pride. I turned and dogpaddled with dignity out to the float in the shallow end, where I pulled myself up and sat with my back to Dad and Dagmar and all they meant.

At some point, I began jumping over and over again into the pool. Time and again, I would run and hurl myself belly first from the float painfully into the choppy water. Then I would drag myself back up on the float and do it again. I didn’t care. I didn’t care if I knocked myself out and drowned shamefully at the bottom of the shallow end. I pictured Captain standing over where they had drug my pitiful drowned body onto the side of the pool, blue green water draining from my mouth and nose and ears and eyes. I tried to picture Captain crying his heart out, but I couldn’t. The only thing I could make come alive in my imagination was Captain carrying my limp dripping body up the clubhouse stairs while some sad song like “Endless Sea” blasted on the loud speakers, and all the evil neighborhood kids were standing around wondering out loud if I would come back from the dead and fuck with them, which, buddy, you can bet I would.

Then I pictured Dagmar swimming toward me underwater. Like a wondrous waterplant’s blooming, her beautiful blonde hair floated about her head as her face came toward my own until it filled my vision. Whereupon, in the moment before I lost consciousness, I felt Dagmar’s soft white arms enfold me. I was only ten years old, but I imagined myself being deliciously smothered in the immensity of Dagmar’s blonde breasts as she delivered the drowning soldierboy safely to the surface.

So there I stood on the shallow end float trying to catch my breath after a particularly painful bellybuster, when a kid came directly up to me out of the basic blue and excitedly said these exact words: “Dagmar saw you, boy!” Dagmar saw you, boy! That kid said exactly that. I swear it! I spun around like an insane top. I looked everywhere. I looked in the water around the float. I scanned the far sides of the pool, and the grassy slopes. Dagmar saw you, boy. When I looked back for the kid he was gone. But that boy had been real, and he had said those exact words full of more wonder than any other words of my childhood. I swear it.

Dagmar had spotted me. That much was clear. I believed that with all of my heart. I believe it to this day. Somehow my fierce painful brave bellybusters had caught Dagmar’s attention. Perhaps her blue famous eyes were settled upon me at that moment. They could be. They were. I sprang into action. I threw myself from the float like a virgin into a volcano. I exploded into that violence of water and began to swim frantically for the float in the deep end. I thrashed my arms and kicked my feet wildly. I chopped across the rough surface of the deep end, choking, my eyes burning, toward the distant float. The deep end’s water strangled into my throat with each ragged stroke and it dawned on me I might never make it. It dawned on me that I might actually drown like a rat. And for what? Fame? Fame wasn’t worth it I realized. Fame wasn’t worth drowning like a rat.

But at that epiphanal moment I felt strangely calm. I closed my eyes, and simply kept chopping, blindly, but unafraid, trancelike, and then suddenly I touched concrete. I slapped an astonished hand onto the surface of the float in the deep end and held on for dear life. I had not drowned like a rat after all. I had a second chance at everything, including fame. I was coughing and spitting and my sore arms trembled nearly out of control. I wiped water off of my face with my free hand and pushed my hair out of my eyes. I was there. Soldierboy had made it. Soldierboy was at the float in the deep end where he had always really belonged. Soldierboy loved that float. He gripped the edge of the float and looked around to see who had witnessed this amazing feat. He looked for the evil neighborhood kids. He looked for Dad. Soldierboy looked around for Dagmar.

And then suddenly somebody emerged from the water right beside me and grabbed the edge of the float. It was the famous girl with no face. I took one look at her and screamed. I screamed and screamed and fell back into the water, flapping my arms like crazy wings.