Rendezvous #73

 

by Cantinker Moss

Written while in the U.S. Coast Guard in Southeast Alaska, aboard a buoy tender, USCGC Clover WLB 292, this poem reveals the mindset of a nineteen year-old thrown into the conflict of a youthful idealism as a result of the 1960’s with the cruel cynicism, complexity, and reality of daily life among shipmates.  Structured like a dream, it allows us to see the young man’s embrace of senseless hedonism, history, fear, disillusionment, and even genuine love but his rejection of it.  However, the poem ends with a strong memory of the powerfully irresistability of this true meaning of love embodied in Christianity.  Finally, the poem/dream takes you back, the same way you came in, to the airport and out of Alaska.  It is a “rendezvous” with the characters, or “identities” in something of a play.  In fact, and to the best of my recollection, I landed at Japonski Island Airport with overcast skies, and left in similar weather.  But perhaps a little poetic license never hurt anyone.

 

One clouded airport in the heat of the winter

As the airplanes duck closer to catch the right moment

And hoping they don’t ransack the runway

Only to land with a prayer on the table

And the people who recognize the crew and the pilot

Who crawl in thanksgiving to coffee-strewn offices

Of vending machines, tickets, and a few extra dollars

They gather

Themselves and their identities.

 

Driving with another who knows of the history

Of Tlingits and lumbermen and Russian-Americans

Who remember the winter in the first days of statehood

At the west rim of mountains that resemble the Cascades

And now all that matters is the whim of each tourist

Who hopes for less rain and the tourship good landing

With Britons and jet set in their first real adventure

They gather

Themselves and their identities.

 

The sailors who mingle in the bars and the pool joints

With gin and tequila and the hope of a good time

Who wonder if they really have come here for reason

Because the cost of living might be that much higher

And the money will help when their children get older

Who don’t drink fresh milk and get their food shipped from Oregon

And never ask questions because their fathers are trying

To gather

Themselves and their identities.

 

The spruce and the pine trees really add to the scenery

And spring doesn’t change much, it’s part of the winter

Although everybody around has calendars

And knows that Christmas comes after Labor Day

And October might just be twenty degrees colder

But you’re thankful you’re not living in Fairbanks

Where they don’t close the schools because of foul weather

Then no one would ever get an education

And the cost of living doesn’t have to be higher

Because the living up there is a matter of existence

And that’s probably why there’s a state university there

To gather

Ideas and identities.

 

The lovely family that took in my affections

They gave me a reason for living the living

With their talk of salvation and the blessing of the hereafter

But they don’t have to talk; you can see it in their faces

And you don’t have to take; you’re receiving without handouts

And you want to be loved, but it’s way above your head

And they show you some truth, and you go and live a falsehood

With your gin and tequila and hope of a good time

And you wonder if you’ve come here for any type of reason

Near the north side of a place called Japonski Island

By the banks of a channel across from the city

Which holds some secrets that not even your own mind

Will ever figure out on account of some reason

That you might have come here, and there might be a good time

But it all turned so bad that nothing’s reconcilable

And all you can do is go to the airport

Pick up a ticket for seventy odd dollars

On one of two flights that will take you to Seattle

Where you’ll land on a runway with a prayer on the table

Near a place with pool joints and gin and tequila

And the crew and the pilot will crawl in thanksgiving

To coffee-strewn offices and a few extra dollars…

cm

 

 

 

 

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