Guilt Trip–John Field

In my head there are more teeth

Than mercies—-John Ciardi


You can keep your cornfields, silos,

Autographed bibles and gooseberry jam.

Bye-bye frozen road kill and frost-bitten toes.

I wanted cocktails named after movie stars,

The Pacific Ocean, surfboards find the curl

In a wave, the beach which is my home

And sun-cured girls far too young for me

Trailing wakes of dangerous possibilities.

Time to git in my sou. Yeah!

Because my Hollywood-nurtured fantasies,

A lending library of banal appetites,

Were ready to take off

Like a flock of migratory birds heading west

Because everywhere else wasn’t there anymore.


“Let’s break to the basics,” my mother declared

As she blocked the front door.

“You’ll never learn a single thing in California

They’ll ever pay you for.” To which I replied:

“Adios Dad and the collection of serious junk

You bought to have and look swell

On you shelves—-a jumble

Of expensive tools, gears and pulleys,

Chains and bags of shiny stainless steel nails

You’ve only used once and that as a last resort.

It’s 1957, for goodness sake!

When are you going to unpack

The black market sugar,

Coffee and canned sardines

Mom stashed in the attic during World War II?”


Vaguely aware of the fact

That my heart had a crack in it

Which made it easy to empty

But impossible to fill,

I jingled my car keys,

Hopped behind the wheel

Of the brand new Chevy Bel Air

My father bought for me and headed for LA

Without a good thought in my head,

Halfway there before I started the engine.

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