If you have just arrived at The Library in Purgatory, the first chapter is here.

"I never found the girl, I never got rich. Follow me."

~Leonard Cohen

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Chapter IV.1

Betwixt Reflection & Projection


In hindsight, I’d say that that voice that day in Key West was saying that things wouldn’t be the same after the cruise and I’m left with the suspicion that my psyche knew then that I wouldn’t be making a career out of the Navy, that that chapter was coming to a close. Right up until the end of the cruise I was trying to negotiate with the IS detailer, Chief Lowsack or some other equally inane name, but he was only interested in sending me to what was in essence, production-line intelligence locations that didn’t maximize my time or abilities.

So, I got out, though I had no real plan. And in looking back, I can see just how lost I was, though I had no idea at the time. The Navy had been my home, my friends, my purpose; I dreamed the Navy’s and the Ocean’s dreams and I suddenly found myself on the street without the security of a purpose or identity; the dream gone. And waiting for me on the pier were all the things I had left behind some five years earlier.

Of course I didn’t see any of that at the time. And the next five years or so found me pretty much lost and wandering, in soul if not person.

Days of the Crow

I slipped away then
cloaked in the sweet perfume
of time—
a thousand year’s melancholy
and alone
I followed my ghost— down —
into the Maze
that (Laotian) labyrinth
of grinning skulls
and arid souls
parched for meaning
and reconciliation.
I thought back to that Indian summer
in Tarragona— with Lloyd
“Days of the Crow,” he had called it then
so much brighter and intense
everything around you
seeping in through your pores
till the line, the distinction
between you and It
became so blurred
that you
could not
find your way back
because you were
already there.
And we laughed a lot
back then
the delight just rolling
off our tongues
and out of our bellies—
the merriment in our eyes
sparkling whatever our gaze
rested upon—
Days of the Crow.
And how now,
I longed for the simple pleasures
of a needle gun in my hand,
the Mediterranean sun on my back,
foreign earth beneath my feet
and smiling dolphins
riding the bow.

Realm of a Dying Son

I met you once
at a bar in St. Martiin,
drinking a rum and coke
with a clove in your hand.
But you didn’t recognize me
and I forgave you
because I nearly
didn’t recognize myself.
I have since traded
the Sea for mountains
and spend most of my days
among people whose language
I do not speak
and customs
I do not know.
I think of you sometimes
and those strange days
wondering how we came so
and yet
didn’t touch.
In unfamiliar bars
I sometimes find myself
searching for your face
but the wind
and the clinking glasses
whisper that we will
meet again.

The Shadows

And I could feel myself
slipping away
beyond the streetlights
and into the shadows
where no one could see me
touch me—
my voice
only a shiver in your dream
running the shadows alone.

Email to Mikey

I guess I just missed ya today.

I’ve been drinking tequila and limes since noon. It’s just been one of those days; one of those days where you start drinking in some strange port or you start drinking and go to the beach and wind up at Pete’s before the sun goes down and everything is okay.

But everything isn’t okay because no one is here except for me and Lee “Scratch” Perry.

Have I lost my fucking mind?? All I can think about today is the goddamned Navy. Yeah it had its bad weeks but I can’t think of a time when things were that good.

It makes me soul ache and all I can do is keep drinking. No one here understands, no one here knows and I just wish that I were back in Jax sucking down a cool one as the sun sets, listening to Pili Pili or sitting in the Hut alone as Carlos sets up the bar.

These are things I know, things I understand, things that make me feel like the world is right.

I don’t know. I don’t understand.

Distant Shores

“I have to
clear my head,”
he said
as he walked out into the storm.
He never came back.
They found him
with a pocket full of sand—
a thousand miles
from the Sea.


The sun was setting
as I drove the point home,
Sandringham Company
fading into the mist
behind us.
“But you’re wrong of course,”
she said.
I laughed!
“I’ve never been more
right in my fucking life!”
The steering wheel
slipped between my fingers
as they blew away with the breeze,
the leather seat slowly sinking
no longer supporting.
“I told you
I died twenty 9 years ago…
20 nine years ago!!
In Arizona!
Just like in that movie J…”
the words and breath
in a cloud of huff
somewhere on A1A
momentum quickly dissipating
as the mangroves stood
silently in the deepening shadows.

Far Away Dreams

The voices come up
out of the smoke
and I am transfixed
by the way they move—
slowly, with a final design
if only I knew
if only I had been
learned in the myth they speak
but I forget
and I forget
more than I can afford
waking to find a tear on my pillow

One year ago tonight— last night of the cruise. Sitting here at the end of the bar at Pete’s…came down to have a cigar, play some songs on the jukebox, and drink with the ghosts.

I don’t know what we did that last night— not for the life of me. I’m sure the plan was to smoke cigars on the O-10 but I just don’t remember. I would have liked to have had the last watch instead of having it off because my dad was on board for the Tiger Cruise. To have spent the last night on watch, alone in Supplot in the blue light— quiet, some music— just thinking about the last six months, the last five years, saying my goodbyes and then power down everything, close the door and spin the dial. And then to walk down the brow alone, pier empty— no one waiting for me, step into a cab and ride away.

The Unbearable Lightness

“There’s nothing tying me here,”
he sad,
“except for the residual
of days long gone past
and eventually, that too
shall pass
and I’ll quietly drift away
I imagine.”

Last Stand

it is true…”
he said
“my soul lies in ruins
and I shall no more
walk in the shadow
of the dream
that once gave me
I will make
my final stand
and let none say
that I did not care
for my life has been
for the asking.”

Unsent letter to Bri:

Well dude,

A year ago was the last night of the cruise. For some reason I don’t remember what we did that night though I have to imagine that it involved cigars.

I wish I’d been able to stand that last watch; to power down everything, and spin the dial one last time after all lines were over. I started the damn thing in there and it would have been fitting to have ended it there, a proper farewell to a place I put so much of my sweat and tears into.

I went down to Pete’s tonight to mark the passing of the anniversary. The place was quiet and empty (as it should be) and I played songs, had a smoke and drank with the ghosts of who we were.

And now, a year later, I never imagined that I would find myself so lost or strapped for a reason to go on living. And you, my brother, I don’t even know where you are anymore…and that kills me.

I walked down to the Ocean on my way out; the moon had already set and Orion was low in the east. I closed my eyes and listened to the waves on the beach— they sounded like the water flowing against the hull when we used to go out on the smoking sponson after watch— you with your Marlboro’s and me with my cloves. It sounded like home. And all I could think as I breathed in the heavy salt air was that I hoped this night found you where you wanted to be.

The Dance

And oh how he longed
for the dance
one last time
on heaving
gunmetal decks
with the salt-spray
of a thousand lonely, lost nights
parched by a lifetime
of furthering horizons
beneath an indifferent sun—
the steady throb of diesel and steam engines
reassuring beneath his feet
tying him to
the thing he’d lost
the sad second
he’d set foot ashore
and turned his back
on the Sea.

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