No Rainy-Day Friend

The morning wakes.
It is first light.
I am tied to a trunk,
Like the rampart of a huge ship.
The fabric is from the sail
Of a boat from Trinidad
The twine taken from the cleats
My clothes I set to dry.
By morning,
I hear the seashore,
Which put me to bed.
I dream of the ocean.
I swing in the wind.
I go over all the lovers I have had
Down the list of bodies and
Faces.
We went to places together,
Became intimate for honest reasons.
This is where I end up.
Tied to a pole,
Somewhat comfortable with the beauty of the idea,
But not so much with the warmth.
Because as a man, I have let no one in.
I chose my freedom
And tethered myself to a tree
As far away from others
I have shared and then forgotten
Until they come to me like ghosts
That make up the landscape of myself.
You may come to me and knock at the invisible door,
But I am just like the weather vane,
No rainy day friend.


29 comments

  1. I love this poem for its musicality, rhythm and sensuality. It is full of lovely nature images. You can imagine and feel the natural elements on your skin and in your soul: the new day coming, the wind, the sound of the ocean, the texture of the materials (the fabric, the twine made of cleats…). When I read it I also feel the humidity, the clothes set to dry. It all generates a feeling of empathy with the man of the poem. It touches the reader’s heart. I like how everything is being described. The trunk is to me a means of salvation on the seashore. Dreaming of the ocean suggests dreaming of the individual’s life adventure, not always being as one would like. It is also the man’s evaluation of what his life has been until now and the choices he has made. In this sense, it is an introspective journey.

  2. Oh Roshni, dreams are such fertile ground for images, the long pencil moustash, for example, of Salvador Dali in Waikiki in a purple silk shirt and pants, silver jewelry, fronting the multi-laned Boulevard of Kalakaua. He “floated” above and among the crowds as he left the limousine at the curb. There was no one like him. We all seemed smaller, even my mother, whose artwork shared the wall, where his giant gold framed painting with his wife on a white horse in the desert stared down at us. And my mother was the more beautiful of the two. But she made paintings with foliage and sold them for $35 a piece and I argued with her that she could never make a profit. His work was priceless, and she was no longer the runway model, who dated the famous Mayor of San Francisco.

  3. I like this poem but this reaction to Roshni Ramanan intrigue me more. Put it to poetic line…

    Oh Roshnni

    Dreams are such fertile ground for images
    Like the long pencil moustache
    of Salvador Dali in Waikiki,
    he has his purple silk shirt and silk pants
    Flashes his silver jewelry
    fronting the multi laned Boulevard
    Of Kalakula. He floats above
    But comes down among the crowds
    He’s the kind of man
    Who parks his Limousine at the curb.

    I liked him, they loved him
    But we all seemed smaller, even my mother
    Whose artwork seemed tiny next to his
    Salvador Dali’s giant gold framed painting

    Salvador Dali put his wife on the wall
    Atop a white steed surrounded by the gold
    Frame he captured his subjects in
    And even the painted desert looked down
    Upon me.

    My own artist mother,
    much more beautiful than she
    Whose painted hips hugged a painted horse
    My mother was far more beautiful
    Than even Salvadore’s wife

    But my mother made paintings with foliage
    Sold her art for $35 a wood framed work

  4. Thank you Donald. Dali was driven. The limousine door opened onto the boulevard. I am sure the crowd loved him. But, I was a young boy and my only thought was how he contrasted with the conservative locals in their shorts and “slippers.” He was ornate like Park Güell. They spoke pigeon and he was too far away to hear. His work while smaller where hers were many in number and besides their texture — actual foliage glued to canvas and then painted where the canvas was bare — seemed to have more 3-dimensional weight. Besides, they had dark, tropical frames. They seemed much less refined too. This was Dali against my mother, who was good at contemplation, and seemed to have used the foliage as a short-cut. But, she sold every one. She couldn’t keep the wall covered. The art dealer was always asking for more. I must have taken the wind out of her sails, for at some point, she had stopped. It meant she had to get foliage from the mountains or wherever she found it. One does not know the weight of one’s words. I think I actually mattered to my mother. She listened to me. And when she was older and trying to turn junk into salable items, I didn’t give her my time. It was a question of her life vs. mine. She needed me and I couldn’t help her, in effect, to advertise what she produced. This kills me inside. Her room was layers of scattered magazine pages with her writing on them, like notes for ideas she would later develop. My mother slowed down and then announced: “I want out!” She died on Aug 1. Years of Alzheimer’s and the hostility of a nursing home, which woke the late-night lady at 7AM.

    • Mario and Donald, you should definitely see the Dalí Museum when you come to Catalonia to visit. My husband and I live in a town next to Barcelona (more or less the distance between Oakland and San Francisco taking a similar train to BART). The Dalí Museum is in Figueres, only 118 kilometers (71 miles from Barcelona). There is a direct train.

      As for your mother, Mario, I also want to help my mother in a similar way you wanted to help yours. My idea has always been that of organising an exhibition of her different painting styles in Barcelona. I think her paintings with nude people could only sell and be appreciated in a place ready for art innovation and openness. Barcelona has this but it also means very expensive prices and huge competitiveness. We will see.

      • If you can help her that would be freeing for her and enlightening for the world. She has delicious talent. I am tempted to lick the pastel crayon from the brown paper she sent and I think I have an image of mine she might like to conclude our deal. Your mother is beautiful. Her home too is like Pablo Neruda’s in El Postino.

      • Thank you, Mario. I cannot be neutral because it is my mother and so I agree with you about her delicious talent. I remember the film Il Postino and loved it.

  5. You are a good poet, Mario, no doubt, but the details in your prose are some of the best I’ve seen. It’s like you have a key to some secret door that unlocks some very powerful emotions. What is rare though is not the force of your emotions, but the fact that you are not been blown off course by their various conflicting directions. To be an exceptional poet is a rarity, because an exceptional poet must have the wild energetic horses straining to pull him or her into the hurricane, but at the same time have the inner determined grit to guide them instead of being swept away.

    An added qualification is (and this is just another factor that hinders most poets and throws them out of the race) that you must be able to overpower these emotionally charged forces without forcing them in a pre-planned, too well thought out course that allows no room for them to twist and turn or become on their own. Once you hobble the horses, you break their spirit and subdue them into a docile, predictable tired course.

    One of the best examples of this poetic mindset is that of Abe Lincoln, who was a great writer himself. This principle of reigning in madness while giving that madness room to properly express itself comes, in my view anyway, into his life in three separate junctions ;having to do with his relationships. He apparently learned to handle headstrong people in his dealings with his wife. Since he was kind of a humble optimist, he didn’t attempt to overpower her. Instead, he would pit others in his life against her and then step aside. I think he had a younger guy working with him who was always at odds with his wife, and so he let them play the control games while he sat back and guided them with a word here, a word there.

    The second time Lincoln’s method of control emerges in his debates with Douglas. Douglas was a fiery orator who dazzled an audience with highbrow sentences, the rising voice of perfectly timed intonations, the drop of the voice, perhaps to a whisper, at the perfect time and perfect place in the speech. Every intonation, every breath, every beating syllable or pause or suggestive sigh came in just in time and just in place as he wanted it to and planned it to from the very beginning for each and every point he would gain in the public’s mind for his passionate and perfect command of rhetoric.

    Lincoln, a backward man who once was hired by a law firm who wanted a local to take part in their case, but who sent him packing home when they saw his tall hat, smelly country clothes, and his backward tilting ways, of course was no match for Douglas’s perfection. He spoke from somewhere deep in his heart and stirred the crowds so much that even though he lost this election for against Douglas, he won over the country and was a shoe in for the higher office of President later.

    The Gettysburg address years later was the final touch of his command of what is known in literature critique theory as “Dionysian” force. Lincoln listened to the speaker before him, I think it was again Douglas, give a long fiery speech that seemed surely to get him into the social circles of Kings and Queens, and later into the choirs of Heaven after he died. When he sat into his seat after his long winded speech, Lincoln stood awkwardly, tipped his hat, said a few words, and then sat back down.

    Lincoln’s words have gone down in history as one of the best few paragraphs of literature ever written. Nobody remembers the perfect one before him.

    The last place this careful guidance benefited Lincoln was in the day to day workings of the White House, specifically in how he handled the two factions at work with him and how he handled the Civil War. He appointed two of his enemies to positions high in his cabinet. Seward and Chase were two proud and strong leaders who saw Lincoln as weak and backward and decided if they couldn’t be Presidents themselves than they would at least rule the nation by controlling Lincoln, who seemed to not even be able to handle his own hygiene.

    Once again Lincoln took control of the relationships he had with those in his life. He continually pitted Chase and Seward against each other, right against left, left against right, he behind the scenes like an artist with paintbrush in hand or an author taking charge of yet tenderly guiding a story. Once Chase tried to overcome Lincoln in a power play meant to embarrass and harass Lincoln into going his way on a matter. So he plotted. Chase invited Lincoln to a meeting and then invited all his friends to the meeting where he expected he and his friends would corner Lincoln and squeeze him into going their way. Chase’s whole plan caved in when Lincoln showed up with Chase’s enemy Seward and a bunch of Seward’s friends. It was true that Seward and Chase were once Lincoln’s foes, but it was also true that Seward and Chase despised each other much more. So Lincoln gained the respect of all by letting the right and left forces of his cabinet test the winds and set an aggressive, powerful agenda, as he took note of their separate and contrasting impulses and actions then guided them into a successful end. He handled the Civil War in a similar manner.

    So what is the point to my billowing, meandering, long winded prosaic meandering here? As I said, you seem to have a tightly locked room somewhere in your head, or perhaps a hidden fortress, or perhaps a cave, that you duck into when nobody’s looking to pull out some beaten down strands of purest silver. Or you sift and sort through your lifetime hoarding of green cash mixed with long saved fresh looking gold coins. It kind of pains me with jealousy, as having a dragon’s cave like this filled with ruby studded crowns of fallen Royalty, priceless oils, statues and all sorts of art really helps.

    In painting terms, it’s the wild splashing of vibrant colors on white canvas and then the painstaking turning around of these the energy and flow of these images and working them into what to me are concisely wonderful imprints you have created from your interaction with true life. I have already mentioned in my previous note how I enjoyed these richly described characters that make their appearance in your art. I thoroughly enjoy also the clothes, personal affects, and the other friends and favorite places they bring into your writings with them.

    You’re like the guy who won the lottery and you don’t have to work like the rest of us slobs because of all the memories and the emotions you carefully saved. Which brings me to my point…..finally: These musings, essays, short shorts, whatever you want to call them, are mines full of gold that haven’t yet been fully realized. You’re tasking out nuggets from a very rich vein, pounding a huge amount of the rock away from each rock of ore, but only exposing the gold enough for us to appreciate and then it’s off to the next musing. Then, when you write your poem, you put that rich half exposed ore aside on a table to look at later and pick up your pen to write a poem that is, yes, good, but doesn’t incorporate the richness inherent in your musings.

    Of course it’s not my place to tell you how to express your art, what methods you should use, or what materials to do it with. On the other hand, it’s not my place to not tell you either, since I’m a petite mousy voice floating my opinion up into that rush of opinion that’s continually raging on. But maybe my opinion will be helpful to you; ya just never know. And if you had seen how often I erase whole paragraphs on this text because I can’t type without hitting the mouse pad on my laptop and sending the cursor up the page to wipe out what I’ve just written, you would know that I have written this letter painfully and sincerely.

    Donald Standeford

  6. Pingback: No Rainy-Day Friend – Words Words Words

  7. As you so eloquently state Donald, and yes I sense your pain and sincerity: “He spoke from somewhere deep in his heart.” Your prose reveals your understanding and sound advise. I think I am best a respondent rather than a petitioner. I feed off the language of others, but I am also a slob, a working stiff, a widget constructionist, who would play the lottery if he weren’t so risk averse. I wish I knew how to capitalize on the ore I have been given. But to capitalize itself is a rash that affects my legs. I scratch and they bleed. You really are eloquent and wonderful. I know how much time you spend. But you are the father to my boyish charms, the wise man overseeing my floundering. You are always so kind. I hope to treat your work in time, it is only fair. I work on my house when I am not recovering from my real job. As I told Marta, I am trying to get to three hundred songs, which last night my French princess friend said got deep inside her and made her pause. I am working on music that I hope reminds one of their earliest memories and plays on the coil of their soul. At some point, I hope to win the lottery, because I truly am tired. This is my last hurrah. If the world is to make any sense, there must be love.

  8. Capitalism is a tough word for artists. I have never been successful in my career because i spent all my time writing. That said, in all of our waking tasks we decide on how much time and effort to put into each task of the day. If somene to ld me i coud get a thousand dollars a day just for scribbling nonsense over a piece of paper and then could have rest day off to do serious, i probably would.

    • Nonsense isn’t writing. I don’t know how a man of your caliber could write nonsense. It would be like lying. I read a piece in The New Yorker, and even Hemingway said that sure you can make a story up a couple of times, but eventually you lose track of the truth. In The New Yorker piece, a fiction, the man loses grasp of reality. He can no longer tell the truth from the lies he has been telling. At least for me, I no longer tell the truth. I only tell stories and use terms that seem to carry weight. Everything is an emotional weight. I learned this from Mahler. After hearing his 5th, I left the Symphony and wept for 30 minutes straight. It had been 25 years since my father died. When I was a child, I listened to T.S. Eliot read his poems. I knew then that’s what mattered. Even listening to Heidegger, who said darkness cannot tolerate light, I know on what side of the fence I’ll wait. Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall and so on. Nothing matters so much as the truth. And the truth is something beautifully wrought. Would you give your life to something less?

      • You are correct. But my point was if you could work an hour a day and have more time the rest of the day to work on serious stuff wouldn’t that one hour a day actually help you to fill the world with good stuff? Otherwise most of us writers have to do the mundane jobs at long low payhours and write less.

        Shakespeare’s sonnets were paid for by rich people and were very much political telling the world how wonderful those who paid him were. Most paintings back then were of rich people who paid for them. Of course the way ive taken is more like you, but for me it was laziness. I wanted to write on my own terms and was too busy to take necessary courses to advance in my company to writing for advertisements.

  9. We are Montse and Wladi. We have just read your poem. Montse is intrigued by the title because she thinks it sounds like the narrator of the poem has low self-esteem. She would like you to explain why you chose this title. On the other hand, I, Wladi, think that you are evaluating the past. But the past is over. We know the future is unpredictable, and that is the reason why we have to live the present, in case there is no future, my friend.

  10. Hello Wladimir and Montse, the title: “No Rainy-Day Friend” is explained in the last lines:

    “You may come to me and knock at the invisible door,
    “But I am just like the weather vane,
    “No rainy day friend.”

    A weather vane is blown by the wind. It points in the direction the wind is coming.

    The poem as a whole explains what the title means. I am sleeping on the beach in a hammock that is made from a ship’s sail. The ship went down. I was so tired but I somehow fastened the sail between two trees and fell asleep. While laying there, I went over all the lovers I had and yet I end up tied to a pole. I am comfortable in this exotic place. It isn’t quite warm. I have let no one into my life. I have chosen not to “work hard” on relationships, always seeing how one of us was not happier than if we were alone. And so I chose freedom. I am as far away from others as I have shared and then forgotten, and here they came back as ghosts and these ghosts make up who I am. There was a book I read a long time ago that talked about how the protagonist’s lovers defined him and his life. I liked this idea and thought it true. We are only as great as the people who we loved the most. You may come to me and realize that I am like a friend, who never reciprocated because I was so self-centered. But, I focused on the writing or the art. A rainy day friend is someone who is only a friend on the good days. I don’t really think this means the person has no self-esteem.

    Also, a writer often refers to the past. He cannot know the future and thus how can he write about it? As for the present, writers are often unable to deal with it simply because it has to be transformed, synthesized. Like a good wine, it has to sit. There is always a future. You seem to think I have to face reality, like the narrator is some kind of loser. But, a great writer is not a loser.

    As I got in my car after work tonight, I thought about the people I want to read. I have to be selective. No one is going to live forever. I want read the people, who seem to matter most. That’s what I won’t have access to when I die, which of course is absurd. Death is the absence of memory.

    In death there is no want nor wherefore.

  11. Hello again Mario. Thank you for your very long , profound and clear response. Now we understand your poem much better. We have just read Marta’s poem “A Raindrop In Your Desert” with poet Donald Standeford’s collaboration. We really recommend it to you. Do you think a raindrop in anybody’s loneliness could be one of the best things coming from friends? Cheers. Montse and Wladi

    • Thank you. I have stayed away from Marta’s and Donald’s poem because I can’t give it the attention it deserves. I learned from a psycho therapist friend who never criticized another person that the best way to respond to others is by encouraging them. I take poetry so personally that I am afraid of being critical. And I am often emotional and less actually knowing what I am trying to say or address.

  12. Martha suggested me about your blog and as she described, you are more than perfect when you write poems.

    I like when you let the readers imagine, imagine everything you did when you wrote these lines. This makes a close connection between your thoughts and reader’s. I’m looking forward to save every post of yours. You are excellent. 🙂

    • Preksha, You are so very kind. I don’t know what my poems do to others. They sound correct to me. Sometimes they are horrible and never start. I like that they let the readers imagine. I believe this is catharsis, which is where my work disappears and the person reading the work simply looks out at their own life and they go off into their own world. That is my greatest hope. I am currently reading Granta. This magazine of new writing never fails to do this to me. To know that I am so capable is absolutely thrilling. There are so many great writers out there. I love them. I read a few words of one of your works and I loved it too. I am going to address it. Thank you so much for writing to me. I am touched.

  13. Preksha, I had Leaves of Grass in my car. The car was stolen. I got it because I was sitting in a poetry course at The University of California at Berkeley, which turned out was too full, but I bought the reader and have read a section from the poem. It is the kind of poetry I love. Have you read John Ashbery? Anyway, I just realized there are so many great poets. I am sure you have seen their names at least.

    • A stolen car for reading Walt Whitman in? It’s one of those things can only happen in Berkley. I would like to hear that story. You got my curiosity going, dropping a 1000 pound car into your sentence and then whistling as you walk away. Nice job by the way!

  14. It’s funny how you equally misunderstood this event like the last time. I never read the book in the stolen car. Once it was stolen, the book was stolen with it. But, then as before, you know this, and I am a fool to suggest it. There were some interesting aspects to the found car. The book they had left in it was a self-help business tome. There was astroglide, and the steering column looked like it had been chewed away by rats. I found mail in the car and viewed the locations via Google maps, learned that a father and sons lived there. But, what was I going to say: “Was your son out of town for about two weeks?” I eventually traded it in. There was an oil leak. It was nearly up to 200,000 miles. It was costing thousands to restore, and they only gave me $500 for it. The real story is that with all the evidence I gave the police and the female officer’s sincerity, I learned that they call these cases a total waste of time. As soon as I left the station they pitched the contents of a large transparent bag in the garbage and I never heard from them again.

    • Oh, misread that. Sorry. I am a fan of your writing. specifically your ability to recall details. I have to work hard for that, really hard. I squeak by by keeping a journal and paying close attention and doing character sketches. But I am sorry for the misinterpretation.


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