POEM LXV: “KUBLA KHAN”

When the guy first hires me to build it,
I says,
it’s impossible.
Impossible, you hear me?

First off, that water’s been sunless forever, we’re talking amoebas,
pockets of poisonous gases,
anaerobic bacteria,
all kindsa nasty shit. People underestimate what goes on in water.
You’re gonna need tests,
you’re gonna need chemicals,
you’re gonna need a fuckin’ treatment plant before you can even think about making
that river into an attraction on your property,
and what about the first time some kid falls in, hits their head on those dancing rocks?
Forget about it.
Your liability’s through the roof.

He just looks through me,
real cool
and says, you’ll make it happen.

So I’m like, okay, the guy’s nuts.
I can deal with that. We’ll build a little fountain,
he’ll spend his money,
and eventually he’ll see something shiny
and wander off to the next whatever-it-is.
You know how it is with these guys who drink the, what do you call it?
Milk of paradise! Yeah, sure, that’s what it is.
I tell my kid, you stay away from that crap. I catch you doing that…
Where was I? Oh yeah.
This guy.
He wants, get this, a sunny pleasure-dome, with caves of ice!
Ice! In the sun! I’m like, these two things, they do not fucking mix.

But, I hold my tongue.
I figure, I gave him an earful about the water treatment,
we’re probably not even gonna get that far before he gives up.
So’s I get to working on the walls and towers he wants round the whole property,
which is a nice piece a land by the way,
fulla gardens and fruit trees and nice topsoil. I mean,
I ain’t never been a flowers guy,
but even I can tell, someone really knows their shit around here.
Acres of roses with all these arbors for sitting,
a table everywhere you could want to rest a drink.
Someone’s planted jasmine right next to the orange trees, so they bloom together, and the smell, I tell you! Could knock you right off your ladder.
So I’m working and scraping, doing brick and stucco, you know, the usual,
just enjoying life and work and the summer.
And I see this guy,
now and again,
just wanderin’ out in the gardens.
Nothing fancy, nothing flashy.
Tattered old bathrobe. Long mustache.
Never comes over to try to tell me
how to do my job.
Never messes around with the blueprints, tries to play architect. I like that.
I like this guy.
Still think he’s crazier’n a shithouse rat, but that’s for later.

Now there’s this chasm! Let me tell you bout this chasm.
Eighty feet straight down,
sheer schist walls on either side,
and these cedar trees all up and down both sides, plus a few hangin’ on for dear life
to the islands in the middle of this roaring torrent of water,
cold water. You stick your hand in that water, you can tell it came from deep in the earth.
And it’s clean, is the thing!
Clean and sweet as if it come from the copper tap in your mother’s house.
Take a good long slurp of that,
and you notice how the trees are
letting just a little light through,
so all the water that gets thrown up into the air glitters and sparkles like a parade marching down that canyon.
Whole thing echoes, and it’s loud as hell,
but it’s a peaceful kinda loud, you know? Like whale sounds,
or the ocean,
or those baby monitors they put in the crib to mimic the sound of the mother.
Being down in there,
I think for the first time maybe this guy’s got something.

And so I start to work harder.
We all start to say, hey,
what if we excavate here, what if we move the load-bearing wall there,
how deep could we go and still get light from the sky?

Turns out?
Pretty damn deep.
Pretty soon, we’re six stories down in a cavern under a big domed ceiling,
and my shovel hits ice.
Real ice, glowing like a golden oak floor, as the sunlight hits it for the first time in ever.
A whole frozen lake, you know, permafrost,
and it’s cold as balls down there so that shit ain’t ever gonna melt.
I throw my shovel down, I can’t even believe it,
and that’s when I saw him, standing up there by the rim of the excavation, looking down.
Just this little smile on his face.
Like he knew all along. I guess that he did.

People underestimate what goes on in water.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s