Thursday, May 25, 2006

Kings And Queens Of The Ancient Seas (Part Two)


So I learned to make shirts.
By hand or with a sewing machine.

I met Lisa’s parents. And her brother.
And some of their friends.

And I got to spend some time on her boat.
She and her family

lived aboard a forty-foot, junk-rigged ketch
anchored off North Bay.

And I learned that my world
didn’t end where the water began.

I learned that my world
ended at the fabric of Lisa’s shirt.


Sitting on a deserted dock
at sunset, necking, I squeezed

Lisa’s breast through her shirt.
I said, “I can’t believe this occurs

to me now, but someone asked me
what fabric you used to make

these shirts. We couldn’t figure it out.
We thought, cotton, yeah, but

smooth as silk and colored deep,
beautiful, like I don’t know what.”

Lisa laughed, low and throaty.
She leaned back against my shoulder.

“You and shirts,” Lisa said.
“Do you know what the word fetish means?”

She laughed. “My father calls it
Peruvian cotton,” she said.

“We get it from a village
near the coast in central Peru.

A few families there still practice
some very ancient secrets.

The seeds and growing techniques
of the colored cotton. Weaving

the fabric with hundreds of strands per inch.
Good stuff. Pretty. Tough.”

I felt the fabric of my shirt.
“I can’t believe it,” I said.

“I can’t believe big designers
or some big corporations

don’t mass-market this stuff.
How can anyone keep it secret?”

Lisa shrugged. “Good secrets keep themselves.
I wouldn’t tell. My dad

wouldn’t tell.” Lisa put her arm around me.
“And a guy who

likes shirts as much as you like shirts
wouldn’t tell. Would you?” she asked.

I thought about it. Then I shrugged.
“I guess not,” I said. “Not if

the people down in Peru
didn’t want anyone to know.”

Lisa stared closely at my face,
smiled deeply and pushed me down.

“Good secrets keep themselves,” she said.
“See? Good secrets keep themselves.”


A couple of days
after our make-out session on the pier

Lisa and I sat laughing
in my small apartment watching

some bizarre,
professional wrestling show on television.

“In grade school,” I said,
“I used to think this stuff really worked. Once

in a fight a kid knocked me down
and got on top of me. I

didn’t worry because I figured
I could just arch my back

and flip him off, the way the TV wrestlers do.
Nope. Didn’t work.

That guy pounded on me
till a teacher finally pulled him off.”

“No relationship exists,” Lisa explained,
“between TV

and reality.
Even a funhouse mirror can only

reflect something in front of it.
But television can show

anything. Television
can show anything. Anything.”

Then Lisa said something
that took me completely by surprise.

“We cruise with the summer,” Lisa said.
“Tuesday, we set sail south.”

(“Kings And Queens Of The Ancient Seas” concludes tomorrow)

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