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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 7, Number 3, September 2013

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Charles Tarlton
Oakland, California, USA


Fictional Randonnées in the Vicinity
of Usine pres de Pontoise (1873) by Camille Pissarro

In the summer of 1958, I was at the controls of a continuous standard caster at Hunter Engineering Co. in Riverside, California. I was transforming molten aluminum into coils of cast slab a quarter of an inch thick. One swing shift, the coiler on my machine stuck and the slab kept coming out from between the cooled rollers of the caster and went straight up, ten to fifteen feet in the air. Wearing asbestos gloves, I tried to keep the growing arch of hot (300-350˚F) aluminum from falling over, but it grew too tall. As it fell, it burned my forearm badly and sliced and cauterized a two-inch gash to the bone of my forehead.

some little rocks
and a handful of sand
in the cave fire
then nuggets of iron
under the cooling coals

he can barely
read anymore, his words
are forgotten
as they appear, they fade
from the turning pages

where sea meets sand
in front of beachgoers
as if on stage
she stops, then a standing
backwards summersault

My supervisor was the soon to be famous Champ Car and Grand Prix driver, Dan Gurney. He said he’d take me to the hospital for stitches; we got into his white Porsche 356 and roared off. As we came into town, we had to cross three or four sets of railroad tracks, but as we approached them the crossing gate came down, bells ringing and lights blinking. Without hesitating, he drove the Porsche up onto and along the nearer empty set of tracks. So situated, we raced past the slow moving train and turned right 100 yards in front of it on to the next boulevard. I turned around to watch that crossing gate come down, and the bells and lights start up.

I see online
sometimes old cars for sale
1949 Plymouths
interest me most; I look
for the powder-blue ones

we drove all night
parked the car on the beach
in Virginia
the morning came in white
off the sea, then bright gold

my old Rambler
got a flake orange paint job
in Mexico
and new white tuck and roll
seats, doors, and headliner

Once, when I thought I was leaving my wife, I rented an apartment and bought myself a second-hand Volkswagen. I packed my clothes and books into the car and moved everything to my new place. I left a note saying I was gone. Once alone in the strange apartment, I had a change of heart. I returned the car to the lot and they took it back. Then I called a cab and went back to the apartment building and wriggled out of the lease. I put my things in the cab and rushed home. When I arrived my wife was already there; she had found my note and called my family to see if they knew what was wrong. She was crying when I came in and I never told her the whole story.

no rendezvous
at the doctor’s in France
come in, sit down
like the barber shop here
everyone knows who’s next

“In English, you
are a professor,” he said
“but in Spanish
everyone believes you
drive a truck, or something"

bowls full of blue
Ritalin and loose pot
on a table
at the door to welcome
earnest partygoers

#1—Listen to this. On the drive back from Flagstaff to Riverside very late at night, six guys in the car, the driver fell asleep and ran off the road. The car didn’t stop plowing through the sagebrush for 200 yards. When everything was absolutely quiet, and not before, I woke up in the back seat, lucky to be alive I guess.

#2—That’s nothing. In a hard rainstorm on Highway 85 south of Lusk, Wyoming, again in the middle of the night, I hit a patch of slick on the highway and the car spun around several times and slid backwards down the embankment in the mud. When it finally stopped about 40 feet below the road, the engine was off, it was totally quiet except for the sound of the rain, and my headlights shone straight up into the night.

sirens at night
a car crash across town
Aeschylean
tragedies acted out
by the side of the road

emergency room
and the thick walls between
me and my son
with a tube in his heart
to measure the blood flow

down on the beach
my brother and I scratched
poems in the sand
with driftwood and then watched
while the tide washed them out


Author’s Note: The painting can be viewed here.

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