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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


Vestiges of the Kangaroo Dance
in Dos Personajes Atacados por Perros (1983) by Rufino Tamayo

At one point in the presidential election campaign of 1960, we heard that Jack Kennedy was coming to Los Angeles to make a speech. Frank Belloni and I dressed up as reporters—hats and trench coats; he had a camera and I had a clipboard—and we drove down to the airport. There were barricades everywhere, but Frank had faked up rough facsimiles of journalist ID badges for us and the harried policeman waved us through. You could see where the limousines were parked behind the terminal. I starting running down that way and when I looked back I could see Kennedy and his entourage crossing the parking lot. I ran along perpendicular to the rows of cars until I got to the row they were in. I skirted around, headed in their direction, though in another row, until I got close, and then I crossed right in front of them, and stood between two parked cars, blocking his way. He looked at me, put out his hand, and I came toward him, shook his hand, and said, “Mr. President.” He was actually larger than life.

running red lights
in sleek black limousines
our leaders race
quickly across Paris
in the cold rainy night

let’s welcome him
this old funny hero
come to save us
shouting the words of God
though his soles are worn through

roses we found
by the road, dead roses
curled, without scent
on our way to the sea
yesterday’s beach roses

It was a beautiful hot winter day on the beach in the village of San Blas in Nayarit, Mexico. My brother and I were there for a couple weeks’ vacation between terms at Berkeley, where he was a law student and I was a first year instructor. San Blas was idyllic—palm trees, light breezes, the sea azure, cheap beer, delicious food, and a quaint little hotel with a central courtyard. Anyway, we were on the beach when people began to rush out from the village coming our way. They were carrying dishpans, pots, and big clay bowls. We went over to see what the fuss was about and there, on the sand, was a large sea turtle on its back. Everyone stood around waiting until the butcher arrived. He came with knives and a hatchet, killed the turtle, and then he began to cut it in ragged portions, which he tossed into proffered pots. We saw the owner of our hotel in line with a large basin and later that night we were treated to a marvelous Mexican turtle stew in the dining room.

we were searching
a lost moment, an arc
in the blue sky
sea birds skimming the swells
so fast they cast no shade

swords to plowshares
John Deere combine reapers
heavy tractors
to amphibious Fleet
Marine Force DUKW

late in the night
loud talking in Spanish
buses go by
someone rattles trash cans
muffled sounds of a fight

The Salvation Army stuck a leaflet on our door that they would be looking for contributions the next day. In the morning, as we left for work, my wife put out a large bag of clothing for them to pick up, but she also put out a bag of my shirts for the laundry. Two days later, when the shirts had not come back, we called the laundry and they said their driver had found no pickup at our place. It turned out that the Salvation Army had taken both bags at our address, but we were “welcome to come and look for your shirts at the warehouse.” Picture this, a large empty factory building, perhaps a hundred yards long, with an elevated conveyor belt out into the center. Moving along the conveyor belt were countless plastic and paper bags, which dropped off the end of the conveyor belt as it swung slowly to the left and the right. I climbed and struggled in the mountain of discards for more than an hour, but I only found one blue button-down Gant Oxford cloth shirt; even then I was never certain it was mine.

on bicycles
because the distances
too far to walk
a factory the size
of your average town

the toll booth girl
bows and takes the money
she’s all made up
and reciting her lines—
theatricality

on your knees
in a row of berries
pulling the weeds
endlessly before you
more in the row to come

Heading south on the A-11 just outside Angers on our way to Saumur and Chinon we passed a roadside vendor selling pumpkins. It was the middle of October and we would be home in about a week, so Ann said, “Why don’t we stop and buy a pumpkin for Halloween?” I didn’t want to stop so close to our destination at the vineyard where we were to pick up a six-month supply of Chinon, so I said, “We’ll stop later. There’ll be hundreds of those guys.” Well, to shorten the story, we never did see another! We stayed a few days in Chinon and, as we were leaving for home on market day we saw pumpkins at all the fruit and vegetable tables, so we bought a beautiful little one. I put it in the trunk of the Peugeot and we took off. En route, the wine cases and luggage shifted, so I stopped to repack. I took everything out and set it on the ground, repacked the truck securely, got back in the car and we drove away. There was an odd noise. I stopped, got out, and looked underneath—where the pumpkin, obviously trying to escape, had hidden behind a tire. It was burst and flattened. We saw no more pumpkin men all the way home to Couterne.

when we left him
at college, I told Jim
do not look back
and as long as we watched
he never turned around

a poetry of omens
the writing on the wall
undeciphered
rocks on the beach inscribed
in Sanscrit doubtlessly


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

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