Old Poem

Gil: I turned this up sifting through old papers recently. I wrote it in college, at the University of Colorado. My writing teacher at the time, the poet and playwright Sidney Goldfarb, said this poem would "be remembered when someone like Robert Creeley is long forgotten." He was wrong, but it was quite a generous thing for him to say. I don't know what he had against Creeley. Pagoda Mountain is in Rocky Mountain National Park, above Boulder. It's in the middle of the photo above right.

Down from the peak of Pagoda Mountain, winds blow
Clouds the color of honey across the rough face.
We've come to Sandbeach Lake to spend the night,
And sprawl on the sand, laughing loud drunk
Or fiercely preserving the silence. Four or five
Rainbows idle in the shallows, a mongrel cries
In the jackpines by the shore. We count stars
As they come out, one, two, suddenly
We hallucinate thousands, blinking
And slipping out from under our count
Like trout. We drink more wine, forget
About the sky, never notice when the winds
Around the peak of Pagoda Mountain
Blow loose the stars into darkness.

The roly-poly Goldfarb and I had a somewhat tortured history subsequently. He took off for Europe on a summer sabattical in 1979, and had me house-sit his cabin in the canyons above Boulder, near a small hippy hamlet called Wall Street. Sidney had already left when I moved in, and the first thing I noticed was that his stereo and all his record albums had vanished. A bad omen at the beginning of my stewardship, but I sort of fecklessly considered that perhaps Sidney had taken his tunes with him to Europe (or Yurrup, as Pound used to spell it). I spent an idyllic time at his cabin. We had a lot of wine-stained dinners and created a sweat lodge in the mouth of an old mine-shaft just up the draw from the cabin. Things might have gotten away from me. When the estimable Professor Goldfarb returned from estivating abroad, he was dismayed to discover that the front door to his cabin was wide open with no one at home. An oversight on my part. He discovered his albums missing, and other irregularities: a few colorful woolen blankets he had purchased in Mexico were now stained with black charcoal, a consequence, I fear, of our sweat lodge adventures. Goldfarb cooled to me. In fact he never spoke to me again, and gave me the stink-eye whenever we passed each other on campus. A friend of mine, whom he picked up hitchhiking, made the mistake of telling him that she knew me. He pulled over to the side of the road and made her get out of his car.

That "mongrel" in line six has a story behind it. A group of friends, Paul Rogers among them, did indeed head for Sandbeach Lake one weekend to ingest hashish and forget how to count. Paul brought his dog Oliver along. Strictly forbidden to have dogs within the confines of the park, of course, a Federal rap, in fact, if you're caught. So on the way up we concoct a story, agreeing on a false address in case we were stopped. We enjoy a glorious night at Sandbeach Lake, and Oliver howled at the coyotes in the Ponderosa pines ("jackpines" scanned better, even though there is none in the park). On our way down the trail the next morning, sure enough, we encountered a park ranger. He busted us on the dog. Summoned each one of us away from the others down the trail twenty yards, giving us the fifth degree to see if our stories matched. They did, fake address and all, except I forgot the agreed-upon house number. Oops. Smokey wrote us all summonses and let us go, after verbally ripping into us with righteous naturalist anger.