California, This Is Minnesota Speaking
by Stephen Dunn
from A Geography of Poets, ed. by Edward Field
I tell my friend in California
I am so in control
my dream is
to be slightly out of control.
He understands, he's from California
and tells me
he has beaten up his wife at a party
and runs a nude group
and when he taught at medical school
dispensed drugs to hopheads.
(As kids in New York we played
stickball, drank Mission Orange,
ate Devil Dogs.)
I tell him I've been to the edge
of myself a few times,
and the atmosphere there is rarefied
I ask him what it's like
to live there, on the edge,
and he says "Listen, I'm becoming a sad
old man, save your romantic bullshit
for some midwesterner,"
and, standing here on the flat land,
I sense what he means,
solid ground beneath me, never a chance
that the wild gesture you begin on Tuesday
will be more than thin air
on Wednesday, the perpetual safety
of unfinished business.
And I say "Listen, my shoulders
sometimes want to leave for the moon,
this peace in my gut is expensive,"
and he starts to talk about the price
the fact that there's no middle
where he is, no place to return to
except either up or down,
and I can hear seagulls on his end
of the phone, the surf, the daily redefinition
of the state he's in,
and I want to let myself drift
out of control, toward him,
toward the dumb, childish universe
where you open a door and walk in
and no one's there except yourself
and you say hello and see if you can survive.