The Signmaker Said So

My earthly dreams are mostly time warped and financial,
meaning they’re meaningless. But this dream began
outside a pool hall on my way out of town.
A toothless old woman handed me a ham and Swiss on rye
with toasted bread, Best Foods Mayonnaise,
diced martini olives. I ate the sandwich
standing by the motorcycle.
It was good and I wish I’d told her so.
Instead I rode north into nocturnal fog
for several miles till I got involved in a greasy mudslide
on the Pacific Coast Highway near the sea.
My shattered body went cold on the sand
and colder still in the medical van
while the E.M.T.’s talked pro basketball
on the way to the morgue.

The next day a county coroner
made the large Y incision and scooped me out
and pronounced my cause of death.
But I wasn’t buried in a hole in the ground
because that afternoon my spirit
abandoned the planet and joined the Being.

Over time, lots of time, I became an ethereal wanderer
through Catholic portals and Buddhist tunnels
into a vast kind of spiritual; gathering speed
through the vocals that were mostly Emmylou Harris
or Otis Redding. And a billion more years passed
as a traveller waiting for my next role,
be it a mineral or a wave, a stripe or a solid,
somewhat bored by the backspin voyage to somewhere else.
Instead, I became a steady state actor
in an arena where the vastness
and shimmering stadium crowds
meant the rules had changed.
So much so that they landed me
by a pair of unfamiliar personalities called the two Neils.
One was Neil Armstrong,
the other, Neil Young.
Both had good eyes, saying there were no wars
or major errors in my life. I disagreed. Crowds roared.
The two Neils ran me homeward.
The umpire ushered me out of the stadium.

Outside there was a graveled path leading
to a stack of worn tires,
telling me to veer at the old Cadillacs.
I did and the path lowered to a ruby river
with a battered Airstream trailer on a plastic raft.
Looking back, the tires, stadium
and both those Neils were gone.
Didn’t recognize the river, could have been
the upper Yangtze or lower Platte.
Indeed. Time passed and a woman appeared
telling me she was Johanna Sachs
and that we’d met one night in the Yosemite sheep grass
and again in New Mexico.

Johanna offered me
a simple ham and Swiss on rye for our journey.
We ate the sandwiches inside her trailer
which had curving walls around an iron bed
with horizontal paintings of cats.
Afterwards she untied from the dock,
releasing us downstream,
a ghostly raft drifting into a prelude
because the Signmaker had told her to.
The river drained the sounds of things
as the weathered woman explained the Signmaker
as the downstream general manager,
making her his captain of the out there,
while some more time passed
and fluid civilizations rose and fell
and their gains and losses turned to dust and gas,
leaving us pleased with ourselves.

And furthermore, everything downstream
seemed a little vague till our last evening when Johanna
called out to the Signmaker, saying as an aside
some called him the Big Guy, she called him Dave.

But I’ll always wonder if he just wanted to be left alone,
because the Big Guy/Dave just closed down the show
sending Johanna over the side; leaving me adrift
in some female memories and ruby fluids.

So my odd dream closed as the sun rose.
And sometimes inside the Airstream you’re the there,
and the not there – or the maybe in between,
where you couldn’t weigh both ends —
the billion years of Otis and Emmylou,
Johanna Sachs and the two Neils.
But if the Signmaker waits beyond energy and force,
then the entire thing is at least a choice
made in borrowing a voice —
fueled by an old woman’s Best Foods Mayonnaise,
well toasted rye, diced martini olives.