THE RAINBOW SWEATER
to learn is a thing of beauty.
once you know, it becomes
your duty to do a thing right,
every time, please do it quick!
(o, do it quick)
because to learn is a genuine
diamond, with a hardness
im finding hard to resist,
with my hands in a fist
i cant take your gifts,
o, teacher wont you school me?
please dont be cruel to me,
so much is new to me,
all i knows what i see
i cant remember,
what i hear ill soon forget.
when you show me with
your hands, like that,
youll find im not so thick
because to learn is a thing of beauty
and youre it it it it it.
there was this time i got myself blue. it was a series of times over years, really. beginning with an acid trip, it continued until i cooked fine dining, then it weaned. i lived behind a bank at first, in a virtually free sunroom with maybe four or five roommates. i stayed in exchange for cooking the occasional family style dinner and did odd light-housework.
i did acid a few times before i moved in, but after, i did it lots. one time was the day before i had to go and ‘pass’ high school. i needed to present to members of the faculty a finishing paper summing up my experience shadowing someone in their field for two weeks, tell the admin what i gleaned, and turn in a final paper. on the acid i later ate, i thot, ‘i dont need a piece of paper, some document, to tell me i passed; made it through high school.’ a typical thot, i imagine, had on acid, the eve of graduation.
before those thoughts id spent the afternoon at the library using the free computer to print out my final paper. we are talking about the day before it was due. quite a pretty piece, if a last-minute one, on how sometimes in a field of the arts a person must do a job they also have passion for but pays the bills too. an almost equal passion, maybe. in the best case scenario, anyhow. until it isnt necessary to perform both passions.
i had shadowed a folk musician. i made flyers for him, and helped build a PR kit; sent a press release or two. and he did what i interpreted to be Buddhist things, Zen things along the way, but which turned out to be stoned present stranger. his second passion was plants.
landscaping paid his bills and things. among other things wed gone plant-shopping. he and i were mutually enmeshed in an unsavory crowd who delighted each other, stoned or unstoned, playing music or discussing aerodynamics, in and around a coffeeshop.
there was a guy from the coffeeshop who walked the surrounding streets, all May, in a rainbow sweater, down to his knees, wearing pink Lennon glasses and a shaved head. he had a sheet and began by selling it, and ended by giving it away, tiny cube of blotter paper at a time. when he started giving it away he was calling it Life.
it was rumored he quit his engineering job.
"wanna eat Life, today?" hed ask. anyone. who looked friendly.
so when i got in from the library, some of us ate Life, and Rainbow Sweater was there and most of us actually hadnt eaten, but were killing time before going to various jobs in the hospitality industry. but i had eaten. and because it was day, and i didnt have to work, and had no partners in crime, i climbed myself up on one of those Cleveland Heights bookshelves, the kind built-in that grow about two-and-a-half-feet short of the ceiling.
i brot my poetry stack with me, and curled myself in the nook it made. and i read the stack, my mind flashing, really feeling the acid. music clumb behind the words as my brain listened to my brain recite me.
Rainbow Sweater came over and stared up at my perch, asked me what i was doing.
“hey funny girl. and you are….” he rolled his hand as if encouraging the flow of traffic. his voice curled up to SNL sarcastic.
"im just reading some of my poems, to try and memorize."
i looked him in the eyes.
he walked away to the kitchen, and returned to shake something small in his hand up-at-me.
"what do you have there?" i asked him.
"food coloring," he said, and tossed it to me.
i caught it clean.
he looked cryptic, in the face. i was wondering, also, i knew better than to rest my mind anyplace too long, on acid.
i examined the vial in my hand.
"what am i supposed to do with this?" i asked.
he shrugged, and said, "put it on."
"ha!" i laughed, and put a little in the palm of my hand.
i rubbed it in my hands like lotion. it was gorgeous. every shade of blue, depending on how viscous the source, and how far it spread. i colored my arms blue. i went for the face next, removing my derby, a Dobbs a homeless man in a three-piece-suit sold me for three dollars, that looked to be new at the time.
i decided, after my ears and face were covered, i mays well do my neck.
Rainbow Sweater interrupted my blueness, "so you write poems," he said, "what makes you think you can write poems?"
"they come to me, and i write them down," i explained.
"im a poet," i added, as it seemed this wasn't enough.
"they pop in my head."
"you think you have the authority to call yourself a poet?"
"its not authority," i started.
but i couldnt finish. Rainbow Sweater made his way on the floor beneath me to the living room. i looked at the poem on top of my stack: ‘The Dust Catcher’.
“I am the Dust Catcher, Mother.
I am Woman. I surround you.
Let me be your eyes, your womb, your
canvass, your plaything, your tomb.
I purify the stray, lick cock
for the damned, lead your pen,
guide your brush, bend
your step that you might hush
in my eternal love, forgiven.”
‘um, yeah,’ i thot to myself. ‘thats cocky.’
i looked at the next poem. it was about a wolf fucking the moon as a great apology.
‘like i know anything about the moon!’ i chastised myself.
and i rumpled the poems.
thats when i decided not to want to rely on things paper.
then Sean came in, awake and smiling, sunshine positively cascading from the top of his forehead in ringlets and rays. well, maybe sunlight didnt really. Sean hadnt been there when the LSD got passed. he was the reason i had the sunroom, a friend id made fast, since he also had what he thot was a book of poems, 'in the editing phase', and had only just been cheated on, like me.
he said, "Bree, isnt tomorrow your turn-in day for that paper?"
and i said, "yeah, but i think im going to tear that paper up."
and he pointed to the pile of paper, what to me appeared to be steaming and blue, down under my shelf.
"is that what this mess is about?"
he went on, "and why are you and it blue?"