“Renting Tom Mix’s House on Catalina” by Mark Smith

Mark Smith


The technicolor organ roars “Avalon”
and shakes the movie planetarium,
stars blink inside the dome, the travelogue
lights up the panoramic screen—
a sea nymph, with her breast strokes,
parts the portieres of floating kelp,
then dives, flutter-kicking
to a sandy bottom decorated
with the spills of island pottery—
urns, teapots, flagons—as bright as neon
in pacific waters more transparent
than the polished windows of boutiques.
Where cinematic cowboys and comedians,
in white flannels and sailing caps,
chase their second wives and mistresses
around the staterooms of their rented yachts,
the young college women of California
paddle by athletically in their canoes,
Olympic medals, won in swimming pools,
tucked modestly between their breasts;
at the beaches, where the folding chairs
are done in canvas awning stripes,
starlets in bathing caps, treading water,
picnic from floating table tops
set up with brut champagne in flutes,
and wave coquettishly at any seaplane landing;
at harbor side, parrots fix their eyes
upon the marlins in the fountains’ tiles,
tuna leap in trophies, palm trees
flaunt their barren minarets
above the flowers of Grand Canary,
and the little shelving tile-town oasis,
with art deco touches in its shops,
and Tuscan architecture in its houses,
squeezes up the canyon to the mausoleum
of the God of spearmint gum.
From the town, a climbing spiral
of roadside eucalyptus wanders,
like pilgrims with umbrellas,
into the mists or empty blue of desert sky;
on the rugged B-western slopes
where fennel and tossed geraniums
grow wild, a long-haired boy and girl
helloing, and with arms thrown wide,
run naked through the buffalo,
trailing the vines that broke
like victory tapes, against their strides.
O topsy-turvy world—the mountains
lift their shades upon the sun,
the silhouettes of lovers, spinning
from the ballroom, embrace on balconies
that sail above the moonlit boats
like gondolas beneath balloons;
in rippling bars and measures,
the light bulbs of the big band’s notes
waft far from the Casino, and explode
like bombshells over Hollywood.
In the wild interior, deer, in miniature,
leap about the steep ravines;
in far blue coves, pirate ships lie anchored,
swashbucklers topside in their hammocks,
the whole scene waiting to be filmed.

from Rattle #21, Summer 2004

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