John Brandi

by David Meltzer and John Brandi
Hipparchia, 1976

Jack Hirschman turned me on to David in the late sixties, and we've remained close ever since. A revolving turnstile of ink scraps, angel hair, cosmic tape loops, jazz riffs, psychedelic mind balloons (add sparks from his cosmic flip-flops), David's energy and ever-quick dialogues -- by phone or at Aki's over endless cups of hot sake -- have been my essential propellant for almost four decades now (wow!). He introduced me to Brautigan, Creeley, Welch, and many other poets no longer with us in body, but ever-present at the open-air, all-invited dinner table. David published Desde Alla, my first real book, framed and hung my drawings (as I did his), showed me the importance of non-competitive-no-envy camaraderie, open heart generosity, deep-down laughter, wisdom bestowed through humor, and the art of living life full -- in the face of the blade-down machine rolling fast forward over our bleeding Madre Tierra. He and Tina bedded me down within the cradle of their loving family, opened the wine, tossed gigantic salads, spun vintage vinyl, played their guitars, and spread soft-pillow scissors-sharp poly-cultural erotic verse from their eternally open Book of mirrors and telescopes (overseen by Mr. Peanut and Avalokitesvara on the shelves behind). Eternal thanks, David: Dervish, Dent-fendered Driver in the Seat of Bliss-bestowing Light!


I Lift the Wine
Put My Eye to the Glass

The mountains are clear
today, easy to see far. So few people.
Spring grasses whistle, a few cherry blossoms
float down. Shreds of rain hang from gathering clouds.
Under the eave, purple shadows on yellow sand.
Smell of split cedar, strong.

What did I do today?
Watch magpies return, spade the squash,
line my shoes on the porch and polish them,
rewrap the hose into a perfect circle?

Got a few ideas,
didn't jot them down.

Tried to count how many days old I am.
Got up to 21,900, but quickly decided
on a day like today, better to wet the brush and play.
Let the mind become a whirlpool, spin clear, and dance.
Tomorrow, maybe go back to the page, fix the spacing
in the fence rails, replace the hinges on the gate.

But, this evening, another glass
of wine before I rise from the chair, lift my arms
to the darkening sky, see the shape of lights
coming on, little yellow squares in a distant house.
And then walk into the field, watch
my feet turn green, watch the mountains
change shape with each step I take.


Time Is Short

Let's put down the top,
turn up a rumba, let the rain
wet our wings, neon dissolve
into speed as we move
particularly close in the seat.

Slide your leg
over the gears, lean
into the stars and passing
semaphores. At this speed
the brakes have no questions.

My chest is full of flames,
how can you stand
to wear clothes?
The moon is dancing,
the road has generous ears.

I've given up on hats,
and seat belts, and liberation
from meaning. Tonight
the drive is easy.

I know nothing of love.
I've put out the headlights,
and taken both hands
from the wheel.


It's Happened

I'm here already
fumbling along the banister
of early old age, cracking seeds with my boots,
tying to get to the phone before the last ring.

Finally, I've lost track.
Can't tell the smoke detector from the clock
or remember which row it was I began to floss.
No limits exist. It's pure transcendental
folly. Which is to say, I'm dying
to pollinate your eyes.

Thoughts disembodied,
memory on a long walk, taste buds liberated,
work ethic dragged off by its hair. Like the wind,
I've gone nowhere, passed through mountains,
wrapped around the sea, settled over muddy bays,
chanced upon the Morning Star.

The Great Flood is history.
The Celestial Monarch flutters inside a snowflake.
Surely someday the Forest of Wisdom
will overcome my shadow as age spots swim
off my face into the sun. The inner ear shall keep me awake
with its triplicating secrets. But I'll never stop
following the extra finger into the joyous cleavage
of the undercover horizon.

Did I achieve harmony,
make it into the Forbidden City?
My axe is stuck in the chopping block
while the sapsucker goes about his non-attainment
tatting away at the elm.

Today I'll throw my socks to the wall,
if they stick, wash them. Tomorrow maybe drive
into town with the top down, use my head to shine
a little light back into the universe, stop for a frito pie
in the celestial eatery, feel the touch
of the waitress take my change.

The road home has no name.
It loops through raked alfalfa and melting
chapels where slanted light does a kaleidoscope ballet
off broken bottles. There's a yard sale
of bicycle wheels and Chinese embroidery, where,
as I inspect moonstones and macramé, pink dial-telephones
and a rubber mermaid, I find a child sleeping
in the shade of an apricot tree.

The air is still, the world escaping.
Someone's car keys in the dust at my feet
will probably fit any lock as I turn in sleep.
The day is large, it's the dream that keeps me awake.
It's as if we have all come together in a room
that barely fits us, and the fun
is about to begin.


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