Michael McLaughlin


         Santa Cruz, California 1976        

                Candyland too real to be crazy true, seated on two-toned bench playing old man
alone paint sky blue  Continental drift of shining enamel on wooden planks with wavering horizons---Oh sand, sand, the no fault sand, milk shake blast shadows, aggregate arm foundations, shadow of time, of blackbird, of scavenger gull  Shadow of sparrow, hunting for popcorn, coast guard helicopter white sardine shadow, American flag unfurls over Fritz Lang white buildings...
            Gray bank vault filing cabinet food-scrappers sky--Fog which strangely  Isn’t flying, Isn’t swarming around the motels and date trees and spin-by bicyclists--swish of paisley pink dress, Disneyland t-shirt, rolls of florid gingham home-cooked U.S. grade A fat---Warm, eating warm clinging Woolworth-close warm, sitting beer bagged for low profile warm deep burrowing kisses, warm against the rail, sweater barefoot chipped nail polish ideal fish warm, filmy floral shift capri neon Green warm--kid warm, mother warm, father dry checked pants warm...
            His mouth is dry-stretched like an old tuna’s khaki golf cap Silverado country
club  Retired  sunglasses Sidewalk cracks  Wander for acres  Takes off shoes to paw at his feet, Santa Cruz Sentinel, feet playing hopping games--Small mouth, the freeze dried expressions of the old, experience in the wrinkles, custodial zip jacket, navy blue cotton pants--paper into back pocket, finished, folded stiff--where he leans, he walks, legs crowbarred by age...
            So it’s in his hands--the thin man from Dublin, ex miner, slug nose, resting on a shoulder--sand-blasted Anglo, so it’s in his hands.
            Boats with their knitting needle masts a-sway, sea rustling, Irish setters, slow parade of campers, station wagons, vans, “What timedoya got, My brother-in-law sez”, ice cream Low slung tinkle-bell blues...
            Cellophane and Louder, unlaced kids, paper bags, whoosh of gull, Glad bag ham sandwich, pigeon bread crust Birkenstock adidas and louder, four-inch fire engine soles clang grinding past the bench, longhair grease shuffle, oil of cotton candy, malt liquored sideburns, the half-mast eyes, knives, chains winding, sharp macho amusement--Chicana, don’t touch, she dishes herself out, armed with stare so Latin/black bronze that a Stroller tips over--Beneath the looks, sly and shy, Slimy rocks boarded Over, an ocean’s lips lick and play...
            So I followed the thin # 2 pencil Man, most variety now in the faces, the Faces, rides running---no more than two or three people, blacks blaring Herbie/Grover, honk-polished mono
sax from a black attaché forty pound cassette--a dad points out rides, family Tribes, resemblances, blue Bermuda kneecaps, a blue-zigged white shirt, a dangling Minolta, head and butt hanging out, white socks with Black loafers, green-tinted sunglasses, a smile like Roosevelt’s, tickets twenty-
five cents...
            So I followed the thin # 2 pencil man past the animal-pitch-dime-on-top-dish Wins and the orange-yellow Groundswell screams and Spanish, past the Forty-Niner game, Macro Scree ball jeans pumping, losing sight of the Dubliner, past fast service walkup Window Eatoutoceanview, we got tables on the pavement with its Alltimesummer spill, three throws, the cat rack, Oneinyouwin fascination, fifty cents, three rolls for a quarter---dip-top cones, transvestites, take available horse, but where had he headed?
            Under the bumper car minimum height requirement, wienerschnitizel cops, pizza-pasta-a beer, another coin toss perhaps, indoor golf, pokerino...
            Indoor glimpse, indoor Warm, indoor nicotine splash, Sammyhitshot, lovepilot, crook’s saloon, Motorama, upper-deck, periscope, the lord’s prayer--a welcome gift, stunt cycle, electric eye, Four-star subtank...
            He had disappeared into the Coalminer’s sky, no Mr. Clean, that mop won’t do---the retired folks thinking, reminiscing, one can feel it, the void they switch on as you walk past their benches, you must think this is where Santa Cruz started.

A THREE TIME CALIFORNIA ARTS COUNCIL grant recipient, Michael McLaughlin has worked for twenty years as an Artist -in-Residence at Atascadero State Hospital, a maximum security forensic facility, as a Contract Artist with the California Department of Corrections, with California Youth Authority (w/ incarcerated adults & youth), and as San Luis Obispo county Area Coordinator for California Poets in the Schools. A graduate of The University of Southern California's' Master of Professional Writing program, McLaughlin's written one novel, Western People Show Their Faces and three books of poetry, Ped Xing, The Upholstery of Heaven and Countless Cinemas. Originally from San Francisco, McLaughlin was Poet Laureate of San Luis Obispo, California in 2003. In 2010, McLaughlin commenced work as Programs Consultant with the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California.



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