Friday, June 22, 2012

Images from a Deep Horizonless Night

Sometimes when a writer is prompted to produce something on the spot, characters just spring up from somewhere.  I discovered that I had some characters lurking in my subconscious that I previously had no inkling of. One day my friend Joe Saling posted the beginnings of a poem on his blog The Word Mechanic. He shared the first three lines of a poem:

Standing on the stateroom balcony
Peering into the endless black
Of a horizonless night

Joe said he could get no further with the poem and asked his blog readers to try to finish it and send him whatever we came up with.  I had the picture in my mind and just began writing. This is what came out:

Standing on the stateroom balcony
Peering into the endless black
Of a horizonless night
I couldn’t help thinking of that dame that walked up to me
Just a few hours before.
She had the look of a wanderer
But a wanderer who knew her way around.
Only tonight she was a lost kitten
With eyes as deep as that horizonless night.

“I know it must be fate, Mr. Marlowe,” she said to me,
“That on this night, when all seemed so hopeless
I should find you here.”

That’s what she wanted – hope on a hopeless night.
I had seen that look before.
Sometimes that look would lob a zinger
Right into the pit of my stomach.
Another needy client
Short on hope,
Short on insight,
Even shorter on cash,
But long on virtue.

I promised her I would see what I could do.
I wasn’t so sure about this beau she told me about.
I didn’t know if he was on the up-and-up,
But he obviously meant something to her,
And now he was nowhere to be found.
I don’t know why I agreed to it –
Yeah, I know why –
It’s because I’m a sucker.
A sucker for a cry for help,
A sucker to track down dead-beat scum,
A sucker to thrash out a little justice in this godforsaken city.
A sucker for the deep dark eyes
Of a helpless girl
On the edge of another horizonless night.

Several  months later, long enough for me to have put the stateroom poem out of mind, my friend Jim High from Mississippi posted on his Facebook page the following:

“To provide a little enjoyment, I would like my Facebook friends to comment on this status, sharing how you met me. But I want you to LIE!!! That's right, just make it up. After you comment, copy this to your status so I can do the same.”

This was my immediate reply:

It was a warm night in July. Some dame had sent me out to find the creepy low life that had promised to get her beau away from the Tupelo Mob.  Seems the green horn had fallen for the oldest con game in the book.  I didn’t particularly want to drive my ’71 Nova across the state line into the sweltering Mississippi night, but those soft brown eyes grabbed me in a way that I knew I had to put tomorrow on hold until I could see this one through.  I pulled into the Delight Hotel without a clue as to where to find the bum or how to get that dame’s lover out of harm’s way.

“Hey, mister,” I said to the guy behind the counter of the two-bit flop house. “You seen this guy?” I showed him the photo the soft- eyed blonde had given me of her lover boy, Preston.

“Yeah, I seen him,” he said. “Headed down Highway 145 about two o’clock this afternoon – said he had some business in Verona”

“Thanks, pal,” I said.

“Name’s not pal – name’s High. Jim High.

And that’s where the partnership began.

                                                         *     *     *     *     *

I am no psychoanalyst, but I am interested in what it might mean when characters take form within our imagination. When we dream, our subconscious mind will often latch on to archetypal figures to create a story. Often that dream story can tell us something important about ourselves if we can stop to hear what our subconscious is saying.

Here I am confronted with some images that I am sure I saw in the movies. There is a detective trying to figure things out. There is a beautiful, vulnerable and engaging young woman with captivating eyes. Not pictured is the boyfriend who somehow falls in with the wrong crowd and there is the thug whose actions are endangering the young man and have the young woman in a state of grave concern. What am I to do with this information?  Do I try to take a look at what these images might mean, or do I continue to write it out and see what comes of it? Sometimes it’s enough to make a fellow stop dead in his tracks, take a deep breath and peer into the endless black of a horizonless night.


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