Jack Phillips Lowe


I pop a couple 
of marijuana gummies---
one green, one yellow---
and I'm soon asleep.

Fade in: 
I stand on a deserted beach
under a pale gray sky. 
A sharp wind cuts my face. 
Whitecaps tell me that 
the sea is angry, impatient.

Several yards off shore, 
I spot a man standing 
half-submerged in the water. 
Waves hit him at thigh-level. 
He's a tall, lanky guy 
wearing John Lennon glasses, 
a walrus mustache and 
a navy surplus pea coat. 
His shoulder-length hair
blows in the wind. 
And, he's sinking. 

I'm startled to recognize the man. 
"Richard Brautigan!" I call 
out to him, waving my arms. 
"What in hell are you doing there?"

Brautigan shrugs. "I'm stuck out here.
Nobody reads my books anymore."

I shake my head. "Bullshit!
Look man, just paddle back in.
We'll discuss this in a warm bar
over cold beer, my treat. 
Summer's over, you know?"

Brautigan pulls a red bandana
out of his coat and 
removes his glasses. 
He calmly wipes the lenses 
with the bandana. 

"Believe me," he says, "I'd like 
nothing more. But it ain't my choice. 
I didn't want to die twice, you know?"

I take a few steps forward;
icy water quickly reaches my knees. 
"What's your deal?" I ask.
"I don't see any water wings. 
Were you just curious about 
the slow agony of drowning?"

Brautigan pockets his bandana
and replaces his glasses. 

"No, I told you," he says. 
"My books are rotting on the shelves---
shelves that still have them, I mean. 
In minutes, I'll be washed away 
like Rod McKuen and Edgar A. Guest. 
So mosey up on that seashore.
Nobody reads your books, either."

I stumble back to the sand. 
"Listen," I yell over the waves,
"I have all your books!"

Brautigan folds his arms. 
"Hardcovers?" he asks, skeptically.  

"Mostly paperbacks," I reply, 
"alphabetized by title on their own shelf!"

Brautigan chews his mustache. 
"My ass, you do. You're always 
reading Bukowski or Lee Child. 
You haven't cracked a cover 
of mine in a blue moon."
The water is up to his chest.

With my sleeve, I wipe 
ocean spray off my face. 
"Okay," I say, "you got me. 
I admit it's been a while. 
But I've always said that 
you're one of my great influences."

Brautigan locks his hands 
behind his head, keeping 
his elbows just above the waves. 

"All show and no go," he scoffs. 
"You're nothing like me!
I'd never ramble on like this.
None of my poems runs 
over eight lines long---
which you'd know if you read
Loading Mercury with a Pitchfork."

"I'm sure I've got that one!"
I exclaim, with a pounding heart. 
"It's locked in my storage space.
Come with me and I'll show you.
Please swim, tread water, something!
Don't let yourself go under this way!"

Brautigan chuckles bloodlessly.
"I've been treading water since 1984.
With luck, I'll wash up in Japan." 
The ocean laps his chin.

I claw at my hair, pacing the beach. 
"Christ, Brautigan! What can I do?"

"Read, dumbass," Brautigan says,
as the water encloses him. "Read."

Fade out. 

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