Post Road Magazine #26

Southern California Ode (1969)

Baron Wormser

We were living in Orange County in a beach house
With another miniscule beach house behind us where a very crew cut
Guy lived who was a Mormon and worked for the FBI neither of
Which we knew because he never spoke to us
Beyond "Hi, sir" and "Hi, ma'am" which from some other party
Might have seemed sarcasm, given that we were younger by ten or so years
And in our unadulterated male and female ways
In the free-love lane of the sexual highway, but wasn't, as our neighbor
Mike, who sold us pot and often shared a taste of his latest parcel,
Informed us while we toked up and babbled about the taut
Underpinnings of various unraveling anomies before ending up a few
   hours later
Mentally supine and staring at the sedated sky.

We never could decide which paranoia to supplicate:
Smoking dope not many feet away from an FBI guy
Or having a queasy intimation that he was in some separate reality
In which Kennedy still was freaked out about Castro and the sternest task
A G-man faced was to bust Mafiosi for tax delinquency. Or maybe
Despite his crew cut and his girlfriend whom we saw on the weekends
In a one-piece bathing suit and who was cute
In a desperately perky Doris Day way, he too
Was smoking dope and having visions if not of Cody then
Of J. Edgar twinkletoeing across a dance floor in lingerie mufti
And cooing, "I love a communist who knows how to kiss."

You can tell me America isn't really paranoid, that all the people with
  arsenals
In their closets are just collectors, but I won't believe you
Because one typically sun-struck afternoon the girlfriend banged on
Our door screaming, "He's got a gun! He's going to kill me!" and sobbing
Like her face was going to come off but he didn't kill her, he shot
Himself—one comic strip "bam" a few minutes later while we were
    offering
Downers to the girlfriend whose name was Trish and who was, she confided,
"Not ready to die."

    We sat there waiting for another round but there wasn't any,
The silence like the desert east of L.A.—endless and hopeless.
There wasn't going to be anything unless it was what Mike in his opulent
Stoner moments called "society," that swanning firmament of film stars, cars,
Ball players, money, Jesus and fears of fearsome Reds while the FBI infiltrated
Panhandling hippies who proclaimed along with a plea for spare change that
Everything was cool as a topless babe lolling by a swimming pool waiting
For the President to show—his head unexploded, his smile an ever
 beneficent glow.


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