Going Rick and Ilsa

“I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.”

– Rick, Casablanca, 1942

See – I wear a raincoat to avoid my own drenching.
I’m not a good man
but there’s still
a feather for the candle’s licking flame,
a dabbing motion of acrylic,
loaded on the bough of a brush,
to give light to an eye.

But inside the mountain,
as cold as mythical igloos,
the scorched skin of hypothermia goes about
losing toes;
severed beans,
gone Arctic.

Our minds are now in Paris,
singing with ex-pats,
sharing gin,
going Rick and Ilsa,

(What would Rick and Ilsa be
to a friendless Café-dwelling poet
trying too hard, spineless and rude,
who couldn’t mind his own damn business?)

Watch me try to amount to a hill of beans,
and while there is space left between the beats of pulses,
you and I are learning
every time the gardener’s song
trails off…

into a question…

“What would be kinder
for the sun to look upon,
in these times:
the quicksand of the mind,
the war, and wars ahead,
a runway,
or, perhaps, the Seine?”

Write your Answer:


Because we’ll
save this aimless feature
of landscape in a photograph;
carefully framed, because
each one has lungs, the same size as their bodies
and can’t hold their breaths for long
before boiling.

They are beans.

Watch me become a hill of beans,
it’s been a long time, I grant you.
But freight trains are exporting
confusing cargo,
bean by bean.

The mountain and the sky aloft
and the yellow-bellied peas,
the scream that extinguishes a stove
and miles below sea,
the gasping hill of beans,
that ask to be kept
prickly in your scarf,
elevated on a slice of toast,

warm and dry
for your kindness.

Alphabet soup spells trouble to a witch,
who had dreams, and woke with a pearl-string of her beads
around her neck, the imagination
she goes to bed with
only loose fitting clothing,
and shoes filled by a radiator leak.

Because she
sorts randomly canned letters
into prophecy.

On our camping-trip,
in our twenties,
we had the shadow of an elephant
amounting to
what we hoped would be a molehill.

Watch me hope for a hill of beans,
without which I’d be the proprietor of a bar,
I’d be in black,
in white,
seeing like a dog,
identifying each passing trope of Film Noir.

With a friendly tongue
but teeth in a jar,
in gin-smoked interiors
before you chanced into mine.

I sat against white walls,
poured liquor into breakfasts.
I knew you would
remember laughing at time slowed by
like a mosquito, a bar fly, does
before being swatted.

Since you’re here we could spend time counting
any beans left,
between the currency of kisses.

It’s something we hope everyone can afford,
even though we know that’s not true,

Hope, for a hill of beans.

Watch me give desperate hope to those who scratch for it, what remains
of a miserly measure,
which is at best a lens to watch
rocks beat against the tide,
for once,
for once, Ilsa,
but they, we, can’t.

And those who know it,
live on black-and-white film stock,
with street-smarts,
twin-prop airplanes
and the song Sam plays
for himself.


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