Mennonite Poetry Home | Robert Martens



summer of love

endless summer, and according to the pop
song, love was in the air. but love's
not ethereal, it crept from its jungle
bed, hissed tropical hallucination,
prowled the streets, sniffed at our
hunted souls. we knew we were forever
young, walked for the first time the
green skin of earth. and love needed
feeding, and maybe it wasn't
love at all, but this growl of hunger,
beware of wild beasts, children. for
what does a spirit cat crave?

tune in, turn on, drop out, said leary.
they will open the doors of perception,
wrote huxley. drugs. mindmorphers,
veinturners, soulstrokers. drugs
were in the air. swallow this, it's
a gift, said pusher alice, it'll make you
big enough to trample the queen, small
enough to crawl the keyhole, get back
to the garden, citizen free. i'd been
attracted to doors since the moment
i burst into lonely space, could i
return, what's behind the basement door,
or thumping in the attic? how to find
the pilgrim's gate, cross over
into light's lucid limbo?

doors of perception. oiled hinges.
love garden. no more money, no more work,
early rising's reserved for bores with
briefcases. just turn the knob and enter.
drugs. we tried them all. or some of us
did, i was timid, folded maps
correctly, swept under the bed. i was
an apprentice, a novice in a corner
of the enchanted alley. tried marijuana,
fumes licking the tv screen.
hash, as vampires made love in
abandoned pickups. magic mushrooms,
laughed through the night, paid the bill
backwards. cocaine once or twice, but
that was tedious. beer seemed to
open doors the best, we gathered around
pub tables, a medieval village resurrected
from the daily wreckage. while the
vietnam war sizzled in the streets.

she had acid. the story began and
ended. we licked a tab
in the pub, the evening swallowed hard,
the beer spilled and soaked, we recited
the sacred ritual of nonsense,
and walked home. "don't feel a thing,"
i said to my buddy, "just a numb
tongue." "free speech is on the way,"
he said, and i opened the door to my
apartment as the floor fell out.

alone. the doors of perception
close. my brain
flickers, peels
away. i'm
peering through the folds of a ghost
who never lived.

panic. love was not in the air.
the air might not be. i considered
an ambulance, so this is what
insanity is like, i thought, final
freedom. somehow i dialed the
phone, babbled to my sister and her
husband, but nothing worked.
nothing was. and then a housecat
peered through the sliding door.

she meows. she scratches
for entry, she's been
tracking my orphan
spirit, she's a suspect
from another realm.
i let her in, her
fur flows deep as
the legend that's
drowning me. she
talks like a
dragon. she purrs,
she curls up
in the sultry lair
of my heart. i'm
nearly home.

in the morning i was 20 years
older, my profile was redesigned,
nerve endings littered the carpet.
the cat never returned. the war
continued. i wedged open
the door to the hallway, fried some eggs.
breakfast was delicious.

© Robert Martens




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