THREE POEMS by Gordon Massman


And there I am on a rubber raft, saltwater
washing through my mouth, giggling at seven
in the knowledge of parents: a father
with coarse, black hair and a mother like a crow,
strong with flight feathers. Jewish boy
on the beach, pail and shovel, drenching sun,
roar of the surf, Portuguese men-o-war
washed on shore, like marbled dirigibles,
and strong fishermen guiding my life through
the variables–Irving with dark speckles,
Shep with boulder thighs, Harold no less
influential for his florid skin and feminine
side which wedged through him, like a fin. It was
jubilance and resonance and sand grit and
gutted trout and sexy wives with lacquered nails
who bitched and loved and donated and slathered
their dumb children with Solarcain. Women
with that kind of leg skin which exudes
sexuality: smooth, freckled, white, pliable,
like the underside of fish. And their children,
little vessels of innocence filled with
immortality and egoism bucking in the sun-pound.
It was Rome before the fall, solid curves of
toughness in the parents like walls, gold
flowing through scotch and blended whiskey
necks, and Texas Longhorn football bursting
like concussion bombs. Nothing crumbled no matter
how brittle it became because there were money,
guts, kids, wives, glory, and the whole great
God damned Gulf of Mexico glittering with gamefish.
And there I am floating on my rubber raft
where the ocean floods the shore, laughing,
breast full of glee, stuffed like a Turkey
with sweetness and deflected rage, no
more the carrier of the clear blue flame
of poetry than the carrier of bubonic plague.
It was that textured storm in the brain,
blurry happiness which thrives and throws
off sparks of luxury in the veins. It was
fish-scaling knives and bellowing men
and Port Aransas, Texas, and God’s diamond
jewelry broken and spilled over the horizon,
like a sea. It was semen and fertility
and seed flung in the flesh of wives,
like meteor showers in the infinite sky.
And children folded into the prayer of two hands
before bedtime in the hearing of seawaves,
sailed into their dreams, like schooners,
flawless and streaming with praise.



Fish scales filling the air, like sleet, and fish guts
under his high rubber boots on the cold, wet
concrete floor of the wooden hut by the wharf
where the fishermen drifted in on green sheets
of sea and emptied their bins of silvery gems;
scarlet-gilled, blue, pink, and red shimmering
jewels shot through his knife-wheel, the heads
white, and pink meat in cellophane sacks heavy
as lead the vacationers in Towne Cars and Coup
De Ville’s carted home in ice chests to wives
and kids and the cat–tan, bald, freckled heads
and backs of hands, marked as beautiful as
the fish themselves before they were hooked
and hauled in under sun fists, flicking glinting
drops and convulsing on the fiberglass floors
of hostile crafts on the green-blue, salt laden sea–
the fish-scaler looking like James Dean in a
knife-blur, those golden locks shimmering with
flakes, flakes on his lips and brow, the knife
when ceased, a scimitar, razor sharp, the
butcher of fish, their down-curved mouths
looking dour, like gamblers peeling off hundreds
under pallid lamps dangling over felt tables,
and chewing down cigars–the hut of horrors
and beauty hovered by pelicans and gulls
looking for a swill, a little wriggling tail, and
feeding off spleens and roe sacks slid down
the wharf far enough to be safe for a quick
swoop-and-lift, the big yellow feet tucked
and trailing, like ballast, under greywhite
down to the tops of masts or severed pilings
stuck in water, like amputated fists covered
with barnacles and seaweed slime–and the
Oyster House where father slurped down
the uncooked eyes of whole lives from their
own slick body-cups full of Tabasco sauce
and salt, chased by soda crackers, he a Buddha
of sorts, slithering them down his slithering
throat opposite his shock-haired, young Jewish
wife when I was eight, nine, ten, and rich
with cousins, “the hoard,” pouring through
this small intercostal town, like a scoop of minnows
wreaking havoc, important as mayors, to
the open air theater, the crashing rubber-rafting
shore, the pails of sand clams beautiful as
money, the market for jaw breakers and
gum, and the little hut on the wharf where
cousin Harriet mooned in love over the beautiful
blonde fish-scaler, like a single bladed windmill
or processor blurrily whisking freshly caught soft
cold animals to their ultimate biblical doom.



Again the taut monofilament line between fisherman and fish,
gossamer, glimmering, three pound bull red and two hundred
pound bastard battling in salt biliousness, fucker c’mon, come
home to daddy, ink-blot tail-muscle flicking in granite green,
gills pumping, mouth-cartilage refusing, two animals in oppo-
site atmospheres cut by the scissors of surfaces, glass sheet,
almost plexiglas, 10 lb test sunk through like solid sculpture,
bronze, at the outdoor art mart beside the thrashing sailfish,
contest, wills, death, nourishment, fresh red blood, the man
early forties, stubble beard, business failure, two kids, raven
haired wife-bitch, tortured with cratering fantasies of wealth,
accolades, ribbons, oral sex, congratulatory boxes, Europe,
the fish Executive Vice-President, Ben Franklin Life & Cas-
ualty, fat, bald, sweaty, heavy drinker–Black Label–swing-
er, fertilizer of thousands, clogged floater valve, this hook
in throat, block and tackle punishment yanking him to hell
the foreordained testamental destiny of the sacrilegious, barb
in poppers, swift intractable Adjudicator, some are fouled
through back or tail, unfair, but the souls of all infidels are
ripped from guts to float unredeemed and eternally in the
upperworld; the man: Orthodox, gold icon wearer, the on-
ly wholeness known is this standing upon the sloughs in an
inch thick fiberglass bowl, Mercury outboard, live shrimp,
Embassador Abumatic casting reel, singing to himself, haul-
ing up spam, the bump, the strike, the exhilarating instant
the magnificent beast breaks surface into the steel gray
light, whopper!, giant!, mother of trout! swivel and claw
with shrimp bits still attached removed from lip, the man
cold refreshing drafts, it doesn’t arrive higher than this;
the fish: nihilistic, savage, mean as shit, shitting, a lifetime
of stuffed resentment and rage croaking out his mouth as
he lays upon mates in the red, blue, and silvery slime pit,
fry me you hypocritical bloodless white robed priest-cow-
ards on your Neptune-thrones, double standard bastards
clinging to cleanliness like a culture of dweebs, translucent
phosphor sacs flaring pure emerald green, gluttonless, for-
nicationless, covetousless, hedonisticless slipping through
cubes like a breathing death, tuna-fresh. The man: loved
but slaughtered the wife’s raw eggs his whips slammed into,
wiped until wringing guilt with their hearts and spills of
shame with their hair, the fish issues cackles of cynicism
from his chair, eradicating the blight the man throws the
switch with holocaustal delight on his cold creel of criminals.

–Gordon Massman



Well, here they are; I’m not sure they’re what your looking for; primarily about fishing the shoals with my father in Port Aransas, TX, which at that time was rich with trout, red, flounder, bullhead, and blue crab; now fished out. The gulf coast of Texas used to be virgin–one went over a draw bridge, then drove a seventeen mile one-lane sand road to Port A, pulling over for the ocassional oncoming car. Crab sunned themselves in shallows one could literally pluck by their back paddles and toss into buckets for later eating. By the time I reached high school tar regularly washed up on shore, coating the bottoms of feet; also hypodermic needles, rags, condoms, cans, trash all jettisoned illegally by sailors on oil tankers you could see sliding across the horizon. This flotsam still insults the shore rendering Port A a corpse to everyone but the young Texans who never knew it when it lived and think it’s heaven. Enormous oil tankers usder to fill one’s vision from the right to left side of the brain as they sucked through the channel either to open seas or to deliver oil to the ports of Corpus Christi. We kids were too young to think of them as menacing, but for decades I have realized how Texas, LA, and all the entire coastal South sacrificed their shores to big oil profits. Northeasterners–the old money elites–would never allow offshore drilling to fuck up their precious beaches, but had no qualms about Southern fools doing so. To stand on the hot sand of Port Aransas looking seaward was to see small in the middle-distance great cities on the sea, piled up like tiny Houstons, on wavering pilings. Those days were a child’s paradise for young Texas kids, and doubtless adults, and this latest disaster has ripped out my heart. I am obsessed with it and am filled with helpless rage. Because of it my partner and I are making drastic changes in our lifestyle from driving less, buying bulk to avoid packaging, pricing solar heat, refusing paper or plastic in favor of bringing our own cloth bags, etc. Anyway, here are the poems–they are twenty-five years old and certainly are not about oil, but if one or all work, feel free to use them.


Attempting with the scientist’s objectivity, Gordon Massman has numbered over twenty-one hundred slices of his psyche in order to discover his most basic urges, motives, fears, addictions, and desires. He aspires to be the literary human genome project, and in doing so, unearth as fearlessly as possible aspects not only of his own, but those of the universal male psychology. Tarpaulin Sky Press recently published his collection, The Essential Numbers. This summer Spork Press will release a chapbook of this work.

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