Sowing Grasses on the Foredunes' Windward Side

By Michael Grant Smith

The bungalow is crap, you can see that for yourself. Michigan winters punish mankind's earnest endeavors, and the summers don't offer much relief. Sandpapery blue-gray asphalt siding potato-chips itself into curls. My back porch cants at a ten degree angle downward toward the lake. Termites are the only tenants getting enough to eat. Elsewhere on Earth this place wouldn't qualify for tool storage. Here on a bluff overlooking white sand beaches? A realtor's bonanza.

Every fair morning, gripping a mug full of decaf ass-rinse, I shuffle outside to sit and survey the day's prospects. You always visit on Wednesdays, but I never know the precise time of your arrival. At my age, waking up is passage from one dream to another. I'll scribble on a pad of paper while waiting for a spark to jump the gap.

You pick your way along my pinecone-loaded gravel path -- can your kind process the simile of a well-used cat litter pan? I tell you stories and you accept them without comment. The rhetoric is always about me. It begins with me as the main character and ends heroically.

When it's daytime I speak of algae blooms, vanished dunes, and thunderstorms wheeling across Lake Michigan's arena. Omnipresent wind flows through my narratives, hissing between tall beachgrasses rooted in arid nothing. I describe to you the cessation of commercial fishing; blighted berry crops; the lakeside canneries' struggles; a furniture industry starved of timber. In every instance I am a boat's captain, a fire department squad leader, or a capitalist. You seem to devote your full attention.

Sometimes the tales are staged in the evening simply because it's late and that's when I tell them. At first the words appear one at a time, as if they are the stars that bud after dusk in an ink-soaked sky. I listen to the sound of my voice (which, as you know, I never tire of doing) and when taking a deep breath I resolve not to inhale any insects that swarm about your constant light.

I know you don't visit in order to collect my stories about chum and lighthouse keepers and gulls and tourism's demise. Your tolerance of my parochial tales is admirable, but I am no fool. I know all about the sun and the moon and the sky. I've witnessed mobs of clouds scud past Luna's full face -- frozen smoke ruling the roof above. Big cauliflower puffs of crystal. The promise of rain or snow or some other messy poo pelting down from on high.

Watching. The hours I spent spread-eagled on the sand left me seared tender and raw. Or frosted to junegrass and clover overnight, deep within ravines, relying on dawn's thaw to fret away the surprise ice. I become unstuck.

We reside beneath these celestial elements, anchors to the index of our daily routines. Whether I report to you about sunspots or the man in the green-cheese moon, I've earned my authority. Both your folk and mine are observers: my part is to sit on porches and yours is to transit galaxies. You want to hear about the day your city-ship descended upon Lake Michigan and the white-capped waves went still. What I saw and thought about that introduction. Who am I to raise a sand dune against gravity or time?

I don't dread the Wednesday yet to come, the one when you arrive and I'm not here to greet you. I fear the Wednesday that closes without your appearance and I'm left with clever phrases stuck in my mouth and nothing to do but wash them away with this shitty coffee.

The interval between each of your visits passes quickly. Drawings at the bottom corner of a notebook, advancing incrementally, animated by a blurry succession of pages. A sequence of images given life through motion.


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