This is a poem that was prompted by a session I had with homeless veterans, one of whom was named Green, who took an extraordinary quantity of LSD one day, and hadn't been right since.

Green Sees Things in Waves


Green first thing each day sees waves –
the chair, armoire, overhead fixtures, you name it,
waves – which, you might say, things really are,
but Green just lies there awhile breathing
long slow breaths, in and out, through his mouth
like he was maybe seasick, until in an hour or so
the waves simmer down and then the trails and colors
off of things, that all quiets down as well and Green
starts to think of washing up, breakfast even
with everything still moving around, colors, trails,
and sounds, from the street and plumbing next door,
vibrating?of course you might say that’s what
sound really is, after all, vibrations- but Green,
he’s not thinking physics at this stage, nuh-uh,
our boy’s only trying to get himself out of bed,
get a grip, but sometimes, and this is the kicker,
another party, shall we say, is in the room
with Green, and Green knows this other party
and they do not get along, which understates it
quite a bit, quite a bit, and Green knows
that this other cat is an hallucination, right,
but these two have a routine that goes way back
and Green starts hollering, throwing stuff
until he’s all shook up, whole day gone to hell,
bummer . . .

Anyhow, the docs are having a look,
see if they can’t dream up a cocktail,
but seems our boy ate quite a pile of acid one time,
clinical, wow, enough juice for half a block –
go go go, little Greenie – blew the wiring out
from behind his headlights and now, no matter what,
can’t find the knob to turn off the show.

from Green Sees Things in Waves (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998) copyright © 1998 by August Kleinzahler, used by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. Poetry Foundation recording made on 2 October 2007, New York

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