Pop Culture

Point Loma

Death in the Backyard


My grandfather plows grey seas
Sails drive him through the bitter waters
And the waters yield a crop of bitter foam

My grandfather is all alone under grey sky
He is alone in a winter afternoon
He is alone at the helm under morning sail

My grandfather flees the land and home
For an afternoon he plows a furrow toward the horizon
He yearns for the warm seas off Mexico

Invisible sun drops diamonds through cloud chinks
My grandfather speeds away from home
His mind is dark with thoughts of home

Unhappiness pursues my grandfather
From the inlets unhappiness sends out its squalls
My grandfather carries unhappiness in the hold

My grandfather is abroad in a grey sea world
Sails drive him from his unhappy home
Point Loma lurks in his wake


Imponderable Nebraska lurks in his wake
Generations of dirt farmer forebears turn
Like scarecrow sundials in the blasted fields

Nameless old men & women lurk in his wake
The salt of Nebraska
Old chronicles of bad weather & failed crops

Old towns of Andersons dying in Nebraska
Namesakes & farms & bankruptcies & a thousand
Plows churning the dead earth & furrowing memory

My grandfather frowns through the salt spray
Of Point Loma & the salt earth of Nebraska
Rises in memory & regret through heavy seas

Trains & wagons & tools clatter in his wake
An empty Anderson memory of ruined churches
On dead plains under winter skies

And the farms of Nebraska and the seas
Off Point Loma meet like sad armies
Fighting over the twenty years remaining to him


My grandfather does not turn from the helm
To look back at the inlets and folding hills
Of Point Loma murmuring under winter skies

An invisible murmer of neighborhoods rises
Like the ghosts of Nebraska from the haunts
Of fishermen and the glistening shingles of beaches

But my grandfather does not trouble himself
To turn & look at them nor does he
Waver from his furrow in the outbound seas

Point Loma is a constant mass of inescapable
Farm tragedy with its unforgiven debts
And barnyard suicides

My grandfather presents his bent back to Point Loma
To its murmering convolutions and sheer cliffs
His hand stays steady on the helm

He presents his bent back to the ghosts of Nebraska
And those two spurned worlds pursue him
Like double juggernauts through winter skies


My father and his sister are sad children
Playing in the breezy yard overlooking
The winter seas my grandfather plows

My father’s sister with her long dark hair
Already bears the mark of a lonely death
On her creamy forehead

The sea breeze furrows the flowers of the yard
And furrows the flower print of her long skirt
And she shades her eyes with her hand

And looks for the wake of my grandfather’s boat
In the crisscross of tides and shadows
But her eyes run aground on the foam

And my father frets about schoolwork
From a culvert he watches his sister
Pace the yard like a widow on her walk

The silence of Point Loma and the winter sea
Holds them fast in the silent yard
Where sea breezes moan toward Nebraska


Invisible sun drops diamonds through cloud chinks
And my grandfather holds a steady course
Between the diamonds

The Coronado Islands yaw to port
He browses the islands rocky straits
And thinks about the warm seas off Mexico

Hundreds of miles to the south
Women undrape their dark breasts on beaches
The bold sun tightens their nipples

My grandfather hungers for women
For dark breasts under foreign sun
He hungers for equatorial voluptuosness

His hunger burns like a coal under grey sky
His stiffened back spurns Point Loma
He dreams of captive women in the hold

Always west he plans his course
A renegade whitecap slaps the keel
He dreams of dark breasts and bold sun


My grandmother washes dishes and sips coffee
She is sturdy and sure
She see her children in the yard

She sees the waters under the grey sky
She sees my grandfather’s furrow far away
She sets the last clean dish on the rack

A gull cries on the roofline
My grandmother hears waves tossing
On the beach below

Sturdy and sure my grandmother sits at her desk
And writes a letter to her sister
Back in Nebraska

My grandmother’s fine family is with her always
Owners of farms and founders of banks
Fine people the flower of the region

My grandmother writes to her sister
It is a cold grey day but Arthur
Has taken the boat out alone



My grandfather’s boat is moored on a still &
sunny summer sea
My grandfather wearing a frayed cotton T-shirt sits
in the cockpit
Writing a letter to my father

The hills & inlets of sunny Point Loma make a
lovely border for the moored boat
My grandfather does not turn to them or from
them he accepts them
As silent companions

The ghosts of Nebraska & the unhappiness of home
no longer trouble him
He is a free man he has grappled a sunny and
volumptuous freedom
From Point Loma’s beaches

Nothing drives him to drive a furrow toward the
tilting horizon
Nothing drives him to manhandle the helm & rye
at his dreams
Of Mexican seas

My grandfather is content to his marrow as
he writes a letter
To my father who is far away struggling for
the second time
To stay in college

My grandfather sets down advice and wisdom as the
boat rocks on languid swells
And his brain murmers contentedly against the
warm & happy memory
Of his beach adventures


My grandfather sets down wisdom & thinks pityingly
of my father
Who has not learned that where a man is concerned
all life’s pleasures
Are there for the taking

My grandfather cannot understand why my father must
swing from girl to girl
With his heart in his mouth begging each girl to
favor him with a smile
And a holding of hands

My grandfather knows now that girls are like
abalone or mussels
Washed up by life on all the world’s beaches &
just waiting and hoping
To be pried open

And their pink salty meat tasting of the world’s
Waiting to be plucked & savored & smelled & prodded
& kissed
Just waiting to be eaten

He looks up from the letter he writes to my father
& sees Point Loma
Bending toward him with its hills & inlets & knows
that the world
Is a rich friend

Who is ready to lavish his moist wealth on any man
So long as that man is not hindered by ghosts or laws
From grasping his freedom

Roger Dean Anderson

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