march 2011

surf poetry
Bottom turn. Drive. The world ahead explodes into sudden white.

Surf In Verse

Three poets find their muse in the waves

Eight thirty p.m., the longboards have headed for home. The esci-lids have had their fill of the shore break. It's just me, some scattered macrocystis pyrifera, and four foot sets. Blackness. The horizon grows higher. Spin. Paddle. Feel the wave without seeing it.  Free fall into the inky black pit. Howl.  Skegs dig into the face. Bottom turn. Drive. The world ahead explodes into sudden white. Carve for the top.  Launched. Sky. Gravity has it's say. Paddle out for the next one, it's not time to go just yet. Wind-an-sea, south swell, high tide, 70F water. Why haven't I lived here all my life? -- Garret Lisi

‘Latin’Ia’ by The Sentinals. Tommy Nunes, lead guitar; Peter Graham, rhythm guitar; Gary Winburne, bass; Johnny Barbata, drums. Produced by Norman Knowles. Written by Thomas Nunes/Mark Hilder. WCEB/Impact single #23 (5/62), Era single #3082 (6/62). Drummer Barbata later joined The Turtles.

Cicada Sun
By Hugh Cook

Summer Dust

In the cicada's season, down at the Cove, we watched
The long swell which banks the summer berm
In tangles of scintillating mica, cracked shell,
Black seaweed brittle below earth's kikuya swell;
Blue-blazing Pacific and polarized sun.

One day, the sea swarmed with jellyfish
Nudging against us like floating polythene,
Blue-clear and poisoned,
But they did not sting, I was sun full of joy,
Forging out to white water
With fiberglass kicking buoyant in the foam.
Then the surfboard swept me shoreward,
Up with gyroscope arms,
Sun on the bottle-glass sea,
And wave-dazzle leaping in my mind.

It was great afterwards,
Combing hair warm and salt,
Faces cramming the car mirror,
The heavy heat of the day cicada song
And then the tight sharp curves
Down the road to school -

That last day was slow and the best and the sea
Lay flat and calm in reefs of sun
Waiting in shimmering immensity,
Waiting with the poise of silence after lightning,
Before the thunder speaks.
The horizon gathered cloud and sweated into haze.
We hung suspended on a pause from which
The swells would lift us deep into the sky
Then down again, a slow hydraulic lift -
And might smash to pieces right in front,
Riveting the air with icy backlash.

Then from that convoluted inlocked lull,
Current's nautilus whorls and thermals,
From that a larger swell would then emerge,
Slowly, like a slow-swimming sea monster
Lifting its back toward the sun,
And we would gyre to face the shore,
And it would rise toward us, faster.
The sea would tremor deep down, wary,
As we would drive us forward, paddle:
Behind us this great silence would ascend
All the pent scales of earthquake
Till its music stunned with stasis.
Then the sea would shift
Up and on an instant be
Green thunder I ride thunder
My friends phoenix
Two seconds
And the downstorm shatters around me
Water heavy as lead,
Going down for the third time,
Surface, and see the few survivors
Sweeping toward the parasol shore
In white waves of sunlight.

We would come into English
Just as the second tremor of the bell
Tipped the school into the day's last period,
Our hair drying hard, and here would be -
What? Illumination? Pinter's words
Unreeling in cockney accents from the tape,
Telling us of the grey caretakers,
Souls in the running raintides, or Billy Liar, sun chaser,
Striving through dead burnt day
Toward the fantasy of a brighter sun -

“Summer Dust” is part one of “Cicada Sun,” a three-part coming-of-age poem by the late Hugh Cook. A fantasy/science fiction author, Cook is best known for his epic series The Chronicles of an Age of Darkness. In 2005, after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, he underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment, then wrote a medical memoir, Cancer Patient, detailing his experiences. After suffering a relapse, Cook died on November 8, 2008. His website remains active.

‘Tarantula,’ by Memphis surf-rock band The Tarantulas. The Tarantulas first recorded as the Spyders and had some personnel changes before changing their name. Band members included Bobby Tucker, Fred Crook, Dan Rains, Sammy Creason, and Bill English. ‘Tarantula’ is the group’s best known song among several it recorded, including "Like Spellbound’ and ‘Kaw Liga.’ ‘Tarantula’ was recorded at Fernwood studio in Memphis ca. 1960 and was released as a single (Atlantic-2102 b/w "Black Widow"). The song is included on the CD Fernwood Rock N Roll. After Bill Black passed away in 1965, Bobby Tucker became the lead for the Bill Black Combo and the group, which incorporated other Tarantulas members, recorded into the 1970s.

Dawn Patrol
By Bryan Knowles
Surf Poetry

Dawn breaks, mist lingers, moon falls and light returns.
Air, still as the heron
Poised by river’s mouth awaiting breakfast.
Fresh water flowing into sea
Warmer than the air its steam wafts through
Slowly rising like the groggy dawn patrollers who’ve just parked along the highway’s shoulder
Beanies pulled down low, woolen flannels buttoned
Leaning against tailgates of their sticker—tatted pickups
Antithesis of an unmarked cars.
One hand gripping thermos of hot coffee,
The other buried in a fleecy pocket
Removed only for exchange of an occasional handshake that’s reserved for close friends
Or when the more common head nod or raised mug gets interspersed with a quick, lazy shaka.
Gotta mix it up once in a while.
Passed some good spots on the drive north from town,
Knowing The Creek would deliver, and it did.
Just enough coffee left to lend warmth after the session.
Its time to go but the thought of this wetsuit, still cold and damp from the evening before
Results in us watching a few minutes more.
First guy paddles out while others observe as he makes it count.
Solid 8 foot face, he takes off late but makes it.
One long, arcing bottom turn around the first section, hits the top with speed
Snappy gouge, throwing buckets, locked in.
Holding back as the shoulder softens
Foamball carries him through until a steeper face lines up ahead.
Pumping twice then hits again, fins free
His back foot looses the tail briefly but recovers.
Just in time to meet the next section, locked in with speed.
The reef shallows some and it gapes a little, just enough.
Stalling gently, then pulling in as glowing sheets dump over as if in slow motion.
He draws a high line and weaves out with speed and a little spit, door closing behind him.
Then rolls off the back and paddles out again
Knowing that ride didn’t go unnoticed from the beach.
And hearing tailgates clunking open he knows each ride will soon be few and farther between.
As if he’d just called in for backup
Dawn patrollers quickly swarm the scene.

For more surf poetry by Bryan Knowles and other contributors, visit the Surf Poetry website

Dick Dale & His Del-Tones, ‘Surf Beat.’ Dick Dale, lead guitar; Nick O’Malley, rhythm guitar; Bill Barber, piano; Rick Rillera, bass; Jerry Stevens, drums; Armon Frank and Barry Rillera, sax. Produced by Jim Monsour. Deltone single #5020 (11/62); Deltone single #4940 (3/63); B side of ‘Mr. Peppermint Man,’ Capitol single, 1962.

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