About the Author
Novelist, essayist, humorist, editor, and critic Christopher Buckley (b. 1952) is the author of several satirical novels, including Thank You for Smoking, Little Green Men, and Supreme Courtship, as well as travelogues and other books. He is the son of writer William F. Buckley Jr. and socialite Patricia Buckley and lives in Washington D.C. with his wife and children.
Read an Excerpt
done-in with rain
yet the diaphanous
and chemical rancor
of the air, the effluvium
south of Philadelphia,
like bad luck, will not wash
Wasn't it you
who once saw palm trees
on a shore, heard a lilt
of canaries to the lee?
Driving past the stacks,
the smoke and run-on gauze
looking back, looking dimly ahead
don't you wonder how
you'll ever steer your way
clear of Childhood, that story,
that sun-embellished text
from which the least afterthought
of wind tears pages loose
and gives them the blue run
of your heart, brooding
and ubiquitous as clouds?
What forecast for a world
always just over the horizon,
losses now almost immeasurable
against the pastel embarkations
of a sky? Even in dreams
the ocean says nothing
you don't remember.
What will it take to return,
to be blessed with nothing
more weighing your shoulders
than the shadows of afternoon
as you wander speechless
among an apotheosis of light-
charged trees, the white and fiery
mist of leaves you once breathed there
beside the salt breeze and hovering
hours cliff-hung by the unlocked bay?
What prayer could free you,
could place you at the end
of your old lane, overlooking
the Pacific and a channel squall
the spray like a powder of chalk,
like all those lost markings
on a sidewalk, the loved and airy
loops of every name now dispersed
into years of unmitigated grey?
And wasn't that your name wave-like,
in cursive across the blackboard,
erased then with whitecaps
whipped over the slate-dark swells'?
What will you make of it
in these dour and diminished days,
what deliverance from which
vast deep when each hope
you unfold from the vest pockets
of the hearttake out a little at a time
like small notes written to the light
leaves you still lost and at sea,
rebuked in the dull length
and belly of the east?
He must be 30 or 31,
and the brown autumn light is dying
in the tops of jacarandas lining Anacapa Street.
He's just picked me up from school
on the big hill in back of town, and,
riding in our station wagon's wide front seat,
the whole windshield is a field of blue
filled with sea, and a sky bending to meet it
where the earth curves miles out in air ...
I'm looking up after unlacing my school shoes
and pulling on cowboy boots, black ones
with white and gold lilies blossoming at the tops
this is not that long ago ...
and it all comes back the day I bend down
to try on a pair of wingtips, and there he is
in his camel hair sport coat and green knit tie ...
His black and wavy hair blows again in the wind
from the open window of the caragain,
we're taking the curves above the Mission,
the limestone walls and pepper trees aflame
along the road, and in that last blindness of sun,
the mackerel clouds, the clusters of pepper pods
burn red as the bell-tower domes....
I'm staring into the light spread thick as sawdust
across the windshield. With his college ring
he's tapping out a tune on the steering wheel,
stubbing a Philip Morris. Now he's whistling,
it's 4:30, and the daylight behind us is going
violet on the mountain range. I'm content
in my boots, standing on the green vinyl seat
to see above the dashbelow, a harbor mist
rolls in beneath the yellow nettle of stars,
the Xs of seagulls' wings marking their places
as they drift slowly before the dark. I'm looking left,
into the purple skywe're coasting down
a last silent hill. Nothing, I think, has happened
in our liveshe's happythis is not that long ago....