Photography © Chad Parenteau


Vapor Song

One morning
Berkeley early 1963
I went out to my $100 Harley
parked out back
the sun having leapt over
Mount Diablo
hit the redwood pickets
soaked in fog all night
and set them steaming
smoldering water vapor
like imaginary smoke
curling in the cool air

Same thing this morning
Suburban Boston 2021
east-facing clapboard
even the hollybush
even the pignut across the lawn
letting out white wisps
as though the whole world
were a big dryer vent
the vapor going up up
looking for a cloud to join

Back in The Day
to “have the vapors”
meant a spell of mild hysteria
or being about to faint
so if My Guru Emily
is debauchée of dew
then right now I’m Vapor-Stoned
floating in the cosmic H2O
of who we are
probably learned that from Walt
who effuses his flesh in eddies
and drifts it in lacy jags

Now. Sunday. No Harley this time
only an old yellow beat-up Beetle
and after the mist has cleared
my broad-beamed brothers on their Hogs
their chicks like limpets on their leather backs
stream past my Bug down Route 24
down south to see the sea

and sometimes as I spiral down toward sleep
I spiral up Mount Diablo yet again
my Hog begins to overheat and old grease sizzles
but at the summit I’ll let it cool
and let the wisps disperse
above this sunburnt-golden state
whose middle name is Smoke


David Gullette was an early editor of Ploughshares, and is Literary Director of The Poets’ Theatre (Boston). He favors Delicata over Butternut, Honeynut, and Buttercrunch squashes. All his neighbors bring him their leaves to compost.

Chad Parenteau is Associate Editor of Oddball Magazine.