The Ten-Dollar Cab Ride

for Robert Duncan

by Diane Waksoki

Introduction to "The Ten-Dollar Cab Ride"

I heard Robert Duncnan tell a stor about himself many years ago 
when his life seemed more hopeless to him that it does now.
The problems of not having enough money, of feeling that the world inadequately 
appreciated his work, made him think of taking his own life. Like most people who
consider killing themselves, he didn't want to do it right that minute. 
Apparently he had ten dollars in his pocket - all the money he had - and he decided
that he would take a cab ride and when the ten dollars was used up on the meter, get out and
kill himself.

However, he made the mistake of choosing Golden Gate Park - a very beautiful place - for his
cab ride. and when $10 registered on the meter, he felt so good that he had to get out 
and walk home.

In the summer of 1969, when the astronauts were landing on the moon,
I was having some of those same feelings about my own life. And I also felt a strange
kind of dubiousness about their landing on the moon, an image which, as a poet and as a person
names after the moon, I had begun to think of as my own property.

        like the spray from a waterfall,
        I am white,
        like snow blindness,
        like the belly of a shark,
        like sweet white peaches
        or the inside of a Pinot Chardonnay grape,
        bone china,
        zinv-white pigment,
        or the contrast of a mechanic's white back
        with his grease-soaked arms,
        I am
        the moon.
                 My name,
              giving you a glance at a white ankle,
a plae wrist,
shadowed by bracelets.

I am something
no one has ever touched,
a place no one has ever landed,
reputedly covered with powdery volcanic dust
which might explode when exposed to oxygen,
something dreamt of,
a place to put a flag,
something to conquer,
white dust to step carefully, artistically on
where you hope
     no one has ever stepped

you told, Robert,
Robber Baron of moonlit nights,
of your taxy ride
one pale moment
into Golden Gate Park.
                       $10 you had
in your pocket.
                you could have had a pocket
                of wolfbane, of gold codpieces, of a
                pair of peacock-blue stockings worn by H.D.,
                or old lines from the poet Pindar,
                you could have had mesmerized butterflies
                in your pocket, or crystalized bumblebees,
                the fork of an adder's tongue,
                the wishbone of a partridge,
                or a cap that madeyou invisible.

Instead, poet,
you had
and your life was like mine is
right now.
           you had no one to possess you,
           no one who wanted you,
           to give you one of the chambers of his heart
           to sleep in.
No one owns the moon,
                         you know.
And so you decided you would
as far as your $10
would take you.
Then you'd get out of the car and blow out your brains.

I have been riding this particular taxi
for 30 years.
              Old moon,
              Young moon,
              I don't even know what I am
                           any more.
Like you,
I am unprepared to give up,
to step out of the cab and die,
the meter by now
registers up in the millions.
I cannot afford to get out and pay. Must keep riding. Lucky man,
you got out when the clock said
and walked home.
                But I am the moon
Where can I go?

Everyone wants to conquer me,
to use me,
to put a missile base on me,
to extract my ore,
to bounce radio waves off me.

Now there is something faintly humorous
about all this
moon-june campy sentiment.
I wish I were Yeats and could abandon poetry.

Then I'd invoke myself,
                              the moon,
                                        make love to myself,
forget about the sun's rays that light me up every day.
forget about who the moon has been
take heart
          (another poet's word)
that soon
I'll be American territory,
throw away my old face &
        get in a taxi,
        and say to the driver,
        "take me to the moon."
        And laughing
        we would drive away.

The charge, of course,
at the end of the ride
would be $10.

(and I would get a discount for having written this poem, 
taken this trip).