by Charles S. Kraszewski.
Impelled by God knows what sudden flurry
in their dye-stamped frontal lobes, or basal ganglia,
the clones have decided to spend the day at the beach.
Although they nearly missed the turnoff to El Matador,
soon the parking patch is full of their white hybrids
(it is the safest color, they all agree)
so the rest have to park on the berm of the One.
Their car doors boom like a peal of purple thunder,
and when they dart across the highway
like black-eyed lemmings sleek with Banana Boat,
bewildered Angelenos screech to a halt.
The stench of carbon black hangs in the gold summer air,
and traffic is backed up as far as Yerba Buena.
(A sheriff’s volunteer, along the lee-side,
punching license plates into his laptop
scratches his head at the same name coming up all the time!
before giving up on ticketing the white cars blocking
driveway and mailbox).
The steep path down to the shore thunders in lock-step;
the sun glints off myriad Ray-Bans and Apple watches.
From afar, it looks like a glistening whipsnake
sliding down the quartz and crumbly gravel for a drink;
from closer, an army of Argentine ants slaving beneath
dead protein and tic-tac eggs
from one demolished city to a new crack in the crust.
But it’s just the clones out for a day on the beach.
When they spread wide their dolphin-pattern towels
and swivel their yellow umbrellas into the sand
in ordered rows
with synchronized movements
like locusts trained to ribbon-dance,
this can pose a problem for individuals
returning from a cold dip in the Pacific
or from climbing on the rocks
or wriggling through the sea-caves at low tide.
Where did you say the cooler was?
O pardon me – I thought you were my wife…
Oops, my mistake! I only took one bite…
A toddler who scraped his foot on some debris
(a shopping cart, or old lobster pot
half-buried in wet sand)
wails in despair for a mother
suddenly overwhelmed in the scurry
– and she was RIGHT THERE! –
just like a little seal at Piedras Blancas
when pods upon pods identical have returned to moult.
Then an ice cream truck spills a tinkle down from high above
and the clones jerk up on both elbows:
“I think I’d like to have an ice cream.”
And up go the clones again
past bewildered Latina mamis
and their wide-eyed children
(one of them drops his pail in astonishment
and it clatters down the metal stairs.
It is returned to him by the smiling man who passed him
five minutes ago);
they file past a bearded hipster in a Phoenix Suns wife-beater;
they file past a rapper and his crew filming a video
against the low sun.
The snake stops its undulations
only when its tongue flickers at the open windows
of the cool van and its delighted proprietor.
Near the end of the line, two clones
engage in pleasant, though predictable, banter.
“How am I doing?”
It’s a very long queue.
But suddenly it strikes one of the ones,
Why should I wait here,
since I’m already at the head of the line?
And the vanilla soft-serve
flicked at by the tongue of the snake
travels down its collective gullet
coating the communal belly.
“My, that was good!”
says the one in the blue Izod trunks
to the other one in the blue Izod trunks,
who agrees, “I bet it was!”
They shake hands, and smile,
and go off,
each on each other’s way.