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June 2009, vol 5 no 2

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Ray Rasmussen

 

Casablanca

"It's ... that mysterious city … where things are new and strange, the place where something interesting can happen to you.... Some part of Casablanca is the lovely dark-haired lady who beckons from the doorway.”
~ Eric Wright

Chris and I are up on a crisp morning to begin a two-week excursion to the canyon country of southern Utah, some 1,400 miles south. In Idaho, high winds have downed power lines that block the highway. The police direct us into the small town of Duncan. Stuck for the night, we walk the main street in search of a pool table. In the first bar, a haze of cigarette smoke floats in the neon light. The patrons lean on their tables, hands cupped to their drinks, looking inert, as if they are part of a dark, still-life tableau. No dark-haired lady here.

smell of stale beer —
the slow turn
of ceiling fans

At the end of the street, we find the Carlisle, a once-elegant four-storey hotel. While shooting pool at a patched table, I recount a trip to Hull, Quebec with a friend who insisted on taking me to a strippers' bar. For a small fee, a young woman just skirting anorexia danced on our table. After an overlong period of watching her lifeless gyrations and feeling increasingly awkward at having her shaved pelvis circling directly over my beer, I told my friend that I was ready to leave.

“Why so early?”

Because Casablanca is about a dark-haired femme fatale, not a skinny adolescent controlled by tattooed pimps in a room filled with depressed men. And like Wright’s character, David, I’ve never wanted a woman that I would have to pay for.

“My Casablancas come as a surprise,” I tell Chris.

I remember guiding a group of hikers in the northern Rocky Mountains. One evening, I caught a glimpse of Jenny leaving the sweat lodge that we had built on the grassy banks of a stream. She had the pearly skin of a redhead and a blush of rust below her belly. The next day, she hiked with me and said: “I dreamed about you last night.”

“Yeah … good dreams?”

“Very good. We were kissing in a meadow.”

owl’s call —
on the southwest horizon
Venus rising

Chris’ voice breaks my reverie: "Quit daydreaming and shoot the bloody ball!"



Eric Wright, The Night the Gods Smiled, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. (March 24, 1983).

From: Ray Rasmussen, On the Road, A series of haibun on visits to the mountains and southwest (several parts of this ms have been published in various haiku genre journals).

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