Monday, July 23, 2012

Dali And Me

“Ye parent goods! Who rule the fate of Troy
Still dwells the Dardan spirit in the boy
When minds, like these, in striplings thus ye raise,
Yours in the godlike act, be yours the praise.”
Lord Byron

I was a young
age twenty
clean shaven
sans barbe
when I first met
the eminent
surreal artist
Salvador Dali

At the time
I was working
as a retail
bookstore clerk
(my first paying job
after college graduation)
and my first real exposure
to the mundane
work a day world
of the petit bourgeoisie

I was on fire
with ambition
eager to make my way
as a writer of fiction
in hot pursuit of the
honors and accolades
that were then
being lavishly accorded
to the great literary names
of the time
Saul Bellow
Bernard Malamud
Phillip Roth
Norman Mailer
Mario Puzo
just to name a few

I was convinced
(as all young men are)
that my literary
success was inevitable
and my head was constantly
spinning out characters
and plots
and story lines
for books that I had
yet to write

So preoccupied was I
with my book store chores
that I never heard
him approach
as he literally
snuck up behind me

The first thing that
caught my eye
(as I knelt to replace
books that were missing
on the lowest shelf
of the coffee table book
display rack)
was his gold tipped
walking cane
To the uninformed observer
it may well have
looked as if I might be
kneeling in obeisance
and respect to a member                                                                      
of the royal family or to
some high stationed
member of parliament

Startled out of my reverie
I spun around quickly
to find myself
staring up into the
world’s most famous
and fantastically outsized
and most heavily waxed
handle bar mustache
in the entire galaxy
(A mustache
that just happened to be
the great
unmistakable trademark
of the world’s
most preeminent
surreal artist
non other than
the one and the only
the eternally irreprepressible and
charismatically irresistible
Salvador Dali!)
(Born Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech
May 11, 1904 – January 23, 1989)

Needless to say
I was utterly
flabergasted and amazed
thrilled and discombobulated
all at the same time!
Dali looked down at me
and stared directly
into my saucer sized eyes
He then proceded to ask me a
simple and direct question:
les Colonnes de Troi?
he asked
targeting me with
the twin spikes
of his infamous
waxed mustache

Les Colonnes de quoi?
I stammered
trying to catch my breath
while wrestling with the historic
significance of the moment
utterly astonished to be
having such a conversation at all
let alone with the great
Salvador Dali himself!

The Columns of Troy!
he repeated calmly
quite accustomed to seeing
people become
utterly unglued
in his presence
(the price of celebrity
one must suppose)                                        

Dali was referring to
a coffee table sized book
containing photos of
the legendary columns
that allegedly adorned the
Trojan Temple of Apollo
before the temple’s destruction
during the Trojan War
(as immortalized by
the Greek poet Homer
in his Iliad masterpiece)
(The beautifully
symmetrical columns
were supposed to have been
quarried and polished
without the aid of iron tools
at an unknown date
before 1200 B.C.)

Why Dali made such a request
I had not the foggiest idea
And yet that brief encounter
with such undisputed greatness
has left an
indelible impression on me
one that has endured
all these many years later
and will
no doubt
remain with me
until my dying day
(For time has held me
green and dying
though I sing
in my chains
like the sea-
D. Thomas)

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

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