Monday, June 8, 2020

7 days and counting

Here we stand just a week away from the AiRs for Dry Tortugas National Park being announced.  Shannon and I created the Flying Tortuga Brothers for the application in the hopes that we will be chosen to spend a month off the grid in September making art on Loggerhead Key.  It has been a partnership since before the Tortuga Brothers came into existence.  We applied for the 2019 residency and did not get selected.  Right at that moment we decided to commit ourselves to being the AiRs in 2020.  Even a world wide pandemic won't stop us.  To mark the one week point I am spotlighting in this post my partner in crime and fellow Flying Tortuga Brother, Shannon Torrence.  Here is a current painting and one of his glorious poems.  I am hoping to get to watch him create more of both in September.


The Bait Caster (Detail)
2020 Shannon Torrence


The Dotted Shade of Long Key

He had been friends, when he was younger than I, 
to a gentleman who was mentored by Pearl Zane Grey.

The writer, who was one of the first visitors to Long Key fish camp
in 1908.
They had Barracuda for dinner by lantern light.
Walked the white strip of sand when they were not fishing.
“It wasn’t all so serious what they spoke about, but some of it was.”

Those evenings, the ocean was a flash of tarpon silver, under the full moon.

“Now you have to understand Shannon,” said Don, a man
who would come to give me the best advice of my life.

“Everyone who has come down the peninsula, has done so with a purpose. 
What was to be, the American Riviera, that really hasn’t panned out.”

Flagler Came for his legacy.
Audubon, found it for the birds.
Capone, for bootleg liquor. 
He lifted his sweating glass of vodka, ice, and cranberry 
from the driftwood and bamboo bar.

“Time to exercise the slippery slope”
a clause he had invented for himself, having been a very successful 
civil rights attorney.

He calls to the barmaid, Megan!
 He looks like Hemingway to me, not as he did when representing the Pueblo and Navaho nations.  A string of trout at his side,
clad in a buckskin fringed jacket.

I see him now, smelling like a day fishing the salt flats.
Talking old Florida and philosophy, 
with Jim Harrison and Richard Brautigan.

Swinging in the cool afternoon shade of a Key West porch, 
in the mid 70’s.
Whist all could touch one another.
Whilst all was still possible.
Florida at their feet.
Still then a mystical place.

I never stood a chance being a native.
Balmy summer nights.
Walking through screen doors, into Gilded Age Kitchen.
Blessed by the threadbare hands of fate.
My experiences like the dotted shade of coconut palms 
on Long Key, during the grueling summer days.

For Donald Mason                        SST 2019

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