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Can't find Peter

chronicling my futile attempts to communicate
with a friend in Hong Kong regarding an
administrative opening at the College of Marin

by Duncan Dwelle, January 1993


A word, one lonely word
across the storm tossed ether
writhing in the mists of endless oceanic fog,
confirming or denying what mysterious trail
ensued past the signing of the driver's log.

One word, one's all I crave
though one is insufficient
to convey the complex thoughts and theories
of a consignee so stupendously learned as yourself
merely signaling receipt of C.O.M's inquiries.

Some word - if one's too few,
send me dozens, paragraphs, pages;
fill to flooding and beyond my FAX in-basket,
clarify for me the local Hong Kong reputation
of Airborne or Fed Ex versus 1st class in a casket.

The word: "Unknown", impatient with anxiety,
all excitement now carelessly deflated.
"Received!", bursting with joy and gratitude,
announcing anticipation of new fates awaited.
I've not yet heard - please send word!



Yet in my absence,
pursuing I the crass demands of commerce and employment,
you place a call into my office -
thus depriving me of slight enjoyment

Which, had I been here,
I might have gained in extricating the answer:
Have you yet received my letter (sent last Monday)
or have you died of cancer?

The verdant hills
browned over till recent rains by six long years of drought
have ceased their singing lest during their chorus
your answer be drowned out.

Bridge traffic's stopped,
schools recessed, ferries holding at the dock -
and old folks hard of hearing
have gone severely into hock

To purchase stronger hearing aids,
assuring accurate reception
of the most momentous communiqué
since the immaculate conception.

For all the county's keenly alerted
to the coming of an august dignitary
who'll elevate our Marin college
to higher than a Kentfield cemetery.

Vainly, though, the hushed and humbled masses
wait for Peter's news,
idly sifting through FM, Trib, and CNN
in fruitless quest of clues.

Have you absconded with the provost's concubine,
chase out by raging wife,
harried to the Chinese border,
bleeding from her slashing knife?

Have you lost all feeling
in limbs and fingers,
gone hoarse in croaking frenzy,
(don't you only wish you'd said
"Yes, sir" to McKinsey)?

Is that the only reason why
you spite me with denial?
Must I sue you in Federal court
and seek a speedy trial?

Is there neither law nor courtesy
in Hong Kong or Macau
where each man sniffs amongst the weeds
as would a rooting sow?

(Cable & Wireless, I've read today,
is now defunct; its assets have been sold
to copper salvors and computer nerds
eating stale sandwiches and mold.)

Perhaps in enthusiastically embracing
your mainland neighbors' austere plight
you imagine that another copy
could not be expressed to you overnight.

Or your environmental conscience -
shame of feckless consumption and paper waste -
conflicts with circumstances and external schedules
demanding urgent haste.

No more excuses -
what e'r I dreamed I've used them up
anticipating your rebuttal.
Call me, FAX me, or see me a week from Saturday
at the airport shuttle.



Peter, Peter - are you there?
I've been looking everywhere!
In the closet, on the stair -
Not since seen no hide nor hair.

Peter, Peter - are you lax?
I've tried both Xmas card and fax.
Scanned the sky for ET attacks
But no one's seen poor Peter's tracks.

Peter, Peter - are you lazy??
Maybe senile so memory's hazy -
Spending days just planting daisies.
Or Karen's finally made you crazy.

Peter, Peter - where's your tongue?
So many epics yet unsung,
So many casks not freed of bungs.
Hold your nose and squeeze your lungs!

Peter, Peter - have you died?
When last here, perhaps you lied.
For a Cuban passport you've applied -
Old party urges long denied.

Peter, Peter - have you forgotten?
Friends here miss and see a lot in
You, dim sum eating misbegotten
Giant ghost with heart of cotton.

Peter, Peter - are you there?
Do you know and do you care
We think of you and wonder where...
Peter, Peter - are you there?



Woke up this morning, jumped out of bed.
Ran down to the FAX to see what it said.

FAX basket was empty, paper was plain.
No message from Peter! Won't you explain -

Why my missives unanswered, my poems unseen
should not give the impression that you've never been

Farther East than Milwaukee, farther West than Ohio,
and everything's lies on your fancy bio.

So if you're really out there, at the bottom of Earth,
tell me why I'm writing this madness and mirth

To a creature so silent and invisibly hidden
when all I done did was what you was biddin'.