Celeste Hammond

Leaves, Wet Grass and Bird’s Wings
(1962)


Celeste (Streiff) Hammond was born in 1938. Growing up in a household in the 1940s which was frequented by such writers and artists as Bruce Conner, Michael McClure and Dave Haselwood, she naturally acquired an interest in the emerging arts of the time.

In the early ‘60s she was involved herself in the late Beat scene in Wichita and sang folksongs at the Id coffee house. In 1962 she and her husband, Brad Hammond, spent time in the Gough Street apartment in San Francisco with Charlie Plymell and it was there that these works were written. Plymell himself has expressed the wish that he had written the two pieces “Eleven” and “Five and Davy”.

In recent years she has written several screenplays.

Printed by Vortex Press: Lee Streiff, Wichita, 1999


The Lilac Bush

When I turned my face towards the lilac
bush, I didn’t know I was going to cry
It’s fragrance reached out like invisible
hands and pulled my heart down
and when the tears began to flow so soft
and warm, I knew it was because my innocence
was gone and would return no more.

Five and Davy

I got the mirror off of momma’s dresser. I angled it at the rug and then at the crack in the baseboard. I went into that crack and watched the little people there. When I came out of the crack I angled the mirror at the ceiling and watched a fly hang by his toes for awhile, then I got tired of the mirror game, besides it was time for Davy to come home from school. Sitting out on the curb I poked at a stone with a twig. I wished the bell would ring, cause I had to go to the bathroom. When the bell finally did ring I looked up and saw an old man coming down the street. His hair was all mussed and funny and he looked as though he was crying. I thought about being big. Finally Davy came carrying his books. When he saw me he started to run. We smiled at each other and I fell down in front of him on the grass. I put my leg in the air with my toes close to his face. He just smiled down at me. Then I began to spread my toes in his face and he told me to stop it. I knew it got to him. I just giggled and spread my toes again. He said if I didn’t stop it, he wouldn’t play with me. I got up and brushed off my seat put my arm around him and said “Okay, com’on Davy let’s play Barber Okay?” “Okay” he said happily “Okay”

Eleven

The sun was very bright yesterday afternoon. I looked up and could only see the outline of the tree leaves as the sun seemed to blast off and on behind them …. the breeze gently swayed the branches …. It was so bright I had to crinkle one eye to look at it … I sat on a broken brick porch. My hair was oily and my feet were dirty. I stared at my feet and was surprised at how big they were getting. I was eleven and they couldn’t be mine … anyway I was tired of just sitting around, so I began to pick the bag worms off the cedar trees. I hated squooshing them, but if you didn’t, they’d just crawl back up, hook onto the bush and sap the tree dry … and I didn’t want the trees to die. If you held the bag worms tight on one end and pressed your fingers moving up along the bag, a yellow gooey worm would plunge horribly out the other side.
. . . . .After a while I couldn’t squoosh the worms anymore, so I went off and played “horse”.

Leaves, wet grass and bird’s wings

. . . . .I walk the crowded city streets with a strange feeling of aloneness that only comes when one is conscious of self. I feel to be a distant creature of another world or time.
. . . . .It’s somehow almost a shock, to be surrounded by hundreds of people in broad daylight that are rushing to and fro … and to suddenly realize that you are alone within yourself … like you’ve felt in the darkness of a night, strangely alone and quiet.
. . . . .You see these faces and wonder, what’s behind these masked mannequins that flit and trudge by? Usually I decide nothing.
. . . . .Sometimes I even appear to be one of them. I take on their expressions and perform their mannerisms. I smile, frown, wave my hands and talk about meaningless things.
. . . . .Then sometimes when I smell the wet grass or hear the soft flap of a bird’s wings or feel the crunch of dry autumn leaves under my feet, I feel as a child again, and this is best, a child with nature. Leaves wet grass and bird’s wings.
. . . . .I am real in the unreality of a child’s world.

The Scavenger

My love fell down in the ocean asleep
to dream forever of what it thought it was.
I rode down the waves of that sea on a cool silver eel
and sank into the dark depths of it . . … When I got
to the bottom I found only a fragment of what it had been

For in the sweeping fury of life’s undertow
love had been cast away and strewn for the scavenger
who came along and ate it up without really knowing what
he had done to me.
 

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