There’s a mouse hole in your panties. I never see the mouse. But sometimes I hear it rummaging around. These days the sky is closer. I catch myself ducking my head when the evening clouds come in. Around town the names of things appear written on them overnight. The script is quite ornate. But the words are misspelled by someone who’s missing a tongue. Our new bodies are crawling from a pool of rain water that’s collected in the basement of a demolished building. Our old bodies were never notified and now they shatter into tiny mirrors. But that’s what they always were. The banks of the river are swollen and green. It may start flooding. It may not. The mice understand there’s no real difference.
People are leaving work and the clouds behind the black budding trees are on fire with colors we’ve never seen before. Some people pause to look. Some people even stand still. Later they’ll be hunted down. Feral white mice with lethal mouth bacteria. It’s a home study course. It’s the last chapter of the self-help book. It’s an attractive basin into which you can drain a little blood. A beautiful young man on the bus touches my gray hair quickly with his fingers and invites me to drink coffee with him. I tell him about my sons. The glorious architecture that prepared them for this world. The womb with teeth. The one that won’t let me go. Trained by dogs. Trained as dogs. We talk about wrestling. This just gets me in deeper trouble. A piece of the Antarctic ice shelf tore itself free and melted in a matter of months. We’ve been telling each other the same story every three months for the last fifteen years. We’re still waiting for a piece to tear itself off. I’d settle for a little melting. You’re still waiting for a word from the scientific community. Each time we have a little less to reconstitute ourselves with. Stop using clay. That’s what you say. I never have. That’s what I never get to. Investigators are combing the scene. They have instructions to radio the whereabouts of our subtle bodies to the underground cities in the asteroids that our ancestors mistook for heaven. To us they seem more like basement classrooms or waiting rooms at the county jail. Sometimes it happens. Sometimes it doesn’t. Either way we miss it. We pass through apertures. We are apertures. We are sphincters. We render each other down. It’s nothing personal. It’s just what we do. A little more concentrated each time. Just add water. Just add fire. Any minute now the sky’s going to go out. Just be here when it comes back in.
HER GREASY HAND GRENADE
The stuttered meandering. The ever-rusting solipsism. These little fancies cannot save you from the wall of water. The low rotting ceiling. The germ that gets its little hook in. We’re fast approaching the place where everything slows down. Here in the trenches the earth is practicing to swallow us up while we sprinkle our cake crumbs on the stiff body of the crow. If you’re learning to read the lichen you should stop now and put your focus on the clouds. Yes they change a bit more rapidly. But they’re less embarrassed by the sight of your body pinned to the earth. Injunctions against the moon. Or at least speaking of the moon. Or alluding to it. This will keep our streets safe. The people who must walk on them. For them it’s a different story. When I finally make it inside your body I try to keep everything still. But you warned me against this and now the earliest blossoms that come during January’s tropical storm are drifting down upon my head and burning someone’s insignia into the skin under my hair. Time bloated with tiny sonic markers. The green fire that starts in your eyes but eventually catches the pages of the open books. She says how do I know you’re not lying. I say how do you know you’re not lying. Her greasy hand grenade. Her silent partner. Her return to the golden era. I would take the train but someone else took it. And now we’re all walking along the tracks in the rain waiting for the sky to settle its negotiations and return with one or two things you did when my toe was in your mouth.
WOLVES IN FROM THE LANES
The leaning proclivities get snapped off of their stalks. We capitulate for a pair of clean socks and a t-shirt that smells fresh. It’s the first of something. But what it is remains to be seen. Ice is melting that hasn’t even formed yet. The death toll has reached three thousand and they’ve executed the dictator. That was his retirement bonus. Some weeks you hate me. They start to add up. Three doors that were never opened. We disagree about which ones they were. Some of the animals are tearing open new eyes in their hides to see things as they really are. If it can be spoken of it must surely exist. If I could just go a day without thinking about your panties. How they pile up on the floor. Drawing wolves in from the lanes and the alleys. All they want is a little milk to suckle. Places are just delusions people hold in common. We must take a trip. Become engorged with the vistas. This is where we go back to the beginning. Try to tie things together. Sew them up as it were. Rough hewn stitches. They leave a sexy scar. When you call me late at night to yell at me at least I know you’re not out with someone else.
SILVERFISH OR EARWIGS
Her friend’s infant claws at her flat sequestered breasts. The lines are itching. The leering is calling. The thrush has been thrusted back into the bushes where the berries have all grown mouths and content themselves to feast upon the spittle that comes when we discuss reentry and faulty heat shields. The tile that breaks loose was fired in a kiln in Mexico a thousand years ago and that’s why it wants to make love with debris. That’s why nations are bombing themselves into ribbons. Our ancestors are calling. They don’t want us to go forward. They want us to go backwards. So they can step on us like silverfish or earwigs. Who like us are creatures whose name has nothing to do with silver or wigs or fish or ears. But we hold them to it anyway. We hold down the lid when we hear a tapping from the other side. The other side. We’ll get there anyway. When you start receiving postcards it’s time to move. The blood wants to seep back into the mud. The warm places inside her body. This is really mud. A few petals trampled in the mud. This is how we make fossils. This is why we keep digging each other up. That’s what this is about. The one that got away.
THE SOUND THE COIN MAKES SPINNING
Out in space a few things get closer to the earth and then burst into flames. Here we have the opposite problem. The things that move away from the earth have forgotten how to burn and move away directionless into the well-ventilated mausoleum of heaven. We learn how to skip the parts that cause us pain. The parts that move in a circle. The ones that end in redemption. We settle for the oily precursors. The sound the coin makes spinning before it sputters down onto the table. We want a mailbox and a second can for yard waste. The silver child who lives in the light fixtures and moves in and out among the drains. We told him to pack his things and go. He laughed and our lips grew over with grass. Nothing to mark their presence but a swelling of the roots below. The Oscars are over and our taxes will be due soon. I’ve started collecting teeth and red twist ties. I remember a craft project from when I was a child. It had nothing to do with this. But I remember the faces of the children in the pictures. The ones that showed you how to do it. How excited they were by yarn. I found your box of yarn when we were packing. Most of the yarn was gone and the beetles had long since moved elsewhere. That’s when I got the idea for this. Our aborted silver child.
A LITTLE WHISKEY
It’s as if the sky were facing different directions. It’s spring and all the sea birds are dying. Or rather their offspring are dying. Once all of our actions have been decoded then we can begin to formulate a plan. Until then hold your breath. It only takes a planet a million years to develop an atmosphere. It only takes a second to give in and put a little whiskey in your morning coffee. He asks the same questions. It’s just he only gets half way through each one. Which makes the answers that much more simple. Or that much more complex. We all do this one way or the other. If you wind up with a stamp collection or a Civil War era hairstyle that’s all on you.
A BOX WITHOUT AIR OR LIGHT
In the stillness between two and three on a Friday afternoon the rain goes from copper to tin in a matter of minutes. Tell me if this seems odd to you. We sit close enough to strangers in public to smell the food they’re eating without ever exchanging words. This could be a box without air or light. It’s not. But no one can convincingly explain why. Tonight I will fend off sleep for the privilege of sliding my hand along the back of your thigh. Only to have it removed from the roiling heap of crabs with forceps and dropped into a pot of boiling water. The uncertainty of this exchange is the understudy of Hope. She knows she only gets to eat if the star is too ill to perform.
Selective stratospheres. I watch for bees and see two planes leave white lines in different parts of the sky. There are no escalators. Only tiers. The office girls pounce on me. Our models are not external. They’re constructed with the little pieces of what we know and held together with whatever we’re calling anticipation that day. The crows taunt each other from their separate trees. We wait for the bus even though we know it isn’t coming. An orange cone in the creek. The side of her face she likes to hold. We joke about the guy who’s going to kill his wife. To reassess your perceptions in the moment rather than afterward. The grace of a man who leaves a party before it grows dull. Certain combinations of words require excessive explanation. Crawling over the surface of the microwave ants vibrating ever so slightly. What did you get and what did you lose and how did you balance it out? The things that happened today. Pieces from different puzzles. I find myself thinking nice thoughts about you. A sticky wrapper in my pocket. I think he said “Mordantly polite.” I think he said “The old whore’s delight.” I think he said “I’d rather be white.”
SIX TIMES NINE
We are risen. My sons wave from the car as it drives away. A handful of quarters for wine. Easter at dawn. You put on your panties and send me out for cigarettes. We rise in the east. The west is the best. The west is the death. Kissing your ass on the couch I notice a red bead between the cushions. Chewing through the invisible letters. It equals six times nine. She crafts herself according to an inner spin. This is my civilization not yours. Unnoticed between the cracks. “To and from concentrate.” I am the ocean. Everything goes to the ocean. Chronos is the youngest Titan. No one involved was very amused. Tacky to take it. But rude not to.
YOUR OWN ROPE
I’m afraid you’ve bewitched yourself. I’m afraid your driver’s license has been suspended. I’m afraid those pieces of metal will have to stay in your back a little while longer. The split in the ditch filled with seeds and yellow pulp. The goat who chews on her rope and only manages to shorten it. Disorientation is a marketing strategy. There are railroad tracks on the moon no one has ever mentioned. What does it mean when you stop being real but you keep feeling the bits of metal that you have accrued. To walk among the sweaty gambits. Bite off more than you can chew. In other words your own rope. The senseless roaming between bright airless boxes. A trail of words to keep them separate. The world is a message for someone else to read. We think we’re the words but we’re really the grammar. Pieces of the hunter were found near his gun and his spent shells had settled into the pine needles. Soon the motion of the sun ceases to make a sound. Leaving us to count upon the trains that pass through town. Bring me a pair of your wife’s worn panties. It’s a glimmering envelope. In the old days they said sheath. In the old days I climbed inside your body and pulled your skin over me like a sheet. Old days. New days. We know that time is slowing down. That’s why events seem to happen faster and faster. I take a bite from the apple core. It’s been on the porch all day keeping me from stepping into the road. It’s black and covered with zippers. The mirrors in the boxes will teach you to fly. They can’t tell you how to stop though. You need to figure that one out for yourself.
SOME FACTS ABOUT CROWS
A New Caledonian crow fashions a tool from a leaf. Transports it to the feeding site. Uses the tool to agitate a grub. Which bites the tool and is extracted for consumption. The tool is kept and stored for later use. American crows have been observed to hunt by herding sparrows into the sides of buildings to stun them. In settled areas crows drop thick-shelled nuts, clams, and tough-skinned squirrels on roadways. And then let the automobile traffic render their food.
A FEW CARDS FROM A FEW DECKS
I drop the three sticky sticks down the hole. The time dilations are making more and more noise each time. The fence and all its necessities. The fox has dug an invisible hole. It’s still a hole though. You wake up in a shirt I’ve never seen before. The rain ends at dawn. The energy that insanity creates. The inability to match clothes. The false privacy of public space. Saturn comes back around. Talk of the mirror brings distortion. In the space between the seats a few cards from a few decks. The dark tears can be seen by all. Sequestered kumquat. This is about as far as we can go. Places the razors won’t reach. Someone I’ve never met calls me by name. Rain the last day in May. A child drops a ball bearing on an ant over and over. Someone outside is watching. Moth shadows briefly on the wall. The bricks become a surface. Greedy for pushpins. The tiny gasses given off by your gestures freeze slowly over the centuries and present themselves at the extinction as a form of pottery or the sounds that bare feet make on wooden floors. The slacks that say this is what my ass looks like when I’m not wearing any clothes. Deep in your pockets I find the Gulf of Tonkin. The dark eyes of sorrow and cruelty. Too much sleep and not enough lariats. The moon a sliver. The ring around it slightly off center. The firm handshake of the woman introducing herself to me. The dull light of dreams. It wakes you hours before you’re ready.
TWENTY-NINE OR THIRTY DAYS
The ministers have all cast their votes on shards of glass and the steel blue paint that’s peeled from the side of the house. Soon the new highway will be threaded through your head so that the sound beads make will be confused with your memories of peeing yourself because the grass was so warm and the pigeons weren’t coming back. In the not-so-distant future you will be asked to sacrifice a layer of skin. It’s up to you to figure out which one. An elliptic mist removes the moon from our view and the rain that falls in rubbery droplets heats up the evening air. I saw a documentary once about a country where telephones were used as urinals, the police were dressed as harlequins, and only the tigers could take care of the ocean. After that I forgot how to travel. I forgot how to look your belly button up in the phone book. I forgot every alphabet ever burned upon the soles of my feet. The trees don’t want you to breathe. Please don’t take it personally. You don’t want the trees to breathe either. So I’ll spend twenty-nine or thirty days trying to say something about the month of June. Don’t try to save the girl drowning in the river though. She never dies anyway. It’s always the idiot with the dog. It’s always some kind of retriever. Fringe benefits. Occupational hazards. Incidental perks. You say something about June and see if you remain unscathed. I’ve seen your paint peeling. I’ve seen your underground railroad. I’ve seen everything there is. A few of them are missing.
DIFFERENCE TAKES HOLD
The yellow waters fall as rain back up into the sutured sky. The rumors of war turn out to be mosquitoes and approximations. The earth awaits your seed, but it spills from your greedy mouth. Leaves stains on the front of your shirt that won’t wash out. Places where difference takes hold. A small trading town at the mouth of the river that smells of mussel shells rotting in the sun. The avocado rind on your belly. The tear in the screen where the flies crawl through and one now and then gets stuck. Where the sheets are wrinkled we hear the tide coming in.
PACKAGES OF JELLY
The efforts the universe must make to exactly replicate a particular happening are so out of proportion to the necessities of duplication. Any moment now we’ll be out on the blacktop of the playground at the school they closed down. The sweat that runs down the hair on the back of our heads streaming down our arms and flying off our fingertips at each frantic gesture that our hands make to punctuate the barely articulate speech flying from our mouths at great volume. Like sparrows who have hit a piece of glass, and though stunned, still manage to regain the air. There are weeds in the cracks and a few packages of jelly that never made it to the bread I keep stepping on without realizing they’re spraying red and purple gobs onto my calves and thighs that later, in the night, you taste by accident before pulling my swollen cock into your mouth.
The ferry sank soon after leaving the dock. Later a young boy in a boat found some English muffins and a box of matches with just one match left floating on the water. I’ve been waiting for years for that one match to dry so I can set fire to the color blue and change all of your striped shirts into perennial shrubs and losing lottery tickets. I was born with a watch inside my body and a tuft of feathers on my head. You were born with extra toes and a yellow organ that causes me to convulse when I’m aroused. I’m often aroused. And this is just the beginning of my difficulties. I like boyish girls who read girlish books and eat flesh because it’s good for their skin. I like just about anything. But not right now. If you’ve been reading the news you’ll know that lots of things are happening. But none of them have anything to do with you. Yes. I know all about you. That’s why I’ve been playing chess with myself in the rain. To watch the way the water runs off the white queen. My hands on the black queen. I have too many hands. You’re always alluding to that. You’re always alluding period. Don’t eat the English muffins. Keep your hands busy trying to light the napkins. You’ll need to be able to see there on the bottom of the lake. At least for a little while.
THREE BOTTLES OF TEQUILA
The floating out to place. The deserted train station. The false promise of motion. Two small hand prints on the glass. The evening sun gray with pollen. The trickle of water between the lunch carts. A sparrow cleans its wings. The big black plug in the wall. If they would just paint our bodies red it would be okay. The only poison that ever worked. Instead of a bicycle that functions I got three bottles of tequila. They’re empty now. You didn’t get drunk enough to fuck me. And I’m still walking everywhere. This is the piece of blue plastic I was trying to remember. It’s not really blue and it’s not really plastic. But don’t get hung up on the details. Smelling like your shampoo I eat her pussy for an hour while her son’s at the park with a neighbor. It’s been years since someone put their lips on the back of my neck. It’s been years since I was blown into four or five pieces by an improvised explosive device. The mistake in the newspaper, made by a computer, referred to it as an impoverished explosive device. Someone actually put the Strontium Ninety into the milk they gave those kids in Utah. In my mind the milk has a purple tint to it. Your nipple. The one on the right. It gives forth a juice that tastes a little sweet. A little like fruit or honey. I’m starving to death, though. Rhinoceros. Say that really loud and see what happens.
In the closet I smell the little things you wear to the gym. The water’s been turned off. Where there’s a chip in the plate the ants won’t walk over. Your doctor’s on the phone. A hair in the shower I don’t recognize. The light flickers with a moth. She wants to talk about the rhinoceros. Too much pollen in the air. The standoffish gall merchant. The advantage of always remembering faces and never how to get there. In the sudden glare things carved on the table can no longer be read. In your bag. In your purse. In your cavity. Secrets. Leakages. Desires are not desires. They are pictures poorly nailed to impulses. They tend to rip. To drift. The box you could live in. When no one’s around I leap and jerk about until my toes bleed. That’s what I tell you anyway. More like fingers. A mysticism of licking. Are you the referent or the other? The one you’ve heard before. The one you like the first time around. The one you’ll need to survive, but don’t recognize at first. You use the word “glands.” My account’s overdrawn. This has nothing to do with detail or baroque excess. Turn your acts back into desires. Slide the bolt and draw the shades.
YOU LOOK GOOD IN BROWN
Somehow the glare of the late sun on the tin green grasses has left tiny scars on the side of my eye. Black notches you might say. That’s another way to say the vaporless dusk is rustling in an airless jar. The way we think about purity you might say. A steam that’s coming from the seals that make up your thighs. You might say that’s meant every possible way. They told you time was boxes. But its rings. Like the ones on trees. Each moment surrounds the previous one and subsumes it. You look good in brown. A satellite whose job is to talk to other satellites. Not a star. That was your wish really. You look good in the situation. No choice really. We were all on television once and then someone invented you as a pretext. A pretense. Like when people talk about irony for twenty minutes without being able to define it. They’re really interested in the woman breastfeeding by the window. You might say it’s the baby breastfeeding. You can say anything you like. There are no censors. There are no public gatherings after dark. A brief intaglio glow. There’s no such thing as a lost cat. There’s no such thing as touch and go. Bituminous leanings. Maybe find your own hatchery. June secludes herself in a grove of yellow weeds and sends notes to her lover the deregulated military defoliant. You might say she has a persecution complex. You might say there’s nothing complex about it at all. You might say you look good in black.
HOLES THAT PEOPLE WANT TO FILL
The crow that refuses to be buried. The piece of pavement stone loosely set back in place. The opera played through a megaphone and squeezed like a lemon or a tomato. You touch her back when you say hello. The place where the stump briefly remained cluttered with debris. The people whose skin you can see through. Peddlers and Interventionists take the trail up the hill. Dump trucks with red earth and purple rock somersault down. We are making progress. We are making holes that people want to fill. We are making good time but there are some delays right at the end. Peahens are crying at dawn. You’re crying at dawn but it’s only a dream. I mean you that is. It’s a full moon and the last day in June. We walk in circles in the morning rain. We think it makes us clean. We were never clean. I want to be fondled in the back seat of a cab. You want to be fingered in the reference section of the library. Now I walk everywhere and you’ve forgotten how to read. This war is just going to become some other war. All it requires is the shifting of a single consonant and we’ll pour our children into a different garbage disposal. This is what it takes to keep us safe. It’s no good. Soon we’ll be walking to Alaska. Soon the rain will lift. Then we can bury the crow.
THE CITY OF FROGS
Later in the fall when I’m thinking about this strange green summer, wet where it shouldn’t be, prone to lapses in custom, I’ll remember how every day when we awoke, your body, brown in most places, was covered by the sheet, and mine, crisscrossed with deer paths, was covered by the blanket, itchy on my back, but soothing to my feet, which don’t feel as much as they should, traveling as they do a few inches above what we all agree is the ground. We wake when you awake. When I awake I return to sleep. There are no photographs as of yet, but the moon’s been moved to a different part of the sky, rising in the north and then continuing straight up until it finds the narrow tunnel that leads to the City of Frogs. Here the usual public hearings occur and the moon is obliged to stay at the widow’s inn until the necessary papers can be procured. Meanwhile we see the moon in all the usual places, unable to believe our satellite could be any other place than where we believe it to be. A phantom limb of sorts. The seven obligations may be seen as the seven possibilities. It’s all a matter of which bubble you marked and whether you filled it in appropriately or went outside the lines. Later you will have to provide examples of suitable vessels, lest you take the switch across the back in the wet sunlight. The flies are drawn by the blood but stick around for the sweat. That’s what I said in my sleep the other night. You wrote it down on the sheets with the moonlight, which wasn’t, you know, really there.
BUTTER WE COVER THE VIRGINS IN
The every-little-thing syndrome shares many attributes with the three crows approaching from the north in silence. You think that if you find every thread that necessarily earns you a tapestry. We succumb to vision and forget exactly what it was we were trying to see. The heat from the asphalt shoots the dragonflies up into the sky when they try to fly across the highway. Her postcards have either stamps or sentences on them, but never at the same time. A piece of the fuselage turned up in someone’s soft serve. No charges were filed, but the pilot’s union determined that acts of terrorism could not be distilled by creameries or confectioners. Too much heat to sleep. Not enough light to give up on thinking. It takes a war or a holiday to get us speaking again. The wine fills up our shoes and washes all the chickens into the streets where they will be co-opted by the Municipal Transit District when the chariots have amassed on the plain. I was expecting a few more syllables and now I’m at a loss, there being a juncture. A severance in absence of the churned butter we cover the virgins in before we let them shoot us in the head. A premium on allegory at the expense of the color red. It’s not that you’re not there it’s that you left. Crows. They’re so full of nonsense.
THE WARMTH OF THE PYTHON
The thoughts get a little stickier. The moments accelerate then slow down and collide. Something I have asked of you in the past rides back into town with a different hat on. Carpet bombing? The best approach is not to worry about it until it’s over a little pieces of something with your name on it and then what. Can you redeem that for all those moments away from the warmth of the python? As it states in the contract nine becomes ten, but the coins have turned into pencils. Changing the way my body accommodated the wooden bench changed the way I was thinking about the betrayals I seek out in your body. Keep to the ridge lines and avoid the ravines. The tiny creeks have formed a curiosity that becomes a kind of incarceration. We try to think of a new life for ourselves but as soon as the architects and the gardeners have cleared off we find that we are still ourselves and now we have to learn all the daily ministrations over again. I’m in your kitchen naked washing dishes. It’s hot and there’s sweat beading under the hair on my chest. Every now and then a bit of soap foam lands on my stomach. I haven’t seen you in weeks.
A yellow thumbtack in the tar on the telephone pole. The guy who used to work in the circus is looking for a bicycle to refurbish with a can of gold paint. Summer has yet to ripen and already autumn sends a few spices forth to get the lay of the land. She doesn’t want to be happy. She wants to displace her misery onto everyone around her so it doesn’t seem so unfair. Ice on Mars and hell on earth. Having to eat something garnished with sea urchin quills. She asks me to send over one of my clones. Apparently he’ll do the job well enough. A missionary working with the lepers. The things you forget in the nest of spiders. The magnolias stop blooming and now we’ll have to contend with the crickets. The most beautiful girl in the world in the checkout aisle drops her grapes by her ankles. First it’s crow and then it’s craw. Some of the agents are in. Some of the agents are out. We can call this a summer blockbuster. One of us will get there first. One of us will lie about it.
THE NEXT ONE
She was always telling me about the next one. The one who was going to take her dancing. The one who was going to talk to her about celebrity marriages on the Stair Master at the gym. The one who was going to teach our sons to fish. The one who was going to teach our sons to shoot a gun. The one who was going to hit her back when she was screaming and calling him a pussy. The one who was going to make all the money. All the decisions. All the mistakes. The one who was going to take her camping. The one who was going to take her by a leash. The one who was going to take her at face value. The one who was going to marry her in a church. The one who was going to take her in a ditch. The one who was going to clean up his act. The one who was going to ride on the roller coaster without getting sick. The one who was going to ride her for hours without blowing his load. The one who was going to talk to her for hours without blowing his stack. The one who was going to write this poem. The one who was going to write an even better one.
THE DOMINANCE OF THE FRAGMENT
The dominance of the fragment. That which fits approximately nowhere. Atmospheric tendencies cannot be used to justify a topography. Can you make others responsible for the fact that you sought out their qualities? The way that people are to each other in airports. If only we could maintain such civility and stark aggression at all times. You see we are always coming and going. Waving at the pieces of glass we place between ourselves so we can stop talking. At times sleep is the closest thing to jet lag you can get without actually moving. To fly into the mountain or tumble down from it. Where the creek has all but stopped flowing a thick carpet of algae prevents a bottle from filling with silt and sinking. The little girl in the high chair is afraid of me. She can tell by the way I look at her mother’s shoulders I’m up to no good. Suddenly it’s dark again by nine and the bats are growing skinny in the hard purple air that holds down the town. Action at a distance. This could be sexual desire, foreign policy, electric light. I yell your name into the radio after turning it off. The lady who tends the goats in the dark green lee of the forest. I met her once before when I was a little boy. Her goats were the ones who brought me there. Nuzzling my ears while I slept and filling the still air with a fetid grassy haze. Now when I turn off the radio I hear them screaming my name. It’s okay though. We’ll be reaching the mountain soon.
The crow that is losing its feathers versus the crow that is turning red and brown. In the gravel sliding down the hill a few pieces of smooth green glass. The bamboo provides an aggregate of shade. While her dogs watch me I jack off in my landlady’s drawer of soft things. In the heap of pine needles a few blue balls. The people who get Saturday night started at four in the afternoon. The house they’re building is empty and quiet. When she looks over at me her hand goes to her inner thigh. She cleans the white paper cups from her car. Picks a pear from the tree. I definitely see a penis too. A low wide side-to-side.
The words I say that make you trickle. The concatenation of misdeeds becomes a season. Whom you eat your peas with. Soon everyone will hate the war. Soon there’ll be a better war. Soon my new suit of skin will arrive. You do better with the unfamiliar. Night slows down. It either comes too early or ends too soon. All over the living room her pennies. Her crumpled notes. Her panties. They’re left as bait. Traps really. Someplace you wouldn’t mind leaving a bit of your spit. The wagons are creaking in the distance. Soon they’ll come careening down the sides of the canyon dragging their mules behind them. A handful of black feathers and one small green feather. That’s a Persian tale about the crow and the parrot. Ishtar. Swallow my head with your fecund mouth. Teach me to breathe through my eyes. Invent new numbers and send me there without my arms. Soon the doors will open upon new rooms. The people in them may not be so happy to see us. We’ll mind our manners, but don’t get bent out of shape if we empty the candy bowl. Music you hear on airplanes. Airplanes you hear as you’re waking. Waking you hear the neighbors banging their heads against the common wall as they drive their creaking mattress into the floor.
GREATER CAN CONTROL
It’s fall. It’s dark. It’s a train. It’s the story as we last left it. It’s a brand new chapter. It’s nine out of ten at least thirty percent of the time. I come to love your blisters. I come to love your screed. I come to need your sycophantic little finger. So what this calls for is greater can control. Though you really have to look out for build-up on your index finger. It’s a cold sticky Vaseline. It’s a warm little Syndrome. Now you have it. A place to couch all your uncomfortable little terms. Can we just get one pithy line about the birds that return or the scraps of garbage that look beautiful among the wet leaves. It’s fall. It’s dark. It’s a train and you’re never coming home. You folded it up and left it on the side of the road.
Here’s some magic for you. Your pink rosy panties. Their stains faded and grey. In a twist on a green ceramic plate. Beneath them the drawing our sons made a few days before I left his birthday party at the skating rink with you screaming at me about the cake. In the picture we don’t have hands but we’re holding them. Our heads circles with dots for eyes and crooked smiles made of string. I’m the one with glasses and you’re the one with hair. I cover the green plate with dripping wax and drop a candle onto it. I drop a wooden comb onto the smoking cotton and the cigarette butts you left in my toothbrush cup. The smoke blows out into the crisp September night. Half my face orange in the flickering light. The other half reflecting the dark that waits for me inside.
THE HANGERS-ON OF EROS
The little chemical ding-dong. The body that can’t abide the mind. The leaves are starting to fill the gutters. So place your order now. The last few seats inside the thistle have been emptied so you can get on in a quick and efficient manner. There are crickets in the honey and every time you start snoring the ants crawl out of your ear. And so certainty. That’s just a hint of ripe apples on the breeze that suddenly becomes the aroma of the possum swelling in the ditch. The hangers-on of Eros. They lack any distinctive characteristics. But they’re the ones putting the stamp on your card so she’ll tell you about her pussy and he’ll force a penny in your mouth with a firm sweaty thumb. We want names. So later we came blame someone else. Forgetting how good it feels to have unpronounceable names make their way through our mouths. Giving our spit a metallic taste or leaving our teeth vibrating ever so softly. We get close to the exit from the maze and the vibration begins to hurt. I ring you for some pills. You’re inside the oven making phone calls so I get a busy signal. We know what happens anyway. But we’re still willing to wait.
A phone message from the pit. A love-letter from the Andes. The freckles on your thighs through your stockings. In your cubicle. The multiple assessments. The many vectors. I see you in a club backing yourself up into arrangements. You me in a club getting my sea legs on the end of a plank. When do I get to be the Siren? And perhaps I am. I just keep singing the wrong song. I’m always trying to hold the ship together. It has nothing to do with the cargo. There never was any cargo. We confuse weight with matter and ballast with opinion. My android made of possibilities. Your android made of semen and cheap beer. There is no code of ethics. There is no code. Blips. Blips. Sometimes they hurt. Sometimes they don’t.
You meet a man you’ve never met before in front of the Coke machine and the carpet cleaner rental rack at a market in a nearby town. The inside of his red pickup truck smells of mink oil and stale coffee. He’s ten years older than you. He could be twenty. His hands are larger than yours. Have more veins and coarser hair. His fingernails are torn and cloudy. Filled with cataracts. He puts his hand on your thigh and squeezes it a little as he eases out onto the highway. Then he works his way down and starts to rub you through your jeans. Not now, but soon you’ll close your eyes as he slides his swollen cock into your mouth. Forcing your lips open. Just a little at first. As they get used to their new function.
A NEUTRAL SOLUTION
We go for the small omens. The way the crust comes off the bread. The way the frost feels on your bare feet when you bring the trash can in from the street. The wheels on the bicycle catch all the ruts in the road. The words we brushed into the dustbin come crawling around to investigate the one or two understatements on the floor. The large wheels grinding. They’re too far off to see. If you stand just right though you can catch the faint breeze stirred by their motion. Some of the rats have been injected with a neutral solution. You were not so lucky. Your neighbor is beating his son with a belt. Oh. Not right now. But sometimes. Now and then. The few pieces of bottle left imprinted in the dirt by the garbage seem red in the dawn light. There’s a worm or something under one of them. I forget your safe handling instructions. I forget to check the specifications. Berries are an acceptable substitute. Though it is November now, and all the berries are made of glass. A soap bubble rises from the sink. It hovers. That’s you inside. Don’t make any sudden moves.
You may need to go to the store. A friend has stopped by unexpectedly. You lock your son, the four-year-old, in your trailer and come back the next day with apples. You listen with your other mouth. Before the shattering there’s the falling. Which can feel quite liberating, more or less depending on the circumstances. When the snow melts it makes a slight bit of noise as it falls on the tin roof. Like the footprints of mice or beetles when they’re dragging something. The state says it’s okay to eat apples. The state says tin protects people from weather and other acts of God. My hands get me in trouble. They tell me rubber, pin, thermostat. When I chew on my fingers I bite down so hard I can see what my teeth look like. Many people here today will understand your mercy. Many people here today are wearing a pair of red underwear. You stand outside the door. I stand inside the door. What we get used to becomes what we can’t see. What we can’t see needs to be removed in the next forty-eight hours for any sort of defensible prognosis to be concocted. The snow that evaporates in the air is even louder.
THE RED POEM
A blue light flickering in the mist. A shoelace and some spatters of blood on the pavement. Bottles of pills. Their labels torn off here and there. Three black dogs, the result of an explosion, fighting over a cantaloupe. The sky lowers a million tiny hooks. The taut pink skin of the Etruscan style. The steam from unseen engines condenses on the windows and in the streets. Children made of newsprint are taping themselves to the mirrors. The raccoon, who is standing in for the fox, sticks his tail in the trap instead. A painting refuses to dry. Wet seeds slap against it and fall to the floor. A rusted ax blade leaning against a school of dirty fish. I left my body to bring these back to you.
MATTERS OF STATE
This new caterwauling. This uncomfortable enticement. This lurid catalog. Too much of this. What to do. Or rather, at this point, what not to do. Dead leaves that take a season or two to reach the ground. What I saw from my window for days. The skull of some good sized carnivore snagged way up in the bushes. We shop together with our kids. You slip some panties in with the toys. We’re almost out of wine. The darkness is growing soft. I’m growing quills. Soon we will roll around together and see what sticks. The pines on the crest of the hill comb the tangled hair of the sky as she turns over in her sleep. The lenses need a dusting. Let the instruments drown out the voices. It feels safer near the glass. As opposed to the aisle. Your sister arrives unannounced. Her hair smells of dogs and the rutting of deer. Who do you take to the meadow and who do you take to the store? The back of her neck on the bus. The shaved nape. How it asks you to lick it. You put on your red pants to discuss our friendship. I put on my black socks to silence your lips and open your mouth. Get involved in large funerals. Matters of state that no one can control. He smokes a different cigarette and notices the odd ones in the ashtray.
One of the cards comes loose from the shuffle and lands face down at your feet. Places on your body that remind you of the night before. A number of arrests at the enclave of the religious separatists. They call it a compound. They call it a divine marriage. Without the subterfuge or the pleasure. She touches the grit on my face. It falls in my lap. Here and there the women have blue skin. On the bus the people with small heads. We’ve just met. The dog rubs between us. The darker places under your skin. Veins on your milk-engorged breasts. Phone calls from movie stars. Phone calls from dead people. One’s you’ve never met. They whisper garbled things. They’re meant to comfort you, but of course they don’t. Days of guile and diplomacy. The back of her thighs grow moist with sweat. We discuss each one before he agrees to buy them. What we really smell like. No one knows. It’s one of those conundrums of subjectivity. Her gifts consist of clothes and vitamins. Yours of bottles and strips of tin foil. A vague resolution to live without desire. In the closet of the Thief you will find a drawer with the remnants of his ill-gotten goods. In another a pile of cards from his sister he stopped answering years ago. In some light I look blotchy. In some light pure like wax. But wax is really only pure after it burns. And it leaves a lot of soot. You can make a world out of soot. But only after you’ve left it behind.
THE SASHES ON OUR ROBES
Relying on gravity to take care of the little things. I’ve been looking into the possibility of that recently. His brother once ate a spider. The embarrassing things she says to her daughter about her body. In front of the inebriated transients. The field swollen with rain. It dislodges bottle caps and hair clips. A bit colder in the neighboring town. We drink tea at dawn. One window ajar. A little rain drifts in. Steam rises from the cups. The sashes on our robes knotted. This is how we get ready for other towns. Sheets of paper that issue commands. Strangers who tell us secrets we’d rather not know. The naughty things they did when no one else was around. The sap of the yew tree yields a haze under its branches in high summer that brings visions to those that lie beneath it. On the edge of the prairie that stretches west a single light on in an empty parking lot. Things pass through you in the dark that can’t do so during the day. The rugs on the patio still need to be swept and trimmed in places. It’s been a while, but we’re talking about preemptive strikes again. Hollows on your body you can accommodate things as large as your hand. The ancient woman curled in her nest. Her flesh weathered and wrinkled. But graceful and elegant as wood. There are large feathers. An assortment of brambles. Her face is tired. But not sorrowful. She is merely resting for a moment.
The way to the fjord. An 11-year-old girl drove up the logging road and swerved off the edge. High on something. Low on something else. They leave flowers and candles there. The sun’s out for the first time in days. It’s bright. 12,000 steps go 2,500 feet up the mountain behind town. On the viewing platform the tiny islands stretching out into the Pacific. The trees upon them like hairs on a mole. On the viewing platform we meet a man from Raleigh whose son designs amphibious vehicles for the military. A market that doesn’t sell wine and the small bag of tortilla chips is 6 dollars. The tourists back on their ships. Their ships no longer in view. The locals walking their dogs. Riding their bikes with a beer or two in their hands. We go to the top of the hill where the Russian castle once stood and finally see the volcano. Its caldera capped with a frosting of ice. On TV the male gymnasts at the Beijing Olympics hold their bodies upside down. Lose a few points on the dismount. Something to do with their feet. On TV the Russian invasion of Georgia. Its future repercussions. The refugees, young women with bare midriffs and stylish jeans, seen pouting among the rubble like models on a difficult shoot. On the streets the Russian tourists, they’re staying in town, surrounded in their black furs, their faces chiseled and waxy like film stars from the 60’s. She falls asleep and I go down to the street to smoke. A local kid who thinks this is a city gives me the finger and calls me an asshole, tells me and the other guy smoking that this is his street, invites us to step into the alley to smoke some weed, calls us pussies when we decline. In the middle of the night I hear him and his friends up on the ruins of the castle, drinking and howling, drawing knives while their girlfriends scream and plead, dispersing at dawn when the guys in the next room bang around preparing for their fishing trip. Oiled boots clunking on the floor. The Weather Channel turned up a little too loud.
The former Nun tells me I thought, what the hell, I’ll jump on a bus and go to the next town. See if I can cause some trouble. She carries a milk jug filled with water to pour on the saplings on the side of the road. She visits the shaver-service, the shoe-repair place, and the police-kiosk in the same order every day. I cross from the bus station over to the taco stand where the lady in the cast starts talking about her injury in Spanish. I used to know Spanish. Except when she talks about her knee. Then she just says knee. Which is funny, because one of the few words I remember is rodilla, which means knee. I miss a few of the onions in my taco. They distract me from the review I’m reading of a film I’ll never see. Its lush fleshed-out scenes and cardboard characters. I head down the street to the coffee shop. Hoping to flush the cebolla out of my stomach. I notice a girl who used to flirt with me on the 36 before I moved from the foothills to the flatlands by the river. I readjust my coat to show off my ass and a bit of my taut lower back. I open the door in that way that makes your body face the direction you’re walking from and catch her eyes before she has anything else to do with them. Her down turned smile. Her lips like velvet. She could be a model or an actress. She hangs around the bus station scrounging for cigarettes and boys. She’s gotten both and sits at the table next to me. The manager steps out, and instead of asking her and her friend to purchase an item or leave, he asks if she still wants him to consider her application. Her name is Lauren or Laurel or one of those. Her friend has to cut off his conversation about the 13 year old he deflowered for her birthday. Because she asked him. Only he doesn’t use such an old-fashioned term. Or maybe he does. His cigarette’s out and he’s antsy. “Do you always have boys on your mind? Boys and girls?” “Boys and girls” she replies.
A BRIEF EROTIC INTERLUDE
He calls it the “Spinny-Spin.” I’m not sure how to spell that, but I think this will do. Spring brings its burnt edges and a red tulip that’s opening in the lee of the oak. When I smell you I’m not sure if it’s just me that I’m smelling. I think too much when we’re fucking. There’s some gas left in the lawn mower and a flitting about of the finches in the bushes. It’s dawn when I see your leopard-skin panties for the first time. They’re still tangled around one ankle. Wet your whistle. Once or twice. The sun tells us to take off our clothes. We await the fringe benefits. Chapter Two begins with a brief erotic interlude. Your young lover takes your cock in her mouth and treats you to the many things her tongue is capable of saying. While she does her talking you think about your ex-wife getting it from three men in a truck stop restroom. Particular expressions that play across her face during the whole ordeal. These are the sort of things that started happening after your TV stopped working. To abdicate is to remove something from the realm of your speech. On the expressway men are coming home in the morning. Bleary eyed. A beer before breakfast. It’s dinner really. A guy with a drum. A guy who doesn’t smile. Even at the baby. A guy who may actually be a girl. It was something we entrusted to the birds and now we’ve forgotten how to talk to them. The winter beds are asking to be turned. The way you smell from my touch. A few moments of grace here and there. That’s all we ask for before we shut our eyes. The lines are down. There’s a hammer in the distance. It sounds more like a drum. The spiders are here for the moths. The moths are here for the spiders. They made a robot. He’s going to Mars.
THINGS THAT MAKE ME LOSE MY ERECTION
When the dogs are whimpering outside the door and pause occasionally to lick each other and yap at the jays outside. When your Ex shows up 30 minutes early with your kid and my pants are in another part of the house on the floor with their pockets inside out. When you tell me you’re a naughty girl after I’ve peeled off your panties and start calling me daddy. Your daddy was sleeping with his brother’s wife and later did boys in the Navy. When the Death’s Head moth enters the beehive it is stung repeatedly, but its thick skin and resistance to bee venom gains its entrance. Once inside it can produce an odor that mimics that produced by bees, allowing it to gorge itself on honey and then hastily exit. This species of moth is also able to produce a high-pitched screech by emitting a burst of air through its pharynx. When you ask me if I took a pill. When I imagine you’re a man. When I imagine you’re a woman. When you decide it’s time for a glass of water. When you decide it’s time for a costume. When you decide it’s time to take pictures. When the patrol car pulls into the parking lot and your hand goes back to the keys in the ignition. When I never had one in the first place. When the moon takes your breath away and a ripple of goose flesh passes over your butt and thighs. When the movie’s about zombies instead of vampires or serial killers. When the album’s come to an end and you realize there’s an ambulance and a fire truck at your neighbor’s house because he set his bed on fire and blocked his door with bicycles and hockey equipment. When you use that tone of voice. When you don’t use that tone of voice. When you want to talk about her. When you don’t want to talk about him. When the neighbor starts mowing his lawn and spends 20 minutes figuring out the ideal oil to gas ratio with many aborted attempts to start the machine. When his daughter forgets to walk their dog in her tank-top and satin shorts. When you ask about what I just said.
THE RADAR GUN
Loose with the details. Strict with the facts. The poor smart kid. The suppliant without robes. The ogre chained underground. The tiny spiders born this evening land on the page. I drop your name and pick it up again. His nails are long and his hands grow sweaty quickly. It’s almost June and people still feel the need to light fires in the evening. In order for the bus to make a proper left turn the two cops on motorcycles have to scoot their bikes back. One of them tucks the radar gun between his legs. The finches seem aggravated by the pollen. The Press Secretary tells some of the President’s secrets. The still bodies of the crane flies spread about the bathroom floor. While your swing creaks we discuss the implicit morality of the medical paradigm. We watch the brutal pioneers invested with eloquent wit in our underwear. I start to feel the hair that grows around my lips. Some celebrities are getting divorced. Some celebrities are going into rehab. Some celebrities are purchasing islands. You’ll never go there. You’ll never go anywhere. That way fewer things happen. So you can get a handle on them. The bees are bumping into the clover. The bees have forgotten where they live. On the street he screams at the sky and waits now and then for an answer. On the bus he talks to librarians about his job. It’s demolition. Taking down houses. That’s what he knows how to do. Other people know how to build them. I know how to take them apart.
Tufts of cottonwood seed drift above the river for days before finally settling in the cobwebs that fill the corners on her wooden patio chairs. The tree allergies came later this year. That’s what people are saying. Almost as if they were disappointed. Or maybe they thought they’d finally been cured. That something had actually gone well for a change. Their Physician was not the fortune teller he claimed to be. Those certificates merely part of the charade. The sidewalks begin to erode and blow away like sand. It happens slowly so most of us miss it. Soon faces will appear. Messages from those who were murdered. The diseases of livestock kept in assorted vessels in the body. She only has the one sock but I ask her to put it on anyway. That way we can focus on certain details without detracting from the mission. Sometimes the things we say that make the least sense have the greatest meaning. We lack the alchemy to bridge the gap. We leap without thinking about falling. A jar of water that has sat there for days. A moth on the surface and your silver chain glittering on the bottom. I walk away knowing I’ll come upon it again in a few days. My travels leading me in circles. Certain landmarks returning at odd intervals. Wearing different masks but speaking in old familiar voices. And then the shoes and the propensity to wave your hands about your body like startled birds. The light is changing. It’s swollen and it glows. It’s trying to tell you something buy your ears are underground in the black water. Most newborns receive antigens in their mother’s breast milk that provide them a resilience towards seeds and mold. A while back I read a classified ad seeking lactating women to provide milk to make cheese. No shit. They wanted the cheese to be organic so they wanted women with a strict organic diet. I’m not sure whether they had to be Vegan as well, which would be pretty ironic. The cheese would be sold in local grocery stores. The ad didn’t specify what sort of cheese they had in mind. Something hard and pungent. Something tart, sweet, and creamy. Or something mottled and musty you spread on crackers. I keep my eyes on the dairy case. It just hasn’t quite caught on yet.
A CEILING IN A PHONE BOOTH
The poisonous shade under the freeway overpass. A few holes in the cages that keep the pigeons from inhabiting the crevices. That’s where the pigeons got in and made the cages their nests. Now they’re plastered over with white shit and feathers. The limbs of half-made effigies. A body inside you grows smaller and falls out of you to land on the pavement unnoticed. Over the years it continues to send you letters. A first they’re very cordial and center on the details of an unnamed commercial enterprise. Then the accusations about your poor organ tending skills. Maybe something you forgot to put in the pudding. Finally the details. A stain in the wrong place. A key you swear you’ve never seen before. The numbers 087693 on it. Maybe a telephone number in Buenos Aires in 1962. Maybe an entry on a ledger you’re never allowed to read. The car crosses the intersection at an angle. This is not the place for angles. It’s progress finally impeded by a phone booth. I made a call from it yesterday. I was trying to figure out where I was. A man who likes to give head wrote his number with a pencil on the ceiling. Can you call it a ceiling in a phone booth? Summer is turning and soon the fires will come. A certain color in the sky that returns each year. If you could say blue was orange that’s what you would have to say. The dead must give us permission to stand on their shoulders. Once we’re there we find there is not place left to go but up and we must wait for someone else to take the next step. The hose that snakes through the yard was left at a trickle all night and now the grass fumes into the dawn heat. Today we will make different decisions. They will net us the same results and we will have to argue that God is a puppeteer. Even though we know he doesn’t have any fingers. Someone once suggested that semen originated in the eyes. There was not elaboration on the contents of the eyes of women. You can see it in the way the light brings the objects into focus on the concrete. It confuses the ants.
NOISES THAT FOXES MAKE
A fear of telling stories. Of the things they ultimately create. New people who step into worlds we can barely see. I gave up writing for jacking off. I gave up jacking off for smoking cigarettes. The cigarettes seem very determined to stay. In the shadow of the conifers little white flowers grow. In various parts of town there are sirens. While waiting to cash my paycheck in the lobby, to keep my mind off the pain in my molar, I watch a news story about my kids’ school. Over the weekend someone sprayed graffiti on the brick wall of the gymnasium. Various slang terms for genitalia. Several disparaging comments about certain segments of our society. Call the number on your screen to report any suspicious activities. There’s a creek near their school. A couple of bridges. Underneath them people paint beautiful words and images with their spray cans. There’s a large storm drain. Crumbling at the lip where it drips. Sometimes things go in and don’t come out. I gave up one woman for another but I’m still confused. Put on the same tired costumes. Find the lines come out of my mouth without any advance notice. Wait for the glass knives near dawn when my chest is slick with sweat. The pillow flat and stale. You won’t kiss me when we first awaken. Sometimes I wait until you’re asleep to come to bed. I take all the spiders outside before using your shower. Your hands linger on my nipples. The election was inconclusive. The procedure will have to be done again under better circumstances. The Olympic trials are coming this summer and the mayor has asked the anarchists to play nice. The soldiers deploy decoy pieces of technology and phony medical supplies so the snipers can pick off the curious person who decides to take a closer look. The cashier at the market says they haven’t had fresh spinach for 9 months. He seems to think it has something to do with distribution. You’re always trying to infiltrate our meals with vegetables. I have the same problem with meat. When I wake in the morning and see that back of your neck I want to cry.
Sometimes water makes me sick. Sometimes I wake up in the dark and say your name in the wrong language. Sometimes I cut my fingernails so short that they bleed so I’ll have something of today to remember tomorrow. Sometimes I’m afraid of birds, at least the ones who fly. Sometimes I lick the mirror when the light’s turned off. Sometimes I call you in the wrong state. Sometimes “yes” means “no” and “Wednesday” means I sleep alone. Sometimes I can’t turn the radio off because I don’t want to hear about the gun downstairs. Sometimes the girl is really a boy and the fruit in the bowl is better left on the other shore. Sometimes I think I’ve said something out loud that I saw on TV last night. Sometimes the car isn’t where I left it. Sometimes the lesson is more painful that the road that gets you there. Sometimes I wear red but think better of it. Sometimes she smiles and sometimes she doesn’t. Sometimes they tell the truth just to keep me disoriented. Sometimes it hurts so much I can’t move.. Sometimes the stamp is a piece of art. Sometimes it’s a politician. Sometimes I think that was an apology. Sometimes I think there’s enough rice in the pan to make it to tomorrow. Sometimes I write it off. Sometimes I ride it off. Sometimes I hate you so much that I sweat. Sometimes the mold can’t be cleaned from the grout. Sometimes your pants smell like grass. Sometimes the bottle on the highest shelf just gets pushed further out of reach. Sometimes she can’t help it. Sometimes I can. Sometimes third gear doesn’t come after second. Sometimes going on means going back. Sometimes seagulls inhabit a river miles from the sea. Sometimes I get mail for the guy on parole. Sometimes the last chapter’s been torn from the library book. Sometimes I can’t stand sunlight. Sometimes I can’t stand up for more than half an hour. Sometimes it’s heads. Sometimes it’s tails. Sometimes I hang up on myself. Sometimes I buy high and sell low. Sometimes I see your nipples through your sweater. Sometimes I see insects that are yet to be invented. Sometimes it just means you have to ride the bus.
THEN THE WINE YOU SERVE THE GUEST
At the ready a device for decoding, but then we assume the message is meant for us, not a scrambled tapestry tuned to an eye not of our own making. We give voices to leaves who would their thoughts contain who talk underground and care not for our approval naturally a window a tree shadows aslant the corners and vessels perhaps vesicles come from afar when you heard your name called it was a mistake a mispronunciation and now you must go back or continue on but your pass will be revoked and if they catch you on the street after dark insert object into body cavity a talisman what would this be an item such as a black ceramic wing torn from the silver insect tarnished from oils deposited in your hair over time it accumulates we mix it with the mash of blackberry seeds and sell it to a charlatan mystic from one of the countries you never think of as being colonized by Islam but there it is on television and your degenerate art they seized it at the airport the officials they’ve been blinded in one eye so that amazing technique of perspective you achieve with the flattened tip of your brush has no potency and then then it’s just a cut up of buttock and their god who can’t be named has more than enough provisions for that one side of the path lit with a sputtering petrochemical extravaganza the other side covered with the damp seepage from the friction of a river at night you will be expected to explain where the bending occurs and if the stress produces a white spidering or a grey inertia we have run out of categories and must resort to foods banned at the harvest festival we learn moon as siphon and speak only when the seekers lose their way written as it is into their character written in the margins with a different color ink though some would say improperly a different color brush which may or may not be true an ode a sonnet you say such things are impossible these days as they imply not only an idea but as well an effect and in the manual it is written that an idea is merely the singular reflection of every other idea and an effect is just the cause of a different situation so here you bastard here’s your goddamn sonnet.
Marginalia, footnotes, glosses, emendations, elaborations. and of course these are from the right hand version of the book, and as you can see from the text interspersed on the previous page, these words, phrases, fragments, sentences, or paragraphs are now upside down, and so constitute a sort of alien text that interrupts the newer narrative, and so constitutes a sampled anti-language, maybe a tonal sound collage that compliments, or even better, constitutes a white noise background out of which the current text emerges. What makes this whole situation even more compelling is that returning from the left hand back to the foundation text the aforementioned clarifications, addenda, postscripts, expansions, or second thoughts now find themselves embedded in an even larger field of xenographic static which has accrued at a further point in time without any reference to content or context. Where initially there was just the white field as background, or perhaps the white sky with blue wires strung across it, waiting for a few blackbirds to land and provide the first incipient notes of a song, a song about a day, maybe even an hour, a conversation, a few things said, or even fewer things unsaid, when was that, five years ago maybe, you extended something, your hand, that’s too literal, it was a glance you gave me, it came as your head tilted downward, turned slightly away, your eyes behind your hair that green they were only when you were distraught. It was the last few inches of rope, and I thought sisal, hemp, cotton, twine, or jute, and then there was just a falling. Even this has its own sound, makes a strange compelling music over time.
THIS IS CALLED
This is called the retreat under the light of the new moon. This is called desalination in the name of ostentatious lo-fi agriculture. This is called embossing instructions to future life forms in the dead language of this very tongue. This is called a structure of repetition with a frayed and hesitant entelechy. This is called throw your token out the window because the game is over, and no it wasn’t you who won. Take some small comfort in the fact that someone else will find the pewter owl plundered from Inuit cosmology not on the sidewalk but in the rut between the pavement and the freshly edged lawn and feel like it was the turning point in the dreary sequence of mandated situations under which we tack a card on which the words “A Day” appear. They’ll rub their thumb on the smooth back feathers, or perhaps nick their fingernail over and over on the beak when she won’t take the conversation past simple one word answers to your questions about the weather tomorrow and the murders yesterday. At the end of the day it’ll wind up on the only clear spot on the cluttered wooden dresser with all the coins that aren’t the quarters some crumpled receipts a button from someone else’s shirt it’s on its side. You stand it up before turning off the light. You think of Athena, about how someone’s head had to split open for her to be born. Wisdom, there is no wisdom without rending, without inappropriate methods of gestation. This isn’t a metaphor. This is our life, the life that waits for you tomorrow. Sleep, sleep now with the green light of the clock flickering on your eyelids once a minute, not really a flicker you say, but one episode every minute over seven hours with enough distance or a compression of time, this is called a flicker. Indeed this is called an experiment in volition with unwilling participants. This is called a dismantling of the willow apparatus prior to evolution. This is called tie me up and leave the room. I’ll take care of the rest. This is called I introduced myself hours before we met.
Sunday is a hot August night. My hands wish to stay folded around each other and do little else. Even in the still air the candle flickers, putting forth its own tiny airs that it must in turn respond to. The crickets have become insistent in a way they couldn’t in June. I keep waiting for you to take up the priorities of insects, but all I get is the opportunity to remove your panties from the dryer. I got a phone call from a day very similar to today ten years in the future telling me where the land mines on the gravel path by the river were. I said “thank you,” but still felt it was necessary to apologize for the banality of my daily routine. Ornette Coleman can play the violin like a reed instrument, but when I pick up a crayon I think about melting it and dripping it on an ice cube. I want to feel the hair on the small of your back against my lips, but the way I tie my shoes gives you seizures, so I’m going to blow out the candle and wait for the mosquitoes.
NOTHING TO DO WITH HUNGARY
We seal ourselves inside the shape of what we thought our lives could be, knowing full well the plans as conceived go way over budget, are based on certain Hungarian design principles long proven untenable, when finally built dissolve in the rain and there sure as hell is a lot of rain. We take an extra breath and hope we’re going to emerge with wings or jeweled skin, rather than a new kind of feeding tube. We know that time away from the percussive flicker of human voices is the only tablet upon which silence is able to leave markings, but what silence has to say to us, this is the provenance of many a debate. Some believe there is a wisdom to the sounds the neurons make when firing that approximates the echoes of stars crushing each other. Me, I press my hands into my face, or rather my face into my hands, until the struggle of birth feels like a plausible comedy. Me, I know that time robs all certainties of their shapes, erodes the edges so we can grow comfortable with the sudden collapse of the planks shoring up the embankment. Years from now a girl from Hungary will come looking for me, not because I’ll be able to fly her to another land, but her rotting hand, she’s tired of dragging it around, and me, cut fresh from the chrysalis, I’ll be hungry.
I’LL BE AT THE SUPERMARKET
The moon has staples in it, but as of yet no swelling has occurred and maybe this is just to insure the sky will move with it rather than sliding freely across the heavens and confusing the issue of night and day. The accrual of interest and whether the alkali content indicates whether you’re fertile or not. Out there in the desert, where you’re at, the moon has a greater significance, being as it is a source of light and misguided reverence. Nevertheless here I think about the times when I was a child when I pressed the bite of the staple against the red swell of my palm and pushed just barely and how smoothly the staple eased into my skin with almost a lack of sensation, almost an appropriateness of insertion followed by a dull incredulity. This was much the kind of reformation that occurred in the red airless light when you stapled the meat specials onto my chest and using something other then clemency activated a kind of homing device in useless appendages and vestigial organs. I hid under the floorboards in places I never lived, but nonetheless felt at home. Often we would join together things that would be insulted without each other’s company, but sometimes it’s really artificial, isn’t it, we talk about the planets like friends we went to kindergarten with but never bother keeping up with, even though we lived in the same town. We talk about each other as if we were strangers who had less to think about and more to do, and if I serve the moon in the sense of offering sustenance to my guests, then you serve the moon in the sense of navigating tranquility, which if not embarked upon with the proper craft results in a drowning at times and an embossing with foam and brine at others. When you take the staple out I suggest pliers over tweezers, which need a certain tugging and wiggling that turns the white moon of summer into the yellow moon of autumn. Think of me out in the desert while you’re licking salt from that shallow spot above your lips. I’ll be at the supermarket stealing scraps from the forgotten name of the dawn. The holes are starting to ooze, but I’m content in the knowledge that the sky will soon be sliding free and I’ll finally get to see what you wear in the dark.
I come to your skin, knowing that here and there the leaves cover not the ground but a thin layer of twigs spread over a hole. There are stories we tell at night that bring us a comfort greater than sleep only to find the strand of golden hair rusts in the daylight. Our hands have heard nothing about the intrigues up at the palace. The murdered messenger. The chalice inexplicably cracked. No, they roll around in the mud together. Tussling and grasping. Hoping something else will open this time. We are always running away from some horrible beauty, drawn as we are to the honey of mundane terrors. Mouths that have teeth but no tongue. There’s a place on every tree where the first leaf turns. We’d like to think this is the weakest leaf. The one most recent to grow. Where in the summer the caterpillar chose to lay her eggs. But it’s nothing like this. That leaf. That leaf is you. You trade your place on the tree for a glimpse of the world to come. For the honor of turning, of bending in the wind until it hurts so much you let go and then, then I wake up at the bottom of the hole, one of my legs bent oddly to the left. A muddy pool sucking me into the warmth of roots and worms. The days seem to be taking longer and longer. When it gets light again I’m going to pull the golden hair off of one finger and tie it onto the next. Then I’ll settle down to the business of letting the rain fall into my eyes.
THE DAY OF CRUMBS
The ammonia colored dark presses in at the windows. What used to be a moth has grown a harmonium and walks up and down the hall. We have enough crumbs to make it to Tuesday. Known in the old calendar as the Day of Crumbs. In various departments of our vast experiment people cover their bodies with explosives and blow up children. A little obvious in its dolorous proclivities. It makes up for it with a visceral sensuality only available up close and personal. There’s some argument as to whether the last day of summer and the first day of autumn are in fact the same day. When the boats departed the crickets were given specific instructions. They repeat them every night until the cold harvest air snuffs them out. The little bit of love left between us can be found in a sock in the corner of my closet that I refuse to wash. Planes that fly overhead at night aren’t noisier. They just seem that way. You can’t see the trails they leave in the sky though. That’s the real part. Have you noticed how each day gets smaller and smaller? Go ahead. Count the acorns. They’ve got less room around them. It seems like there’s more of them on the ground. The caustic soap I spill on my hands in the laundry room. I wipe it off on a pair of panties in the garbage. Getting old is a confusing business. I keep hoping to embrace a subtle loveliness in the arrangement of things as they are. Instead I just miss the people I’ve never met more and more.
A DRAUGHT OF POMEGRANATE
The left foot comes down upon the underbrush. Devises a clearing made of tiny stones. The right foot lifts from the wooden plank of the bridge over the gorge. Leaves an imprint of quiet blue flame. A map is not a tool. It is a portent of disorientation. This performed in crucibles. This performed in foreign lands. Where the gestures are recognized, but the words entail a music of gibberish. She of the Countless Breasts tears your skin from your body and feeds it to one of her mouths. Heart still beating. It yields a draught of pomegranate. She of the Furrow drinks it like wine. Behind certain veils. What is a man but a thing of lead? Later, when everyone is asleep, he takes the branch from the cabinet, the one crowned with skulls and long strands of hair bound in wax, and walks down to the lake to wash the face off his head. Here he meets the Bee Girl. Her ass burning in the moonlight. The horns. Before they sprout they tear their way through the skin. It doesn’t happen overnight. The season is a rending urgency. The pea under the seven mattresses. As mentioned in the contract you will seed the eye of the king and there will grow a daughter. Love is the opposite of memory. It comes in the shape of a knife. Inscribe a few symbols. They mean nothing in every tongue.
Other people’s festivals. They’re like watching TV in your living room. Only with better food and fewer commercials. Today is Lughnasa. The first day of autumn according to the ancient Celts. Maybe you saw that movie. There’s a full moon and almost a quarter tank of gas in my car. I left work and sat in an air-conditioned restaurant watching other cars drive onto the freeway. Some sorrow or resignation to the even spacing between them. Around here the first day of autumn is celebrated with heat and the haze of industrial agriculture. I think in Gaul two thousand years ago there were similar preoccupations. On this day too sexual unions were brought to an end if either party desired. I have trouble thinking of myself as a party. She didn’t like me touching her body anyway. It was really about the way I stacked the dishes in the drainer. Five minutes. Five minutes here and there. I don’t have a TV so I think I’ll drive along the edges of town until the moon rises, following the speed limit, avoiding the deer on the side of the road, its legs sticking up in the air. A swarm of flies turning gold in the dying light.
Some desperation of chloroform adheres to your shoes and makes me consider all the ancillary notions. This all babble to you, but somewhere the import draws a small group of supporters who march to the ivy-covered house on the hill. Finding him not at home they drag his daughter into the barn and cajole her into copulating with pigs, which really you must try some time, before amassing a petty assortment of complaints rooted in a life-negating Puritanism you can acquire in just six weeks if you send your severance pay to the address on the back of the matchbook you found on the bus bench when the mists of the late afternoon offer very little in the form of resistance to mistranslation or transatlantic jaunts in small crafts made of materials that have ceased to exist. But now we’re telling tales out of school, where indeed the insurrection will approach, eager as it is for a fine film of dust to legitimize its programs. The prizes given away at the end of the evening include a rope of horse hair singed and braided for tying yourself to your past. A box of children’s teeth to rattle in the dark when a longing for the nest comes upon a non-native species. Finally a mosaic set in a low table made from the nails of various fingers and toes, though we’re not at liberty at the moment to discuss the origins of this rare item. Suffice it to say a disease will be coming through your phone in the guise of a well-known radio personality who refuses to eat pork for religious reasons. That’s his finger.
THE INTERSTICES THAT’S US
We turn them over and over in our heads all the time. The images on them supplied by the stills from our home movies about the moon. The slap of the waxed cellophane on the table. We know where the wicked tableaus are hidden. The opiates released when the sensation subsides will make us feel alive in a way that being alive can never do. We are not really people. We are hundreds of ill-formed ideas milling about in a cavernous room hoping that our murmuring will coalesce into a world or two. That we can begin to say something about how crowded it is in here. How no one here seems to understand what it is I’m trying to say. An oblique explication of the inner dynamics of the Six of Knickers. The children in the garden were never really children. Children are just ideas adults have about themselves that resist complexity. As the garden replenishes itself the children grow old and die. Bones in the furrows. Everything reduces to this. The silver vines curling up around your body wait for the sky to burn out in order to bloom. This isn’t a metaphor. You’re the metaphor. Everything else is real. I wake up before dawn when the chemicals wear off and the garbage disposal between my lungs and my groin switches on. There’s a light coming from under the door, and for a moment I think it’s you, that you’ve just gotten up to pee. But you’ve been approached by other agencies. You’ve been swallowed by another golden mouth. I untie myself from the knots in the sheets and float through the house, blowing out the candles and listening to the train that passes briefly through town.
KEEP YOUR HANDS INSIDE THE VEHICLE
We get heavy into the sycamore latitudes. After tonsillitis the general’s scimitar of ice. Nine jackals doused in gasoline chewing on quartz. Overstocked animated goblins dressed in paper gowns. Devotion becomes a can-opener when the lights go out. Apples roll up hill. A chip of glass flies into your eye and out of the sun. The natives, don’t speak of the natives, they’ll only hear you. I’m such a Vietnam War, only with raspberry sauce. The gash is just time vacationing in your skin. An isolated vector blames the sky for lemons. Is this fair to the lemons? The manufacturer’s sticker price. I love your robot. You fill me with some kind of plausible monotony. Even the currency can presage an insect balustrade. Welcome to America. Keep your hands inside the vehicle at all times.
THE KITCHEN AT NIGHT
The town folds up on itself. How else to induce the darkness we call night. Someone paid the crows their three nickels. Tied their threads to the back of the moon. I have a shirt made of anger. When I take it off it floods the floors and stairwells. When I leave it on the seeds in the apple catch on fire. When there’s a long way to go the bridge is like a mother. She without a mouth or a watch. Now there’s no destination. You hide your whispers in the grass. My dream is a week overdue. Glass is another word for travel. You can call it a liquid, but only over time.
A man looking for his lost daughter is standing on the bridge yelling her name. He runs off into the crisp yellow field, his voice fainter and more frantic. On one of the girders flaking with rust a vine has gained hold and spirals up towards the sky. A post in the wooden railing hollowed out by time and rain and garbage. Three wasps keep zipping out of this hole to careen off the white air and then return with a treasure no one can see. The creek has stopped flowing and resorts to circling itself in the hope that it will learn something about water before it reaches the ocean. In every exchange there is a seeking and a concession, equality being a situation inherent only in death. We can tear up our petition or dispense with the granting of tokens or baubles. Stand here or there in the cool shadows of the mausoleum. Actually it will probably never reach the ocean, but there’s no need to ruin it for the creek.
A LOST POEM ABOUT AN ACETYLENE TORCH
This is the real science. Not the kind someone else tells you about. The ache under your left eye. It was left there by the blue jay who was screeching in the sprinklers. The bones in your rib cage grab at each other like nervous hands. They’re ambassadors from the underside of the earth where the carcasses of the mountains continue to bleed. I become a speck of static streaming across the screen of a broken television. Don’t sweep the crumbs off of the rug. It will just break into puzzle pieces without discernible edges. When we run out of paint we’ll resort to berries and roots. When we run out of berries and roots we’ll resort to all the moves that have been censored or outlawed. I saw my son today for five minutes. He held me the whole time. That’s the only science there is. Everything else is just crow scatter and chalk spark. These crucibles. They’re so invisible. I could take a bite out of your thigh, but then we’d need another balloon. The Antarctic is on the horizon. Don’t hold your breath. It’s just a trick of the light.
A certain conjunction between cinder blocks and brief contractions. This can be stated a number ways, but the preference tends towards a can of paint rusting at the bottom of the stream, which every so often emits a yellow drip that bounces slowly on pebbles slick with algae, rather than floating to the surface, where it would surely disperse. Your whole body is covered with rabbit holes, and I always chase myself down the wrong one, missing the tea party altogether and arriving just in time to kiss the sword of the Queen of Spades, for, as you well know, the Queen of Hearts cannot be gained by means of a rabbit’s hole. What is required in these circumstances is tremendous pressure, the kind that exists where one current of the ocean brushes up against another, and everything except the grand cetaceans is pulverized and sent rapidly to other continents. If you can survive the unfamiliar diseases and grow accustomed to the new cuisine, perhaps you’ll stop waking up in the middle of the night, a rag soaked with someone else’s dreams stuffed in your mouth, awaiting the spark that occurs when the weight of the darkness in the room is greater than the levity of the sorrow that encases your body. Then any intimation of grief is whispered among the crows, who could care less, until that is you drop the nickels on the ground. Nickels can be cleaned with ammonia. We found these in your father’s liver. We’re still trying to ascertain how he grew around them.
Apply the language of gambling to the manufacture of bicycles. Use this as a metaphor for the shopping habits of the proletariat in a post-colonial society, one that prefers a board game played with dried beans to the recounting of sexual escapades as a form of leisure activity. Cut this up with a carpet knife and rearrange the phrases beneath pictures of people who have died under anesthesia during cosmetic surgery. But don’t stop there, because the harmonic relations between vowel sounds and incisions can be assembled into a collection of octaves and chords that four strangers from different castes can play on common objects from their particular social milieus simultaneously on a conference call which we’ll record on an answering machine whose spindles move at varying speeds. This music is transcribed by a child who pretends to be blind with white crayons on newsprint. Crumple it up before making ten copies on an old Xerox and folding them in thirds. Put a different stamp on each one and send them to ten people chosen from the phone book by the application of the Hebrew alphabet to random draws from a deck of tarot cards developed between World War One and World War Two in a country that no longer exists. All the cards with lions or symbols of the moon will be removed beforehand. Go to the city dump and comb through the garbage until you find all ten wadded up into paper balls. Your clothes, they’ll be stained in the process. I’ll tack them up on the wall and put a frame around them. Come, take a picture. I’ll get it tattooed on my stomach and never go to the beach again.
PUTTING ASIDE THE CONUNDRUMS
Putting aside the conundrums. This is what they’ve etched on the metal plate under the pieces of broken glass fastened to the wall. Not all of them from the same bottle. This is the problem with weakness these days. Sometimes it’s a catapult operated by blind children who live in abandoned train stations. They’re writing letters to the King of the Sky, only they don’t know how to spell, and kings, they’re just figureheads these days. Sometimes it’s the way you tell time in the dark after a power outage, relying on the amount of water that’s leaked from the faucet and accumulated in a cracked blue bowl in the sink. The real damage was done before you were born. You can slowly lose consciousness underneath the daisies. They’re kept as they are at a uniform height so the dragonflies get lost on their way back to the stream and wind up as the most difficult constellation to locate or the reason we always fight when your skirt rides up your thighs like that. Something swollen. It’s a pretext really for letting weeds grow under things that are rarely moved or deciding that purple would make all the difference. If we could only give up select pieces of the future to have random ones from the past given back to us. There. Drop them in the stream. They glint a little before settling into the dark stones below.
A ROCK THE OCEAN
A kind of rock in a certain place. Something dark, particulate, beneath your fingernails. You can taste it when you put your finger in your mouth. The red shirt she was wearing. She was screaming in the car in the hot weedy dark. The windows rolled down. Telling you to shut up or she was going to throw herself out onto the highway. I’m just going to have to stop going places because there are too many places I’ve already been. I remember I became a mushroom of light and sprouted in the dark loam. No one tells the mushroom there’s a rending. No one says “This is the Fanfare for the Common Man.” A delicate ambivalence is what this requires. An understanding that minutes are threats made by the resting of your breasts on your breasts. Why do we say things we know are lies? If we slow them down enough they become propositions and then we may refute them. We may set the meadow on fire and run through the gentle updraft. Shreds you can bind together with ribbons? We argued. Should they be purple? Should they be red? I’m still looking for a particular stone. There were never any hands so we settle for smoothness. I want to go to the beach. I want to go to the beach. Won’t you take me to the beach? Hi there. My name sounds like scissors without the moonlight or the hummingbird. A blueprint for the idiot’s tower drawn in invisible ink. You said you’d be my little jackrabbit. You said I could outrun the ocean. But the ocean, when you look at it, the ocean is horses.
Sifting through the discarded boxes. Maybe a note I never knew about. Stuck unnoticed in a corner. Wrapped up in a ball of tape. It’s a festival every day. If you give all your expectations away. Adrift with a swollen rudder. Pieces torn from different maps. My place has become fixed, but I’ve been walking so long I don’t know where I am. The yellow payphone on the corner rings. People aren’t answering phones these days. I have three circles I like to get stuck in. Their circumferences overlap. And the air can get close at times. Your glands are leaving residue on the pavement. It sticks to people’s shoes and makes it into the evening salad. I grow hungry in your absence. Lose my appetite when the curtains go down. More and more glowing orbs are noticed at the periphery of embarrassing private gatherings. We can say it’s a speck on the lens. The inversion layer flipping its switch. When the sun has abandoned the smoldering outskirts of town empty spaces between the floorboards will realign themselves to the chagrin of your personal gravity.
THE CRONE’S CURSE
I fed your balls to the pigs and you didn’t even notice.
He has been increasingly more irritated with the little things around the house. I appreciate it as a citizen. I resent it as a man. He does not like to share his space or belongings. I keep expecting the ax to come down for very little things. With the lack of communication between them things are often misconstrued and escalations occur. My personality disorder is as valid as yours. He needs to understand that this behavior is not acceptable. We stole this movie. The zombies are us. Part of being married is the sharing of space. I own you. She has become the target of his teasing. He’s angry that she moves his belongings. One of God’s Neurons. The World as Divine Flesh. There is no longer intimacy in their relationship. The Monster ensnared by the Sunflower King. He didn’t understand fully what it was to be actually married. He just understood that he would be able to see her all the time.
BATTLE OF THE SEXES
Women, as it turns out, are more indiscriminately sexual than men. Of course we always hear the opposite. That men are shallow, more desperate, anything in a dress. Well get this. When it comes to arousal men actually have pretty precise criteria. A certain shape to the eye. The way she bites her lip before answering a question. How her hips move in a dress. Women as it turns out have no range at all. Everything’s fair game. Everything’s arousing. Even other men having sex together. And then there are the baboons. This is all physiological of course. Our carefully crafted social personas maintaining otherwise. Men brag about their conquests. Comparing menus from as many restaurants as they can. Women add to their lists. Things to avoid next time. Each guy making his unique contribution to the lengthening scroll. And perhaps these lists are some kind of fence. Some boundary to keep the baboons at bay. Layers of paper and words to shroud the hungry flower. Create a mystery where there’s really just a hole.
TOURISTS ARE ADVISED TO REMOVE THEIR GLASSES
My friend recently spent some time in Cambodia. He was on a three month trip to Thailand. But that’s what everyone says when they’re going to Cambodia. He went there to see Angkor Wat. The sinuous trees rising through the ruins of Buddhist Temples and work farms. Ruins are still temples, but we forget this. The children still run the country. Speak all the English. Soda Pop and Cold Beer. Hustle all the tourists. All the people in their 50′s and 60′s. They’re dead. Shot in the back of the head. By the babysitter. The Gardener’s boy. That nice young lady at the market. The Khmer Rouge. The King. They have their provinces. Their regions. Autonomous as it were. He drove through one on the back of a motorcycle. With his guide. They were the same age. That seems to have meant something. When he asked where the other Westerners were he was met with a silence. As they passed from village to village. Through Pepper Country. To the Plantation. Where the prospects weren’t quite as they were advertised. Kind of like the women you order from Eastern Europe. Some speculations. An option to join the Board of Directors that lingered in the air. The capitol rife with the Russian Mafia, Nigerian Oil Money, Acid Casualties from Vietnam. At the nearest decommissioned military base the opportunity to fire weapons. A package deal. The prices in the catalog reasonable. Automatic pistols from Israel, machine guns from China, grenade launchers from South Africa. And for the modest sum of $500 the opportunity to take down your own ox with said grenade launcher as it grazes on a hill or rests beneath the palm trees that shot up near the pond. The bus to the military base leaves the capitol daily at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Bus fare varies according to season.
To imagine you are a woman while making love. There’s no mention if this is specific to a particular gender. It’s not actually that though. It’s to picture yourself as female while having sex. It’s only really pathological if the afflicted person is a man. Or a woman who used to be a man. But once you become a woman the problem goes away. And the way it manifests. It’s not specifically your whole self. It’s parts of your body. It’s you but you have breasts. It’s you but you have a pussy. It’s you but your butt doesn’t usually look so good. There’s a part of your brain whose entire job it is to make you feel like all the parts of your body are connected. When it doesn’t work so well your perceptions look for anchors in the things around them. My body is made of accordions and stacks of colored slides.
Two words I learned today. Anosmia and anthimeria. One means you can’t smell anything. The other’s a substitution of one part of speech for another. Often in a novel way. Most typically a noun for a verb. First noticed in Shakespeare. Hemingway has a few examples too. He beat up Wallace Stevens once. Apparently Stevens started it. The woman took something called Zicam. A nasal spray of some sort. Said as soon as it hit the back of her nose it burned like pepper. Next day she noticed that things that should have had odors didn’t. Same with her taste. Temperatures as well. Even salty and sweet. Eighty-percent of afflicted users reported a significant deficit in their olfactory senses after just one dose.
YOUR WORD FOR THIS
A light flickering in the mist. A shoelace and some spatters of blood on the sidewalk. Bottles of eroded pills. Their labels torn off here and there. Three black dogs fighting over a cantaloupe. The result of the explosion. The sky lowers a million tiny hooks. The taut pink skin of the Etruscan style. The steam from unseen engines condenses on the windows and the floors of the streets. Children made of newsprint are taping themselves to the mirrors. The raccoon stands in for the fox. Sticks his tail in the trap instead. A painting of various colors in certain shapes refuses to dry. Wet seeds slap against it and fall to the ground. A rusted ax blade leaning against a school of dirty fish. I left my body to bring these back to you.
PEOPLE WHO TEND TO DISAPPEAR
Girls on bicycles. Mountain climbers. People who travel a great distance in a boat or a plane. The guy who testified against his former employer. Boys who run away from home. Depressed entertainers. Civil rights activists. College girls who go abroad. College girls walking home from the library. D. B. Cooper. The industrialist who leaves the restaurant at 7:13 PM. Walks off into the forest. Soldiers. Sea divers. Journalists who talk too much. Infants left alone. People who park their cars near bridges. The guy who took a lot of money from his former employer. Russian cosmonauts. Civil rights activists. The guy who murdered his former employer. The guy who wants to set a record. The wife of the guy who set himself on fire in the house with his two sons and all that gasoline. Jimmy Hoffa. Girls walking to the candy shop.
AN ADDED ELEMENT
In our language there is no phrase “be a woman.” No one ever says “Why don’t you be a woman?” You’ve never heard this. To be a woman is a natural condition. A receptive arrangement. To “be a man,” however, requires some action. An added element. A contingency of sorts. The message that to just be who you are is not enough. A natural deficit. To say to someone “be a man” is not to invest him with courage or spur him to noble efforts. It is to imply it is what he is not. It is to take away what little he has.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS MONTH
I am about to write about my experiences as the object of domestic violence for several years. I know “object” sounds somewhat awkward and clinical, but I prefer it to “victim” or “survivor.” I wasn’t a victim. And I didn’t survive. I’m starting off with “the dark puzzle of my life,” but I get stuck on “puzzle.” I’m not sure I like the associations I have with the word. It makes it sound simple. Easy to frame. Even if you’re missing a few pieces, you still have the picture on the box. It also sounds quaint. Like a mystery. Unless you think prison camps and mind control are quaint. And really, there’s no mystery. Then I go to “enigma.” We all do these days it seems. I recently read about a phenomenon that occurs in the digital recreation of human beings with animation. That almost real is entertaining, but near perfectly real is disquieting. It’s called the Enigma Valley. Actually, it’s not called that, but that’s how I remember it. That place between obviously flawed and almost real. “Enigma” is really overused these days anyway, so let’s consider “conundrum.” Most people get that. It has an authoritarian rhythm to it. A problem that cannot be solved. But when it becomes a “Dark Conundrum” it sounds too much like a radio show from the 1930′s. So I get back to “puzzle.” Many of the pieces look similar from a distance. You get the corners right away. Then the lines. The gaping holes in the middle. If you don’t fit it together as soon as you open the box more and more pieces disappear. You find them later in drawers. Long after you gave the rest to Goodwill. Let’s just start here, “The secrets I told you, you stick in my body like pins.”