Rising, Falling, Hovering.
Yesterday nothing was unusual a rainy March morning there were scores of starlings on the ground she had been thinking about what he said What has been said is said often Sifting for some interlinear significance on the pallid grass the birds accumulated chromatic density He stopped her (not vice versa) in the rain to tell her he had been thinking the voice beginning to dematerialize against the slur of cars neither of them moving just yet In the vapor light of the park it felt as if the trees were walking with them as if they had passed into a cloud she had to ask him if this were living or Never having seen him in fog which set off his eyes his voice as spectral as he looked his look spectral as neon in fog The door stuck on the threshold electricals on the blink the curtains eliminated the houses on the hill cold as mirrors this rain wood unwilling to catch Locked in the time-suck of another they talked and then fucked and then talked and fucked and it was like that grown-up yet unrehearsed He would appear central in her book then go off on his own meanwhile no one but themselves in the kitchen's recessed lighting in their underpants Drinking warm beer not taking calls she had no idea who was calling kept calling ringing in the emptiness I know how you feel he lied I know you do she lied but to listen just to listen tantamount to forgiveness it did not matter for what The longer one lived the less to forgive The air changed around them her face betrayed her face she thought more about before when not much was more than enough a pair of cut-offs on a salvaged couch They wore the scent of smokers then He rode in front He said nothing She drove He looked out over the water as they crossed the bridge It was all but dark he took a pen out of his shirt pocket and wrote something down he cared not to share with her Her bags had not been in anyone else's possession Her bracelets set off the metal detector On the moving sidewalk she studied his back through its thin cloth Him with the scar do not think him healed (so the proverb warns) A funnel of feelings about going anywhere during a war Are your ears popping trying to make light talk his half-delineated face already in twilight the batting pouring from clouds below Were you ever told the soul detaches from its earthly body at around 40,000 feet If they handed you the black box what would you bequeath trying to make light talk He slept with the dead then nothing roused him Did she mention a missing spleen had she warned him she shaved down there the night before One glimpse of the paper was too much the number of their dead to remain unknown So the sleepless one hectored the sleeper About the other night I know you are sorry I am sorry too We were tired Me and my open-shut-case mouth You and your clockwork disciplines And I know it is too far to go But we can't leave it to the forces to rub out the color of the world What is said has been said before This is no time for poetry When the laborer picked up the statue of the santo he heard a fluttering and picked a petal off his arm If the shoes of children are good luck what about the boots of a brown- eyed soldier In his hut the old man loved the mystique of radio it took him somewhere irreligious and refrigerated If they come here he told the much younger woman Keep still make yourself small make yourself smaller Posing to look proud on the old burro though his mounts had always been thoroughbred Asked if she had a memory of the camphor-drenched gown hung as netting above the matrimonial hammock Not really she said I know I wore it once on the other side al otro lado and I was smaller then I have the grey-blue eyes of my gachupin forbearers but don't take me for one of them Then: on a certain night and no other another telegenic war begins. Can you describe this. I cannot. This is not the day or the hour. The color is all wrong. What dreams I had. You too. We were going the speed of night. We were riding black dogs. So? What? So. I don't know. A plane set down under a bowl of blueness against a ragged ridge. The old Zapotec town aroused by the onset of evening. The shuttle bus rumbling from airstrip to zocalo. Swallows silhouetted, then bats against sporadic streetlamps. Lilt of children. Dogs barking at exhaust pipes. Passport of origin jostled out of mind. Unlit stairs. A worn lobby off a keyed-up corner. Walls colored by water from a tank of angel fish, the same ghoulish glow from a muted TV. Civilian limbs sticking out of wreckage like so much rebar. Baghdad's thirteen-century chronicle shelled into the memory hole. Heat radiating from burning books. Evidence of ago gone. What has been unloosed cannot be leashed. What has been stolen will be sold. From their louvered window on the mezzanine, the stark, darkened hill. From the roof, view over septic tank of the stark, darkened hill; flounce of jacaranda in the zocalo. Who has been torn from one son will be forlorned of another. These are the sandals that bore the rubbings of his skin. By this slough, they knew him. Who has been silenced cannot be unsilenced. The number of their dead to remain unknown. Him with the scar Do not think him healed ?Mande? Nada. ?Mande? Nada. One bright night: we will see through the oaths of threat and protection We will get out of our white cars in our white dresses We will join the black dogs in a circle of the light We will turn in the circle of the night Memory murdered Not so; instead They are spared the television except in passing through the lobby. She struggles with the dailies in Spanish. Barbaro ataque, Mas de mil bombas cayeron en la capital. The headlines transparent. Except on the eternal bottom of the pyramid, expressions of outrage are everywhere, except on the bottom where hunger numbs even anger. In Mexico's capital, which is teeming, which is sinking by inches, which is ringed by cardboard colonias, which are teeming, the day after the bombs have begun to drop on Baghdad, the florists are bringing their blooms to the heart, de costumbre, on Fridays, to the hotels and restaurants, the markets and sidewalk vendors. And this Friday, no different, except the bombs are blooming in Baghdad, and in the heart of the capital of Old Mexico, which is sinking, the florists deliver to the zocalo, forming a quiet convoy, which stops traffic for miles, and the florists unload in early quiet, first light. They empty their pungent cargo and begin to make a mosaic which can be read by the guests in the Grand Hotel and the Majestic, which spells NO A LA GUERRA Y SI A LA PAZ. And the blooms left over which are given away to passersby. And in Oaxaca City, on the roof of their hotel, looking over the zocalo: papier mache effigies, calla lilies, vigil by candle, graffiti on the walls of the gringo watering hole, and a wasted apparition circling the center, panhandling for smokes. And in the following days the taxi drivers head for the Alameda, in Mexico City, flying pennants of peace from their aerials, and traffic, which is teeming, is stopped for miles. All quiet in the capital of the old Aztec empire. Silence in the heart, habitat of 22,000,000 souls, which is sinking by centimeters. Which in inches equals eight a year. Calla lilies limp in their buckets The obligatory pariah dog Concentrates its starved mass on a step Blowflies battling the head The casket seller checks For occupancy before locking up Monastery deep in shadow Worker urinating into a box Under the Bridge of Martyrs Disposition of small limbs A face dark and deadish The petal of one eye shutting In Hidalgo's courtyard The pomegranate tree spreads Into its memory of a future For the next ones to forget Ink of the padre's letters Gone to vinegar For the next ones to drink Desk clerk mesmerized By the new media-borne war Hunting one legitimate spot to watch the world crawl or limp along or cloud her air with no muffler Whole new breed of dog born in every warren the boy documenting them with his uninhibited lens Wanting to be unsentimental about the mutt tethered to a leafless trunk without enough paid out to turn around The horse in the rubble of a wall lifting one encrusted hoof then the other Walks overflowing with merchandise Under worn awning old man hunched over old Singer mending pair of worn pants Kitten on the treadle being kitten Shade and silence only near the chancel as a hand can still all thoughts Basilica or no basilica a beautiless town The bus barreling down service roads to the hotels Ashamed of her solace in being here to be ashamed is to be American The boy leaving his merchandise in his seat Two scorpions doing the merengue the boy using his choplogic on her Her hail of words directed against his tympani fixes the attention of an anole on the ornamental iron In their absence the house did not burn the pipes were unfrozen The dog did not suffer a drop of neglect The glorious photographs of their son were not stolen from their second-hand frames Not so; instead She is in the doorway wearing black on black she is facing the fate she has always faced She is shedding the strength in her arms as the bones soften and thin A faint diminishing signals an adumbration As a feather passes under a nostril Her ears are led to the tree she trusts, the cedar still sensitive to its phantom limb Reading on a ladder, she begins to rip the pages from the sewn spine Nary a death arrested nor a hair of a harm averted by any scrawny farrago of letters The air in the kitchen too small air that would fit in a matchbox The sun lukewarm and then a cold spot in a colder than cold bed As of Friday 850 of our members will be Forever Young She burns bread and dislocates her TV her all-American forgettery Reading the obituaries, she counts the ones older than her mother and father Once in the alley avoids the fencing between her and the albino dog The true number of Iraqi dead to remain officially unknown at the policy level no such estimates exist The mind braying at the mind A prescription for revulsion left in a taxi A suffusion of color on a minimally disturbed surface can calm the eye and the nerves Our badly decomposed affairs are carted off every other Wednesday The writing in the trees remains illegible Quietly, on Sunday, in lieu of flowers from poverty of divine direction a crippling condition watching a film a euphemism for a bad movie watched before a crippling condition someone was coming to blow away the fear and names to be spoken on her behalf into a calabash riding burro backwards also cuts suffering As if there were not other versions of the night the pressure increases As if the strong were not empty and exhaustible the cavity inside her adjusts its light meter As if the silence were not voluptuous in and of itself the outer wall repels the cold As if the string light under his door meant he were waiting up how she had held her son her suddenly-grown-tall son standing in the crosswalk in the drizzle As if the scenery in her head had stopped revolving if she dodged the picture it is obvious his sweater was wet his watch cap sopping as if the bone could not be pointed at the atrocious As if they were ever going to quit catechizing everyone in sight Her concerns fork out ahead of them but given their fast-forward track and the national feelinglessness As if all extra-vehicular activity were not now prohibited What's going to become of us is the beauty used up then The momentum of lives shifts into the absence of thought The first task is to recover the true words for being In the event of our death you will have to roll your own poetry Inside an hour the thoughts of one would not be far from the thoughts of the other As she searched for the origin of their bond her left arm felt somewhat numb A coincidence had been coordinated by a friend of a friend at the Dark Dog Or was it the fight over the negative balance That fight was over in 126 seconds Are we dying or did the power go out again There passes my casket she says to no one All of us are being conducted to a single point One might say the same for plants Do you have enough money for a taxi Is my heavy hair still a comfort to you I want you to burn every notebook, every disk, Every ream, every scratch of my improvident pen Until then, Sick of their own vocabularies and the mud they bring in Avoid the garrulous and unfortunately bald gringa avoid all talk when possible Lost among identical palms with a tropical drink sin hielo por favor German books in the lobby: Alle glucklichen familien ahneln einander; jede ungluck liche aber ist auf ihre eigene art unglucklich. The three of them under one moon forming a ligature: notes to be sung as one slur of words preserved in amber Hair salt-stripped only wind burning to kiss her bent neck Every regret its own cow to pick clean as in: not tipping enough again The boy out of film and pesos again the woman waking up in full sun missing everyon Papa de Hitler propped upon an impressive chest (Argentine? along the bias of her mind) As soon as the boy swatted the fly then laid an ort of chocolate beside its stunned head it stutters and steers onto a nacreous walkway for take-off And a husbandly hand down her shirt expunging all references to disappointment Minimally deluded it would stop mercy out of nowhere like a wave banishing once more the old urge to speed off by herself in a big red wreck no matter where the local roads were going In front of a donut shop someone's son is shot dead A witness on condition of anonymity The slow open vulgar mouth drawing on a cigarette In a face once called Forever Young Now to be known as Never-a-Man Gone to the world of the working and the prevaricating of the warring world of dry-walling of lousy test scores of fishing from a bridge on a brilliant afternoon belt buckle blown undone Recollect reading to her boy reading to him in bed overcome herself with sleep as if drugged or slugged then jabbed up again Come on Keep reading Don't stop Don't ever stop Like she was saying Beauty cannot she cannot marry the Beast and tonight as on all other rose-scented evens He stumbles the Beast he stumbles from Beauty's empty chamber In agony he goes in agony the fur of his fingers smoking until it's her boy he is the one saying exclaiming Yes Yes he will he will marry the Beast until he is the one who conks out as a light pole struck by a drunken car And suddenly it's raining like plastic When she stumbles at last from the room he is the one who shakes himself awake and yells Protect me and she is the one who promises exclaiming Yes Yes she will I swear if it kills me I will as once the mother of Forever Young shot in front of the donut shop must have sworn if it killed her she will a boy So quiet the reporter heard from his kin You wouldn't even notice him on your electric bill Over there it's a different world Desperate to be rejoined to this one It is still raining like plastic the brazen daytime rave of cicadae cut off In a fast fade to black a low intensity shattering within to dramatize the break Her confidential informant is her imagination Requests for him not to be photographed in this position not the flash of flesh the powder burns that pepper the chest You won't believe what I was dreaming to the flash of flesh, the scarred back (Do not think him healed) Go back to sleep It never happened There was a cenote and steps dug out of the centuries and dogs always dogs The hot iron on her chest she feels it now It is her familiar the fear the sear She is driving or is she being driven Trees and fences fall behind an oil truck changes lanes (without warning) The water on her right looks dead bird sanctuary void of birdsong She forgets where she is headed a meeting No an errand an appointment is her life comic or tragic that card stays face down she doesn't even know what hand she's playing or whose house belongs to the white rhododendron Across the river is a whole other world: hotel (once grand) with a ballroom called Starlight A lobby that smells like assisted-living dinner smoke-discolored chandelier Aloe vera and bromiliad felted with dust And toenails of the truly old painted for twirling across polished floors And one of the old ones in a camphoric gown says she wore this when she was smaller Spotlights on the fountain tinted for travelers in the time of terror color of the koi Wasted figure in a tall mirror clad in ratty rags forewarns These are the last hours of empire or some such inauspicious whispering So? What? ?So can I have a cigarette? (in the absence of any foreseeable remedy) She ran off with a fallen aristocrat an adventurer cut down on his burro by banditos Belt blown undone wrecked down there When she came back to US they sent her son to Baghdad whom she vowed to protect if it kills her she will There's not a troy ounce of compassion in this scenario There is the inhuman dimension The bridges breaking off in chunks of grey libraries folding School buildings indistinguishable from penitentiaries Like I said to the doorman the other night Some moon, huh You should have seen it before the war Miss We must not get used to this The burros are not young the macho a balker The trail frays every which way Coffee comes from bark Tortillas made at dawn with a base of dust Niguas bore into the soles The brindle dog deserts Fleas Cloth on the ceiling to catch scorpions A mattress is unheard of When there's no rawhide A catre stretched with saplings Flies A hot wind beats us off course Warm beer or warm soda for supper Ascent without end Rumor of tigres and leones These maps are worthless No supper Fire moving this way No corn for the burros Cactus for privacy Ticks Pigs are another bother No breakfast The landmark mahogany struck down The brindle returns Snake Running low on paregoric Snake Cactus for shade Running low on water Smoking husks The macho with an ulcerated back One of us with dysentery y yo embarazada A woman con pistola y cuchillo Wears his trousers for comfort Riding low A boy the senora says Fifty pesos Hands washed with mescal He will pass out In the corn crib He will cut the cord he will Cut it with his teeth It devolved on her to speak through the shadows of events themselves: Animals or men passing through the night al otro lado Without documents, blankets, contacts, without water, without with Freeze, dehydrate, burn A knot of unmoving human forms waiting for a bell to quicken them from pueblo without medicine maize or milk from colonia of cardboard without fuel or flour Mira: you will never see faces like this again These are the ones who loved you these the ones who hurt Chihuahuan sun sizzles in its blackened trim Now moving at the speed of laudanum Treading sand and dust under the big dry socket of god Discarding the shawl the straw hat that protected nada Desert floor entering memory hole Ants beginning their business from the inside The drag road unavoidable Every footfall a giveaway unless One could vault out of the broken saddle al otro lado Farm Road 170 Without disturbing the particulate surface of earth the way ghosts go back and forth so that the famous black carriage of Juarez was also told to pass Under the cover of tarbush copperhead of their anonymity Juan e Juana Doe One last exhalation of earthly hell breath chopped in half by a border One last fata morgana unless the reflection is not water but light Unless the lights are the migra, Unless one does not know one could not in fact see to see Unless one does not know that what one is hearing is the simmer of one's very stomach in one's very blood sopa de pollo Dark meat breaking off in chunks The last pinch of salt spent with the last wick of sweat Unless one does not know that what one is hearing is the crashing of one's skeleton chandelierlike Like they say in Iraq Now fear up harsh I was just thinking I hadn't worn a dress in so long the current between my legs Witching when I walked the library shutting hours ahead clock set to remember something cars abandoned on the off-ramp plows forming a convoy on Wampanoag Trail in advance of the white-out starlings blown through frantic branches snow disappearing the rhododendron Allied military reports Deadliest day for the forces as of Wednesday 1418 of our members Super Stallion crash not counting the number of their dead no such estimates exist sandstorms on the accuweather map near Ar-Rutba in the Western region town of 22,000 In his suddenly-grown-small room the boy free-styling to lifted beats Telling him through the door The dog has to go out now And turn down the freaking sound and No Fumar in the house Snow blowing in every direction electricals on the blink The handle turning clockwise the hood obscuring all but the slow open mouth Who is writing something down he does not care to share
Our world the world of colors is the world.--Julian Beck
"Can you describe this. / I cannot." References (in the negative) Anna Akhmatova's "Instead of a Preface" from Requiem.
"the national feelinglessness" is an expression of Julian Beck's. It appears in daily light daily speech daily life translated by Riccardo Duranti.
"That fight was over in 126 seconds" alludes to the famous fight between Sonny Liston and Floyd Patterson, September 25, 1962, Chicago.
"Alle gluklichen familien ahneln einander; jede ungluck liche aber ist auf ihre eigene art unglucklich" is from a German translation of the first line of Anna Karenina jotted down when leafing through a bookshelf in the open-air lobby of a hotel in the Dominican Republic. I failed to record the translator's name.
"Pigs are another bother" appears in Where the Strange Roads Go Down Mary Del Villar and Fred Del Villar's account of their journey on foot through the Tierra Caliente of Mexico in 1951. "These maps are worthless" appears in the text in Spanish as "no servian para nada."
Pages beginning 10 and 15 are re-workings of a text composed for a collaboration titled "Ligature" with poet Forrest Gander and sculptor Douglas Culhane.
The revered Zapotec President, Benito Juarez, from the Valley of Oaxaca, battled for justice his entire adult life. During the French invasion of Mexico he had to keep moving to avoid being assassinated; so the seat of his government was a black carriage.
"One could not in fact see to see" is adapted from the last line of Emily Dickinson's "I heard a fly buzz when I died."
Sopa de pollo, chicken soup, is used because one of the terms used for undocumented immigrants from Mexico is pollo and their smuggler, pollero. A gruesome description of the human body's stage by stage collapse in failed crossings is found in Devil's Highway by Luis Albedo Urrea.
Notes on the notes: I might have included other notes but I lost my notebook in the Barrington Public Library, February 19, 2005. And that was that time. While my preference is to include notes in a more interesting compositional form than I have done here, no such design offered itself up.