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Rising, Falling, Hovering.

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

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


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
Walks overflowing with merchandise
Under worn awning old man hunched over old Singer mending pair of worn
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
A coincidence had been coordinated by a friend of a friend at the Dark
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
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
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
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
Cloth on the ceiling to catch scorpions
A mattress is unheard of
When there's no rawhide
A catre stretched with saplings
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
Pigs are another bother
 No breakfast
The landmark mahogany struck down
The brindle returns
Running low on paregoric
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

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.
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Author:Wright, C.D.
Publication:Chicago Review
Article Type:Poem
Date:Sep 22, 2005
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