He flicks on the light in the bedroom and squints against its glare. His eyes are going too, have been for some time now. But he knows—he can remember this much—where the lighter might be and he goes to the bedside table and grabs it, knocking the ashtray aside and spilling ash and stained butts that roll onto the floor. Severo starts to bend over to pick them up but instead he turns around and, walking out of the room, curses life again.
Although his memory has faded with his physical strength, one thing Severo can never forget is the hunger. It's no longer a sensation or even an excuse for overeating or berating his wife. After all, she didn't starve the way he did. She grew up in a village, on the Castilian plane, where life was bearable. But in Madrid there was no animal more miserable than the orphaned son of a Republican hero.
Jo wants to find her mother, and there are very few clues. She placed the daily ad in the Post knowing full-well that this woman could have moved; her own mother could have died without her knowledge. She thought, only, I've got to try. On her way out of the apartment, the orphaned adult looks over her shoulder. She knows the studio is just six hundred square feet of dry, warping wood floors and chipping plaster. It's not a home; she would never bring the dancer to her home. It's simply an art studio, and there's a bed because often art calls in the middle of the night like a newborn, or a call-girl. Jo is content scrubbing these floors and bleaching her kitchen when a painting or woman calls. When the buckets are empty, or her sheets are cool, Jo feels as though the damp space is adequate for a woman finding herself.
young man, named Giovanni Guasconti, came, very long ago, from the more southern region of Italy, to pursue his studies at the University of Padua. Giovanni, who had but a scanty supply of gold ducats in his pocket, took lodgings in a high and gloomy chamber of an old edifice, which looked not unworthy to have been the palace of a Paduan noble, and which, in fact, exhibited over its entrance the armorial bearings of a family long since extinct. The young stranger, who was not unstudied in the great poem of his country, recollected that one of the ancestors of this family, and perhaps an occupant of this very mansion, had been pictured by Dante as a partaker of the immortal agonies of his Inferno. These reminiscences and associations, together with the tendency to heart-break natural to a young man for the first time out of his native sphere, caused Giovanni to sigh heavily, as he looked around the desolate and ill-furnished apartment.
Being acquainted with a newspaper reporter who had a couple of free passes, I got to see the performance a few nights ago at one of the popular vaudeville houses.
One of the numbers was a violin solo by a striking-looking man not much past forty, but with very gray thick hair. Not being afflicted with a taste for music, I let the system of noises drift past my ears while I regarded the man.
There was once upon a time a poor mason, or brick-layer, in Granada, who kept all the saints' days and holidays, and yet, with all his devotion, he grew poorer and poorer, and could scarcely earn bread for his numerous family. One night he was roused from his first sleep by a knocking at his door. He opened it, and beheld before him a tall, meagre, cadaverous-looking person.
'Hark ye, honest friend!' said the stranger; 'I have observed that you are a good Christian, and one to be trusted; will you undertake a job this very night?'
This story takes place years ago when every person was born with geographical destiny printed onto their skin—usually the bottom of the foot, sometimes a thigh or the back of the calf. If the words weren't clear—too faint, improperly formed, or with crucial letters missing—a family waited with great eagerness, checking the bottom of the foot (or the thigh or the back of the calf) every day to see what had emerged, the way one might peer into the murky bloom of a Polaroid. And although some believed a newborn's geographical destiny shouldn't matter, since it might be years before the child went off to meet it, in fact, to many people it did matter; so that parents whose geographical destiny was, for instance, Kansas City found it difficult to love without reproach a child born with the word Albuquerque across its knee.
When you go off to Albuquerque, they'd say, then you can have a skateboard. Or, Your father and I want a house, but we've got to save our money for phone bills and airfares. Oh, what do you care, soon you'll be running off to Albuquerque.
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
Go, for they call you, Shepherd, from the hill;
Go, Shepherd, and untie the wattled cotes:
No longer leave thy wistful flock unfed,
Nor let thy bawling fellows rack their throats,
Nor the cropp'd grasses shoot another head.
But when the fields are still,
And the tired men and dogs all gone to rest,
And only the white sheep are sometimes seen
Cross and recross the strips of moon-blanch'd green;
Come Shepherd, and again begin the quest.
17 April 2008
It is said that memory veils, eats men
for breakfast, is an ipecac;
a white bird also, flung far
across the Perry Sound…
They get a forked stick to bear him down
And clap the dogs and take him to the town,
And bait him all the day with many dogs,
And laugh and shout and fright the scampering hogs.
He runs along and bites at all he meets:
They shout and hollo down the noisy streets.
For a few moments in the deep overcast of late afternoon, the creek-bank ferns and my Gatorade glowed the same green. The light from the Earth goes out into space, hits the sun, and makes it shine.
When I say, "I can feel the toxins in my brain," I know I'm wrong. There are no nerves in the brain. But the sentence itself is toxic.
17 March 2008
what comes to pass
at the pass
of stitches, of interstices
of wet weather on sandy rocks?
2 May 2008
They usually treated Detective Summers as though he were brave
because they thought spending time with him would bring their children back.
Summers approaches some women by what they're willing to do
or outdo. They believe it themselves, a freedom with bunions.
It's easy to use someone's body.
5 May 2008
Detective, we think you're afraid of spiders. You'd be surprised
to know what things are in your shed. We think you should feed us.
No one will ever know. Preserves, beets—anything you don't want.
We'll put the crumbs in our pockets. We'll drink lime soda.
I would tell you this directly. I would assemble a presentation of Polaroids and morals, protract the particular angles of her refraction. Serve canapés and arias and make allusions to a definition rooted in shape: the deltoid, the ellipse.
Lacking an alphabet to appropriate this flexure (which is where she maunders): a fable whose protagonist is light, the outskirts of an oral tradition, these are anxieties indigenous to our region.
When the body does something right, a happiness gathers above and behind its left shoulder.
The body, sensing the happiness, knows not to catch it
but knows not that the happiness too knows not to catch the body, which as it happens feels more acutely feelings located outside itself;
She couldn't resist the beauty of wood grain in floorboards so she spent days resting there, pooled out and bled in like a spill.
29 April 2008
When you look up the other breast is gone.
You have lost yourself yourselves I mean.
No–a breast is not a self.
A self isn't too large and too small
Doesn't give milk no matter whose lips are on it
Doesn't disappear every night the self
Isn't tender the self is not attached.
19 March 2008
My father sings in German when he does the dishes;
his wedding ring clicking on glass cups and plates,
a metronome keeping a beat for some quiet counterpoint,
muted by the suds, the soapy water, and the singing.
I wield a potent vocabulary. You're pulchritudinous. I napped
through English class. You know. Like. Um. Ah. You're hot.
Do you remember what I said, that night in the car?
You don't? Me neither. But at the time, it was true.
Swiss, great-grandmother says "blood" to the row of the riverboat gently covering its tracks. Father defends their western terms, "I'm no wagon, no horse." Anchored—land, land ho—grandfather's in the motor, radio, hull, in the rain. Aunt J says "he touched it, it's ruined" and pops bread from a bread pan. Uncles talk Canada, a state away, with its good hunting, fishing.
11 March 2008
in maiz, in maiz, gentle, ease
y with the cutlass easy maiz,
steady with the cutlass gentle
boarding axe, plank by plank
2 March 2008
my thumb the knuckled tornado; called me
darling when we hid in the closet,
giggling, fumbling, splendid. That was the roast,
the rest was gravy.
4 March 2008
Say, "remove your red bandana" and even her doll's eyes blink—
even the Mekong stops flowing,
even the small Khmer orphan.
The throw-away camera aims, and shoots an expression, arm-distance away.
10 April 2008
I have a zebra in my neck
going the wrong way against
his stripes, like Venetian blinds
caught in the throat
of a late afternoon hotel room.
I wake up, and you are already gone. Every morning it's like this: my eyes flick open, and this punches me into the day…
Listen, friend, there is a proper way to hold the warehouse when its walls have been blown out like this, and it sits there, dumb in the field. Like so: imaginary sphere, bundle of noise. We are sitting; I'm wishing for a table to mark our spot in the hilly grass, and that's when we get the sudden feeling that we are to stand, that we are to do something, really do something, like torch our possessions and gather all the humanoid figures in the wood grain of the cabinets in Nancy's kitchen into a single line of sight, singing softly, little dirge as the day ends.