At night, when all is quiet, when all is still and every spirit lies where it should, simple sounds of the city can be heard. Every squeak from every loose hanging street sign sings. All the papers and rubbish shake and spin with the whistling wind between alleys.
It is almost magical, to stand and watch as traffic lights of this long west street turn green, red, orange and green again. Eyes stare through a window of a house with no yard nor grass, just a balcony on the 4th floor. With each star in the sky a wishful prayer can be heard.
If I could open my words wider, like a woman spreading her legs to become a mother, I could kill death. I would fool everybody and say "May the dead be raised and may we celebrate!" Celebrate a time which has been lost. Let death be the door to birth.
Let nothing stop this process as I die, only to scream in terror as I enter a new world. My fears won't be heard and my thoughts won't be written down. My journey will be in vain as I grow up forgetting my identity. But may this night, this magical night, may it be my ally and caress me to sleep. May songs be hymns burying me so deep.
The woman stands in the doorway, looking through mist toward the lake and tall firs on the opposite shore. Behind her, a man wheels himself to the fireplace, takes an iron poker and strikes at the fire, as if beating back war rising from the flames. Curses and rage have followed them even to the end of this road, far from Walter Reed's numbing group sessions. The man grunts, continues to pound. The dog cowers in the kitchen. Outside, the light is jaundiced. A loon calls from somewhere across the water, inviting her to swim.
The last thing Benny said to me was, "You can't run far enough." But the Feds disappeared us down a desert trail to this antiseptic suburb where it's been years and years of so far, so good. Sand hills and saguaro, tacos instead of cheesesteaks. She's rock solid, Susan is, even tends a garden of rocks, for chrissake. Me, I'm still jumpy about strange cars, twitchy when a UPS truck cruises the neighborhood.
Without Las Vegas, America is just another motel.
Ice machine down the corridor spitting out cubes.
June bugs surfing sizzling light waves.
Over the blackjack tables, lions grip trapeze bars
in their teeth but no one looks up.
Accountants from Des Moines disappear
between the legs of sexual technicians.
Shrimp curl under orange rays like Quasimodo’s knuckles.
Every flight is filled with beauticians drawn in by the glow
of electricity seen from space.
Las Vegas is the Macchu Picchu of North America.
We are all hiding out from the Conquistadores
inside the slot machines. When the lights go out,
we will get down on our knees and eat the lawns.
On my honor, there is nothing right
and I don’t want to be — I want
experience, something new — discovery —
to see eyes in shadows and intentions
in the flow of traffic, to taste honey
in sunlight and hear drums in falling rain.
I want to crash into second-waves, bubbles
erupting in memory fountains, springing
from underground rivers. I want to steal
coagulate gold locked up in dream-vaults,
safeguarding business from the debased
demons — talking animals, centaurs, dragons, sphinxes—
To mount a palomino bareback, run into dawn,
trailing stars dropped from a purse of fireflies,
to cross state lines marking
the boundaries of night, clinging to the white
whithers and straw mane of that amber mare,
riding over airy bridges, deep creases
ever-sinking into the aging brow of the world.
An art thief loaded with canvases rolled
into bones, their bright marrow feeding
the squeeze — the urgency that presses
thighs and knees into the horse’s sides,
driving her ever faster, on—
I want to break the crest
of that darkest hour against dawn, certain
it is my last foothold on native ground,
carrying the firepower of the nightmare
on my back, furies and phantoms pursuing,
to meet the shoreline as the tide recedes
from wet sand, where glittering armies,
sinking, stand against this foreign assault
with their weapons drawn, ignorant
of how their strategies come from the other side.
Only the manufacturer, the organizer,
the leader is their own, a traitor that has stolen
from their gods, as I now try;
she alone, with all her ores, knows
how to stop me.
There is no right or left of the mark
when the future-past unfurls
its banner — races before us—
I catch the whip
of its tails in watering eyes,
close enough to grab hold of in a moment—
the color bearer wanting to be caught,
not bargained with. Some mercenary
approaches from the black fog behind,
snapping at the heels of the cup-toothed beast
whose danger resides in speed and strength
and fear of things with front-set eyes
that hunt what sleeps in the night.
On my honor, I will die with her
beating drums inside
that only we can hear — to run
into the spears and shells
of the forces that lay ahead, hungry
for a blood sacrifice and treasure—
the lunar fire without flame. We will
throw ourselves at the border
panting with open mouths, waiting
for the shock that makes breath sing.
Torn water, like the curtain to your sanity,
mends itself, needing no silver needle
to pierce the satin skin or blue or gold
or purple binding thread, for the guileless mouth of
the river will always swallow what you give it,
digesting precious metal as easily
as the core of an apple or the
scattered seeds of an overhanging willow tree,
and offer only ripples, like the curious
brainwaves of the mad, that sit with arched backs
on the decking, knitting sacred prayer-mats
off tangled cones of yarn, station after station.
When it’s mirror-calm, you will see the reflection
of your fallacy, for this still water
holds no answers; it is not living, and
cannot judge you, or return anything to you.
But if determined dredging finds no bridge exists
in the holy text, you will find one here,
next to where you purposely let go –
at Jesus Green, where the past lies in the sand and silt –
and if your heart so desires, you can walk across
and forget the loss of your beautiful dust,
the heavenly configuration
that could never ease the disturbance of your soul.
My Life #1
From the artist:
My Life #2
From the artist:
The fish are descendants of the trout stocked downstream, born from eggs carried on the legs of blackbirds, to this desolate place. Her place off the path, over the low side of a boulder, into the woods of the southern slope, above the valley. In this part of the country the water from the pipes runs sulfur, putrid, and the men and the boys were left under the ground, and the trees have all gone to ghosts. She makes her way alone through stands of trees marred by makeshift deer stands, rough hewn scraps nailed into their crotches. She trundles, keeping pace with an invisible companion, somewhere between this world and another, like footsteps finally fallen to bed, the whiskey breathing, the pant then the collapsed snore while the family practices its deaf muteness. She scrambles to the edge of sloughed off earth to peer into crystal blue water pooled at the bottom, catching a glimpse of the impossible fish below. These bootleg mines and caved in places, the unmapped gaps of enticement beckon the daring forward. Inward, to rest her hands on the hard seams of history, of fools gold, waiting to give way under foot or to exhale their poison, and the old whispered warnings no one will find you are true.
After Los Amigos by Julio Cortárzar
Salvation can be found in tobacco smoke
or steam from coffee, or ethereal vapors
of wine as they rise to the edge of night
like a song I can barely hear or those voices
of destiny in the stars, whose pale shadows
frighten me. The dead always whisper loudly.
When the darkness comes for me, I know
the fog will swirl; my voice will rise in quiet
Arrival is impossible, a failure
in all measurable forms
so symbols, delusions, will have to do.
These letters, carriers — variables —
are sent to infect receivers; the speaker
contains nothing, somehow, as the source.
Within this trick no soul resides;
it is dead or at least unliving —
no place, no time, no being, no breath
swells up — what’s between and unsaid.
Waves accumulate, cast off, exiled,
their traces — scratches in quicksand,
are enslaved as they are borne to ground,
to an invisible end, racing, unfounded,
from a projector — a simulation thrown
upon extraterrestrial dimensions,
surfaces immaterial as charges, sound
with both high and low resolution.
It’s a wonder — how such empty shells
can rattle without any seeds of their own.
There is nothing there to perceive
or cut open or crack or leave — too soft —
still, strange tags hang on ash-colored trees
that grow down into the body, the gut,
from the apple’s stem, its head unplucked.
From the rhizome — expression — a threaded
neck with its cover loosened, emptied
out into an open vessel, a mouth, a moment:
a spell, a solution overflowing whatever
dancing horizon glimmers beyond itself;
believed, it feels like reason before it’s gone.
Above the Spanish colonial streets filled with statues of Don Quixote, the roasted red potatoes reminded everyone of home—Germany, Estonia, United States, Guatemala, Switzerland. Together, we saw the New Year's sunset slide off the city's 7,000-foot hillsides. No one correctly guessed the Estonian word for chicken is kana or that Estonian verbs have no future tense. Fireworks on every slope spun our adrenaline and our eyes till near dawn, letting us forget the low odds of our brief encounters on the road owning any future beyond the shared flash of color and smoke.
The Aboriginal Australians say
that a child's soul is of the land,
that the child is a spirit of the land
entering the mother's womb
at the first quickening.
My mother felt me move in(to) her womb
a quarter of a mile from the Snake River—
does that make me a spirit of the Snake?
A drop of water, maybe, a salmon from its belly?
Doesn't that make me a part of Idaho?
And what does it mean to be Idaho
outside of Idaho, away from the Snake?
To be a wandering spirit, always foreign—
to be Idaho in Germany, Italy, France,
Georgia, Massachusetts, South Carolina.
And then in Idaho to be foreign, too,
with skin and hair smelling of strange sunlight,
and yet to remember belonging to it—
its bright, clear air; its dust, sagebrush;
the tiny sun-bleached skull
I found out in the steppe
with my grandpa and uncles;
the pasture between my grandparents'
houses, breast-high with grass, littered with
busted-up cars and crabapple trees.
The soul needs a home
greater than a human body.
Having left that place, it's no wonder
I feel a part of me is missing,
or that I myself am a missing piece.
after Gretel Ehrlich
A house is a cup of space, a transformation from random
nature to social order, barricading us from our feelings
with an armor of unforgiving material which holds no
warmth, an inflexible casing made from skeletal remains—
wood and stone—
a path that crosses itself.
A house should be a membrane that breaks down
the dichotomy between inside and out, form and function
a platform on which transactions between nature
and culture occur, not a defense against nature
but a way of letting it in.
Building a house is designing a form of imperfection
dictated by the randomness of space, bent into shape
by topography and wind, captured within walls
which are a form of discipline, an obstruction
that liberates space by giving it substance.
Inside a house is security and a barrier against
the plurality of ourselves, our location on the planet
our reading of the landscape, our place to make love
on the floor of the world, protected from the wind
but exposed to our own natures.
Men, squatting on their haunches,
talk around the fire
about politics, jobs, blow
jobs, fat cats, pet poodles, rain
v. rhubarb & such
as they sip the bitter day-
old coffee from tin
mugs. The men turn to the fire,
in deference to the supposed
wisdom of its age,
for advice. It says nothing
but they listen anyway,
knowing it too is dying.
that last drought year
the big thirst
drained her dams,
and feed turned to dust
beneath feet of hungry beasts
their cries ghosting the night
as she held her child,
in arms slippery with sweat
eyes dry in the futile grief
that augurs death,
seeing in her waking moments,
and nightmarish sleep,
a lasting image
of her husband’s defeat
the tree, the rope,
the last dance, solo
she watched the sun
bleach her dreams
draining colour from her life
as paint peeled and iron rusted
and wind blew, ceaseless
willy willies in search of rest
catching her up
before laying her down
in a country graveyard
where three crosses
now form a monochrome montage
on an ochred landscape