Her mattress was delivered to me the other day. I recognized the blood stain and for an instant thought to wet my finger, drag it over the dried crimson and see if it would taste like her. The ink stain, from the night I feel asleep writing with an old fountain pen, I recognized that, too, and tried to remember what I was writing. It’s been two years since we’ve slept together on it.
1855: the year Dr. Livingston became the first European to set eyes upon the waterfalls he would subsequently christen after his illustrious Queen. The same year British North American backwater Bytown was renamed Ottawa, inching up to a declaration of Capital. The year Central Park in New York City was orchestrated, landscaped, and constructed. The world did not yet exist in photographs.
The colonial mind of Dr. Livingston, concluding that anything not witnessed by Europeans sat nameless, awaiting. A man of his time.
More than half a century later, from the rubble of the First Great War, the British bully who forced a hard line in the sand through the nomadic tribes, and arbitrarily defined the Saudi Arabian border against Iraq. A border held, but never stable.
Upon a mound of bodies is no foundation for a moral high ground.
He writes in his notebook: at times I try to fabricate a memory.
I drove to the liquor store in the bright red Ford Ranger that I used for work, covered in all the dents and scrapes that I was responsible for. I wasn’t very good at my job, and given how torturous the experience had been when my father taught me how to drive, having already parted ways so many years before, the idea that I would now be working for him in a role that required precisely the skills that eluded me seemed the cruelest twist of the knife. As if I needed another chance, with every dent I inflicted, to make him ashamed of me, the son who could have been nothing but a failure to him. That to maintain my bohemian dreams, the price I would pay would be to see him staring at me not knowing if it were his glass eye or not. The same look he gave me when I saw him after my mother had told him that my wife and I had split, so long after it had happened.
“And it’s what—permanent?”
“I think so, yeah.”
It was the closest we had ever got to really talking about anything and my skin burned. How could I talk about it with him? How could I talk to him anymore than I could tell Danielle that I couldn’t have a baby with her?
“Just the Lion Red?” the man at the liquor store said.
Mom left to get away from Dad and us kids—especially Dad. She said we’d taken on Dad’s attitude towards her and she wasn’t planning to put up with it any more. I’ll be gone four weeks and you’ll all have to take care of yourselves.
Dad told her to assign chores so that would keep bickering to a minimum. Hah, said Mom, no more telling me what to do. She told us there would be no phone contact but she might send us a postcard or two.
I often dream of a house with doors I cannot open
from the inside
A house where I am forced to stare at the barking odor of being alive
A house where I can be in a room inside a room inside a room
because it’s safe
A house where I invent things so that nothing real can happen
A house in a field
He’d been up in Chico getting medical treatments for several years. Before long, he was just another midtown scene-kid who’d moved on (people were always leaving for San Francisco, LA…). He was forgotten, for the most part—except whenever a group got together and ate pizza with psilocybin mushrooms.
I grew up religious, so none of this seemed too weird to me. If you know what it’s like to pray every night and actually feel something there, then you know how any shit you want can become real if you keep a line of communication open. You send signals out there, sure enough you’ll get something back.
Several years is a long time to get medical treatments. No one knew what sort. All the better. Ideally his life was in the balance. We could only speculate how his medical team was a group of spiritual quacks, herbalists, and drug dealers.
“I saw Dante last night,” someone would say. They’d say, “He was in the shape of a wild boar.” They’d say, “I heard his voice in the train whistle. He was the train going by.” They’d say, “I saw his ghost. He’s dead.”
Haiti was in ruin. Again.
It was one of those places outside my consciousness most of the time—couldn’t tell you anything about the local politics or even, with any precision, where to find it on a map, until it materialized on the news, the victim of earthquakes and tropical storms and hurricanes.
It was on TV. Sheets of rain, trees pulled up from their roots, homes torn asunder. “It’s coming for us, buddy,” Uncle Ron said.
“Smile,” he would say to them, and they would obey. Always so splendidly and adorably, too. Even the babies. He wanted to shake a stuffed bear or dance around like an ape or talk in a wonky voice or something—anything really.
Why did it have to be so easy?
He would press the button; they would disappear, clothes and all. A few moments later, there they’d be on his wall, centered perfectly in some discounted frame.
Though it feels a bit like saying your true family
is the one you got to know on the T.V.
or saying sunset
was the temperature of grapefruit’s blood
My first reality was a museum diorama, masterpieces of taxidermy,
big whales & jurassic resurrections by which the world began
& Time was marked by shifts of skyline first
Shadow is the memory of light, in certain terms
For me light began like this from dust
before the mind ignited with a sound Bronx-bound