Dry Branch

He said, "This is a pine tree, escape while you still can."

How long is it in you

to stay rooted?

to fight the urge

to let dead limbs

pry from loose, dry earth

rotten wooden anchors.

We’re red eyed 

brothers

dusty and red eyed

and rotten for modern life

with vertigo and only vague notions 

of how wide the world really is.

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When I speak of my translation projects

like being lost in some crowded marktplatz 

aimless in every sense since

but trying to cut straight though to the marrow bone of meaning

Your tongue is evergreen, and mine

mine is only squatting in the woods

The only real I know

fails to form with a fall

I wonder how it can be possible to be, here, now, without

crushing it under a collapsing structure of all that can be

possible, here, now

When I speak of my translation projects,

I mean I’m trying to sing cracks into the walls.

THAT DAY ONE THING HAPPENED & EVERYTHING CHANGED FOR A BIT

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            There was a big & beautiful sun the morning we woke up early, filled with a lingering sense of enthusiasm & optimism, which motivated us to follow through on the plans we had drunkenly made the night before, & it was said to be a rare excursion indeed. Yes, we all had great expectations for the day:

            it was to be a soothing drive, west on highway 71, conducive to reflection on the events of the night before & of how one might have gone about certain situations differently, & at the end of the drive & our reflections we would find ourselves at the edge of Hamilton’s Pool, untying shoelaces & snuffing out cigarettes in anticipation of the coming baptism, & after we had all been blessed & cooled & dried we would hike down to the river, the Pedernales River, for lunch & further exploration, & all of this would be concluded by a brief period of rest on the sandy banks of the Pedernales River, lapped in the gentle rays of summer’s penultimate day.   

            & yes, indeed it was, a beautiful day. & we were all glad we had woken up early that morning with such unusual movement & commitment. We all felt accomplished. We all felt pleased, with ourselves & with each other, as we all drove back east on highway 71, with the sky just now beginning to turn ever-so-slightly & the red sun yawning behind us.

 

            On the way home we stopped at a barbecue joint along the side of the road. It was a big place; with big grills & smokers, a big open dining hall filled with benches, & a big lawn out back where families would kick balls to each other, or play various catch & throw games, all on the impossibly green grass. We ate out on the lawn, on the periphery of the action, where things & people were tumbling & twirling & bouncing, all humming, or buzzing, or singing.

            Well it just so happened that this fine day had provided one of us with the foresight to pack a frisbee for the trip, in the case that a situation, such as the one we were now presented with by the place we were at, came about. & so it came about that we were now playing frisbee.

           …& it’s a beautiful thing, the flight of a frisbee…if flicked with finesse, how gently it cuts through the air! & how, if one possesses that special bond with the disc, one can teach it to carve its path toward the target like a sidewinder in the sand, before pausing briefly above its destination, embracing those delicate moments before everything drops…yes, indeed it is, a beautiful thing…

            & so it was all these things & more that I was thinking of, with a general air of lucidity, when I let loose the disc from my hand, low & direct. My wrist whipped & the frisbee set out to accomplish its task of arriving at point B via the most aerodynamically efficient linear path, & by following the most basic physical laws of the universe, it would have done so… …had it not been for the child.

            The child that stumbled & staggered with jocular naivety & an ineffable determination to intersect paths with the flying object on that proverbial Cartesian plane. The child that stumbled just tall enough to see the object in question grow in size, at what must have been a very surprising rate, until it filled the field of vision & subsequently collided with it, momentarily blinding it. The child that stumbled backwards until it fell, crying only when it had collapsed on that impossibly green grass, with the frisbee rolling slowly on its side, weaving down the gentle slope of the lawn like an oblivious drunk caught out in the morning.

            Needless to say I was slack-jawed, simply awed by the odds. There was some confusion for a moment, & then everyone mutually agreed that it probably would have been a good time to leave anyways & all put their respective trash in the communal bins, & all emptied the lawn into their respective vehicles, which all vacated the parking lot in a single-file line, hazard lights flashing out of habit.          

            The drive home was mostly uneventful, complacent silence, interrupted every now & then by neighborhood speed-bumps, local panhandlers, & the occasional reaffirmation of what the odds had been, & how slim they actually were.

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THEN: 

the most painful time I can imagine

& I & I & I &

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They told me I was seeing red.

But really

                 I

       couldn’t see a thing.

But I heard them.

& I heard me.

& I heard a thousand words

       convulsing in my throat,

       all spit & foam.

                 & I,

I felt myself rent across the synapse,

       all empty & seething.

& if the color was red it was

       one of the thousands,

       compressed, compounding.


& later on,

         alone,

   the mirror fogged over,

   the hot water hissing,

   the wave overwhelming,

       I found my tongue.

       I pieced myself together.

& I cried.

& I forgot.

                 & I,

             again.

enable unable

Earthquake

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The earth quakes. It is called an earthquake. Many people die. Due to the plates moving. Houses tumble. Buildings collapse. Bridges fall. Humans are in these. They are all potential heavens and hells. Places of safety. Places of danger.

The world is a place.

Mine is not.

Mine is a dirty sinking.

Love can be a quake. The woman I’m inside is much like a building. If the gal is sturdy, I’ll survive. If she’s not ready, I’ll be the victim of a collapse.

Drinking was drinking.

Smoking was smoking.

Sex was sex.

I quit doing it today. I’m proud. The last one was in the middle of the night. Upstairs was loud. I could hear bass and bodies bumping the ground. I was awake. She was asleep. Asleep and warm. Would not wake. I went out under the noise and did it. I don’t want to. I am forced into it. I feel dirty.

Drinking was Glenlevit.

Smoking was Olivas.

Sex was sleeping with her.

Afterwards, later, I was alone and did it. I don’t think about it. I look at my Alfred Hitchclock and think about the Princess. The Princess is Grace Kelly. Grace Kelly is beauty. The beauty makes me think of being dirty. The dirty makes me think of a different beauty, and I do it.

Drinking is Mickey’s.

Smoking is Reds.

Sex is fucking my hand.

Soon it’ll be different. That’s what Johnny Appleseed said. “One day it’ll be different” They said, “How Johnny Appleseed?” He said, “Apple trees from my apple seeds.”

Appleseed was just a name. It was long after the names of profession. He said this and did it. During it he met Paul Bunyon. Paul was big and friendly. They were eating oranges in California waiting for the apples. Paul stretched his legs and cracked the earth. The San Andreas Fault. It’s not Johnny’s fault he has killed so many. The apples just had not grown.

what weekend?

All I can remember

of the Chinatis was that

the stars were fuzzy &

Ojinaga burned red over the mountains &

the water was warm &

your skin was warmer &

the burro in the ditch &

the dog at our feet &

the kit fox was never seen &

the whiskey was there &

the whiskey was gone &

the record player kept playin’

that same damn Bob Wills song,

though I can’t recall which one.

Everywhere is jail

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Think of

               pastries 

golden croissants layered, flakey and torn

               apart

on an evening Marais stroll

of petals

pulled from the trail and pressed

between leaves

layers of my mother tongue

of night sinking

over a rooftop

 

terrace table

and my growing, obscured violence

of wine thick blood

coursing through my Mississippi delta

              heart

over her fertile nocturne blossom

and morning in a tent

illegally pitched on a beach

salty skin and other parts of you and parts of me

and barred door or not

nowhere is prison.

song from the back porch.

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heard the sounds of the stadium from all the way across town.

saw the first of the live oak’s leaves fall as i lit my last cigarette.

where there are roads there’s a warm orange glow, where there is nothing there are stars.

the children cheer as the line advances, the country sings as the needle drops.

while everything is going on around me i feel idle, i feel strange.

how can i find solace in the constant looming of distant places overhead?

the orchestration overwhelms me, a chord triumphant & unequaled in the fray.

there are things that are hard to keep a hold on & things that you never seem to shake.

some stars align, some cease to shine, & i am forever in their wake.