Saturday, May 28, 2005



From the Ark-Hives:

My husband’s name is Patrick, comes from Texas, lived in a tower by the San Antonio Zoo, with his binoculars every morning at breakfast he’d stare down into the open-air locker room of the female attendants changing into their zoo-grey uniforms. White/brown legs, red/chartreuse panties into zoo-grey slacks. It was the braless daze, double your pleasure. He’d visit the zoo Friday afternoons, not for the animals but for the attendants, many of whom he knew by face not name. It was binoculars, not a telescope. “I may have been a peeper, but I weren’t no voyeur,” he sez now in his best Georgia low country whine. Up close though he could make out the names from the auto mechanic badges sewn on their chests. Cindi was the girl – the keeper – of his dreams when he got up close. Brown-nippled, Gauguinesque in zoo-grey, she worked the zebras, antelopes, and elands. Patrick dreamt her at night, in his tower, horned and striped. Wondered, he did, if a trip to the Witte Museum just up the road was too far afield for Cindi, too forward for him. Snatch the McFarlin Diamond, live off the fenced proceeds. This was in the daze before the Lawn Chair Bandit. After the LCB took out the big shiny rock, the Board of Directors at the Witte took out all the rest, right down to the last measly worthless flint. Put up a styrofoam wall commemorating King Tut that collapsed every time the Brackenridge Park miniature train came barreling around the bend. No mountain, though there was an abandoned quarry. Cindi sat on a bench, said no, she had a steady, had he checked out Monika with a K? Patrick blushed, thinking surely they can’t see me all the way up on the 18th floor, thank god he wore clothes behind his breakfast bowl of shredded wheat, then realized (hoped, anyway) it was just an innocent question. With a K, she repeated. You’ll find her in with the snakes, only she’s out this week on accounta she got bit. Cindi didn’t talk like that, but Patrick does now on accounta he’s my husband and this is, after all, my dream we’re havin’. Snakebit?, said Patrick. Husbandbit, and sure enough, Patrick saw it Monday morning, bigtoothed tattoo sliding gingerly into the short left sleeve of a zoo-grey shirt. Thought, too, he saw Cindi conferring with Monika with a K and pointing up his way behind the bowl of frosted flakes (Frosted Flakes were Monday, Shredded Wheat on Friday), but just decided that was wishful thinking. Man in a tower gets to doing a lot of that up on the 18th floor. Rapunzel with a crew cut. Much harder to evacuate when Traci with an i happens by. I wasn’t from Georgia low country for nuthin’. I’d worked the Atlanta Zoo and I knew all about towers and open-air locker rooms. My first day on the job, I had 3 questions for the girls all sleepy-giggly in their panties: 1. Where’s the nearest porto-let? 2. Is the men’s locker room open-air? And 3. Who’s jungle boy up there with glasses behind the bowl of Cheerios? I’d started on a Tuesday. Patrick could tell I was pointing right at him, wishful thinking be damned. That day, his wishful thought had been anything but wishing. After our first trip to the Witte, we sized up the diamond, I said wouldn’t take nuthin’ more than a lawn chair and a quiet pair of shoes and damned if a squeaky pair didn’t get the job done anyway. I gave the girls the spyglasses so they could watch the moon rise every morning for a week of penance.

Friday, May 27, 2005


Peter Piper Picked

[“Thus Peter was identified with Janus, god of gateways, and came to be called the Janitor…” — Barbara G. Walker, The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets]

[“She took my house / took my Cadillac, too” — John Lee Hooker, “Stripped Me Naked”]

Mr. Bedrosian Balks at the Temp Agency

miss thang i cannot fill out your forms
righteous dame got one hell of an axe to grind
stripped me naked
she gotta whole lotta love to come after me like that
cockamamie stories even trying to take down brother jesse

that cold enough for you, now that is cold
dig me i’m the cowardly lion, i got hell to pay
but you don’t take jesse stuck up on his two by fours
that’s cold, talking ‘bout riffin’ off all the other big smokey joes
where the hell does she come off

she took me down but I still got the keys, oh i got the keys
that skill transferable enough for you, miss thang?
references? – miss righteous blew the whistle on the whole bunch of us
took my cross
took my prance on the water
took my whole damn custodial gig
me the January man i see you comin’ and goin’
took my Cadillac, too

my piety is a salty chair
it’s either this shirt or the other
this ain’t minimum wage, baby
this is dumpster at family dollar
i got more fertile topsoil than the blacklands east of I-35
scrape if off, chica, i got plenty more

light industrial or what?
number of words per whose minute?
blue car, yellow rose, the number 529—
forget about it, i got short term memory
mortgaged up to the hilt i’m talking
light fantastic, not clerical, not voc rehab, not
surface design
i walk the aisles of san fernando holding the ass of my pants
up with one hand, that’s fiber art

weren’t for the viejas hot for sunday mass
i’d clear the whole 92 downtown bus with the stench of me
when they first turned me on to san anto in portland
i checked into the san pedro springs
used to wander SAC, rip off the bookstore
old bent paleta man tossed me his leftovers

i’m sure miss righteous got hip, tipped off the heat
bloody pharisees in sweaty black, i got no more time
for denials, spat once, what kind of stick was that he
jammed up my ear? i let the cock crow all he wants

i hear she lives in jersey
just once i’d like to throw on a
pair a slacks whose ass ain’t grimed
put on the other shirt
trim the beard, lose the shit under my fingernails
walk up all nice and pentecostal to her door
buddy pablo with the meter turned off
we show miss high and mighty a real good time
none of that trumpy mess, we’re talking
cape may, pastels, Atlantic salmon
some place harborside
bellies all fat, take her down
blow some Jamaican weed, she’s wiccan, she’ll go for that
i’d give her the keys, hand ‘em right over
what do i need with keys
just me and miss righteous
feel that wind blow
transfiguration’s got nothin’ on jersey sun goin’ down,
great blue heron standing in the mist
i didn’t need jesse to prance on the water
i taught him, it’s in the blood
all of us little fish

Thursday, May 26, 2005


Estuary Shroud

all he could muster:

Rana walked in the afternoon heat
Teardrop leaves, gold dust pollen at his feet
Shiva rumbled from his distance
Dreams of wet
The silent ones are listing

Why the long ache
Why the congenital speak
Why the inverse proportion
Anvil interpretation
Acetylene meadow
Coffin estuary
Shroud upon the noun

This is classic denial
Deaf leper at the crossroads
Kensington Square
These yellow hands
Feel the cartilage
Lose the bone, separate
Cast from crown
Wheat from chaff

Call the day this
Giant heart, this blowing
Wind, this diligent pearl.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005



Rana walked in the afternoon heat down to the street corner. He watched his feet pass over the black surface, dusted with the mustard yellow of oak pollen. There was something rich and fine about the dust – a fine gold to the modest neighborhood in which he walked.

He stepped up into the shade of a looming elm tree, its teardrop leaves all round him, and greeted the dark man already waiting in the shade. The man was dressed in black jeans and a red shirt, with another black shirt slung over his shoulder; he kept peeling the red shirt off of his chest to cool himself. When Rana asked him the time, the man ignored the large watch face on his wrist and flipped open the tiny phone in his hand.

“4:49,” said the man.

“Thank you,” said Rana. “Which of the two buses are you taking?”

“Whichever comes first,” peeling the red shirt again.

The two of them stood on silently in the cooling shade. Rana noted the electric blue cars on the busy road to the east, watched one bus pass and then another take his shade companion away. Across the elm yard, a shaggy blond poodle was stretched out in weedy grass. Seated in a lawn chair beside the dog was a frail old woman with dark purple sunglasses on. The dog stretched and rolled over indolently; one leg stayed straight up in the air. The woman toed a bowl of water the dog’s way. Neither leg nor dog moved any further. Rana was about to wish for a life so still, but then noted that he, and not the dog, had the shade. When he looked again, the woman was standing and slowly guiding the dog through the front door. She then sat back down in the sun.

“Eyes are shot,” said the woman to an audience that could only have been Rana. She’d thrown the remark forty feet to reach him. He reluctantly walked out of the shade, her shade.

“I’m sorry. Is there anything I can do for you?”

She hiccupped a laugh. “Oh, not me; it’s Dime. Couldn’t see a dimwitted grasshopper if it peed on her.”

He walked a few feet more into the sun. “Dime is your dog, then.”

“Dime is my bosom pal, my young friend, and Dime is dyin’.”

“I’m sorry —”

“Bloody cancer in that leg she likes to stick up. Guess she likes the sun on it. I’d buy her the damn sun, if I could.”

“Something for the pain, perhaps?”

“Only thing for this pain is pure D death. Till then she can stink up my sheets all she wants. Poor thing’s hardly got a bladder left to speak of – leaky as an old bucket, little darlin’.”

Three blocks away, Rana saw his bus stopped at the intersection. He nodded his head to walk toward the street —

"Why don’t you set a spell? Care for some tea?

The number 8 bus blew by his stop as he was formulating his polite regrets.

“Why don’t I prepare a cup for you?”

“Nonsense. Got a jug right here.” She leaned down to retrieve a two gallon jar from its perch in the tall grass in front of her. A white top was screwed down tight and several tea bags floated in the tea water.

She nudged her sunglasses back atop her skull and took a good look at Rana. “You’ll be wanting sugar in yours, I expect.”

“Yes, please.”

“Well, sorry. Not gonna. Orwell may not agree with me about cooking in the sun, but I completely agree about no sweets. That ain’t tea – it’s candy.”

“Orwell is your husband?”

“Don’t I wish. Actually, I don’t. Consumption bit that boy good. Looked worse than me when he died, and only 47 at that. Helluva thing.”

“Orwell was a friend, then.”

The old woman was incredulous now: she gave Rana’s madrona-colored skin and shalwar-kameez no slack. “Orwell, my good man – George Orwell – wrote the last century’s biggest nightmare, a nightmare we still haven’t figured out the half of. The nightmare wasn’t dictators far off in the wild blue yonder; the nightmare was them’s right under our own damn noses.”

Rana was no fool; he’d just not known George bloody Orwell to be as opinionated about tea as he was about farm animals.

“I don’t know about biggest nightmare, ma’am. I believe General Zia wrote a fair masterpiece himself, only his wasn’t in a Garamond font.”

The old woman wrinkled her nose up at him in a way he imagined she used to sixty years ago, to enchant a younger generation of tea-drinkers. “General Zia? Touché.” Her smile turned grim. “My apologies.”

“Please. No need. It is water under the bridge.”

“It is never that, my friend. Never that. Blood, maybe, but never water. Come help me with this jug, if you would.”

Rana followed through the front door with the warm jug of tea, its color a fair match for the color of his forearm. For some reason, given the weedy state of the front lawn, he’d expected an inner version of the same. Not the immaculate white carpet and furniture, set off by French doors in the back leading into an overflowing English-style garden wrapped round a lovely old brick fountain.

“I leave the front ragged on purpose. I find it works better than burglar bars.” A bright male cardinal flew to a perch just outside the back door. Rana felt that he and the woman had been blessed.

She took the jar from him and walked to the open kitchen, left of the back doors. “Yard temp, right? Please, take a seat.”

He was sure any resistance to tea plans was futile, so he walked to an overstuffed chair that looked inviting. Behind it was the door to an immaculately white bedroom. On the bed, to the right of a rotary fan, Dime was sleeping soundly. Until he saw the faintest rise of the dog’s chest, he wondered if it was the final sleep.

The woman was back beside him. “Here you go, Mr. —”

“Rana. Rana.”

“Here you go, Mr. Rana.”

“No. Please. Just Rana. My first name.”

“Yes. Well, then. Rana – I like that. And I am Margaret. From your Zia comment, I take it you are not from round here?”

“Lahore.” It was a delight to finally not have to draw a map. Who would have thought it, in this shabby little village of San Antonio?

“You’ve read Naipaul?” – reaching behind her to an overstuffed bookcase. She pulled out the familiar grey book.

He smiled. “I have read him. And I have traveled with him.”

“Have you? And how is —”

“Forgive me. I should say that I have traveled with him here,” pointing to his heart.

“I understand.” She set the book down beside her on the couch. Her hand smoothed out the white cushion. “Done a bit of that myself.” She picked the book back up. “This book —”

“Yes. All of it. All of it. Or, all of my country. I cannot speak for the others. But I can imagine.”

“Zia…Zia was a very wicked man.”

“General Zia was a very religious man, Margaret.”

“But —”

“Please. I will not offend you. In your West, it is so easy to call someone wicked, or like your President, evil. That misses the point, it lops off too much understanding. If you start with the crucial point of General Zia’s fervor, you begin to understand the truth of all righteousness – be it Islam or Christian: religion kills. And it kills back. Mrs. Herring – I believe, had she been there – could have just as easily hung Mr. Bhutto.”

“You know of her.”

“I’ve been to Houston’s libraries, too. I walked Westheimer, wandered the streets of River Oaks. Often enough was asked to help carry out the garbage, even in my shalwar-kameez. Does this look like the uniform of a slag heap?”

He had not expected so much emotion to rise. He’d thought it was all tightly wrapped in his silent conversations with Naipaul. Now, here, in this white shrine of a living room, he felt thirty years of bile spilling out onto Margaret’s immaculate floor.

“Margaret. I am very sorry.” He set his glass of tea on the table beside him and rose to go.

“No. Rana. Please stay.” She walked over to him, and gently pushed him back into the chair. There was no force: a cool, gentle touch.

“We will finish this,” she said.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005



down to the maryhouse
bone weary
slaked her thirst in the river running
blue water blue electric

courage does not glow in the dark

she said: withered:
only love — blue cup to her lips.
a dawn filled, a dawn cracked,
these were her moorings
this her disarray.
out of shambling fire
nether dripping / darkest gloom /
body spent. down to the green water
even the grasses were weary
this tree shall stand
gnostic fire
frozen trace

bearers set free.

Monday, May 23, 2005


No Bridges

Rana was about to end his travels with the man from Trinidad. From Trinidad, though his people were from India. They had traveled to Trinidad in the nineteenth century, though the man – V – was never clear why. Given how much V got from the people with whom he traveled, it was odd how little he gave out about himself.

Rana, of course, knew where India was, though he was unclear about Trinidad. Atlantic? Caribbean? The mouth of the Amazon? It didn’t seem to matter – the man was so obviously from the subcontinent.

V’s latest travels had been to Malaysia, a far cry from the Islamic terror of Rana’s Pakistan. In V’s stories of that archipelago, Rana was given to believe that there was a softer side to the Prophet whose minions in his part of the world was so bent on raising a bloody desert out of what green ways were left in the hearts of his people. V’s stories of the Malays whispered that there might just be another way.

All of which meant little to Rana now as he wandered the cities of America. He was about to leave V, V who had himself wandered the southern cities once some twenty years ago. Rana was not going south: he told himself that he was traveling into the evening redness of the west, an expression for which he was quite fond, while having no notion what it really meant. He’d heard it also called the blood meridians, a description which lacked his favor, as it recalled Karachi, Bahawalpur, even Lahore: as, perhaps, it should.

Rana was seated alone in a plastic booth in one of America’s ubiquitous fast food emporiums, eating fried fingers of potato out of a thin cardboard bucket; he dipped the fingers in tiny cups of red sauce, drank brown gassy liquid from a paper cup. A man sat in the booth in front of him, eating and reading from a newspaper. Behind him, Rana was surprised to hear the tones and rhythms from his own black-suited world; he turned and saw her – a woman in black pants and a blue shirt, the universal uniform of this emporium, but skin the color of a madrona tree, black lustrous hair, decorative lines of henna braceleting her wrists.

“I leave in two days,” she was saying to a woman whose skin was charcoal black. Rana felt a pang – hers or his own? – of homesickness in his belly; he’d not felt his own in all these many weeks of wandering: though he wanted to reckon the sickness hers, he could not shake the feeling that someone from home was calling him, and djinn-like, had traveled the vehicle of the woman’s own desire to return. He imagined her free of her drab uniform and dressed in colorful cloth, her feet bare on a dyed cool concrete floor, laughing at the sound of a river outside her window.

No, the homesickness, and the desire, could not be his.

Twenty feet in front and above him was a television screen, absent the afternoon dramas he’d so often seen in such places; this screen was showing a movie, set in snow, with an old man struggling along a snow-clogged country road. A young man, driving with his wife in a truck, stops to offer the man a ride. The old man quickly enters the truck as if it were his due. He is taken to the house of a blonde woman: Rana notes that the woman’s mouth has been ruined by something injected into her lips. The ruined mouth is not that of the character – it is the actress’s mouth. Rana has seen her other times, before her disfigurement. In the world that he intimately knows, disfigurement is meant as punishment, for men and women alike; here in America, disfigurement is an act of vanity.

No one in the restaurant is the least bit interested in the movie. Men and women in camouflage outfits come and go with their food in bags; old men and women sit quietly alone and contemplate meat sandwiches held prayer-like in their hands; young couples sit and ignore the food between them. To his right, a very large woman and her very large daughter, sit sullenly and eat out of two clear bags of packaged fruit slices. On Rana’s table, beside his mound of potato fingers, the face of a young white American doctor on a thin placard is exhorting people, out of both sides of his mouth, to make sure they add good foods as well as delete bad ones from their diets. He finds this a very odd thing in such a fried food Mecca. He has seen this doctor on the cover of many other books and magazines touting good foods for the heart, and wonders who could have possibly arranged this marriage.

“Bloody Taoist,” thinks Rana.

He has, at the moment, a raging headache that is spreading down the back of his head like the many islands of the Malay archipelago – here, there, the pain is all about his occipital lobe, darting across his neck and shoulders, fully hammering away at the crown of his skull as well.

He wonders, strangely, if the pain is because of his clothes. This morning, quite impulsively, he discarded his shalwar-kameez in favor of blue denim dungarees and a blue cotton shirt. On his feet are brown ankle boots, not the sandals in which he has walked across half the earth. His hope had been to blend into this south Texas city, not to inflict pain. He knows it is perhaps somewhat irrational to blame a headache upon his clothes, but he is wary of dismissing the thought as just another of his usual mental shenanigans: back in Lahore, as he boxed his black suit into its mothball casket, he felt the yoke of tension he’d carried through three years of law school and ten years of practice lift right off his shoulders. He would have not thought it possible that a change of clothes could effect such change. For years, his family had encouraged him to visit the healer of their old village; friends, returning from schools in London, had offered handfuls of candy-colored pharmaceuticals; he’d resisted them all. Finally, a naked woman the color of his black suit had visited him in a series of dreams. She’d laughed at his obvious embarrassment, even in the private confines of his own mind.

“No, I am not one of Karachi’s African whores,” she said. “You can uncover your eyes; my breasts will not bite.”

She had a proposition.

“Five card stud.”

Rana did not like the sound of the last word; he’d no idea what she was talking about.

Out of an electric blue string bag, the woman fished for a deck of playing cards.

“Every time you lose, you will give me an article of that infernal suit.”

Rana felt himself a captive in the suit, but disliked the woman’s attack upon it.

“And if I win? You have nothing to give me,” he said, looking boldly now at her naked body.

She let him look long at her beautiful lines, casually slinging a leg over the arm of the chair in which she sat. Then she burst into laughter that roared like the sound of the River Indus.

“If you win, my little brother? Well, let us cross that bridge if we get there.”

There were no bridges. Within thirty minutes, Rana was stripped to his undergarments, which the woman graciously allowed him to keep. She sat across from him in his own black suit. Fetching, in her way, but moments after tying the tight knot of his cravat about her neck, she pulled a match from her string bag and made to set the suit on fire.

“Wait!” Rana screamed – but needn’t have. The woman was consumed in a torrent of blue and green waves, his black suit carried quickly out to sea behind her.

She crossed to him and pressed his face into her black belly: she smelled of ocean, of salt, of the darkest patchouli. He could have sworn, as he woke, that he felt the slap of a large fin in his face.

In New Orleans, Rana had seen the woman of these dreams once again; not the same color – this woman was golden – but the same unmistakable look upon her face that defied any man to shirk or desire her. Rana caught her scent and the look upon her face, before he heard a word she said.

“I am she,” she said. And that was all she said.

Two days later, walking through the market in the French Quarter, he had seen her again, holding out a plate of bright red watermelon slices to passersby. He hoped to avoid her eye and walked by.

“My little brother,” a hand firmly grasping his arm. “You would deny me? What – am I naked before you?”

He feared to look.

“Look at me.”

He did as he was bid. He could have sworn the blue and green Caribbean was in her hair.

Her hand cupped the back of his head, as she drew him to her, and kissed his forehead. In his ear she whispered, You have nothing to fear.

Releasing him, she said, “Take,” and placed a red piece of fruit into his open mouth.

“May I sit?” said a voice to his left. The woman was as dark as his card-playing dream, but she was clothed in one of the hot camouflage suits he’d been seeing go in and out of the restaurant. “Lunch is crowded today. I wouldn’t have bothered you, but—”

“No, please: sit. I was just—”

“Your fries are half eaten, brother. I wouldn’t want to run you off. I’ll be done in a jiffy.”

On her tray was a single cup of coffee. She caught the question in his eye. “Headache. A miserable one.”

Rana was about to say, “me, too,” but realized that his had lifted. The islands on the back of his head were just islands, no longer spikes of fire. He realized, too, that he had slipped off his boots and was sitting with his sock feet stretched out across the booth.

Her hand stayed the retreating ankle. “No way. You were here first.”

The camouflage of her uniform was resolving into improbable patches of blue and green. There was the smell of salt in the air.

She took a careful sip of the coffee, breathed in its stout relief, and said, “Two more days.”

Rana was still swimming in blue and green. “I’m sorry?”

“Two more days. I am out. Twenty years in this proverbial black suit will be over.”

“But your suit is not black.” He was going to say it was blue and green, but managed to eke out “it is patches.”

“Figure of speech, my brother. I bury people. Over there,” cocking her head behind her to the south.

“You dig—”

“Well, no, I don’t do the actual digging. But, arrange the services. It feels the same. Folks look at me as if I’m the devil decked out in black.”

All Rana could see was ocean and, he was embarrassed to realize, the iridescent black sheen of his card partner.

“First thing I do, come this Friday, is cremate these rags. I’ve got a kiln over at my duplex – these are going in for a nice long bake.”

Rana wished he had thought to burn the mothball casket.

“Then a quick hop up to Austin, take a right on 71, and head straight out for the Blue Flame, some of Swisher’s finest coldest cans of beer. Rattle my wisdom teeth, they will. Sit out under his big pine trees in the back and watch that sun burn its way into the west.”

“The evening redness,” blurted Rana.

“The evening redness. I like that.”

Rana smiled. “Please. It is yours.”

“Then, after that evening redness, my brother, I am going to drive back home to Sumner Drive, peel whatever clothes I’ve left on me from driving home with the top down, and walk naked beneath my ceiling fans until I figure one good goddamned reason to put a lick of clothing back on and go out into this infernal world.”

There, seated in the booth of a fast food joint at the corner of Harry and the Austin Highway, Rana knew he had finally set down in America. He knew two things: one, this woman was not propositioning him in the least, and two, even though there was the image of a magnificent black ass sashaying in full mahogany bloom about her living room, there was no evening redness upon his face.

He looked across the booth into the woman’s face. He held her look for a good minute, while the old man in the movie was whining to the blond woman with the ruined lips.

“And then?” he said.

“And then what, my little brother?”

Rana smiled. The camouflage had resolved completely to blue and green. There were turquoise lights in her hair. He held her look again, pulled back his feet and slipped them back into his brown boots.

“Your headache is gone, yes?” he asked. He did not wait for an answer. He stood up beside the booth, gently cupped the back of the woman’s head, and kissed the center of her brow. With his thumb, he pressed a rose into the squashed dent of her inner eye.

From his back pocket, he fished out the deck of cards and placed them on the table in front of her.

“Then, my sister, it will be time for a little five card stud.”

Sunday, May 22, 2005



You decide:


[this mongrel day]

reeling, how can I the heart to tell
you, this triple morn
staring down darkness
climbing miracle risen east
spilled among clouds
spilled among miles of longing
spilled in the torrent of western dreams.
I would a quiet heart, but mine isn’t —
lashing, weeping, ancient thunder
this mongrel day.
coffee face on white shirt
dreaming into black roses &
we are traveling the smell
of ocean a signal beyond dream
beyond aftertaste
this quiet morning of prayer
pews blue with desire
we are seven and we are
in a babe’s liquid mind
turned by willing annunciation
which of us has wings: answer.


[east spilled]

coffee face on white shirt
dreaming into black roses &
we are traveling the smell
of ocean a signal beyond dream
beyond aftertaste
this quiet morning of prayer
pews blue with desire
we are seven and we are
in a babe’s liquid mind
turned by willing annunciation
which of us has wings: answer
reeling, how can I the heart to tell
you, this triple morn
staring down darkness
climbing miracle risen east
spilled among clouds
spilled among miles of longing
spilled in the torrent of western dreams.
I would a quiet heart, but mine isn’t —
lashing, weeping, ancient thunder
this mongrel day.

Saturday, May 21, 2005


Squealin' Feelin'

Quad and the Missuz loose in the streets of Tres Leches, mi-Q off with his buddy Basan in the city's riversouth. Pleasurable indeed: repast at Portland Cement under the trees (yes, a dismal attempt at South A's Shady Grove - where no towering pecan would dare countenance a - gasp - martini, let alone countenance the twirps who would try them: our Ashley, though, was, sweet thing, as horrified as we: worth every bit of the 22.22% and then some), roaming the aisles of the Whole Foooms wine racks looking for Bonny Doons, off to the blissfully hilarious Hitchhikers, and then one last oldfolks' pitch at late night decadence: hot fudge sundaes and oreo milk shakes at Big Boy Shrine of Adolescence - ghosts and the new wave were in attendance. Here, at the crossroads of New and Old, Sturm und Drang, Smoking and Non, were verses penned. This after the scandal of the Newly New Coffeehouse was abed at the most un-24/7 hour of 2300. For shame, but not the poems:


& Peaches

We can’t drink it—
at least we can
write about it:
visible coffee
is a tiny strategy
april’s entrees are whipped
a satiable universe
tickles the rhyme:
more timely than cream
more stately than pie
angels sigh victorious
24 hour house recipe
aged to perfection—
but I held back.


Flavor Beyond

The vigorous Armenians
red with coffee vapor
a pearl in peril
appareled porcupine
transcendent masters
sandwiched in query
a sentinel missed,
mistress aviary—
3 diamonds, a distinctive flavor
beyond spooned pineapple
wisdom recurs.


Sacred Jelly

This jive java
is jilicious coffee
the jelly of the bullfrog
starry allure.
spent in jealous fancy
a treacherous june
scooped at jim’s
the sacred jiggle
of jestered hearts.

Friday, May 20, 2005



Rana stepped off the Voyage of the Damned, saw the desolation, a sign that said Seven Oaks, and another that said No Trespassing. Stranger in a strange land, he gave it wide berth, walking its boundary behind the gargantuan shopping center. The boundary tracked from steel cable line to full blown cyclone fence. His eye went no further than wonder and stayed upon the rocks he was kicking into the storm sewers along his way.

A small patch of green grass inclined up a steep hill: at the top was a green gate – open. Rana remembered the sign at the highway of the damned, thought to go on, but what harm in climbing? He climbed, stood at the entrance: at his feet were shards of a broken mirror; to his right and left, swaths of mown grass, forbidden for whom? The grass carpet fairly called to him. Why, at the top of a hill, open? Desolation on the highway gave way, back here, to birdcall, a rolling crop of sweet flowers, yellow and white, towering oaks, some lightning-split, and in the distance, staggeringly tall palm trees. Between the here and there of the palms was strewn a wasteland’s gaping maw of rubble.

One hundred feet to his left, the property faded into a neighborhood of small cottages. Rana turned this way, hoping to minimize his intrusion. He quickly came to a well-groomed silver green hedge with tiny purple flowers; beyond, a path that tracked the boundaries of the cottages. Here again, an opening – a welcome opening. Rana, for not the first time in this America, was perplexed. He quickly turned to go back into the property. It had the ghostly feel of ancient palaces in the land of his black suit, condemned by an Islam that demanded fealty to a land not seen, his own country, its own treasures, encouraged to die, helped to die, by a fervor of licensed demolition. Was there, in America, a Mecca of its own that made surreal the outlines of one’s own childhood? In which direction did one kneel and bow?

Birdcall from one of the towering oaks called to him: he followed, came upon large black iridescent birds gossiping in cool shade. Clearly a living room for someone: tall blue beer cans, a smashed farmer’s cap, weather-beaten socks, a pair of brown trousers all lay about a carpet of greener grass, in front of a long couch-length section of the giant oak. Just behind him, not another one hundred feet away, on the other side of the fence, was the enormous shopping center spread out upon its own imperial hill, but from his side of the fence, it was as if Rana had finally slipped out of the grip of the morning’s perdition and back into something like sanctuary. The store, a dinosaur gripped in its own eternity of dreaming, slept on. Rana, welcomed by the – he remembered now – throat-searing grackles, sat in the shade upon the limb of couch and tried dreaming himself back to before the wrong turn his morning had taken.

It began auspiciously enough. Clad again in his princely togs, he stood casually at a street corner in a quiet neighborhood, hidden, he foolishly hoped, behind his dark black sunglasses. The white car that pulled up beside him he thought was turning. It took a second calling of “Can we give you a ride?” from the boy in the back seat for Rana to realize that the question was meant for him. What struck him next, in this village of America, was recognition: the boy speaking was the boy in immaculate white from the bus two days before.

Leaning across the front seat, the driver opened the passenger door: the driver was not the father from the other day, the day of raspas stand, but the mother – the woman who had given the beautiful boy his flavors. Rana accepted the offer, took off his dark glasses, and sat beside the woman.

He looked straight ahead, but out of the corner of his eye, he could see that the woman was smiling – nothing predatory as that of the blond women whose questions and smiles he had endured: their imperial smiles, he had come to call them. This woman’s smile was simply warm acknowledgement – this day is blue, God is good, you are welcome – and in the simplicity of her welcome, he confirmed again to himself that there had to be something of the spice of curry in her veins, something from the there of his buried black suit.

“My son remembers you from —”


“I’m not sure where you are going, but I can —”

“Yes. That would be fine. Yes.”

And so began the morning, two more children of the dust, bright pearls of mother-son conversation strung between them as Rana rode on in a silence they were happy to leave him to. When they stopped in front of two-story schoolhouse of blond bricks, he climbed out of the car himself, and bowed to the beautiful woman and boy. He was halfway down the block when the boy called to him, “Wait!”

Rana turned and kneeled down to the boy, running with his large turtle shell of a pack bouncing upon his back.

“Here,” the boy said, holding out his hand. Rana held out his open palm, into which the boy placed a solitary purple bead.

“Thank you. Salaam.”

“Salaam to you,” said the boy, laughing, and now running back to his mother, who waved to Rana’s last bow.

The school sat within a hodge-podge of shops, small industrial sites, derelict art studios, and down its side streets, leaning cottages dwarfed by the ancient cars and shiny new trucks parked at the curbs or, often enough, on the cottage lawns themselves. Rana kept his sunglasses off, seeking the eyes of those he passed, warmed by the joy of the mother and her son. The first man he passed and greeted looked straight ahead without comment. Unperturbed at this point, Rana said a brief prayer for the man and continued on.

Within minutes, the neighborhood passed into the outskirts of downtown: still the mix of homes and businesses, but the office buildings were shinier, even if the now larger houses were still struggling to stand. Walking under a highway overpass, Rana turned right toward the terra cotta of the library in the distance. Broken sidewalks gave on to shaded parks, alive to morning sprinklers and the quiet activity of more children of the dust thrown out onto the streets from their nightly bunks. Each park bench and table was occupied by readers with their belongings in bags, a cup of coffee beside them, and more often than not, a long cigarette hanging from their lips.

The library was still closed when Rana walked up. Remembering the coffees in the park, he walked down to the limestone paths along the downtown river in search of his own cup. Ten minutes later, out of cool cypress shade, he stumbled upon the café of the infidels, and settled into a chair on the verandah overlooking the jade water outside. Tourist boats motored by on the green channel, and a mix of strangers and downtown employees wandered in and out of the coffeeshop. Here, beneath feathered cypress and cool-quiet buildings, Rana thought to rest.

But, it was not to be. The man at the table to his left, at first quietly tapping away at his portable computer keyboard, called to a woman he knew who passed for her own morning cup of comfort. She returned moments later, the man lightly commenting upon her odd combination of infidel coffee and local barbecue.

“Comfort food,” she said. “It’s Friday, and I’m training. This keeps me sane.”

“I have gallons of comfort food,” said the man, indicating the ice cream shop behind him. He was the shop’s owner.

All well and good. Why, then, was Rana so irritated?

From comfort food, the conversation turned to space movies. Both man and woman professed – at length – a lack of enthusiasm for the current crop of them; the woman even professed a lack of enthusiasm for the old crop, a sentiment the man found difficult to let pass. To Rana’s growing consternation, the man opined at length about the which and the whys and the hows of what “you must see.” Rana was just making to go when the woman finally departed herself and life in the little corner of the downtown shop-village returned to a blissful quiet.

For approximately three minutes, at which point the Emperor of Ice Cream found yet another audience. This time Rana made to – and did – go, back up the long canal to the library.

From beneath the shade of his forbidden oak tree, he thought: “Perhaps that was the bend in the river.” And then: “Ghosts. It’s all about ghosts.” This last he said aloud to the stirring grackles.

Reader without a card, Rana had taken to visiting the same book on his many trips to the cool expanse of the downtown library – a book about a man traveling in his own part of the black-suited world, into its cities, its villages, deserts, into the crumbling remains of modern dreams shattering at the feet of the triumphant mullahs. The man had started his travels in Indonesia, then on to Iran in the days since the departure of Khomeini, and was now mired – there was no other word that Rana could think of – mired in his own black-suited world of Pakistan.

Feudal, the man said – kept saying. Again and again: feudal. Islam at its most debased, its most brutal, a genocide of bodies and spirit. In each of the countries in which he traveled, the man kept looking for a sacred place, some pathway back long before the juggernaut of Islam annihilated all claims of these countries to a past free of the Prophet’s swarming imperial children and their minions. In the uplands of Sumatra, he found the hot springs of Pariyangan, where the Minangkabau were said to have come out of the earth; in Java, he found the volcanic ground at the foot of Mount Merapi; in Iran’s deserts, by contrast, he seemed to find sacred ground in the hearts of some of its people as they valiantly sought to resist their own spiritual annihilation. But, in his own black-suited homeland, a land which Rana himself had left for utter lack of sustenance, the man seemed completely baffled by his search for anything one might still call sacred, free of the hammer of not just Islam, but feudal Islam.

And, as Rana wept bitter tears in a plush purple chair on the sixth floor of that cool expanse, bitter tears for the staggering roll call of brutality towards women, children, and men who stood in the way of Islam’s crushing blitz, finally – finally – the man found a whisper: Shamozai.

“Shamozai was spectacular,” wrote the traveling man. “It was surrounded on three sides by rocky, abrupt, sharp-edged mountains which were part of a mountain range. In the foothills of this range the settlement lay: from a distance, flat-roofed, flat-walled, a pattern of rock and wall and sun and shadow, cubist in appearance. The house [R—’s] father had been born in 1918 was high up. A narrow lane wound down the steep hill; near the bottom, next to the mosque, was the house [R—’s] father had established as his own. Not far away was the circular stone-stepped pool or tank fed by the spring that ran down the mountain…There would always have been a settlement at Shamozai; below the surface here, too, would be ruins that would take the human story back and back.”

But, just two paragraphs prior to the man’s song of praise, this:

“Just outside [R—’s] gate a young girl was playing in the dust: the first girl, the first female, I had seen since I had arrived. Purdah was soon going to fall on her; the rest of her life was going to be spent in that void where time was without meaning.”

Rana knew Shamozai: he knew that very lane down to the cool stones beneath his feet. He had known, too, many children of the dust – girlchilds – who had played with him and then disappeared beneath the Prophet’s veil. Lost. Missing. As good as dead to the boy he had been, staunchly, defiantly rejecting the words of his elders.

Let loose in America, the ghosts of his playmates had come home to roost.

Shamozai. It, too, crumbled beneath the veil.

Travel one long day’s time of travel from the shade of an oak tree to the Eden of Shamozai, and the tiny cup of joy dispensed this morning by a curry sister and her beautiful boy would, in that “spectacular” place, have been punishable by death.

Out of this inner desolation, a voice:

“What’s up, brother?”

The voice came from behind. Rana turned: in the far edges of the oak’s dappled shade sat a grizzled man in a lawn chair. Farmer’s cap – not unlike the one at Rana’s feet – on the man’s head, clothes a little less weathered than those strewn on the grassy floor.

Rana stood to go. “I’m sorry to have—”

“Intruded? Brother, I believe we’re both the other side of that misdemeanor. I’m sure you’ve seen the signs.”


“Thing I can’t figure – aside from where’s the seven oaks, by my count there’s at least two dozen – anyway, the thing I can’t figure is, what’s the harm?”

“Harm in what, sir?”

“Harm in us sitting our coosters under these gorgeous trees and drinking a cold root beer if the spirit so moves us. Owners of this wasteland damn near burned down the whole neighborhood, and they have the gall to run is out? A might feudal, don’t you think, my brother?”

At mention of the word, the first of Rana’s many ghosts began to leave his body. He felt a cool breeze cross his face.

“I’ve got another of these Wal-Mart chairs, if you’re not boycotting.”

“Why would I be boycotting? The beast is everywhere,” said Rana, smiling.

“Some folks is a might concerned the Mighty Dragon of Mr. Walton is getting just a little too big for its britches. Boycott-schmoycott, I say. What’s wrong with a little old-fashioned theft? Purest kind of revenge, in my book.”

“Indeed,” said Rana, as he took the chair. The shade was even cooler where the old man sat.

“I’ve got two kinds of beer,” said the man, reaching into an ice chest, “real and root. What’ll you have?”

Rana fancied neither, but he did not want to appear ungrateful. “Actually, sir, a piece of ice would do.”

“Glad to, if you’ll dispense with that sir stuff.”

Rana knew it would be hard, but inclined his head. He rubbed the cube on both his wrists before he placed it in his mouth.

“Bud, if it will help.”

“Sir?” Blushing.

“Name’s Bud. You can use that instead of the sir. What’s yours?”

“Rana, Bud. I am Rana.”

“Whereabouts you from Rana?”

Rana smiled, looking off through the fence at Mr. Walton’s sleeping dragon. A big electric blue truck passed down the hill between them and the big mart. Rana crunched into the cube of ice and kept on looking, way out past the dragon into the distance. Look far enough out, and the view was spectacular.

“A very good question, Bud. I’d say, right about here.”

Thursday, May 19, 2005


Ebb tide

Prithee, Liz, what occasioned this?

“Earth's crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God; but only he who sees, takes off his shoes - the rest sit round it and pluck blackberries...”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Other poets join in: birthday of Quad's uncle, WAS. Oh, and he was. Long years gone now into Davis heaven, more poet - truly - before the fire burned hot and Hand took him in hand. Apples and javelinas, what more poem than that, sounds to boot? Castaneda before Carlos ever ventured south. Dive-bombing the lazy slackers, here's yellow cessna in your eye. Bourbon and seven in the green bottle, offered only AFTER the swipe ot the armpit: days like this, Mr. Morrison. Rest ye, merry gentleman: he shot the rapids. That river was cold and sweet and crystal green. Emeralds: fluorite: dioptase.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Into beauty sharin'

Resurrecting Stills and Manassas, Lane, Modesto, Kurt, Martha's tortillas, Fat Dog, Doce Robles, slacking in the south barn, that green pearl the Frio, Patty Matheny (yes, that Patty Matheny), and all that is/was right when it wuz:

Johnny’s Garden

There's a place
I can get to
Where I'm safe
From the city blues
And it’s green
And it’s quiet
Only trouble was
I had to buy it

And I'll do anything I got to do

Cut my hair and shine my shoes
And keep on singin' the blues
If I can stay here in Johnny's garden

As the swift bird

Flies over the grasses
Dipping now and then
To take his breakfast
Thus I come and go
And I travel
And I can watch that bird
And unravel

And I'll do anything I got to do

Cut my hair and shine my shoes
And keep on singin' the blues
If I can stay here in Johnny's garden

With his love

And his carin'
He puts his life
Into beauty sharin'
And his children
Are his flowers
There to give us peace
In quiet hours

And I'll do anything I got to do

Cut my hair and shine my shoes
And keep on singin' the blues
If I can stay here in Johnny's garden

[stephen stills: rhyming grasses/breakfess: not bad: worthy of the slant rhymes of - though this pair is straight up, not leanin' - Quad and MamaQuad's little rhyming genius miQ]

For all this and more, Quad, even waxing nostalgic, is thankful.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Approaching Near

[Five: o, five]

happiness coffee and tea
once they were five

now they are three
which is more

infinitely more

blue morning in blue pew
how are babes the

envy of these eyes
new and used

approaching san pedro
shamrock’s ancient springs

all 24 hours of her
china sea buffet

yellow line in motion
guess what it tastes like

good news / estilo jalisco
blossom view: allena: rosehill

pilgrim church / daylight lodge
did you know: we’re going places

— approaching neer —
jesus is lord, the dark invader

dahlia’s sweet dream
peach michoacan

en la cocina de marta
an easy way to a brighter day

la manda: journey’s end
the harmony express —

[for rumer godden: 5.17.05: quadpomes]

On another front: praises to JahDeco and his paper clip, His Ubiquity Mr. Wonder who ain't too up to get down with the groceries, "Golden Lady" in Aisle 4 and "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" round about the mangoes. Innervisions at Whole Fooms, what I'm talkin' about. Sister Joni's unfettered the Northeastside Baptist, and Zimm is tangled up in goo. Revolution was in the air. Yemaya holdin' all the trumps and smiling - her baby's come home.

Yes, it was liquid color, Quad walkin' by the Foomsoda and melons, waves of it, waves of what is and what will be. Blue Sky: it ain't root beer, cher, it's scoot and boot. We've moved on up from A/C, my bold ones: time for cake and eat it, too. Asian buffet 24/7, babyfauxsilicon straight up.

Lissen baby be talkin'. Mama Y smilin: little man crawled from Baker Street, Van on Sly, doesn't matter who's blowin the toon: It's a family affair. Manifestation Nation.

"Change your words into truths and then change that truth into love..." - His Ubiquity

Nuff, my children, NUFF said.

Monday, May 16, 2005


The Moon's Day


The thrice-plaited beard showed him to be a devil of the Old Ways.

“I am Nestor. I bring you greetings.”

“And?” Taurus was weary, but impatient, too. One hour of ceremony before the devil spoke. These pagans do not come to bring simple greetings.

“I have a plan.”

“Indeed. You are sure, Old One, it is not a curse?”

The old man doffed mantle and tunic. His muscled chest belied the age upon his face. “The curse is already upon you. I bring you empty hands to unspoon the light.”

“Old Man, speak a language nearer my age. Unwitch you tongue: you dishonor my home.”

Nestor smiled ruefully. “As I said, the curse is already upon you. The language I speak is your language. The tongue of your forests – your forests that have drowned.”

Taurus was indignant. “I know of no floods - ”

“They are not floods the new eye can see. But, believe me, your forests are oceaned. I lament your loss - ”

“We move on, Old Man. Our benighted Queen - ”

“I was not speaking of your Queen, Taurus.” The king bristled at such pagan familiarity. “Even now, she stands beside you.” The old man lifted his hand to calm the king’s indignation. “And that is what I lament: your loss of vision. What god would have you cut out your eyes to honor his name?”

“I see you quite clearly, Nestor, and I see that you are a nuisance. I also see that there is no one beside me, except the fool of a councilor who bid me let you in.” At these words, there was the unmistakable touch of a warm hand upon his shoulder. It was not the first he had felt of her.

“Another casualty of your wise ways, Taurus. Since when was crossing the rivermists given a name such as death? Since when was there ever such a word? Believe me, Taurus, in truth I do not dishonor your God. The blasphemy is that the word is your own invention. No God would conjure such a thing. You cast out your eyes for your own purposes.”

“And what might those purposes be, Old One?”

“I’ll not match wits with you in child’s play, Taurus. I came to give you back your Queen.”

“You waste my day, pilgrim. We have grieved my sister’s passing. She is dead: we look to reunion, but that day is beyond us all. Till then, we have work to do. Our grief is done.”

“Your oceaned forests say otherwise.”

“Damn you for the witch’s foul bastard that you are, old man!” Taurus leaped from his throne, drawing his sword of lightning. “I will have your head now!,” he cried, but his hand was stilled by the ghost of a touch upon his throat. You will do no such thing, my brother.

All too clear to the old man watching his Queen in her star-dipped raiment. He could smell the river upon her. It was long his theory that the children of the New God simply denied what was in fact before them, but in that he was wrong. In less than two generations after the nailing of their manGod, the blindness was complete.

Chastened by his sister’s spectral hand, Taurus sat back down upon the throne that still bore her blue and silver colors. Sister of the moon¾a mockery of the red pride of the black bull her brother. His hand shivered at the touch of her silks upon his skin. You shrink from the touch of dead fabric upon your skin, brother? What doth my tongue in your ear then, you arrogant cow? Nestor smiled at the crackle of sister’s lips upon brother. The smile was not concealed: no comfort to this king whose older subjects could see the methods of his sister’s tortures.

“I will indulge you but a moment more, Old Man. What would you have of me?”

“Three days. No more. Come with me to the shores of your oceaned woods.”

“I will not spare a moment’s breath for utter foolishness, Nestor. But, I will spare the fool that bid me see you. My most worthy Longman. Throw him into my oceaned forests for all I care. And jump in behind him. This kingdom has fools to spare. Two will not be missed.”

The queen winked at the old man. Now you have the one for whom you came.

Wordless, the smallest of bows, the old man left.

Taurus was not through with his own fool. Later, in the rooms of his chief assassin, he unburdened the rest of his plan. “Three days, Longman. Go with the senile madman to these so-called oceaned forests. Sink his body in the highest limbs of my drowning trees, for all I care. But, bring me his head.”

Brave words for a man who felt the still point of his sister’s blade at his own heart.

Longman found the old man beside a dry streambed beneath the towers of the dead queen’s castle. The king’s assassin had the executioner’s gentleness of heart. It came of many lips having kissed the blade of his axe. He set food and drink beside his traveling companion.

“Ninety years I’ve bathed in this green crystal stream,” said the old man, ignoring the feast laid out beside him. “Three kings and two queens have crossed the rivers, and now another - in all those years, never was this mountain’s heart dry. But now, my brother, mere weeks after Gwyneth’s descent - dry as bone.”

Longman’s charity was reserved for a senile man, not an infidel. “Do not call me brother, old devil.” The assassin’s hand went involuntarily to the cross at his throat. “And do not speak of descent. You yourself told the king - ”

“Taurus, gentle boy, I told Taurus. He is no king to me. Does the sun not descend only to return at next day’s dawn? Does the moon not mingle with her own darkness? You are not the lad - ”

“No sir, I am not the lad.” The giant’s hand was still at his own throat. Blades shatter, but not his Master’s cross.

Sunday, May 15, 2005


Naked to the World

Mama Quad needs time for art, which can only mean it is time for the rugrats to hit the streets – or library, at the very least. That done, it is time for mi-Q’s adventure: in search of the mighty raspa. Etymologically, raspa shows that las comadres have it down – this is NOT crushed ice in syrup that drips all the way to the bottom: this is SHAVED, vato. “Rasped, como a file, you know!”

Quad of the foggy brain, but the everattendant to his son’s everywhim, remembers a fading raspas sign up the BabyFauxSiliconByway, just past Tong’s Hideaway.

Things do not look promising once they pull up in front of the combination beauty parlor (yes this is a “parlor” – ain’t nuthin’ salon about it)/raspas stand. The parlor is, hilariously enough, called Snow’s. Wonderfully poetic – if not just for the duplexed neighbor, but also for the snow-haired, if not also blue and champagned, patrons of the chemical side. Alright: there are chemicals, as MamaQ later fears, on both sides.

Not promising, Quad said, for while the burnt hair side was shakin’, with neon signs fit for the Blue Flame beer joint lost in Quad’s memories of summers east of AustinHeartofTexas, (get to the point, Quad), side o’ raspas looks forlornly deceased, with boxes piled at the sliding window and City of Tres Leches forms that look more condemning than exonerating. Quad walks back to the car to break the news to mi-Q, when an Asian vato comes out of the Snow to ask if they were wanting raspas.

Back behind the sliding window, sez: “Doesn’t take but a minute to open up,” flipping on the traffic light to his left. Como Krispy Kreme, might this mean Hot Raspas? The menu board looks promising (or, if you are MamaQ, frightening): BLUE Hawaii (we all know what BLUE tastes like), Cinnamon, Root Beer, Coconut, Watermelon, Pineapple, and Vincent Price’s favorite, Tiger Blood. “Tastes like Chinese candy,” sez the resident chemist, smiling knowingly. What does he know that we don’t?

As it turns out, plenty. Quad rhapsodizes about Mecca of SnowBiz, the Crescent City, wonders about something with a healthy dollop of condensed milk. The professor commiserates, sez he used to, but the BabyFauxs just weren’t down with it, he ended up wasting too much sitting around in the can. Sez Southside Tres Leches has got folks who know wassup and dispense accordingly – apparently with knowledgeable clientele to boot.

But, the professor ain’t exactly crying in his boots, neither. Mi-Q is staunchly congratulated for his Root Beer selection; when DaddyQuad sez Mango, Prof sez: “You’ll want raspberry (ay, there’s the rasp) with that.” And damn if he wasn’t absobloominlutely right. There was no tip jar, but Quad, in a moment of chemical ecstasy, left a hefty 33 percent, which paid off later in the day when it was time to pick up MamaQ’s dose.

“Weren’t you the guy here earlier?” Quad quickly added that he needed to pick one up for his wife.

There was that knowing look again: he knew Quad had the look of a recidivist.

“Just a small,” sez Quad.

Professor hands back the Raspa Grande. We all know what Bo knows, but the BabyFaux professor knows his mocha chocalata yaya.

Keeping the theme of liquid sex (and why not?), back at hacienda Quad, MamaQ is deep into her 24-pack of Seventies soul when the rats get home, prepping for Boureg and K—‘s inaugural visit to food a la HQ. Brother Teddy getting’ down with Brother Harold and all by his lonesome behind that closed door: BayBa! You know what Teddy’s talkin’ about.

Long about disc 17, it’s time for Mr. Burdon to cut loose with his Warbrothers, lovely skanky groove of Spill the Wine – which, incidentally, Quad used to hate in his teenage dotage, but we already know all about Quad’s 20-year raw nerves time delay. Between the long slow groove of STW and the MangoRasp (toward which, by the way, MamaQ is not showing the proper obeisance), Quad is just about ready for Buddha under the front yard redbud tree. He vowed a tribute to Mr. Eric, Papa Dee, Howard, B. B., Lonnie, Charles, Lee, and utha Howard in Sunday’s sermon, so let us pray:

I was once out strolling one very hot summer's day
When I thought I'd lay myself down to rest
in a big field of tall grass
I lay there in the sun and felt it caressing my face

And I fell asleep and dreamed
I dreamed I was in a Hollywood movie
And that I was the star of the movie
This really blew my mind, the fact that me,
an overfed, long-haired leaping gnome
should be the star of a Hollywood movie

But there I was, I was taken to a place, the hall of the mountain kings
I stood high upon a mountain top, naked to the world
In front of every kind of girl, there was
black ones, round ones, big ones, crazy ones...

Out of the middle came a lady
She whispered in my ear something crazy
She said:

Spill the wine and take that pearl, Spill the wine and take that pearl
Spill the wine and take that pearl, Spill the wine and take that pearl


I thought to myself what could that mean
Am I going crazy or is this just a dream
Now, wait a minute
I know I'm lying in a field of grass somewhere
so it's all in my head and then...I heard her say one more time:


Spill the wine and take that pearl, Spill the wine and take that pearl
Spill the wine and take that pearl, Spill the wine and take that pearl


I could feel hot flames of fire roaring at my back
As she disappeared, but soon she returned
In her hand was a bottle of wine, in the other, a glass
She poured some of the wine from the bottle into the glass
And raised it to her lips
And just before she drank it, she said:


Spill the wine and take that pearl, Spill the wine and take that pearl
Spill the wine and take that pearl, Spill the wine and take that pearl

Only this morning did Quad learn that it is not “take that girl.” Oh well, ‘scuze me, while I kiss this guy. Of course, the best part of the song is the "out of the middle" Lady speaking Spanish, Mama Yemaya, no doubt, this ain't no Stevie having LatinoFun on "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing," chev-ray, this is Mama Quad's sweet breath in your ear. Where are the lyrics to that?

Peace. And take that girl...

Saturday, May 14, 2005


Village Life

Rana leaves his black suit, comes to SA, decked in the princely togs he saves for the village, the stain of sugarcane upon his teeth. He takes the 14 bus downtown, sits beside the viejita and dreams with his eyes open. There are no shortcuts this morning.

A silver anklet steps on two stops later, the brown ankle the brown of his skin: behind her the skin is sallow, unshaven, shorts with legs in need of cover, but Anklet is in love. Sallow has a travel bag that takes up the aisle: one stop later, a woman 70 years out of Walker Evans struggles to sit behind the bag: apparently she is as invisible as she feels – Sallow makes no effort to help her. A blue-printed shift and blue river shoes on her feet: she had been walking up the highway while Rana sat waiting for his bus. She is a ghost in daylight, though a sunburned ghost at that. Now, seated across the aisle, she has the look of one who has given up looking for the rest of her life.

Down the aisle sits Yemaya’s sister, the only other rider with book in hand: she, too, alternately reads and looks: she looks Rana straight in the face and smiles, as so few do on these blue ships ferrying across town. Rana looks away and through the window that is now splashed with rain. When he looks back again she is reading. Moments later her sandals shuffle past him as she runs for the bus just ahead. One block later, Rana steps off.

He sees the mosque-like auditorium, walks down a street beside it, past a lone mansion – limestone, turrets, garden room above a driveway. Once, he remembers V saying, the home of his mother, now the law offices of C and S. There is a grey Volvo beneath the garden room. Rana thinks of desolation and his black suit languishing back in Lahore.

Beside the mansion is another building that invitingly forbids entrance: sculpted above its door: TOLTEC. The name he recognizes as ancient, though the red bricks of the building are anything but. Rounding the building, he sees a poorly painted sign proclaiming Toltec Apartments. The look from behind is of yet another shabby repository for broken downtown dreams.

Rana is early for his meeting with V: he rounds back to the mosque, sees a walkway down to the river – a section he has not yet explored, a section he did not yet know existed. He walks down, thinks to take a length before rounding back to his meeting with V. As he comes to the green stream – hardly a river – a man is walking up from the south with a confused and imploring look on his face. Rana is still far enough off to act as if he has not seen the look and glances north to his right, upstream. There is a lovely old limestone wall with green falling down upon it beside the imploring man, but bouncing off the wall is the sound of an animal howling. Just over the left shoulder of the man, Rana can see the animal: a large woman, slumped over and wailing. Two men Rana passed on his way down to the river had already passed the howling woman, though nothing on their smiling faces would have betrayed that fact. The imploring man does not have their callousness: he feels he needs to do something, but he clearly is appealing to Rana for help. Rana remembers the black suit he left behind and turns upstream to his right.

Up ahead, there is the sound of rushing water: under a cypress canopy, the river drops over a tiny dam. The walkway has ended: to reach the falls, Rana must walk along a dirt pathway and then pick the last thirty feet along a series of flat stones. At the falls there is a concrete slide down from a parking lot. At his feet are mounds of orange-red crab claws strewn beside the churning river. Rana wants to sit: the crab mess reminds him of the sludge of the sugarcane machine in the woods back home: but, he feels the approach of his meeting with V and walks on.

The café is behind the law office mansion, and is part of the ground floor of a building in which automobiles were once sold. Rana remembers V saying the name Studebaker, but he has no pictures in his mind for such a car. On a beautiful flagstone floor are tables for the café; further back, in the depths of the building, is a wide open gallery: upon its walls are paintings and sculptures: between the art pieces are doors to offices. Despite its echoes of cars and commerce, it feels nevertheless like sanctuary, like the reason he left Lahore and the black suit.

He is still early for V, so he sits in one of the comfortable chairs against the wall of the gallery, facing the old glass-paneled door. Half the tables of the café are full, but they are so arranged around the stone floor as to suggest that there are very few dining in the space.

Fifteen minutes pass and V walks through the glass door, a woman in black beside him. Rana is struck again by how, despite his usual customary uniform of slacks and guayabera shirt, V never looks like the same man. Despite his frailness, he has a very erect bearing and appears much taller at a distance. Not seeing Rana, he walks with the woman to the café counter and speaks with the woman behind it in the manner of a frequent visitor. Rana walks over, rags V with a good-natured comment about his incessant schmoozing – a word he has picked up in America as a result of being around a man who does it so effortlessly. A less tolerant man might say compulsively.

The woman in black is introduced: she is M—, an artist friend who also lives in the old converted hotel now known as the Sevilla Apartments downriver. Her head is wrapped with a blue bandanna; she walks with a cane. They sit at a long table, and while V plays host, M tells of her life in Honduras. As he listens to her, Rana feels himself – as he has felt at other times with V – closer to, rather than farther from, his goodhearted uncle halfway around the world in his jungle village. After M’s Honduran stories, V tells of his days in the Phillipines, which Rana learns is also where he was born.

The meal is simple: Rana eats a small bowl of green salad. V drinks a cola; M has a cup of coffee. All three of them finish their conversation with large slices of carrot cake, much larger than anyone’s appetite. M and Rana finish theirs; V goes in search of a doggy bag to carry the rest of his home, though he eats much of what he transfers to the travel bowl.

Rana walks at a leisurely pace with V and M over to St. Mary’s Street and their trolley stop. He bids them goodbye and walks towards the looming terra cotta library building three blocks north. After an hour of browsing the shelves and riding the escalators, he winds his way through the streets to take the bus home.

The bus is the number 8; in his mind, as he waits for it in the sun and later as he is riding, he tips the number over and thinks of endlessness, of the oceans he crossed to travel here, and of the distance V’s call must have traveled to pull a striving self-important man from the turmoil hidden within his black suit.

Across the aisle is a man in jeans, an untucked printed shirt, and brown ankle boots. Ankles again, Rana thinks, recalling the morning’s brown ankle and silver bracelet. Leaning upon the man is a beautiful young boy, all dressed in white: white shirt, shorts, and socks; his shoes are a light tan. Rana thinks of cricket players: he thinks of what is not black. There is an exoticness to the boy that the man – presumably his father – does not have. Rana wonders about the mother who would have given the boy her beauty: she could easily, from the look of the boy, be from his part of the world.

What is this world but a village? The boy and the man get off the bus at a raspas stand. For a moment – just a bare moment – Rana is tempted to introduce himself and join them, but in that moment of reflection the bus door closes and travels on.

Friday, May 13, 2005


Don't Lose That Numba

Lunched in downtown Tres Leches with the Nome King and his guest, the lovely KDM. We sat midst the ghosts of Studebakers, baby nomes, and rolling thunder. We were, he said, at the center of creative civilization, dreaming the dream of dreamers. It may have just been the carrot cake talking. That and the IBC.

Up walks the Emperor Nome, vouches for his vassal – as if he needed vouching. Two more sprung from the Granada epi-center.

From the CofCC, I wandered outriver to the Enchilada: Rumer Godden is calling, scrambling the signals of Vidiadhar. Will the Dark Horse win, or will we stay with Rana in Pakistan? On the 14 down, I imagined Rana in Tres Leches: Yemaya’s darker sister was on the bus, as was a silver ankle bracelet listening to England talking. She was in love, charmingly bucktoothed, goldenstout: black tee said the Queen is Dead. Did England know? I didn’t.

MauMauChaplain riddims. 96 tears, you’re gonna cry, cry cry cry now. The mind waffles, crinkles, we are one: ?, Moe, Zimm, and sister Joni.

From the enchilada, north: 8-ward to Thomas Pynchon Elementary. Benny Profane, disciplinarian; Tyrone Slothrop, Implementarian. Mi-Q is sad on the baking tundra: his times did not suit the Speedy Gonzalez of the Playground Set. Crystal’s encouragement was to no avail: only ice cream could cure this heartbreak, so we 8 our way to the D-Sham: push-up and Barq’s elixir. We crossed the Baby Faux Silicon Byway and 14ed our way to Seven Oaks and home.

Along the way, natch, 4 rounds of Wilbert or Mi-Q: kicking rocks into storm sewers: you miss the last, you are Wilbert for life. I assure Q that I couldn’t possibly live with a Wilbert son in the house: he would have to sleep in the back yard. Sez he: “but, there would be wolves.” I did not know that wolves were still roaming the outskirts of Tres Leches. He assures me they are. Thankfully, his accuracy saves me from a Wilbert-son and him from the wolves.

Last night at Hole Fooms, ever the nose-Q isolating yet another offending effluvia: “That smells like burning brontosaurus burger.”

Rana: Welcome to Tres Leches.

Thursday, May 12, 2005


Paydar: A Different Blue


Virtue rescinded
I would see what essence is
At the brink
Of an eye
The blue gate,
A sand wall and 30
Bodies: compost for the chenars
Between here and Sangrama
They had said
“Come here for the beauty
And the chinar trees”
But come too for a taste.

I must note that I cannot recall
And then again I do not know—
Four big chinar trees standing
In the middle of the lake
Blue under the shade of centuries,
Lapis for the eye and throat.

In the midst of the saffron fields
The place where Zoon was singing
Sona lank and Rupa lank
Which of the four will she cut, who
If any will she spare,
Paydar dreams the lake
Out of the dream of revolutionary dust
His mother a different blue than
Krishna’s veil at the lying gate.

The next day, 40 feed
The roots that will not wander
The blind eye at the Azadi Hotel


[At the Evin Crossroads: again from Naipaul: 05.12.05]

“…Now I thought especially of my mother and what she had done without being aware of these ideologies. For me she was the symbol of the real human being. She was loved by everyone. Anyone who knew her loved her. It was something very strange…All the time she was busy with them, helping them, although she was ill.

“I thought that ideologies are only a small part of our intellect which can help in life. The main source lies in our cultural way of thinking. And natural behavior of people like my mother. The revolution I worked for didn’t understand me as an intellectual or my mother as a person.”

Paydar, in Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul's Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples


He drools
His bib a sign of sooner days
Calling from under heaven’s gate

Plunder his belly for dried fruit
The ache of violence in pursuit
Of justice—a bearded dream

Laughing with the Imam
Insulting the gods of the inner root
His throne a lawn chair
Ratted nesting, nested to a pair
Of slippers.

A child’s game
In the company of men
In the shade of the blue chenar trees
In the quiet of the serrated knife
At the Evin Crossroads—

Qom with me
Would you like cheese?
Fruit? Will you sit with me
And slice the nerve between
Head and root?

The old man shuffles
Party boy, glow worm
On the floor,
Devouring the flame,
Nursing the ayatollahs.

Send the babies to the front
Kiss them beneath Allah’s book
Water their footsteps
Knit your brows with the Imam.

Drool in your pants, old man
Sit in your lawn chair
Air to the throne
Under a dome that withers meat—

Winter at the blue Evin gate.

[AND THE REST: 05.12.05]

To wit, even as we speak:

Mullahs of Iran: "We don't stone to death, only hanging" [italics, Quad's]
Jan 11, 2005

Khalkhali, Hanging Mullah Judge

Iran's mullahs issued a fierce denial on Tuesday that it was executing criminals under the age of 18 or stoning people to death, dismissing as foreign propaganda reports that such punishments were continuing.

"In the Islamic republic, we do not see such things being carried out," judiciary spokesperson Jamal Karimi-Rad told reporters. [Quad: we do not see...]

"Bringing up the issues of stoning and the execution of under-18s comes from outside the country and is aimed at distorting the image of the Islamic republic," he said.

The spokesperson, however, did not rule out the possibility that such sentences were being issued by certain courts. However he said they were invariably quashed on appeal or by the Supreme Court - which has to approve all executions - and stressed "no such verdicts have been carried out."

No sentence of stoning has been carried out in Iran for more than a year, with the practice seeming to have been suspended since the end of 2002 following a direct order by the judiciary's head, and under pressure from the European Union. The EU has made human rights a part of its ongoing effort to engage Iran and negotiate closer trade ties.

In a recent case, the stoning verdict for an Iranian woman, identified as Hajieh Esmailvand, was stayed pending a decision by the pardons commission. The woman had been convicted of murdering her husband.

Human rights activists and diplomats have said that while Iran appears to have respected a moratorium on stoning, there have been cases of minors being executed.

Murder, armed robbery, rape, apostasy and serious drug trafficking are also punishable by hanging in Iran.


Wednesday, May 11, 2005


For Abbas

stealing stones: howling amber

wept away this bruise I carry
centuries of worth tossed out
instead I come in the night
wavering, a silent child stealing—
stone’s worth of hasn’t been

these were her nights
fingers shredded by howling
amber, unwilling slave
wisdom dead in the machine

lungs full of challenge. heart
in fragments
these were your warriors, these
your April nights, spring
infected with charring limbs.

I walked to the Evin Crossroads
through the blue Krishna gates
I had belts for sale
leather and web, ghostwine

scoured. The martyr sheds light
only on the dun hills
the serrated knife, watchful, still—
a blaze in the fountains of oil and blood.

[for abbas/from naipaul: 5.11.05: paschal]

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Intimations: The Greenest Eye

“But even now I am perhaps not speaking from myself, but from some character in whose soul I now live.”

— Keats to Richard Woodhouse, October 27, 1818


What quietness now my sweet apothecary, what dreams down the fiery ships of autumn? The captain tells me I am lost, amputated tradesman. Would my leg were in your care — a memento, palimpsest of a world’s worry. You would have thought it frozen in Norway, or incinerated in the infernal hell of Aden, not slow cancerous death in the green brown Eden of Harar. Prithee: a lung for a leg; never a problem breathing, too much breath said Verlaine, puking into our absinthe nights.

I could have used you in the Paris barracks, though in truth I do not see you as a scrapping bantamweight, such is the consumptive shroud. Hacks will comb the sands of these sour years of mine, glance once or twice into that muddy lot and run screaming, screaming as I could not, screaming at the mere intimation of what their imaginations have no words for. Not you, my sweet surgeon. Dress me, stableboy; put your commas there, your semicolons, your periods. Stay awhile – smell the horseshit, the wine, the insistent violence. How much imagination must generations lack to miss the bloody words writ large on those barrack walls? Such are the seasons in hell, such is the father of silence.

You least of all would ever ask why to the answer of Africa. There is no wonder. There is no missing link. I would I could have taken you there, and if not burned the viscous rot from your lungs, then delivered you to the spare ground of blackest Islam. I am no saint to love you – the picture of the first communion angelboy was already the portrait of a heretic. I knew no love of family, you who nursed a spectral mother and brother to their deaths. No secret love, no Fanny, my black wife more slave than refuge. Carnage yes, but love? Your dear father fell off his horse, mine rode away. We follow in the steps. Never once seen after the age of six, but still he whispered to me even in the upstairs hovel of Bardey’s while the jackals cleaned the battlements at night, corpses for your rotting morgue.

Monday, May 09, 2005


In the Maw of the Greasy Man


“You are the Mountain Man, then.”

Olson is so far from his experiment with danger in the North Carolina mountains, it takes him a moment. Twombly the scribbler used to call him that. Twombly off in feeble Lexington.

"Black Mountain. It was nothing. Just another—"

“Dream. Yes.”

Miffed, even if he was about to say the same thing. He slurps bad coffee: a bean about which the English are clueless. She brewed as Van put up. Out of the pumps, spectacular calves. Hungry, he thinks of baguettes.

“Like Marinetti?” A soft lob to the baseline.

“Marinetti was a fuck, Mr. Olson. A most joyous fuck, but nothing more. Slithering wet joyous sheets, but still a fuck. He may have dreamed me his prompt engine, but I am, I assure you, skin and bones.”

My sweet spine doth arch, in autumn falling.

Brown hands place two plates of tacos upon the table between them. She slides him hers.

They are seated on the stage in the cavernous auditorium. Curtains open, all the accoutrements of a one-room apartment: carpets, sofa, three chairs, this table, an unmade bed. Bags of clothes and suitcases spilling.


She watches his eye at rest.

“You are long for a bed, Mr. Olson.”

He does not hear the are.

Van places two more plates of tacos at the edge of the stage, a table set for cats. From the dark reaches, two men walk down the center aisle, stand and eat at the bar. Brown hands place two bowls of coffee plate-side. Neither man regards the other; both disregard the play.

“Crane,” she says. “The one who smells of ocean.”

Olson smells noth—

“But, then, you’ve lost your nose, haven’t you?”

Fed, the two men drift back to the reaches. He hears chairs unfold.

“Have one.” The brown hand holds a cigarette. She lights the match.

I am unmade. Leaves on her naked back. Pre-Raphaelite length. In the maw of the greasy man.

“I knew my limits then,” she says to his translucent skull.

“And now?”

“A most foolish question from one who has stepped back.”

“I tripped and fell.”

“No one stumbles through the crack. You may have fed on self-deceit, Mr. Olson, but this asks for something better.”


Most unmade.

“The crack finds you, you do not find it. I did not find this city—it found me. I, for one, was seated upon a rock, beside a mountain lake. Snow was falling. I was newly dead.”

“Hardly new,” he says, glad to find some ground.

She pauses.

“Newly dead. I saw a hand in the snow. Arthur’s hand. Warm, around it the snow was melting. I went into the forest looking for the rest. It was just that: a crack. Here. I stepped through right here.”

They were seated in the alley behind the theater. Wild-limbed wisteria bloomed in an arbor above them. Anarchy of hibiscus, cosmos, avocado, fig, lime. Down the alley, Van, a moon man tending bees.

“The hand is still warm. Five years.”

“A big lagoon of a man. I swam. I swam very deep.”

Sunday, May 08, 2005


Longing of the Dead

Sez Nigel Strawberry, one smooth operator (according to Periwinkle): "The lost lunar baedeker wuz a mutha, 2. Sorry: iz."


A red polished toenail in an open-toed black heels. Urgently, earnestly poking Olson’s ribs. One eye opens to taut unhosed white calves, a black dress, and the face he traveled more than just eighteen hundred miles for. God, the men who burned for her. From the stinking rat of a first husband to Marinetti to greasy Pound to Titanic Arthur at the bottom of the Gulf and all in between and beyond. Behind her stands an Asian man brown as the two grocery bags he holds to his chest. If he, too, burns, he wears it well.

“Sir, this will not do.” The voice unsurprisingly patrician, while the littered road behind her is anything but. “Will you stand, or must I kick you again?”

Olson gropes to sitting, then stands. Towers above them, oak tree in the doorway. Even as he lay, she could see he was a long man, though frail. Worried eyelids behind dark horned rims, nicotine- and ink-stained hands, fingernails cracked. Battered brown shoes, frayed khaki pants, a jacket more thick shirt than winter cover. Oak, perhaps, to passing gawkers – old men are never this tall – but, to her, no more imposing than when sprawled at her feet. She for whom empires have crumbled.

She sniffs up at him. “I suppose it was you pissed on my door.”

He responds, but not to her assumption. He stares at her face. “How can it be?”

“Not a stretch. I kick assholes like you out of here every day.”

He snaps out of his grog, eyes wide as he devours her face, as he has devoured Gloucester back roads, the Atlantic, Melville, the Yucatan, Pound’s Cantos, the Popol Vuh, anything with the longing of the dead.

She catches the thought behind his eyes, monstrous behind thick glass. A quick smile, almost relieved. She’s been waiting.

“Oh, that.” Takes in a moment to feel the sensations of being caught. For the first time the smell of piss on her door doesn’t take her breath away. The koosh of the bus stopping behind her sounds like Brooklyn, her apartment in the Heights by the bridge, the river, boats booming and sounding in her dark dark nights, all in a flash she’s no longer stranded in South Texas desert wondering why.

Olson, surprised, sees and feels it all.

“Come now. Stranded?”

Jesse two doors down, out for his 10 o’ clock smoke, breaks the spell. The smell of flour tortillas spills out the door with him. She catches the holy scent. No. Not stranded.

“Hola, Mina!” Meena, says this one. Olson remembers leering Ez, the other way: like the bird. The talking one. What feathers to crush.

The brown grocery man answers for them. “Buenos dias, Jesse.” Extends a bag Olson’s way. “My name is Van. Won’t you come in, Mr. - "


“Won’t you come in, Mr. Olson.”

Saturday, May 07, 2005


Mexican Vanilla

This one was marble-ized.

[stray door]

how many fathers do you father
at 14 on a Detroit horse track
lost in the downtown rivers
the look he throws you across
the ground at play, seventeen winters
or past the time of worry
a time of sensible wear

go to Saint Anthony
walk the gloom of Travis Park
invent a snow day in March
all your hearts melting in
blue noon, orange flame
playland in feral bloom
Calliope seated in her chapel
her marble knees

picture instead gray corridor
cedar mounting eyes stray
door to door, the gloom of west Texas
on the sands of India
Gandhi salt, not his taking

death by drowning, she says,
he lay in wait, act of mercy
stone cold on the floor
no more waiting
in a field of white teeth
no songs but a different chatter
ankle deep.

[quad's alias: post-levine: tres leches]

Anybody out there know the Olson canon on right-aligned? Just plain goofy, or did he perhaps discover it himself down in the Yucatan? He's a big dude - big enough to get back here, him and Creeley on a BIG road trip.


Olson’s hand pillows his bristled cheek, shields his face from cold and damp tile. Eighty-two fetal inches curl against a plywood door, alcove of the abandoned theater. A wilier derelict would have pried open the box office, sat warmly adrift the fog and mist of Fredericksburg Road. Wilier and smaller. This leviathan is neither.

The cold is the least of his worries. Dead of San Antonio winter is nothing to his howling Gloucester. He’s walked daytime streets in postal blue, prowled – blearycold and frazzled – dogroads at night. Ice in his brain, ice floes in the arteries of his long body, ice that gathered him in, took him down and beyond all known landmarks of cold, grim catacombs of rimed ghosts, bearded death. Vaults where hunger whispered, despair echoed, and hope died. Olson’s many deaths.

His unpillowed eye opens. Streetlight moons bleed into the night’s gauze; one is Luna herself. A rat crosses to the curb, fidgets in the garbage bag dumped there. Bag and rat absorb the night’s moons, the green neon flicker from a Money Box across the street, the infernal flame of Olson’s gaze. Where have I landed?, he wonders to the rat, then remembers that he pilfered the bag first. Hot dog buns, Chinese food cartons, donuts. Mostly dry wastepaper trash besides, thank God. Slim pickings for the rat.

Olson creaks up to sitting, fumbles in his jacket for cigarettes, lights one. The rat stops and notes the tiny blaze, goes back to rummaging.

You’re the asshole got to this bag first, fuck you, thinks Olson for the rat. Newly back from the dead, he’s not sure if people actually see him; he does a lot of talking and thinking for others. The rat pulls out the hot dog bun left behind, looks his way. You got that right.

“Knock yourself out, you little shit.” Olson has the seafarer’s ease with vermin, we’re all on this stinking sinking ship, though he’s never shipped out of Gloucester, never shipped out of anywhere. His father, who sailed from Norway, has the landlubber’s dread. Wartime D.C. bureaucrats were inoculation enough for the likes of this curbside friend. He takes a last drag on his cigarette, flicks the butt in an arc over the rat’s head.

Two headlights troll slowly up the street. Yellow cab. Olson thinks to hail it, not for the ride, but for the company. The driver sees him, slows, stops just past the rat. Red tail lights mix with Money Box green. Merry Christmas.

Olson waves the driver off, looks at the rat polishing off the bun.

“You and me, buddy.”

The rat runs off. Think again, chump.

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