Argentina Days

           after Paul Bowles

It gets dark. We return home. Tea.

As always when I arrive someplace, I spread my papers out on the desk and stand before the window. I gaze outside in private devotion, as if in the courtyard below there was a palette from which I were drawing paint. I grow restless, re-arrange, pace, fidget. If there is a tree I give myself to its wispy tree breath. Listen for the rustle of the wind, the sound sent by the trees for the birds to hear. The trees across this country sometimes spread their wide branches out like flags, jutting out over the land, a little too proud of themselves. Is it not the job of every tree, like great towering erasers, to push the words away? A Poplar tree, the breeze it blows, aren’t these the essential props of my life?

 

Shut the window. Whatever fruit is there is there to rot for the crows to catch.

Point yourself toward the bedroom. Try to avoid the mirror mounted on the wall.

Understand that one of the major ordeals of man is to face his mirror, but the force of another kind of humiliation is enough for you now. Scuttle across the floor to the bedroom like a crab across the sea floor—one eye glancing up to the surface of the water—careful not to be spotted.

Somewhere in the Galapagos Islands, a tortoise is being smothered by another tortoise. Flesh is swinging on a rope.

Pace, fidget, re-arrange. The pendulum swings on the branch of the Poplar tree outside. The smell of rot and mud.

Shut the door. Feel the air kiss your forearms a moment, a sense of the door still warm with vibration. Hear for a moment the echo of your own blood. Listen to the trace of a voice outside: The Lamp is on, the dogs lay on the rug. The details of this voice were crawling all over you like insects a few moments ago, and they left you practically absent.

The smell of rot and mud. Old fruit falling to the ground for the crows to catch.

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I’m Pretty Don’t Like Anything; Or, the Importance of being Urgent

Few things seem urgent now.

The diaphanous verse
of the crippled Leopardi.

The fight for clarity
of style, if not purpose.

The dead season,
and the one alive,
and the sound of it.

Few things seem worth
talking over any longer.

When you fear even
the moon’s laughter.
When your feet dance
so hard in anger.

Few things seem urgent
any longer.

Dostoevsky’s self-diagnosis
from a siberian prison:
scrofula, epilepsy, rheumatism,
the pompous ambition
to love the whole world.

Tomorrow’s memory of your last
first kiss.

The perfect verse
of the crippled Leopardi.

Lost in a rambling
undirected wind.

The dead season,
and the one alive,
and the sound of it.

*for Sarah

Lines composed for a stranger, on a napkin @ The Alcove in Los Feliz

you sit there in your special little nook,

like a sovereign in the universe of cakes,

you choose your seat in the back corner,

‘in an alcove at the Alcove’; you regret

thinking for a moment this was clever

of you. you sit with your little café con

leche, with your little dessert dish,

your special little saucer and your

‘platillos sucios; you hear the dumb twerp

of the register; someone else sits behind the till,

he is not attractive but his personality seems

effortless and authentic enough that you feel you

could one day be swayed otherwise;

his false (and true) sense of his own authority

is a little  disconcerting, and yet you find yourself

strangely drawn to this; you sometimes wonder

about this quality in yourself – the way your love of

someone else’s grace and power and effortlessness 

can surprise you; you wonder whether

you might be weird even by Los Feliz standards,

(which would still be better than normal, you think)

and now you tell yourself

the man behind the register is just okay;

sure, he is a sovereign

of cakes just like you

and, not to mention, of sausages and cabbages

and all sorts of other little items;

and so the two of you share that sweet

pleasure & secret burden; you share a cardinal

sense of pride and shame (a secret pride and a cardinal

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