I used to wonder why the canvas of unwashed cars
pleaded for abolition, the ones with wash me
written on dusted pages of glass and chrome, fugitives
begging departure from the mobile canon, the traveling patois,
the entire lexicon of erasure. Then, the random gale
of a dream I dreamed dried up with morning
till nothing was left but imagistic dust, the kind
that finds itself caught in the duct of an eye
on days like today, when the skirts of the wind
blow sideways and the trees are a frenzy
from so much dancing and no one knows
what time it is. I used to wonder why
anyone would sweat such trouble for the short-lived:
Ice-sculptures in July, sandcastles at high tide, a popsicle
forgotten by the public swimming pool, but now this itself
is wonder, this leftover that will tear up, flush out,
this cleansing I can do nothing about but wait until
the slate wipes clean and starts over, so I will cherish
this evanescent remnant, this archaeological artifact, this
bit of picture fantastic for its ability to fade
like chalk drawings in Covent Garden after a day of rain.
Red lipstick. White Teeth.
This is what lingers in the after-flash.
The dilution of color, the fade before
the clear. It is as if I was never there,
which is true, even after the revision
of names and the buffet began to offer
a more diversified selection, though
this is what I would like to remember –
the clink of the glasses unexpected
and clamoring in the dark, the waiters
sensed only by the shush-shush
of their starched slacks rushing
by in blackness, the Moo Shoo and
the Kung Pao overwhelming
the voices of strangers rising like steam
from metallic platters, unavoidable and
closer now than they ever were before.
Katherine spoke of her boyfriend’s guitar,
the way the chords of his ribs became
the dissonance between the riffs.
At one point, the instrument hung
like a blossom between their absence
before it shed. Caroline was obsessed
with Virginia Woolf. The way her sweaters
always buttoned perfect to the cleft
of her peach colored neck was just annoying.
Once, the lightning took the power out.
Within the darkness of a Chinese Restaurant
someone lifted their chop-stick and laughed.
There are patterns here.
Here, there are even
quirks in disappearing.
Once, to get away,
six months into the stay
I met a man who has seen me.
This is something, these verbs
linking what we try to unchain.
This is not meant to be
a confession. Here, there
is no booth. Listen. Here
there is the rustling of
the pages of the notes,
the tempo of the waves
the seabirds carry with them
in their exotic names,
the albatross and petrel,
the ordinary gull,
not to mention the plovers
of New Jersey sticking
their pine-needle beaks
like siphons into east-coast sand.
This has nothing to do with
them. This has nothing to do
with anything at all. This just
with anything at all. This just is
an attempt to understand
what appears random is not
as random as it tends to appear.
- For Lexi
I will not have to give you the recipe
when you are old enough to know.
It is something I will not write down.
How Glidden paint cans strewn across
the landscape of a yard are the only vessel
for collecting rainwater. How it is important
to add summer grass first, green and
handpicked. Two scoopfuls of dirt,
sorrel, skunk cabbage, grit stolen
from a place I will wish you never to go.
You will marvel how each ingredient
colors the broth as I will notice
the brightness bringing me out. I will laugh
and say you’ve made your first mirepoix, and
will make no mention of the sun, the sheen
of halo around your tawny head, legs
tanned and laughter lifting everything higher.
We used to make a stew, old Glidden paint barrels,
broken landscape of yard, four parts
rainwater, a Pocono storm. Jack in the Box,
Queen Anne’s lace, the tartness of currants
stolen from bushes behind the abandoned tracks
we were not supposed to pass. How each ingredient
colors the broth, a mirepoix of gravel, sun in our hair,
how we spend our lives looking for the recipe of this,
how I was a child once and will not forget
it is nothing I need to write down.
- First published in Redactions