At the noodle shop, Shenyang, China, November 2011
Filthy words played into the air; A jangle of sex, the flush Of belly laughter. Tensions that encircled and slowly fell, then rose, fell then rose; each bump of breath, each spume of slang, each spiked phrase and dangle of kink, the syllables traced with veins that turned red as the skin of an old leaf turning, spinning, turning in the indifferent wind.
Thai beer sipped overlooking a spoiled river. That strange notion I have traveled, that I have been somewhere now, that I have seen the world a tiny bit. That I can tell stories featuring exotic words that will draw wide eyes as if I had visited the moon. Scarves, key rings, post cards for sale if I but turn my head or go a few feet. The call of tuk tuk drivers looking for fares. Other tourists with leather skin and silk shirts drinking cocktails and munching fried shrimp nearby. Their air of many stamps in a passport polluting the air near their sun-fried heads. Durian, mangoes, dragon fruit offered along the street leading back to the hostel where Buddha lounges on the stone wall. A mural that stretches rather too large and too long for my camera to obediently capture. Cats everywhere as I return to the green-walled room with the hard bed and the single sheet. Lizards and monks go about their business. The city bus rolls on by. A mini water garden dedicated to the local gods and I stop to watch the water flow over and over. Spiders judge me, wonder when I will pass on by. Backpackers speak of heading on to India as they march past me still staring transfixed at water bubbling slightly over dark stones.
note– written last month or so. The three pictures are all from Bangkok, Thailand.
I want someone to tell me the truth. That judgment that I should give up and turn back from this road. That the sky holds no wonders or joys for my consumption, that grace will not better me into some sort of badly mended maniacally grinning human pot of perfect clay. That the wind does not know my name, that the birds get eaten by stray cats indifferent to hope and struggle. That nothing good will arrive like a warm pie from the oven of the heavens. Tell me the truth so I can rest. So I can stop hoping. Goddamn it, hope cut me into a thousand pieces. And I have nothing remaining but a bitter cup of dust to sustain me now.
note– written last year or maybe this year. All the days seem the same day anymore.
Soon that fence will crumble and let me walk into that land of wheat and whale clouds where I can pretend how free I am. My lips form patient words for the silly dying of weeds and dreams and illusions that make my eyes fill with salt. Gratitude that I know I’ll never get to walk there and I’ll never have to be brave and never have to be honest. Because I have words that will get lost in those whale clouds that sink below the blunt little hills. Such a relief that I kept them inside where no one has to make polite faces over the ordinary agony expressed.
note– found this tucked away, as you do. It was one of several versions.
Something about mist and time and pumpkins in a patch. Something about children and candy and costumes. Something about the turning of the old year into the new. Something about snow and angels and trees dressed up in decorations not yet broken or lost. Something about love and apple cider and chilly nights. Something about beauty and peace and how fast time is. Something about hope and death and leaves recycled. Something already said many times in dull ways that we look forward to like a handful of candy corn still left from last Halloween.
note: I wrote this for the monthly poetry contest last year or the year before that. Time seems oddly fluid anymore.
I’m supposed to be a poet, I said. Well, be one, she replied. Be one. Rip the flesh away, use a figurative spoon, everyone has figurative spoons, use one, and walk around in your ridiculous bones. What sort of advice is that? It’s my advice, she said. What does it mean? It means eat a lot of grapes. Are you sure?
If you can’t glean meaning from a moldy bit of advice, then yes, it means to eat grapes. You can’t eat grapes if you’re dressed only in your bones. Sure you can, she said. You can mash those grapes against your ribs, smear them on your cranium, tuck them into your eye cavities and pretend you have eyes. I find I am out of whimsy these days. I know, she said. Maybe you should try being a poet. I hear that helps.