Almost Like Giulietta Masina

Almost like Giulietta Masina
but you didn’t have the heart
Cabiria and the Spirits
innocence in the postwar years

in a seaside shanty
when you joined Zampanò
you were almost like Giulietta
Masina, but you didn’t have the

heart. You clung to the
miserable suburb like dust
without enough redeeming
qualities to be blown back out.

And on the road the pilgrims
wept to see you survive
what ought to do violence to
beauty so Chaplinesque.

But you didn’t have the heart.
You were almost like Guilietta
Masina, but you didn’t overcome
the war. You fell into it laughing.

And what’s more, you
flashed on a screen, you
flashed in a pan, and in a
second more you were gone.

Mountain Home

When that odd fruit tree salesman
from Poor Valley with the big ears,
A.P. and Esley, clinched mountain homes,
ironwood in milkweeds and honeysuckle,
stopped at the Shell station to ask
the attendants for songs, and he’d tell
the black man, Esley, he might could
write one, too, try yer hand at it,
we’s mountain folk. To fill up the
tank and rattle home with the bounty
from the Cherokee orchard, to bake
in Maybelle’s scratching skillet, and
Sara! Oh Sara, to’ve made that A.P.
Abraham the Pleasant, out to raise up
that nation from forest bones, to settle
instead into old age as another picto-
graph running an old stone general
store! And their feet carried them from
Del Rio to Brinkley’s border blaster
and from there again to opposite sides
of America. A.P., did you find the
spring of song and greenbacks? It didn’t
matter. You fell out your saddle of steel
and gut harpsichord strings, tumbling
into laurel ravines of forgetting. And
Isaac! Their Isaac in cylinders of wax,
the fever-child of the sterile clinching
and Mountain Home, of the fruit trees
and folk songs traded for the planting
and the singing, traded for the Family
and the Gap, traded for Bristol and
Kingsport, traded for Maces Spring and
traded for Canaan. Isaac in cylinders.
We heard you clinched in rage and grief
and scrape your knuckles on the ironwood
but you did, A.P. You raised up a nation.
And your mountain home is coming, yes.
Yes, your mountain home is coming, just
as always, in milkweeds and honeysuckle.
And we would sacrifice it all to come
home again. But feel the angels balanced
on the butt of your Buck knife, steady
in its movement down to laurel ravines.

In the longue durée

In the longue durée
we taste the goods less durable
we sip on gatherings broken up
and even thought is punctuated —
there being instances of idea
experienced as ideaing.

In the longue durée,
when, in the course of human events,
sometimes needing a push,
the dance of matter and energy
fail to uphold those distinctions —
and marches ensue. Long ones.

Across Jǐnggāng Mountains to the Black Sea,
through Missouri, marching republics
of Xenophon or the Lord.
Dwelling on the road,
moving down the question.

In the longue durée,
when we meet again,
the slowness of feet and the barbaric road
will have danced like matter and energy —
A stupid thing we anticipated for all the wrong reasons.

 

My Anglo-Saxon Soul

All your efforts and all your failures touch me
somewhere deep in my Anglo-Saxon soul –
What’s that got to do with the price of eggs?
– make me want to evict you and move into your house,
and for completely impersonal reasons, a stiff
upper lip and a cane, a paper and the hunt,
ever modern, ever multi-, democratic and free.
Always open for business, always cheering the meek
and waiting for my shot to fall, me or the quarry,
a Sunday roast bake and W.H. Auden. It’s really nothing
personal. All your efforts and all your failures
touch me somewhere. But we don’t touch that much.
And I would prefer it if you succeeded alone.

After the Abdication

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I.

The window opened
permitting the cold in
to permeate those sleeping

Under blankets placed
anonymously during the night.
Ones with plagues unseen;
spread
without symptom

Where were you (when
those breezes carried
down a plastic bag, then up again,
then reminded us with its

absence in crisp ancestral streets,
that it had been forgotten)
to help describe?
The ritual

II.

Against the grain
Between the rows

Subjected to the same winds
Symbol of our times
Zeitgeist in a smoky cinema
Hatching an all-embracing arm

Against the grain
and between the rows
a healthy bloom
hatching an all-embracing arm

for the workers in the field
to shave
against the grain
between the rows

apart
pollinating the winds
with that new style
refined taste

hatching an air guitar
a product line
a symbol of someone’s time;
where was I?

III.

Doubt has yet to perforate the
solace of denial, wound tight on this
drum of cyclical motives that resonates
with monotonous proficiency.

Dancers cast their shadows into the
cavernous well of perilous thought and yet the
edifice of an impeccable dance stays intact.
And when the screen and frequencies
broadcast the solid color in honor of
the monolith, whose boundless
reaches touch not even the pigments which
depict it,

What of the chaos below, the lifting off,
and the reserved life that awaits—
The disillusionment of those too old
for simply dietary comfort, and
too young to have gluttonized their rites
through a crumbled archway in Spring,
In a land of warriors-turned-bronze-in-memoriam?

IV.

I will tell you this once more before I recoil:
how you were born in a bull market
the boy in the housing bubble
and how the best saw it coming and
did nothing but profit.
how we’re alone in a spacial way
on the plains of Texas where
old bovine bone crush particulate dust
sat undisturbed a million fiscal years or more.
how the time you was given was a
slow boat to China with a leaky pontoon
and in this life who could never ask for more.
how some old hangin’ trees got perennial plaques
and some others give daily shade,
which was a harder place for Jonah to sit
than in the belly of the beast, but he did.
how some folk’ll count your words
and some your works but ’til you don’t count
for somethin’ then neither never musta
amounted to nothin’, blight that you are
on your best intentions.

After the abdication, when suffering
relinquishes its authority.
When, apart from suffering, we don’t know
the name to put on the grave.
When we’re rummaging. Rummaging through
copper, wax. Lost John. Lost John.
He outrun a message on the telephone.
Long gone. Long gone. Lost John.

while we’re rummaging through cylinders
in your grandfather’s barn
won’t somebody open a window
to let out this poor wasp?

And as for you, whose attentiveness frightens me:
I’m cultivating flakes of skin on the phonograph
grease stains on the glass
rust on the plowshares
and ashes on the dashboards.
This should tell you something
of my legacy.

Un norteamericano perdió la vida

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Un norteamericano perdió la vida

Tamaulipas.
A doctor, US citizen, killed
in his car while in line to cross
the river back to Texas after coming
to Reynosa to wish his family a Merry
Christmas. In line, where, on the US
side, you can’t fart without it being
clandestinely analyzed
4 ways from Thursday.

Un norteamericano perdió la vida

Then the dog starts barking.
It’s “the man”, you know, the one
you pay every Monday. The one who
would clearly be far too incompetent
to even protect Kansas from a tsunami.
Time to pay him his wage for
“protecting” your house. Then a pop,

Un norteamericano perdió la vida

and you wait to hear if the
helicopters come this time…

Un norteamericano perdió la vida

If they do then you avoid the
windows. Cartels may abduct you
on the street, but only Federales
can shoot you in your house.
Cartels can blow up the Walmart,
but only los tránsitos can take
a bribe or give a ticket for going
the wrong way
down an unmarked
one-way
road.

Un norteamericano perdió la vida

You may be between
the US and Mexico,
but that’s not the half of it.
You mostly only feel between
the state and the crime.
To be safe, you give both
their due. You pay for municipal
garbage collection that never
comes, and you pay the mule-drawn
garbage cart that actually does.
You pay for the police and you
pay for the “protection”. And
when the next one breaks in, both
Smith and Wesson are gonna
get their share.

Un norteamericano perdió la vida

A hushed rumor, a tremor. A gringo.
A gasp and fall that doesn’t splash
doesn’t upset the surface, doesn’t
wake the bloated Honduran family
face down in the water two days,
nor hydrate the Nicaraguan bones.
The news, it says it
the man with the live feed pointed
at the corpse on the road said it,
the Mexican mayor living in Texas and
the dead man’s family
on both sides of the river,
they all said it, too:

Un norteamericano perdió la vida

Un norteamericano perdió la vida

William, Pale and Trembling

heads will roll and tongues will lash
before words capitulate

posthaste pressed to the sea and isle
William, pale and trembling

sits on the obsequious throne of the West
and burning town

William, pale and trembling.
Let he who has understanding understand:

And he found a woman who likes country music
in the bow-legged line doubled over and curled

’round inside the sultry family court when
the bailiff told them to close their ranks and

he grabbed his belt buckle and made as if to
do the Electric Slide. William. Pale. Trembling.

And fifteen years later, back in the same
old kitchen of death, drips from cutting boards

and mouse traps into the fiddles and dandelions
of our far away countries ever under our feet

and William, pale and trembling, delights in
the fear, in the passages of Isaiah worn on

matching t-shirts in a shopping mall crosswalk
that he who has understanding may understand:

The Ramblers called it: In remembrance of things
to come. In expectation of old acquaintance.

William, pale and trembling, obsequious throne
of the West, the burning town. We all

cheated death. When will we
deserve it?

and up jumped the devil
up jumped the devil

A Chinese Military Parade

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Junkyard’s got more stories than
a battlefield.

What they wouldn’t tell us
is how the cost of towing in an Econoline
or any van for that matter
would be more than the value of the sum
of its parts.

Hop lil junkyard pup, not
gone ask for mo or less
baby could be a tangled wreck
and the vehicles be cute
“don’t touch it,” you warn.
I frown.

So since they wouldn’t tell us
they would pretend to check a spreadsheet
while scrolling through bills of lading
or they would ignore us and let us
stroll right through.

“Hey bossman, how much fer dis here
bit uh brain?” Ha. “I can get it off
with a screwdriver.” Ha ha
and boy, that kabob musta taken
a log off the back of a flatbed.

Junkyard’s got more stories than
a battlefield.

How many dirt daubers they got in that
wheel well? How many rattlesnakes in
that Tioga? What we gone piece tagether
newly minted?

“I don’t like the look of it.
I don’t like the man at the shop.
I don’t like the snakes in the grass.
More red flags than a Chinese military parade,”

It will be fine, I say.
It will be old before it is new,
and it will make old new again.
Old and new be the pieces in the overgrowth
and time itself become movement’s lubricant.

The Expatriate I

I never was public enemy number one
or dressed for success or
fastest on the draw

I sat in the bottoms of canyons
enveloped in red rock or Fulton Street
and the grandeurs filled me with
narrative

I sat on the tops of statueless villages
sweating buckets of pesos and mystery
meats, and the experience left me
uninspired

I never was worth the espionage
of a face database from a photo
filtering app

I never made the watchlists.

But I labored away at this terrain,
sometimes up and sometimes down,
where I only sometimes observed
the face of my motherland
sometimes observing me, but
more often not

more often the death mask,
its valleys and crests
couldn’t speak or console

and besides I often saw faces
of others. These human relations,
warm in their immediacy, cold in
their languages. The mother
she speaks a dust idiom,
and what is that?

She’d said, “this world is
not my home”. I’d registered
that phrase, at least.

I don’t know how I feel.
Canyons or villages.
Her delicate features replicated
in that hard death mask there.

I know one thing:
the true motherland is a delicate,
featureless
decay.

I’m waiting for you,
brothers and sisters,
to ween yourselves off
of those funerary fetishes.

Let’s break the clay and
churn it into soil,
let’s water the fields
with the impure blood
of traitors,
let’s wear our citizenships
like phrygian caps once more,
and find a woman a lot
like our mothers.

Salty Cross

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About an hour east of Salina Cruz
on the Pacific Gulf of Tehuantepec
down the peninsular that ends
at the mouth of the Laguna Superior
in about 650 square meters:
Santa María del Mar,
fourteen kilometers down the road
from San Mateo del Mar.

María, isolated, cut off,
no electricity, no fresh water,
no road out, no teachers in,
no police, no military;
The sadistic mateyanos
blocked the road, cut the
lines. Snip. Slap. Sizzle.
And a grito or a glare.
You could imagine either.

You could imagine Mateo sipping
on alternating currents,
corralling together trucks
full of Peñafiel and Bimbo,
Seguridad Regional. The
Apostle sat atop the
diverted riches of the
Virgin. And the sea, of course.

It’s an agrarian dispute.
A fight over salt fields.
A salty cross to bear,
the two saints of the sea,
the one with its hands ever
tightening, waiting for the
last quake, for the tide pools
to exhale, or for the maldito
mar to wash away the
bruises of brothers.