Friday, June 27, 2008

Road trip

eyes on the road
Seth, "our personal coffee roaster" (, a cup of espresso in each hand and kind of wobbly, off to do some yoga. I guess there's no reason he should have recognized us.
it takes a real man
What we saw of Fort Huachuca was this. We tried to drive in, accidentally--asked for IDs we turned around--and against my protests skirted the outpost of Buffalo Soldiers, the campaign against Geronimo, as we drove through a landscape of westerns. The historical marker said nothing of loss.

Tallulah with her Grand-Frizz

Oscar's adventures continued

He walked down the dusty street toward the table in the shade where the Senora was lifting tamales out of the deep aluminum pot. I want to talk to you, he said. Let’s go inside. She tried to slip subtly between him and the door, a curtain hanging across it. We can talk here, she said, almost cajoling. There’s no one around. Everyone’s gone to the circus. I went last week already. You should see it. It’s starting now—can you hear? They have lions that piss--she was babbling. He took a step closer and saw her daughter rise, her usually genial face now blank and menacing, but he couldn’t feel afraid. He was looking at a Halloween mask from the five and dime, only the eyes were alive. He dodged between them. This wasn’t what he’d planned to do. Before he could stop himself he was pounding along a corridor. He glimpsed a withered couple slumped in their chairs as if petrified, the thick lenses of their glasses making their eyes looked like huge shimmering cataracts. A philodendron trailed along the tiles. The hall grew longer and longer until at last he burst out into a dirt yard where a fire was burning and stumbled over crockery into a pile of cornhusks. He swore and heard an answering curse in English. It had come from the corrugated shed to his right, a stream of liquid running toward the dusty mango tree. With sweating hands he grasped a rope handle attached to a metal panel. In the sudden gloom he saw a man bound to a chair, his matted beard touching his chest, reeking of urine. The man raised his eyes. Please get me out, he said. I’ve made thousands of tamales and I can no longer stand the smell of corn.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Way We Live Now

Oscar Sloane returns

Felix was voluble today. Oscar sighed, relieved.

"Xavier fue de Monterey," he recounted.

"No Monterrey"—he added, a rich effusion like froth from the motor of a sleek luxury vessel around the r. "In California. He was from there. He used to come into my shop. He was good with his hands, he helped me fix things—sometimes he helped my brother-in-law repair his nets. He chose his words carefully, as if he were carving them in stone. Each one a commitment. Each one an effort. Each one a burden. He was running from something, I had figured that out. He met Mariangeles’s mother when she served him supper one night. She thought he had money. He did have something valuable with him. I heard it was pearls. There were rumors. But I wouldn’t say they didn’t love each other. Tu sabes—whatever that means. I think you know what that means. I mean, I think you know what I mean. It was like that with you and Maria, no?"

A creaking in the hull woke him. He lay for a minute in between before pushing himself up and pulling on his clothes.

The days had begun to glide past and thoughts were like burrs catching on a silk sheet. The image in the cave returned to him with a shock followed by a long ache—as if he had done something he was doomed to relive—twist and turn though he might, it would return when he closed his eyes.

That morning at breakfast Oscar glimpsed his reflection in his tin cup, wan and elongated. His head seemed to go on forever. He could just make out the dark stubble around his thin moustache, which had been a crisp line ashore. His eyes looked almost bruised in the silvery convex. He tipped the cup so that his nostrils loomed. His hair stood up like a soft brush. The men at the table looked at him and looked away.

His mind rehearsed the days he had spent in the town. He sifted for details. Again he saw Lupita sitting outside her door like a sentry, her daughter a stoic giantess nursing a thick-bodied child. There were no more tamales. Lupita’s laugh was hollow as she told him to come back tomorrow for puerco and elote. She seemed wary as he stood there. He was just trying to figure out what else to have for dinner. Pozole? She smiled, but her eyes were cold. Yes, you should go, she had said without warmth. You should go west. I think it is time for you to go.

A thick coiled rope flying through the air, a dark hand closing on it. The crew dispersed. Oscar went south.

He stepped down from the bus and it chugged away with a burst of exhaust. The rains would come soon. The rays would thrust themselves with an ecstatic convulsion above the surface of the lagoon, the mangoes would ripen—apricot teardrops, swollen red livers filled with jelly, globular coconut-scented mangoes—thousands of them. Birds would peck at the pits in the split lush orange, leaving them clean.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Bound for Tucson, Arizona

five-minute poem

Securing the blue tarp over the foredeck
Garbage jettisoned
The scream of jet engines
Up the stairs
I would wave to imaginary journalists
In LA—the flight’s been cancelled
Waiting for the bus to Motel 6
A family, frizzy-haired mom, florid-faced dad in a Hawaiian shirt
The daughter’s wearing black, oversized sunglasses with ironed hair, her brother all in white, his sunglasses are white, a skinny black tie over his white shirt, derailed on their way from Des Moines or Kansas City, shuttled to a cheap motel—finally, puffs dad, and they follow him, carried off into the night—how did this happen?
I walk toward the ice machine on the ninth floor
Muffled shouting on the phone
The next day we share a cab, the guy fits the eight bags and the cat and some other guy’s stuff
Stoic soldiers in camouflage
I’m sure I saw a TV star—a coy glance and a little wave in the international terminal
Where I went looking for food
And I feel larger, in relief

We look at real estate with our new friend Alex, fellow aficionado of vintage appliances.
"Weird kitchen."

Gypsies in the palace