To Elsie — Willam Carlos Williams
To Elsie — Willam Carlos Williams
“In the language of the heavily-armed state, the word for ball is the word for bullet.” — The wretched of the earth, blithely dismissed. Soundtrack download here soundcloud.com/foymigado/the-afternoons-incessant-chatter
the afternoon’s incessant chatter
Fanatics discuss matches in memory
and Marjorie watches the football float slowly
across the pale blue eggshell of sky,
above the straining hearts of the hand-holding lovers,
past the tightened throats of stranded defenders
betrayed and adrift in no man’s land.
Marjorie talks to herself about how the ball
never came down, about how in the time
it takes to light a cigarette it has transmogrified
into a dark bird, with a delta, and swift,
and has ascended above the stadium’s rim,
fleeing the afternoon’s incessant chatter.
Marjorie holds her hand flat across her brow
to block the glare, to see the bird buffeted into tumbling
by the frenzied air, like sweet papers, like a cellophane bird
in the wake of a train. The ball itself, but for its plotted line,
barely registers. It skips the way a flat stone might skim
above a green smooth ocean after leaving the arm
of a boy on the shore. The body of the crowd,
a raucous channel packed with boats bobbing at anchor,
in slow motion twists and gasps to see
the same ball do the same thing again and again .
At half-time talk is of the shadow of the stadium roof,
of how it leaves one small oval of the crowd golden
in the last light cast at sunset. Marjorie imagines
hearing him speak of how in the language
of the heavily-armed state the word for ball
is the word for bullet, and how the poor deserve
their misery. The striker – “he’s gone down
like Capa’s militiaman for a penalty” –
holds their attention instead. No-one links
the shot of the dead ball specialist rebounding
from the marshalled wall, and the fusillade
which felled the puppet emperor Ferdinand
as he held the hand of his white-shirted general.
spain v spain (Cerro Muriano, Sept 1936)
How (it seems) I came to be tattooed
in the house of W**** R****
in the Old City of Jerusalem.
It was the sour stench of tear gas
rising up the steps of David Street
from the alleys of the Christian Quarter.
It was the Border Guards beating
their prisoners after Friday prayers.
It was the blueness of sky,
it was the air-powered hiss of bus doors,
it was dein goldenes Haar, Margarete.
It was a haircut at the barbershop
in the Muslim Quarter,
it was the date (1714) on the ironstone house
in which my father was born.
It was Karl Marx writing
that the worker has no homeland,
it was the failure of the Enlightenment,
it was the McMahon correspondence,
it was the Balfour Declaration,
it was a Yemeni girl on Kibbutz Shomrat.
It was the coastal plain seen
from the Galilee highlands,
it was arriving in Nazareth,
it was tomatoes growing in sand
in the Wilderness of Zin,
it was George McRae singing Rock your baby.
It was the gold teeth of Bedouin girls,
it was kif on the Lebanese border,
it was the greyness of England,
it was looking for work in Tiberias.
It was her name scratched on a hotel wall,
it was passing through deserts in buses,
it was the rest-stop near Yad Mordechai,
it was a signpost to El Arish,
it was the panic of an animal in front of a fire.
It was the indiscriminate pursuit of affection.
It was the footsteps of a priest.
It was mist at dawn on the Jaffa Road,
it was the stars seen from the desert at night,
it was the chemicals in the hair dye,
it was the sound of earth landing on the pine.
It was the strength people need.
It was the evening
and the black walls of the passageway.
It was the blind man on the Via Dolorosa,
it was haji painted above the shop doors,
it was the mother suffocating her baby
to protect it from fedayeen.
It was not knowing the names of trees.
It was being afraid of snakes,
it was not knowing the names of birds,
it was organophosphates in the orchard,
it was poor sight in the dark,
it was the mirrors turned to the wall,
it was the streetlamp’s small circle of light.
It was the loneliness of people who believe they believe,
it was the hopelessness of choirs,
it was the smell of stone and wood in churches.
It was the callousness of killers,
it was the casual cruelty of soldiers,
it was arrested development,
it was abortions we procured.
It was Graham who died at four,
it was the fearful child’s bedroom,
it was the abusive neighbour,
it was everything that has ever happened.
Maybe that’s when you know you’re old,
when they turn to you when another kid
goes missing, and they turn to you
when the manhunt is on the tv news
and you see the hedges being beaten and
parted with long sticks and you look intently
at everyone you can see at the scene, and everyone
in all the photos they show of all the other scenes
in the missing girl’s or boy’s life, and maybe
there’s a fat guy or a tall guy or a woman smoking
a cigarette so hungrily, and people say to me
“do you think they did it?” and sometimes I do
or sometimes I don’t or someone else in the montage
of scenes appears more than once and even
on a still photo has an air about them
above and beyond that of mere pose.
The intensity of what it is to be human is somehow
evidently leaking from them, something
has become disabled, some protective function,
and despite the voluntary unspoken pact never
to speak of such things – for what good would it do –
medical treatments get sold. But all that aside,
that trait didn’t make someone guilty of visiting
an ultimate brutality on another and anyway
my success rate from the armchair was pretty good,
I’d say. No character type is immune
from exercising savagery. And with suspicions
comes discussion, extrapolation, escalation.
It could be that I felt weary because as I watched the sticks
beating the bushes I just didn’t care who did it. I was doing
my best not to think about it at all. I no longer wanted
to discuss stuff like this, no more than I wanted
to make a case for Easton Ellis having surely had
to retreat into an intense interior life for quite some time
in order to bring back what Bateman liked to do in detail
and questions of whether this interior would have been
hugely sexual, or anyway masturbatory. I’m not a theorist.
But you, reader, know how this is. You have found yourself
talking about Neruda again. You are hoping by the end
she will love If You Forget Me but know too that she
will forget you and you will forget her.
You will heal of each other and recede
to scar tissue which is fine and pale and still
even after the sun. No one has a body
like hers, her map of psychic wounds. Crossed swords
everywhere, the arrowheads to the heart, the broken snapped
arrow shafts like porcupine spears. She may know
you are plotting again when you
hear your own voice asking her if
she’s read him, that man, Neruda.
We’ve all done it, surely, lived these odes
where the thing is one day, two things.
I forgot where I lived, even the name of the town.
Maybe that’s when you know you’re old,
even when they are looking for missing people,
even when she rang and talked about her boyfriend,
even when there were cities I wanted to see
for some sort of beauty I imagined existed there,
even when those intelligent guessers say that they
have discovered the start of something,
even with my knuckles white on the steering wheel,
I would go to the woods and stand naked and still
among the trees, hoping someone would see me
Eufemiano Delgado Brakes.
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