First: remember it's a foreign country,
Your words spun to remind me
it's a foreign English
fulfilling the promise of years watching white
picket fences on TV.
Another city. A zero point, as the quadrants furl outward. Not even one city, but four cities-only one of them 'desirable.' Grids of numbers and letters. Three shadow cities, each a place to begin again. Each a blot, an erasure. Places you do not stray by accident. Against all four, the Capitol.
Second: it's a heavy chore,
pushing books into boxes-
folding each delicate leaf
into memory. Sealed with tape
I can say: I have lived here.
A friend lives by his poker winnings, the church his official employer. Secret games, an underground of high-stakes matches and illegal circuits, exist. At a moment's notice, a phone call-time and place. A security check at the door. No-one carries guns except the guard. Emerge into the light and conduct the choir on Sunday morning. This is true.
Third: the recklessness of departure and
your words of warning:
do not live here, or here, pointing to the map.
Familiar and weightless
as my own reflection.
Some talk as if it's dangerous as a rule of day-to-day. This can be true in the city's secret corners, but is more true for those with nothing, or those with everything.
Fourth: the distance of those words-
your dead father's Polish lover
writing through the thickness
Letters to another city, and letters from abroad. The luxurious slowness of ink on paper, the mundane news of home. Against the wired and wireless networks, the static of: war, election, opinion. Against noise, this drop into the silent words of your pen.
Fifth: The answering machine holds
the ghost of you. Your half-choked breathing.
The words you couldn't say.
The ground is fire-ground.
The bed, too vast to cross.
(I cannot play Leander any longer.)
I don't want to dull the details, or to exaggerate. The city changes in the course of a block. Walking home at 2 am, a jeep full of armed men in cut-off jeans, and no eye turned. As if a miniature militia was perfectly normal.
Sixth: a motel room,
this emptiness of the heart.
Yellowing print on yellowing wallpaper,
the plasticity of gallery postcards
shipped from other continents.
Buses depart at all hours. It is rare that they are full. Leave at midnight and at dawn the city has vanished. The city was never there.