Humid Mirror

By | 4 May 2016

Days cyclic as Rangoon traffic turning so many yugas of hostaged
time, at any node of its unraveling a thousand words ransomed
to a thousand other gods of perfect memory. Jaundiced light at the
edges of uncounted towns, dogs and barbershops, old men
with tinned food in their hands, people on bicycles looping
between potholes on roads that cross India, China, places
between designation, unrepresented in official-worldese.
A woman stretching to reach a single papaya on a tree, the
birds that rise up when the boys on bikes take the billowing
curtains of daylight into greying fields and palm tree groves,
the solitary shrine with its dripping candle, the coitus of gods
kept close in the sanctum where none can overhear them,
ringing bells, ringing bells, in the dusk, through the night…

Who saw any of it, from some concealed place? All the worlds
that swam into view, and receded. The half-demolished buildings,
engorged moon hung low and pregnant with an unshed blood, past
midnight at the provincial station where in a yard of broken glass a
girl showed the amnesia pubis under her skirt and motioned a stranger
to come. Who saw the theatre minus all spectators, calling from some
other barely-held frame, trains racketing through plural globes of life
untouching, unrelated but contiguous in some apparent space, boys with
soccer-balls, girls singing within earshot of a warzone, days before their
wooden stilt-houses slid down the mountainside. Office-workers on
the suburban lines didn’t read it in the thumb-smudged papers left on
seats behind the morning rush. Umbrellas against the radium glow of
premature sun, cobbler of sweat putting new paan in his mouth, become
a master of knees and torn, rain-washed newsprint. In some places no-one
could ever cross the streets, you must stand and wait a lifetime, guarantees
in hand, letters of recommendation to an eyrie in the air on the 19th floor…

Who would reach there, or if reaching fail to unburden wings and fly across
to Macau or Rio de Janeiro, or somewhere that had never yet featured in a
motion-picture for stateless driftlife? Still the woman who cut coconuts
for iced-drinks had I.D. papers in a curbside drawer, and spoke to the
delivery-boy with the benefit of only five teeth which she counted on
large, saurian fingers. Not too far away her incoherent daughter who
walked epicycles around the house and only for brief moments gazed out
a window at the passing clouds. To passersby she was a piece of brittle,
frayed wire. Would she have a funeral? The delivery-boy might know,
or the half-sized man who lived at the bus-station, with no arms on his
ironing-board torso. His neck and missing shoulders were the same part
of delicate plank with a chess-piece head on top, the head of a pawn who
had only ever moved ahead, one step at a time. There was another habitué,
carrying a dozen shopping-bags who whirled around him like a satellite,
an exotic, large, plastic Chinese bird, space-eyes a-flutter. All in space,
cycling in wide concentric circles, the traffic alone a certainty in the
flux. We’d never fly to Rio but it was the notion alone that counted…

Words were everywhere, to be sold on street-corners, in bunches
beside enormous flowers and fruit-towers, girls with rafflesia mouths
and kohl-rimmed assurances. The rain came down, came down, on our
mutual parade. Honeyed light at the edges of the fields, gongs sounding
at the beginning and end and in the middle, bodies moving and turning
through time that as it rang had no foundation. Whatever happened next
was something that had happened before. You swam, saw and cycled like
a water-dragon through liquid forests of event, some luck, much death
and home-coming. In the mirrors of the tea-shops, the coffin sweatshops,
in the gold-markets and trinket stores the aging eyes and teeth and death’s
heads looking through, right at you, smell of decay between your feet,
incense rising at the temples and the humid mirrors full of happenstance or
possibility, each branching-off a tributary of another, not truly replicated,
nothing so certain or perfect, never fractal in the repeating but repetition
itself that would every sun-blinded morning recur and recur and recur,
vertiginous blur of prismatic lives in the markets and roadsides and
foodhalls, allcomers to the feast, primeval dog-headed servants at the gates
letting the guests through. Megaphones announced it, bells ringing through
the night, the various marriages and their blessings amplified through rubbish
laneways and you passed, you passed through to another place, another
town, uncounted, unsought after those that had come before …

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