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When they cleared the site tall letter slugs from a backlit
sign: H LIDA I N in rubble, spiral stairway exotic and modern
1950 into the classy dimness of the cocktail bar with my uncle first dating
my aunt (strange the way we date each other, measure each other out across
a timeline) and she wore those pop beads of the fifties, modules of history,
and recombined abbreviations, facsimile of DNA's four nucleotides ...
I was famous for a campy parody of their voices -- my uncle's
off key baritone, his earnest humming through the forgotten verses of Silent
Night; my aunt's
bourgeois affectations and police siren decrescendos. But when, so suddenly,
she was gone, I was comforted saying my name in her cracked falsetto ...
threading the thruway knot
the other way
At the cemetery, warblers that she loved—parula, chestnut-sided,
palm—pools of rain brown as tobacco spit. Behind an abandoned trailer with
windows, ratty palms, ghost crabs shuttle through the underbrush. An osprey
nests so low we could touch its weave, flotsam and driftwood, scraps of
tattered flag stolen from the graves. We wander through arcades of rusted roses
the spirit masks and urns, reading with our fingertips the raised tombs'
shallow braille: O MORTAL, TARRY HERE A WHILE, or STRANGER, CAST AN EYE,
and an odd
carved lamb, almost marsupial, crude reworking of the death's head underneath.
of an ampersand
his & hers tombstone
Pinch and snag of the clumsy portable screen, Cokes with lime
and salty pretzels. Her wavering voice-over collides with his. A view of Norway
or Oregon? The
summer the windstorm blew down the office roof or the summer of the Agnes
of slides out of the carousels, stack of cross-sections that won't add up.
Antarctica, Africa, Mozambique; Hong Kong, Thailand, China, the same red
coat Pat Nixon
wore, the working class undertones in her breathy aside on bathroom facilities
in The Hall of the People; then, the circling indistinguishable seasons: Arizona,
Florida, and Maine, projected in the living room. My own mocking captions
added later ... bored except when two slides slot together, one summer entangling
the next, the ghostly sections of their sun-splotched bodies. The missing
the blinding sheen. And the stories without slides: all those miles for an
afternoon of sledding, the trunk frozen shut, or the last weekend of the
summer, a chain
around the gates of the amusement park. I'm listening to the first classical
album they bought me, on the floor by the stereo. Liner notes on Bach's sonatas
for violin solo and a word I'd never seen -- scordatura -- to be mis-tuned
on purpose ...
less surprised by the boomerang
than the echo
On a San Francisco street corner a musician struck a small
brass bowl which he brought to his lips and let resonate through his teeth and
Inside the gift shop, a leering ceramic Buddha commanded "TURN ME OVER" and
hooked by the bold red letters, she took him up (three kids in a tight semi-circle,
my uncle already shaking his head.) Whatever crude punch line tattooed the idol's
butt, her voice careening down each cable car inflection, wouldn't or couldn't "STOP"!
("Terrible, Terrible, the children!")
San Francisco Personals:
Coached to toss a few pretzel bits to fish in the pond beneath
the helix stair, their glints of gold and copper pennies shining pellets of
... I thought they were teaching how pleasures flow and follow us, how caution
or proper distance might coax them close, steady state, like the little stable
whirlpools stones make in water ...
and around them ripples ... my aunt's scarab bracelet turned around and around
her wrist ...
both neon words
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