haibun
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September 2005, vol 1 no 2

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Judson Evans

Voice Over

1.

When they cleared the site tall letter slugs from a backlit sign: H LIDA I N in rubble, spiral stairway exotic and modern for Wilkes-Barre 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, snapped 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 ...

missed exit
threading the thruway knot
the other way

2.

At the cemetery, warblers that she loved—parula, chestnut-sided, palm—pools of rain brown as tobacco spit. Behind an abandoned trailer with shattered 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 among 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.

erosion
of an ampersand
his & hers tombstone

3.

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 flood? Stacks 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 slots, 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 ...

foggy beach
less surprised by the boomerang
than the echo

4.

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 skull.

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:
" Lost Voice
Seeks Ventriloquist"

5.

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 concentrated time ... 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 ...

new moon
both neon words
unlit

 

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