By the Water by the Sewage Plant
You know it’s going to rain here
minutes, sometimes hours ahead.
The pants tighten, the sewers seize
up. It smells like shit on the beach.
Where my father lived there
was a river brown as the road beside it
For a week, I dare you, watch
the river overflow. bite the hard
seed that washes into the huts.
Pick the frogs up and place
them outside again.
I close my eyes. The starfish was a technique I learned several years ago, and it works very well, like a cow at the slaughterhouse. When you did it to me, out of the blue, it felt great. Then I did it to you, and you said that felt great too. We were starfishing in the late afternoon, and at night, but never in the morning.
“and every raven after his kind, / and the owl, and the nighthawk, and the cuckoo, and the hawk after his kind, /the little owl, and the great owl, and the swan.”
The winter before last we went on a hunt
to find the first snowy owl of the season.
Did we know then?
shining our phone lights
catching the gaps between
and walking just right
up to it and looking.
the site of a devastating land
deal, and a very tall tulip tree.
for you love was an abecedary
scrawling letters on a rock
for you love was a word
a stylite shouts to the vultures
for you love was a tincture
for you love was milk
Hair stained the color of mollusk ink. While my father is in the hospital I wait around. I stand outside the deli. He had been out catching cuttlefish. You catch them mornings, right off the quay by the rock wall, the morning black and the whales singing off the horizon, spouting in the air. Thread a herring on the line, hands slick with oil- you know it’s right when the float sinks. Later we would chuck the cuttlebones as far as we could- to the screamers out back. The brown-black pigment stains his fingers. A man, yet by these tears a little boy again. The tears streak the pigment when you get down on the floor to write. It’s never pretty.
Your hair holds a whole dream of masts and sails. Last night, when you left, I watched Jean Epstein’s Le Tempestaire. I still don’t speak French, aside from the casual curse, and there were no subtitles. What I do understand is the tumble, and the roiling waves. A woman begs her husband not to go to sea, but he does. The waves build. Her mother tells her of a local storm tamer, to which after much consideration the woman visits in the old lighthouse. The waves, in his ball, slow, and turn back, and the ball breaks.
The man came by again with that fluty Worcester tone. The weather has dreams now, he said- and I would trade it all again for a handful of juniper berries, and two hours with my mom’s mom. I say, glibly, okay, so I’ll write you a poem. His amulets jangled against his chest, crushed by the narrow entryway to the tavern. Not to say in making this offer, however glib, that I approved of his celluloidal wishes, but that sometimes that is the best way to do it.
And what would you have us do now? Or more? When you get to that place, covered in wax and leaves, there’s no talking to you. Disorderly soul, iron pillar. Residue of the king’s efforts, I thought that the very fact that you shared that with me, the dappled symmetry of your liver lobes, was special enough. Now prophetic lightning dances across downtown Brooklyn lots and diners. Go west, young Mantis! Again, in moments like these, the spring gone so fast, it’s hard to know what to say.
I begin to recognize my rusted country. From my window I look out across the sea, and decide I should know these people. I see a woman with beautiful lines across her forehead. I see a man dead. I see someone in beauty in sunflowers. I see someone showing me cool new music, breaking me out of a funk. And I go to bed proud to have lived and suffered.
A light begins to feel graceful in the street.
Going on trains then, we could only wish to be there when we arrived.
Unlike poor Louis Le Prince.
In 1888 he went to out to his mother-in-laws backyard and made the first movie.
In two seconds his son stalks across the garden, tall and proud.
His friend Annie twirls, as does his father-in-law.
His mother in law, who was to die ten days after,
I’m going to disappear for good next May.
I’ve got it all planned out.
Take the lid off the camera.
Like the invention of color rods,
the decline of sepia instigated the death of a certain kind of sadness.
The birds outside your window sing even louder,
so you went on a trip,
and came back with a hat even larger
and more wind-blown prone
We began to say goodbye, waving from beneath the shade
of the ever-increasing perimeter of our sun hats.
And I flee to Madrid.
Madrid, Iowa, that is.
You’ve got yourself crazed about office politics. Why don’t we sit by the window? Or better yet, because that first pilgrimage was 12 years ago, why don’t we go to Dairy Cream. The one by the city, hours spent meditating on the bus to the North Fork. Learned things like aledanos means outskirts, or brocal means parapet. Now I ask- can I slide from kisses into sleep like a parapet does? Or are we stuck out here forever? The very thought of it fills me with disgust.
Terrence Arjoon is a writer based in New York. His work has been featured in Elderly Magazine, Blazing Stadium, and Quartet. His chapbook 36 Dreams was published by 1080 Press.