The curly hair girl below
my window has been unpacking
stuff on the sidewalk for hours now.
She disappears at times and I
try to count her things touched
by the last of sunlight; then she reappears,
her curls quite bright, bowing down
to place new wares on the concrete.
Summer has a way of offering
these gifts to a mind deep in a
German winter, pages of the novel
thick as brick, a long drawn scene
in which nothing happens—
all colour, the interior of some not-so
complex, rotting aristocrat. When I
pull myself out of that cold country,
she’s there, like someone gardening
on the curb, or someone who has
lost a set of keys in a bale of wool.
Each time she leaves I worry
that will be it, kaput, the magic
gone and I will be only a man
at the window, greatly aged, tired
who cannot take from the bulk
of words one to shout down to her:
mercy, to the dying light, to her;
have mercy and don’t leave me
behind this sill, an acrid scent
floating up—mercy, spare me from
the nacht und nebel coming, coming.
When night pitched its fork in his side,
he swore to God his ex-wife was back
from the beyond, as she promised to be
a living pain in his life. The doctor explained
it otherwise: cancer. Buttoning up his shirt
under the white lights, a memory he had lost
flashed before him. They were in an airport,
Italy perhaps. He had paid for the coffee
and sat down beside her as passengers rushed
to catch flights. She casually closed her book
and popped each earphones out off each ear,
and between a fat woman lumbering pass
and the hot styrofoam, she announced: “I want a divorce.”
Of course, it was Rome! He had almost fainted
under Michelangelo’s ceiling, the tour was long
and he felt like a sheep going round and round,
finally ending up under the famed heaven.
Things were much too far to see clearly,
but he did see the fingers reaching, and
had enough time to notice Adam’s wrist
was limp—a choked wheat stalk—he thought
before blanking out. She didn’t make the promise
then while his lips burned, that happened back
in New York when she showed him photos
of the blonde broad he was screwing, his current wife.
In the elevator going down from the doctor’s office,
he smelled not the young nurse’s hair under his nose,
wet like a city street, but a man, shorter than him,
huddled in a corner, face hidden in his coat
collar though it was the middle of summer.
for J. Maxwell, journalist
Here, at this still turning point, rhetoric
is prophecy. The dust has formed a new
cabinet, welded in sweat; the sun cinches
static into parched, staring eyes. Not just
the heat that makes you flinch, but headlines
muttering for space in the cramp stands,
the mind stalls. Last week, another beach
wired-off, a signature now fences the sand.
Standing in this motorcade of rusting
ideas, you sighed: non serviam. What for?
If they can jail the sea, draw borders
with their San San, Grand Lido and Hilton,
what would they do to your cumuli head
and the wobbling knots you go around on?
Everything ripens in the road—
a mouth shines the mic, pomade-melting
words, the mouth’s salve, a dark-glassed
savant imploding through his tight collar.
Words, words, yes! a flurry of bell beats;
they hammer rings of pot covers, they lift
banners to the lead sky three electric wires
stretch like vicious scrawls into the day.
You turn, old man, from the crowd,
deep in its frenzied coalpot, visibly
shaken when speakers command the trucks
and they rumble forward, legions,
like a spectral army, or animals, despoiled
of reason. You will not serve, not here,
not even among the quiet asphodels.
[Ishion Hutchinson was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica. His work has appeared in Callaloo, Caribbean Review of Books, LA Times Review, Poetry International, and other journals. Peepal Tree Press published his first book of poems, Far District, in spring 2010. He teaches at the University of Baltimore and is a Pirogue Collective Fellow.]
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