You were saying
The detonation of the perpetual circuit remains the samein a constantly recurring periodical displacement of massand the depth to which it penetrates, the latest or limitingdate derived from traces of language frequent on mapsof the Kingdom. White guys driving there to buy liquorpresent themselves at once as the unmistakable results ofa step taken to avoid just inferences conjointly, then aloneone night, a turning point in the traffic flow that suggeststhe west coast of Long Island, and Williamsburg replacesLos Angeles, which, like San Fran/Greenpoint, hasn’t beenseen again, circumstantial at distances intimately connectedthat deserve and probably require nonstop examination, an
academy of representation excited to the point of aurorallight, a silent discharge seen before a luminous arch, divebars abundant and the dark sky serene in waving sheetsaccompanied by chemical alteration, as much as you likemingled with black, shining far off in the darkness whiletelevised into that chain drugstore where you’d hoped topick up a prescription without having to leave, come back,and run the week’s gauntlet of loss leaders a second time(was that chili?) that corresponds to another great wideningfrom which fragments break off at distant points, a columnof smoke diverging on all sides, the ribs of an umbrellathat she opens not for shelter from rain but to disappear
onto the bright sand of the playa, still noon, and GregSharits with handgun on roof downtown forcing a copinto the shirt wilting temperature as they step through awhite blast, its configuration affording the best criterion,“the mere wreck of a small breath” heard once or twiceas if by socks from which flimsy paper ankles are takento a shaded dining room, waves on the shore and sunlightdazzle, a blue sky intense and the seething foam audibledespite traffic that’s shielded a brain tolerably well sincea few days after the retreat from the reservoir, his beardglowing, a surface that does not betray what’s concealedunless there’s someone to stop her, and no one here can.
They lived in Miraflores, he can’t remember the nameof the street, the number of the house, a block or twofrom the British hospital where his brother was born.That night, his father opens the door, sticks his head in-to the room from the lighted hall, and says, voice tense,“Thanks to the last stock market crash, a consequence ofU.S. imperialism’s hegemony in economies and politicsworldwide, this country experimented with a shamefultransformation of its social orders, a transformation thateach day tightens its hold and becomes more apparent.What else do you think we waited for all these years?”The door closes slowly, and he goes back to sleep, butthe dream doesn’t stay deep black, the way he likes them, because Patty complains about Bill again, his drinking,his drug taking, his willingness to live off his parents, nomention of the accident, his good humor and generosity,and I defend him as usual, wonder why she bothers, he’sdead, though in fairness that doesn’t make any differenceto me either. “You think people change as they get older,”I say, “but they only get bigger, and I suppose if you seethem through their faults to start with, they get worse too.I don’t see Bill that way, never have. He’s a friend always.”Whereupon she vanishes as his father had done, but withoutclosing the door, thereby modifying the texture of propertywith no indemnification from monopolies like the old ones.Alternative: credit gone, taxes higher, and unable to paynext bite, ship out to Spain, listen to The Birthday Party,shoot up in doorway across from restaurant near Ramblas.
After offices are flushed, we workers go home orto a nearby bar, museum, or movie house that fillsthe blanks left decades ago, last year, or yesterday.A wind kicks up again, displacing our own weight,edging purple between red and gold on a small pad.She draws a man who looks down to bewilder herself,turns stern if she isn’t altogether curable, her legs airwhen the wave comes in, and how swiftly clouds travelbefore fading away, information worth having after all
to serve a double purpose, the grip always equal to bulkrounded upward unless held by young sailors who learnto agree with her or not, admitting the impossibility ofa water line, tiers of promenades, a tangle of ventilatorsthat finish off the appearance, given a smile at the doorof solid green water, knocked senseless against piecesbetter suited to an emergency than a fence around it thatprevents accidental falling but gives jumpers an advantageuntil she’s sick of the tears he’ll have to sort out himself,
great patches of wet paintwork and the stages and laddersof a headache she’s endured a hundred times before, thestranger says, and now it’s too late, they can’t agree moreup and down walls instead of the floor, a sudden ceiling—space wrong to start with and getting worse with the tactof a diplomat, part of the canopy cleared, harbor grimethick, they like to tell themselves, or that’s what she saidabout the river’s street, narrow, then widening to the seaand a period between flashes, either named, numbered, or
just small and tumbling for days of tossing waves beforethey stay afloat again, the Cape Cod lighter, some paintrubbed off, clear plastic turning yellow, as serviceableas the first day he gave it to her, back when they bothsmoked Luckies and none of their friends had cancer yet,though Jim F hangs himself by mistake in a drinking barnas the pictures fade and Ghoulardi steps into another flickabout today, front seat that night, yesterday a rowboatfrom which they climbed, how far out the shifting flaw
they ignore as if casually in a torn stillness verging onimpatience most of the time, for the tale should unfoldlike a summer tablecloth, white linen, from a chest theyhadn’t noticed, calling him to the woman on his arm,done with land a while but not the steamed and chilledDungeness crab it took them two hours and a bottle ofChardonnay to eat at That Place on Bellflower, right afterthe Chardin exhibit, suddenly dark with light describedas death on the highway day or night, fog, broken rules,
and a wave of the hand half the time, just before lunchon days spent waiting for letters to answer themselves.He bets on a horse, buys a spread in the football pool:what was once a major adventure is now an everydayroad atlas with a dozen alternative routes neatly markedduring light hours that won’t bother her as much as thevarnished circulating boy whose compositions break off,in effect outlawed, a racket disliked by the orthodox, butslowly, reverently, as the minister makes love to his wife.
Recognition’s simple for members who know the virtues,faults, and diversity of free fall, with its manifold appear-ance, the long graceful curves vanishing straight up, andthe sun, behind indexed figures, that gives them an ideaand successfully, much as mourners look back at a videoand realize that they’ve witnessed a raw wound of death,not their own this time, but close enough to make the care-fully chosen words cut deeply, in all directions, as friendsappear to listen and attention wanders during the sermon.
They come and go or stay more important than a standardanswer, the sea of discriminating faces, he tells his wifeafter hours of activity imperiled by weather, an accidentalcontact with every good looking girl who wants promotion,and he thinks she’s not looking, so he balls up the emptycigarette pack, misses a wastebasket five feet away, andleaves it where it bounced to the carpet. Wait, she’ll checkthe wall, no ceiling in sight, but the proportions haven’tchanged, she concentrates on the gigantic friction between
as ever, but aware as she hadn’t been, all those years ago,added to, subtracted from, and generally complicated bythe improvements, developments actually, they have to beaway for anything like abstract to her, or so she’d like tobelieve for as long as it takes her to get from where she’sgoing to where she’d been, he’s there too, he’s here now,and gravity’s pull on clear water, thanks to moon and sun,the same floating a single chip of wood or the new QE2,his mother searching for her lost wedding ring, worn thin,
as the great ship enters New York harbor in digital color,not black and white and leaving for Callao, the Santa Rosafifty years before, platinum shiny and snug on her fingerand three minutes of film the height of a lighthouse seenonce in Olinda, Márcio must have had enough of Rio then,half do, half don’t, their democracies enforced by povertyeven if they have jobs, wear nice clothes, and go clubbingat night, the figures small in vast Cubatão those momentsthey show at all, the dance music reverb makes everyone
hard to see, that’s the point, as it is of the naked concretehole in the bottom traveling downward, the tone of voicealways visible, even when close enough to swerve a bridgefrom city to suburb, she says, fixed herself, even prevailing,and Pete’s wife still at the register upstairs, crying softlyas she reads a widow’s memoir, invisible to clerks whowatch, at least those who haven’t turned away in respect,routine on the afternoon shift, a relic of days and systemslikely to hang around the wreck until another comes along
but quiet now that he has misunderstood and confusedeverything she told him, having heard it before, clearly,then settled back to wait for the help he hopes is coming.She puts her hand on the side of his waist, she’s noviceenough, and the change from the library is exhilarating,when sudden intricacies of cotton, moist flesh, hair, spitcome first, last longest, her age the same as the numberof her apartment, so he’ll never know whether she toldthe truth or not, about how old she is, she had no reason
for the work clothes drying on a wooden rack in a tub thatpushes him sideways then ahead, he expects light bruisesand a smile for breakfast, her eyes the shimmering goldstatues and uneven steps of rooftops standing against a skythat opens clean bitter aromas. Grass drenched with dewflows into the rippling sound of a fountain, great carp waitbeneath the pond’s surface under the pines, he’s forgottenthe Top of the Mark, and San Francisco, spread out below,a bed of embers, São Paulo at night from the circling DC7.
Ron Horning's poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Vanitas, and Blazing Stadium. His books include To Our Amazement and The Dante, the Tevere, the New Riviera. He lives in Beacon, New York.You were sayingLate showLayawayRon Horning's