A Bilingual Journal of Contemporary Literature & Arts Spring 2012 • Issue 39
RÍO GRANDE REVIEW
RÍO GRANDE REVIEW A Bilingual Journal of Literature and Arts Spring 2012 Issue 39
Editors-In-Chief Maria Gomez Fabian Molina Faculty Advisor Rosa Alcalá Art & Design Director Maria Gomez Cover Art Maria Gomez Ryan Johann Perry www.charmingelusive.wordpress.com Copy Editor Mari Gomez and Fabian Molina Board of Readers Maria Gomez, Fabian Molina, John Nehls, Ryan Johann Perry, Carlos Alberto Villegas Uribe
Río Grande Review is a non-profit bilingual journal of contemporary literature and arts, published biannually by the University of Texas at El Paso’s Department of Creative Writing. Río Grande Review is entirely edited by students of the Bilingual mfa program and is funded by utep Student Services Fees, in addition to advertising sales and private contributors. We welcome ad swaps. submissions
We welcome submissions of original fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translations, fragments of scripts and plays and visual art, as well as digital audio and video for our online edition. Submissions are accepted either in English or Spanish. Río Grande Review no longer accepts mailed submissions and cannot take responsibility for the loss or damage of any printed material sent to us. Simultaneous submissions are accepted. All submitted work must be sent as an attached document to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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FROM THE EDITORS Our last issue dealt with the theme of the Apocalypse: destruction, great change, the uncovering of new truths. As a companion piece, this issue is intended to be a continuation on this theme. Writers, poets, and artists all have decided to explore ideas concerning the aftereffects: what occurs after so much devastation has wiped out our true sense of the world. And, naturally, after any cataclysm there has to be a rebirth, a renewal of life, some form of reconstruction. “The Rebirth Issue” expounds positive ideas and poses the task of looking at our world—with its myriad faults and flaws—under a new, positive light, filled with hope and the inherent appreciation of all the knowledge and new discoveries we are fortunate enough to have accrued through the years. (To contrast with the previous “Apocalypse” issue, this one has the need to build rather than destroy.) We wanted to recapture that omnipresent something which inspires art everywhere: creation, curiosity, and ideas. This, our 39th issue, hopefully contributes something positive to all those who find themselves within these pages. Our sincere wish is that they may be caught in a moment of joy, of rejoicing and exaltation.
Contents Contra las leyes de Newton Light of the Country Perfection Reciclaje Huida Aloha, from Elsewhere These have been years of famine, these years of Hicimos un hombre de nieve Second Time Around Shadow Line Origami When the Oleander Blooms Bearing Light Dutch Double Wheel of Rebirth Dense Fog at Dawn You trifle and chance until The Calm Jew La Boda Propulsion Vast Curious Aviaries Wintering, Pacific Grove Navajo Rug in a Picture The Jazmin Syndrome La Adivinación Galaxy 500 Song In the Eye
Oscar Godoy Wendy Gist Julian Kliner Adelmar Ramirez Antonio Pillado Avila Donald Carreira Ching
8 10 12 14 16 17
José Ocando Ángel Valenzuela Mark Wisniewski Doug Heckman Rubén Varona Dick Alwan Susan Breen Jacqueline Doyle Oísin McGillion Hughes Charles F. Thielman Christine Gardiner Siamak Vakili J. S. de Monfort Sound on Sound Oisin McGillion Hughes/ Ryan Johann Perry Trina Gaynon Stephen Barile Fabian Gonzalez Montague Kobbe The Lusitania Carolyn Williams Noren
26 27 29 30 36 40 51 53 66 68 69 70 77 83 84 88 89 91 92 99 100
A Creation Myth Each to Each El futuro En medio del cielo Volver a verte Simple Decision Helios
Stella Maria Perry Ruth Bavetta Salvador Galan Moreu Alex Brise帽o Lily Padr贸n Rick Dinges Julian Kliner
102 109 110 114 116 117 122
Contra las leyes de Newton
ómo olvidar el día en que las cosas livianas empezaron a flotar como globos sueltos a merced del viento. Hojas de papel, lápices, cabellos, granos de arroz, y hasta ropas ligeras, como las pijamas delgadas de mamá, de repente alzaron vuelo como si hubieran entrado en huelga contra la ley de gravedad. Los niños en los colegios se quedaron con la boca abierta cuando los papeles sobre los que escribían dejaron atrás las mesas y ascendieron poco a poco hasta posarse en los techos, y luego rieron a carcajadas al ver a los profesores dando saltos para tratar de alcanzar las tizas blancas que se les iban de las manos. En las oficinas el trabajo se interrumpió, y los jefes, siempre rápidos en reaccionar, entraron repartiendo cinta pegante y cuerdas delgadas para que los empleados sujetaran los elementos de trabajo y no bajara la productividad. Otro caos se armó en las cocinas, cuando los granos de arroz y de fríjol, la sal, el azúcar, los condimentos, y hasta los espaghetis, escaparon al control y viajaron hacia arriba como si hubieran perdido el sentido de orientación. La noticia salió en periódicos y noticieros cuando el polvo, la arena y las basuras sueltas ascendieron durante horas hasta posarse como una capa mugrienta en la atmósfera, que atenuó la entrada de los rayos del sol sobre las ciudades. De los bosques y selvas flotaron millones de hojas secas, astillas y hasta insectos cuyo diseño original contaba con un mínimo de gravedad para mantenerse aferrados a la tierra. Los científicos salieron a afirmar que el fenómeno no representaba ningún riesgo para el planeta, una vez los vientos, las tempestades y las lluvias cumplieran su función de alejar aquellos nubarrones de basura, hojas sueltas y arena, y que tras esa limpieza natural la vida regresaría a una nueva normalidad. La tierra, dijeron, ya no puede atraer las cosas de menor peso. Las leyes de Newton acababan de sufrir un descalabro, y tendrían que reformularse. Los científicos pusieron una expresión de hielo al reconocer que, en adelante, la única alternativa sería acostumbrarse y tratar de ver lo bueno de las nuevas condiciones. Desde ese día las cosas han cambiado mucho. En casa se acabaron las discusiones porque alguna cosa se perdía, pues hoy basta mirar al techo y con seguridad allí estará el papel con la dirección, el lápiz verde, el colorete, la llave del carro. Mamá dejó de renegar por el polvo y la suciedad, pues los muebles y pisos permanecen ahora perfectamente limpios, y basta pasar la escoba por el techo (ya los fabricantes diseñaron escobas para hacer esta operación con gran destreza y sin mayor esfuerzo) y dirigir la basura hacia las ventanas, para que esta salga, literalmente, de nuestras vidas. Los objetos de uso diario
se consiguen hoy en los almacenes con su respectiva ancla, que es el nombre dado por los comerciantes a las cuerdas, imanes, superficies pegantes y demás adminículos inventados para mantenerlos unidos a la tierra. Nos tocó aprender a no soltar las cosas importantes en la calle, pues esas definitivamente están perdidas. En la cocina también hay grandes innovaciones. Se usan conductos sellados para manejar los granos y condimentos, y las ollas solo se destapan cuando los alimentos ya están cocinados, bien unidos por una salsa densa. Los tiempos que corren no son fáciles. En los campos la tierra suelta es recuerdo del pasado, y la producción está casi toda en manos de las grandes corporaciones, las únicas que cuentan con la tecnología y el dinero para producir en las nuevas condiciones. Los grandes desiertos del mundo ya no tienen arena; lo que allí queda son enormes roquedales, donde la vida se ha extinguido. En las playas, la fina arena de otros tiempos ha sido reemplazada por piedras, y muchos turistas dejaron de ir ante la necesidad de usar zapatos de suela gruesa para meterse al mar. Los nubarrones de arena y basura viajan por el mundo y oscurecen países enteros durante largas temporadas, hasta el punto de poner en peligro la vegetación, nuestra fuente de oxígeno, y la producción de alimentos. Pero por más que las condiciones sean difíciles, todo puede empeorar. Lo supimos hoy, esta mañana, cuando notamos que en casa otras cosas amanecieron flotando. Nos despertó el frío, porque las cobijas, aún las más gruesas, reposaban sobre el techo. Nos tocó usar ganchos para rescatar la ropa interior, los zapatos y las medias. En la cocina tuvimos que tomar la leche directamente de la botella, pues resultaba imposible verterla sobre vasos y tazas flotantes, y antes de salir debimos pescar y amarrar los libros a la biblioteca. Pero lo peor vino después. Lo peor fue salir a la calle y observar una extraña y ruidosa nube que empezaba a formarse en el cielo: una nube de gatos, perros, ratones y conejos y miles de animales de tamaño mediano, y unos cuantos bebés descuidados por sus madres, que se elevaban sin remedio hacia el cielo azul, arriba de este planeta incapaz de retenerlos.
9 Rebirth Issue
Light of the Country
I Geraniums ballooned hearts on the porch of the sanitarium, ballooned like hearts in morning as the family awoke to songbirds. Blue, yellow, and red: birdy tweets healed hearts. Nana plucked the courtyard’s hearty herbs, wore the blossoms in her hair as grandchildren roamed quail country; the children did not navigate cyberspace. II The children, even before the crash, were oblivious to cyberspace. They stumbled upon a javelina at the west gate of sanitarium, the strange beast chomping cacti in rough country. Tuberculosis sufferers inhaled dry southwestern air there amid songbirds, in the last century, on the road to recovery in the garden of herbs. The grandson declared dreams of floating ghost hearts. III Grandson asked: Have you seen their floating hearts? Papa replied: Have you been orbiting cyberspace? Nana snipped curative herbs, placed the bundle in an arched windowsill of sanitarium. Through airy space a birdfeeder swung stirs of songbirds. Bleeding hearts drooped in soaptree yucca yellow country. IV Ecstatic to live in the country, the grandparent’s planted tomatoes that plumped into hearts. Papa tilled the plot and heaved seeds to wild songbirds, while Nana sat to search botanical tips found in cyberspace, but suffered a pounding chest at computer in musty sanitarium. She read books, instead, on cultivating therapeutic herbs.
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V Nana served guests tea in the courtyard crawling with herbs. At nine o’clock in night hearts stuck to her hands in secluded country walking the hound under a yellow moon melting the sanitarium. A terrible time she had pulling free of such forceful hearts. A white cat set a red bird dead at static screen of cyberspace. The granddaughter’s clarinet sung a sound similar to songbirds. VI Papa arose spry at 5 o’clock a.m. to twittering songbirds, opened bark-brown eyes to a woman’s apparition holding a bouquet of dead herbs, stood up and sucked himself into cyberspace, a rarity in that otherworldly country. He ordered a big box of sugar hearts on the screen in the 1900’s sanitarium. VII Windows of sanitarium closed to invisible songbirds, yesteryear’s sick hearts floated to PC, glommed to lifeless herbs, guiding red bird to the light of country deadened by cyberspace.
11 Rebirth Issue
Perfection Photo by: Julian Kliner
sto te mancha cada mañana. Estas ahí, como un árbol que yace sobre la cama, ambas ramas desparramadas. Tu cabello está enterrado sobre las sabanas. El lado derecho de la cama clara está deforestado, lo hueles, analizas las cenizas, te recuestas. Frotas el frio de las sabanas contra tu cuerpo, intentando ir contra el tiempo. Tienes, por lo visto, un viaje astral, poco menos que un orgasmo matutino. Tus párpados se entrelazan con las cejas, has traído a la realidad lo que solo se jacta de ser un recuerdo. Para ti, aun existen esos pechos que apuntan entre sí, un ángulo de grados taciturnos. Su saliva aun inunda la parte trasera de tu oreja, sus gritos aun te ensordecen. Para ti, solo para ti, aun existen esos rasguños en la espalda, esas abducciones de cabello que te habían dejado casi calvo. Al caer sobre la cama lo entiendes. Logras ver que no es la primera vez que te pasa, y con tu cabeza cabisbaja es fácil saber que seguirá pasando eternamente. Levantas los brazos de pereza al ver que todo esto es un reflejo de algo que paso en algún momento. Tus padres, aquellos viejos borrosos, que desaparecen cada vez más con el tiempo, pasaron por lo que tu estas pasando. Ellos dos son felices en diferentes estados. Tu papa se consiguió una novia después de una semana. Tu mama le guardo luto de por vida. Tú ocupas, irónicamente, el rol de tu madre, ahora. Tú estás de luto, por dentro y por fuera. Tus ojeras, oscuras hogueras, no iluminan tu rostro. Tu piel se ha puesto negra, carbón, cenizas. Crees que ella fue demasiado para ti, comparas a la Encarnación de Dios, con el hecho de que ella se haya interesado en ti. Ella es ese pedazo de madera, aun inmadura, con su corteza verduzca que tú moldeaste con tu hacha, pero te pasaste, por solo un poco, al quererla demasiado fina. Creaste dos piezas de la misma mujer. Poco a poco, intentas caminar hacia la cocina, un lugar donde ella ya no habita. Te preparas un emparedado, pero no lo comes. Tomas el teléfono, pero no le llamas. Dejas todo a medias, te vistes a medias, duermes a medias, eres a medias. Te preguntas hace cuanto que no comes, que no duermes, que no sales de tu casa. Te ahogas en silencio, y si no haces algo, te llenará de por vida. Te levantas de la cama muy despacio, como si fuesen las 5 A.M. No miras de nuevo hacia el espacio vacío… vacante, algo así
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como lo contrario al Aleph del que fue testigo Borges. Por cierto que se nota que odias a Borges, y a Cortázar, y a todo aquel que te cuente cuentos no lineales. Sales de tu casa y corres, bajas los escalones brincando, y te diriges hacia la izquierda. Pasas por muchos lugares, muchos que no conoces, y sin embargo llegas, abres una puerta y te sientas como lanza sobre la alfombra. Te derrites como helado, te preguntas como será la cara de la mujer que te dejó ayer, solo conoces la de la que te dejará mañana. Para ti la vida es tan solo un circulo, mañana te levantarás, con tu peculiar cara de zorro, seguirás enterrado entre las sabanas, que hunden tu cuerpo como barco. Tú la esperaras a ella, pero en algún momento ella te esperara a ti. Crees que tú serás el que escriba este texto, que siendo escritor puedes modificar historias que no están escritas con tinta. Alguien más escribirá sobre ti. Volverás a ser la tinta, luego la ceniza, tan solo para estar con ella al fin del circulo.
15 Rebirth Issue
Antonio Pillado Avila
Huida Me preguntaron si sabía del agua triste que crujía en los ojos de tus pájaros Y yo, impasible ante el arcano clamor de las rosas, alcé mis alas.
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Donald Carreira Ching
Aloha, from Elsewhere
ainoa hadn’t been home in thirty-five years. Everything was overgrowth now, an incestuous swamp of flora; green snaking up, over, and back into itself. From the tram he thought he could make out the bare, brown branches of a guava tree and below it, the picnic table his father had restored as a birthday present for Nainoa’s mother, but there was nothing to separate his family’s plot from the next. Everything was debris. “And if you look out to your right, you can still see the majestic peaks of the Koʻolau mountain range.” Nainoa heard a camera snap, then another. He didn’t have to look at the map displayed on the tram ceiling to know that this was once Kahaluʻu. The roads and rivers spidered down the mountains to meet the main highway, a single stretch of pavement that he traced on the plexi pane. Just above the smear he could make out the dirt road that led into the valley. A fleshy arm appeared near the front of the tram. “How does the plant life thrive?” She was an older woman, the back of her scalp folded into her neck, and she wore her hair like tentacles, black octopus curls. “I was waiting for that,” the tour guide, dressed in Hibiscus flowers and tan slacks, smiled, silver. The map above their heads disappeared and was replaced with graphs and charts, endless streams of blue text and mute news reports. “Now, it’s common knowledge that what was being developed was a supposed key to ending hunger. A new tool to eliminate invasive species, not just in Hawaiʻi, but around the world. Of course, it wasn’t until later that they realized it had become much more than a pesticide. Which is why scientists were so surprised when they arrived here a decade after the disaster. They expected something similar to what had happened in the Canadian farmlands, instead they found an island more alive than ever.” “Don’t look alive to me.” “Well, you’d be partly right,” the tour guide said, searching the seats for the speaker. “The gas was fatal to most mammals but, quite miraculously, much of the plant life survived. Cultural historians attribute this to the muna—.” “Mana,” Nainoa interrupted. 17 Rebirth Issue
“I’m sorry?” “The mana of the land. The power, the life—.” “I think we have a return visitor here, welcome back sir. Now, as I was saying…” A slack key instrumental filled the cabin. “My apologies folks, it seems we must be moving on, but I’m sure our next stop will be able to further elaborate on this topic.” The woman with the curls glared at Nainoa over her shoulder. “When are we gonna get to the good stuff ?” someone yelled. “Oh, I promise our next stop is sure to put your curiosity to rest,” the tour guide winked. “Is it a festering wasteland of filth and disease? Is there man-eating plants? Dead crabs the size of my son? Will there be lunch? We were promised a traditional Hawaiian meal.” The woman was glistening with excitement. “Seatbelts folks.” The instrumental grew louder as the cabin began to pressurize. There was a large rush of air and then the cabin was floating up the track and out of the valley. Nainoa’s hands were in the pocket of his jacket, feeling at a bulge in his side. He looked at each corner of the cabin, the small discs recording every movement and every sound. Would they play back this moment, would they study it to make sure it never happened again? He looked out the window and down at the collection of green flooding down to the water. No, they’d never find out. The music stopped. The tram dove. Then all at a once there was black. It was thirty six years ago. The mayor, the governor, the president via Skype, all saying the same thing. A mistake has been made. Measures must be taken. The safety of all residents of the State. The military appeared overnight, sectioning off neighborhoods into zones, zones into clusters. Rumors of evacuation and eradication swarmed through the streets. Nainoa’s grandfather was in the backyard, picking up rotten guavas from the earth while searching the tangle above for ripe fruit. Nainoa opened the screen door and stepped outside. His father looked over his shoulder, “I was looking for you.” “Where’s Mama?” “Nana’s. She’ll be home in a little while. The both of them will.” “They went to get Lucy, huh? I’m gonna make a bed for her on the floor.” His father held up a guava, the flesh firm and round, contrasting the crooked digit of his index finger. He held it out for his son. “She’ll like that.” Nainoa, matted in curls, jeans stained with summer, took the fruit and
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smelled it. “The men are burning the trees.” His grandfather smoothed down the stray hairs of his moustache, and then ran his thumb over his grandson’s cheek. “I thought Mama told you to stay in the house.” “I can see it from the window,” Nainoa pointed up toward the second story. “I bet you can see it from here, if you climb up the wall. The men and their fire.” “Eat it,” his father said, pointing at the fruit. “The wind was rough last night, lost quite a few.” Nainoa bit into the skin, wiped the juice with his sleeve. “I was hoping for a few more than this,” his father looked up at the tree, “but I’ll only need a bit more for the jelly. I’m going to make short ribs for Nana’s birthday next week.” “How old will she be, Papa, twenty?” “A bit older than that.” “Nana must be really old then.” “Not really old, but a bit older than you.” Nainoa sat in the shade and took another bite. “Daddy went with the men, yeah? Mama said he hates the fire.” “He doesn’t want anything to burn, especially near the mountain.” “The loʻi’s there, yeah Papa? Daddy’s kalo.” His grandfather rolled up his sleeves, coarse black hair giving grain to his tan flesh, and unbuttoned the top three buttons of his shirt. “It’s hot today, perfect day for the beach.” “Cannot go beach, Papa.” “I know, but it’d be nice, yeah? Y’know, I used to take your father every Sunday to Kualoa, picnic out in the sand. He loved to spar with the crabs when he was your age, put his hands just like this,” His grandfather put a hand on each hip and started walking sideways in a circle. Nainoa laughed. “Always ended up stepping on a few, then your Daddy would cry and cry.” “Don’t lie, Papa.” His grandfather smiled, long lines sprouting from his eyes. “Your father’s a brave man, y’know that?” “Mama says he’s stupid.” “Your Mama’s just worried.” Nainoa sucked the guava from his fingers and then wiped them on his pants. “Are you scared, Papa?” “Do you think I should be?” “There’s alotta fire.” His grandfather nodded. “There’s alotta a lot of things, I ever tell you 19 Rebirth Issuee
that? A lot of trees, a lot of animals, a lot more things than your Papa can think to name.” “But only one me, Papa. Only one you, only one Mama, Daddy, Lucy.” “True, but you gotta think about everybody. Uncle Roger, Uncle Buzzy, Aunty Marie, all your cousins, nephews. All of us a part of the loʻi, but it’s not the only one. Besides, there are worse things in this world, people have survived worse.” “Worse than the fire?” “Some of the most dangerous things cannot be seen, y’know that?” “Like ghosts, yeah Papa? Night marchers?” “Worse than that.” Nainoa crept closer to his grandfather. “I hope Daddy’s going to be okay.” “Me too.” “And that Nana brings Lucy. Mama says we can’t let Lucy on the couch, or on the bed, but y’know what Papa?” “What’s that?” “I bet there are worse things, yeah?” His grandfather laughed and stood up. “Come,” he said, “I need someone strong and brave to go high up in the tree.” Nainoa sprung off the grass, ran toward the trunk, and crawled up into the branches. All around him was shadow, every now and then the sound of his grandfather’s voice guiding him toward the right ones to pick. The sun crept in slender rays through the leaves with the wind, the smell of dirt, and when Nainoa was high enough, a hint of smoke, trees crackling in from some other place. There was light at first, then all around was blue. Blue sky, blue ocean. The tram dipped down and then slowed, water rushing across the windows, and then dripped as if giving time a moment to find itself in the present. They came to a sudden stop and the doors opened. The tourists all stood in a single breath and clamored for the door. “Welcome to New Kualoa, a paradise built on what was once paradise.” Nainoa had to squint when he got to the door. They were inside a large structure, every surface, floor to ceiling, glass, glistening on the water. This wasn’t unusual, Waikiki sat three miles off-shore, but here the lines disappeared into the horizon. There was almost no way of telling if you were dreaming, until the tram doors closed. A familiar slack key began to play, the metal became discernable, along with the scrolling marquees advertising sea-salt purification creams and manufactured sunken treasures. Still, Nainoa could not help but stare past his feet, into the water below. “What the hell is this place?”
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“Amazing isn’t it?” The tour guide stepped past him, not giving a second thought to where he placed his feet. “An engineering marvel, one that’s been in the works for a while. What better way to display all that we’ve done than to show how far we’ve come.” “What happened here?” “It wasn’t the gas or anything like that, it was time actually, natural processes. Erosion, y’know? They found it just like this, the whole beach swallowed. I mean, you could still walk through here, it hadn’t gotten that bad, but no one wants to stare three feet down and see what they already know. Gotta keep the guests guessing, make it feel like the great beyond. Works better that way.” “But what the hell is it?” The guide took Nainoa by the shoulder and walked him toward a map projected on the floor. “There’s plenty to see, of course. I bet something even you might enjoy. Recreations of traditional fishing practices, canoe making, you can even explore some of the reef here in the lower tunnels. We’re also currently showing a fascinating documentary on the changes that have taken place all these years, captured via satellite, narrated in over thirty different languages.” “Hawaiian?” The tour guide smiled silver again, this time a bit of rust showing at the edges. “Sir, I can tell you’re an intelligent man, perhaps a bit more than a return guest. What we’re trying to do here is bring some life back to this place, show a bit of how folks lived, maybe even give something back, get everyone thinking about the future. It’s nothing personal, you understand? Maybe you should take some time and relax, there’s a wonderful simulation in the Mai Tai court. You can pop up a beach chair and soak up the artificial UV light, even run your toes in the silica sand.” Nainoa looked down at the map. He recognized the diagram, the layout of the rooms, the entrances, the exits, the only area you could hide the stairs. “How many floors are there?” “Excuse me?” “Is everything open?” “Oh, of course, explore at your leisure.” Nainoa once again committed the diagram to memory and walked off without a word. The glass and glitz of the terminal faded into carpet and Koa, both digitized down to the smell of the fibers and the hollow sound of the wood. Nainoa paid no attention to the displays and simulations, the photographs, the paintings, the mele, the oli, Don Ho’s tiny bubbles filling the room. If there was surveillance and security, they paid him no mind. Eventually, the surroundings were no longer an illusion. No coral hallways, just humming 21 Rebirth Issuee
fluorescence and hollow-core doors. He reached for the first handle he saw and turned. He felt for a power pad and instead found a light switch. The room was sparse: a fold-out table and a chair, a couple pens, and shelving. On the shelves were boxes, the kind his father used to keep his papers in, what Nainoa would’ve guessed would have been law books, copies of court-filings, maybe notes passed down from father to son. How to tend the loʻi, to cultivate and irrigate the soil, to prepare the huli. He put his hand through the hole in the cardboard, pulled one of the boxes down and pulled off the cover. The first photograph was a wedding photo, and the second, someone’s Labrador. He pulled each one from the box, trying not to hold them too tight, wiping his fingerprints off when he was done. There were picnics and barbeques, first dates, used cars. In one, a fisherman held up his catch while his son gave a shake to the camera, both of them smiling mad, covered in wet. He poured the box onto the tabletop and when he was done looking, piled them back into the cardboard and emptied another. There were newspaper clippings, supermarket ads, all yellowed, dry on his fingertips. Most were from the year before the evacuation, some were dated as just days after it took place. He picked one up from the bottom of the pile, a full-page article and a picture that he recognized: his father: handcuffed, soldiers standing, watching, and dragging him away. ‘Activist Arrested for Refusing to End Production of Potentially Dangerous Crop.’ “Sir?” Nainoa stared at the photograph, his whole body shaking. “You’re not supposed to be in here, sir, I’m going to have to ask you to come with me.” Finally Nainoa turned, the man at the door was wearing a black security uniform, handbraces dangling from his waist, a pistol holstered by his side. “What is this…all of this?” Nainoa asked him. “I won’t ask you again, sir.” “Just tell me.” The security guard looked over his shoulder and then stepped inside. “Storage.” “For what?” “What’s collected on the ground, most of it from when they first went in.” “But why is it here?” The guard looked at Nainoa. “What’d you mean, sir?” “I mean why keep it here, why isn’t it being sorted through? Why aren’t people able to see it?” “I’m not sure what you mean. Where do you think we get the pictures
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we use?” “There are more?” “Rooms full. Now if you’ll just come with me.” Nainoa had to put his hand on the table to steady himself. He dropped the newspaper page and it drifted down to the guard’s feet. The security guard picked up the page and stared at the photograph, and then looked over Nainoa’s face. “We don’t get too many folks from back then, I think you’re the first since I got here.” He looked up at the guard. “You lived here?” “Long time ago, not this side though, up Maikiki.” “And you’re aright with all this?” Nainoa hit the empty box to the ground. “Fucking bullshit. This isn’t right.” “That’s why you come here? To bitch?” Nainoa started laughing, pulled his gun, and pointed steadily at the guard. “Where are we?” Evening rolled across the ocean and lapped at what was once the California coast. Nainoa sat on a rusted bench, beneath a broken highway and watched the shoreline disappear. Every second the miles grew. He couldn’t wait any longer. He heard the man’s footsteps before he heard his voice. “Nice night for a swim.” Nainoa recognized the phrase. “Aloha,” he said slowly, letting the word weigh on his tongue. The man stepped into the light. He was a touch darker than oliveskinned, almost coral black; pink just beneath his eyes, and dressed in a long coat that concealed everything but the scuffed tips of his shoes. One hand lingered in a pocket while the other tipped his hat forward. “Payment first.” Nainoa put the envelope on the table. The man opened it, grabbed at the passport first, then the license, birth certificate, work permit. Every document bared Nainoa’s name, yet every description, every photograph was of the man. “They’ve been verified?” “You’ll have no problem. I was born before any of the sanctions went into place.” “You are a refugee now, y’know that?” Nainoa turned toward the water. “That hasn’t changed.” The man slipped the documents into the envelope and pulled a tablet from his jacket and touched a finger to one of its corners. In an instant, light spilled out in lines. Nainoa watched the blues and greens sketch the outline of an island, then every detail. A diagram, a skeleton of mute neon. “Everything is controlled,” the man said. “You will need to be extremely careful of who you talk to and what you say. In fact, I’d recommend you 23 Rebirth Issue
speak to no one, fill nothing out. I’ve arranged for a temporary identity just in case, but you shouldn’t need to use it.” “This isn’t a vacation.” “But it must appear to be.” Nainoa touched a valley on the east side of the island. “Will I need to find a way off the tram, is there access from the mountain?” “I’ve arranged for a better way.” The man touched another button and an image of a sun soaked beach flared across Nainoa’s cheeks, a vast structure of glass glistening. “They’ve built a new attraction and are planning a grand opening in three months. From what I understand, it’s premature. Most of the surveillance and security features have not yet been put into place, but they’re rushing it to give a boost to tourism.” “Am I supposed to swim to shore?” The man pressed another button, a blueprint. “The structure connects directly through maintenance tunnels. I cannot promise that it’ll lead you directly to where you want to go but it will bring you very close.” Nainoa touched the edge and cast the evening back into shadow. “When?” “You’ll need to be there a few weeks after it first opens, after all the pomp has died down. I’ve arranged everything for you, just be at the airport when I tell you and I’ll take care of the rest.” Nainoa stood up, extended his hand. The man shook. “You’re so sure, aren’t you? What makes you think they haven’t burned it to the ground?” “I’m not.” “But still you wish to trade the life you have made, for what, rubble?” “Part of me is there in that soil, a part that is not here. A part that can never be here.” Nainoa put his hands in his jacket, stepped to the edge of the shoreline and looked out at the water. “I bet if you closed your eyes you could feel what home used to be like. I bet you could smell it on your fingers, taste the sounds on your tongue. You can remember what it was like to sit in the grass and scrape the last bit of mango with your teeth.” “I remember some.” Nainoa turned from the ocean and started to walk up the gravel path to the street, already he heard it crumbling behind him. “I don’t.” They navigated the tunnels by bare bulbs, crude construction markings, chalk letters on the walls and floor. Nainoa knew they were close when he no longer heard the tram, when the walls stopped shaking every half mile. The guard had been surprisingly calm, guiding him with what little knowledge he had. Finally they reached a ladder, Nainoa looked up and could see light streaming through the edges. He put the gun to the guard’s head.
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“You’ll die out there, you must know that.” Nainoa moved the pistol an inch to the right and fired. The guard disappeared in an instant. In silence, Nainoa climbed until he reached the hatch. There was no lock. He touched the handle and turned. Light spilled over him. He closed his eyes. Out of instinct he held his breath, but let it out and climbed a rung higher, dug his hands into the soil and pulled himself out. All around him was green. Damp, wet, rustling. He moved through the brush, twigs snapping, filling the air with bark. A puaʻa snorted as it wandered past, then trampled off, followed by a blur of smaller boar. Rain dripped across his cheeks but he could not remember seeing rain from the tram. He felt light-headed, dizzy. A memory flashed into his mind. Blurred into existence. His father was there, holding his hand, leading him deeper into the valley. He was speaking in a language Nainoa knew but could not speak, only feel. Nainoa was growing tired, his father picked him up in his arms and began to chant of the sky father, of Wakea, of his still born son, Haloa naka. From his body the kalo grew. When he finally found the loʻi, he could not make out the leaves. His head throbbed with color. Browns, greens, the sky dripping blue. The memory was lost in his mind. He crawled forward, digging deep into the soil, dragging his body behind him. He collapsed at the edge of the water, fingers reaching to feel the flesh, the roots of the kalo. He slipped his other hand into his pocket and felt the edges of the newspaper page, tried to recall the image of his father. Tried to imagine what he would look like laying beside him in the sun. He could feel the fire too, somewhere inside him, all around him, and he smiled, knowing that this time it was real.
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these have been years of famine, these years of contending with immigration. my skin is dry and stony, like a golem made with the dirt of a dried up river. my faith is as scorched as clay fired under the relentless sun. i cannot remember what my old thirsts were like, thirsts for goodness and compassion to dwell in me like a mountain dwells in the land. now i only thirst for a peace to rest my strength spent bones. place the palm of your hand on my brow and speak the words of blessing, those promises which seem to me like water; like cold, sweet rain falling on a barren wilderness.
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Hicimos un hombre de nieve
icimos un hombre de nieve. La noche anterior había nevado y todo amaneció cubierto de un blanco incansable. Mamá llamó a mi puerta para despertarme y que asomara a la ventana. Asoma a la ventana, dijo. Así que lo hice y ¡vaya!, no había sitio dónde poner los ojos que no fuera blanco. Entonces me cambié de prisa, tomé mi gorro rojo —el que tiene forro de piel como de zorro, como en Siberia—, un par de guantes y salí a jugar en aquel paisaje albo. Luego hicimos un hombre de nieve. Digo “hicimos” porque no está bien discutir en la víspera de la Navidad, pero la realidad es que todo lo hice yo solo. Casi. Durante más de una hora estuve juntando la nieve depositada sobre los coches y el césped. Algunos vecinos asomaban sus cabezas por las puertas entreabiertas de las casas, miraban a lontananza, pero ninguno acertaba a salir. Sus ojos —que delataban las ansias de jugar también— se perdían en una profundidad nívea. Cuando se acercó Al, yo ya tenía una base suficientemente alta y sólida. Al es mi hermano. Se había levantado un poco más tarde, así que llegó aún frotándose los ojos. ¿Quieres ayudarme?, pregunté. Está muy dura la nieve, ¿no? Así no se puede. Habría que esperar a que se ablande un poco. Que no, que luego el muñeco no queda firme. Yo cogía la nieve entre mis dos manos y la comprimía con cuidado. Ése es el secreto, sabes. Hay que apretar bien el hielo para que se endurezca y el muñeco sea lo bastante sólido para que pueda sostenerse con facilidad. Y yo lo hacía apretando suficiente nieve entre mis manos. De este modo puedes comprimirlo y queda firme, dije. Al se encogió de hombros, dio la media vuelta y se marchó a casa. Había algunos asuntos que atender en la cocina, me pareció escucharle decir. Me encogí de hombros también. No dije nada. Tomé la enorme bola de nieve —la cabeza— que había estado construyendo y, con mucho cuidado, la coloqué encima de la base. Estas cosas hay que hacerlas con esmero 27 Rebirth Issuee
y diligencia, sabes. De lo contrario todo puede irse al carajo. Cuando levanté la mirada, observé que Al venía cargando una cubeta. Se había quedado afuera la noche anterior, en el jardín, y se había llenado de nieve. También traía consigo una zanahoria, un limón partido por la mitad y algunos guijarros. Venía a ayudarme, después de todo. Traigo más nieve. Hace falta poner más y comprimirla alrededor del cuello, para que la cabeza se adhiera bien a la base. Le puedes poner unas ramas secas pa— Para los brazos. Ya había pensado eso. Entonces colocamos el limón y zanahoria para formar los ojos y nariz. Los guijarros, para formar botones de la camisa. Después de colocarle los brazos, corrí a casa por un fular y una vieja escoba de varas atadas a un palo para completar nuestro muñeco. No bien hube regresado, Al me lanzó un proyectil de nieve que logré esquivar. Reí. Mi risa era casual porque quería distraerlo, colocar el fular y la escoba en el hombre de escarcha y entonces, cuando menos lo esperara, atacar. Y ataqué. La bola de nieve atinó al hombro de Al, pero fue tan ágil en sus movimientos que, si bien no logró esquivar el proyectil, solo se llevó un golpe ligero. Ambos corríamos intentando no resbalar, intentando esquivar el golpe, intentando acertar al blanco contrario. Blanco. Agotados, terminamos echados sobre esa cama albísima hasta que las risas hubieron cesado. Seguían cayendo pequeños cristales de nieve. Silencio. ¿Qué miras? Los copos de nieve. Todos son diferentes, míralos. Fíjate bien cuando caen sobre la ropa, pero fíjate en los nuevos, cuando están recién caídos. Estos ya están viejos... Todos son diferentes. ¿Sabes qué me apetece hacer?, dije con voz tan clara como aquella geografía. ¿Qué cosa? Leer un cuento a los niños. Esta noche, después de la cena. Un recuerdo de Navidad, de Capote. Si es que puedes mantenerlos quietos. Si es que puedo mantenerlos quietos. Cuando al fin regresamos a casa, los niños ya estaban de pie. Hicimos un hombre de nieve, dijimos. Mamá ya había servido el desayuno.
río grande review
Second Time Around
it’s almost as if I’m in grade school again publication kind of like A’s for reading a lot the differences between then & now being that now in the poetry business there’s no nun wielding a brass ruler part-time janitor who might commit murder or graduation party cutting all ties to desks that yes still keep seeming smaller
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series of violent whacks against the aluminum storm door, and Jacob Caldwell started. Confused and angry, he fought to untangle himself from the wrap of sheet. He had been dreaming, yes. His sister may have visited that dream world; but if she had, he could not recall any details of her presence. The racket continued. Someone – something – scraped at the thin skin of metal, the click and rasp of nails or claws. Jacob stood in the log-walled room, alarmed and unsure of whether to confront the chaos at the front door. All he wanted was to return to sleep and hope for his sister to return. Jacob eased open the thick front door and saw Kenton waiting on the front porch. The man’s cabin lay two hundred yards east on the shared gravel drive. Two weeks ago, the neighbor had interrupted Jacob’s half-hearted attempt at cutting the lawn to ask what was happening. It had been the man’s only question. He had motioned for Jacob to kill the lawnmower, then shouted, What is happening here? Jacob had told him about the year-long renters arriving the first of the month. He was here to prepare his grandparent’s cabin so that a coyote biologist from Phoenix could perform a study. Kenton had shaken his head as if what Jacob had said were unbelievable or unspeakable. Kenton had moved in three years ago and so had only known Jacob’s grandparents home as a relic as something that once was. On the porch, Kenton held a long-handled sledgehammer. It was obvious from the way he held it that he had used the stained wooden handle to knock and scrape the storm door. “You okay with me chaining him up here?” Kenton said in his drawnout, high-pitched rasp. Out there, centered in the partially cut lawn, a length of chipped, thicklinked metal connected a dog and a stake. Jacob stepped out and let the storm door rest against his shoulder. He bunched the collar of his hoody closer around his neck. The red material stank like fruity chewing gum and cigarette smoke. “W?” Kenton pointed at Jacob with his sledge. He used his other hand
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to push his sunglasses high up on his nose. “Wisconsin,” said Jacob, ignoring the man’s question about the dog. “The university.” “You’re a good ways from home, aren’t you?” The dog pulled the chain tight as it reached for Kenton. Its whine was a grieving cry. The morning air circulated. Cool air teased his shins; warmer currents dried his eyes. To his left, the sun waited behind the eastern ridge like a worried bird. At the base of the ridge ran a darkly shaded river. From the cabin to the river was a fifteen-minute walk. His grandparents’ cabin had once been situated near that river. The faint hump of the old foundation resembled an abscessed wasp bite on the flat floodplain. Out west, beyond Kenton and the dog staked in the lawn, the ridge’s jagged shadow line appeared trapped in the small sage valley where he and his sister had once searched for giant anthills. throat. Jacob wished the sun would rise more quickly, wished the man would quit asking him questions. “I’m trying to,” he said. “I’ve been there, let me tell you.” Kenton slid his hand up high on the sledge’s neck and used the thick gray head to scratch an itch beneath his sleeve. His sunglasses slipped; instead of pushing them higher on his nose, he bent his neck and looked at Jacob from the tops of his eyes. “Listen, my yard’s a swampy mess. I stake him there and he’ll work loose in less than an hour. And he’s not one to be left inside. You know?” As if on cue, Carpie lunged, the chain links pulling and scratching. The metal rod held tight, and the dog reined in with a jerk five feet from the porch. “Every spring that river causes havoc,” Kenton said. Jacob nodded. His grandparents had their own stories of the river. They had moved to this southern Colorado mountain valley in the summer of 1939. They built a home a hundred yards from the riverbank. That spring there were floods. After a second spring of sandbags, mud, and mosquitoes, they made a decision. The home was dismantled, but not destroyed. Instead, the pieces were carried, lugged and transported away from the river. Then, reassembled. The transfiguration became a story told and re-told. The decision to tear apart each log, window, and door, only to reattach them three-quarters of a mile away, had come to signify a family’s preservation. Kenton coughed to gain Jacob’s attention. “His name is Carpie. Carpie the dog as in carpie the fish.” He fish-swam his hand in front of him. Jacob tried to get the animal to look him in the eye, but it was no use. The dog would yip and howl all day. 31 Rebirth Issue
“Hush,” shouted Kenton, and Carpie chirped with held-in anxiety. “My shift starts at seven, so I best get on. Carp’s a people dog. You two keep each other company.” Kenton moved to the grass, gave the four-foot high red stake another knock, shouldered the sledge, patted his dog and said, “Thanks, neighbor.” His diesel gargled and then he was gone to the mine that operated on the pass. Jacob waited for silence, then let the door close behind him. He sat down with his back against the tin, the weathered wood beneath him cool and rough. Carpie paid him no attention. The chain ran suspended across the lawn to where the dog stood stiffly, pointed down the gravel road where his master had disappeared. When the sun arrived, Jacob faced it. The heat slipped down his face. His closed-eye view colored orange, then red, the warmth seeping and settling. Jacob’s only sister, gone. Three months ago in northern Minnesota she and a friend started a two-week canoe trip. At some point something went wrong. For three weeks the search and rescue professionals explained the logic and probability of search grids, but they found nothing: no canoe, no clothes, no coolers of leftover food and drink. The family was assured that clues would eventually surface. While Jacob’s parents still waited for that call or letter, Jacob had decided upon a different course. The dog whimpered. The chain whipped through the short grass as the dog appeared to track Kenton’s truck from gravel road to county road to highway. circled and the chain ran with him. Then he bent low and struggled towards Jacob, pulling on the earth-bound stake. His eyes bulged from the pressure on his neck, and his ears flattened in pain or intensity. His breath came in short blasts as the collar bit into his throat. Toenails scratched for purchase. “Enough,” pleaded Jacob. “Quit hurting yourself.” He rested an elbow on a knee, then covered both eyes and willed Carpie to settle. After the cancelled search, Jacob had returned to Madison, acutely aware that his last year of college wasn’t worth completing. While his parents stumbled through familiar routines, Jacob rehearsed untrustworthy stories. The plank ladder nailed to the backyard elm repulsed him; the girl who had once competed with him to jump to the ground from an everhigher rung had vanished. The green Datsun stuffed into one half of the garage had at one point carried the smell of her high school perfume and the sound of her chanting to the punk-ska of Sublime as she drove him to school. No matter his desire, Jacob could not regain the physicality of these memories. So Jacob had reached for stories far from the domestic confines of
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Madison. The most vivid events were born in his grandparents’ home in southern Colorado. The memories from those annual visits were rooted in the physical: the iron woodstove, a frozen pond, marbles of elk shit. His sister materialized when he recalled the ancient geographical features that acted as stage and prop for their youthful adventures. There, in his childhood home, he had pictured the scree pile just below timberline on the mountain behind his grandparent’s cabin. Acres of rocks. He would load a pack and hike up to that swath of stones. Once there, he would shuffle, slide body heat. He’d note the rocks’ ridges, points and shallows; he would scratch their colored lichen. When the afternoon clouds formed, he would lie patiently as the rocks slowly cooled, their collected heat passing through him and into the air. During the night the rocks would groan and shift. Then he had dreamed of trees. Forests his grandparents had used for logs, fence posts, planks, axe handles, drying racks and winter heat. He planned to knife open the trees and rub his hands across the smooth insides until sap stained away his natural color and his wrinkles filled. He would shimmy to the top of the tallest tree where he would wait for a strong storm. Electricity, cold as snowmelt, would tighten his scalp and click his ears. Swaying like waves, the forest around him would move to the rhythm of the wind. Reconstruction. He would start with the most basic elements. He would insert himself and his sister amidst those rocks, trees and water. Jacob had hoped, still hoped, that a particular history might begin again. Out in the yard, Carpie howled. It was the sound of a rabbit dying or the pulling of a nail from wet wood. Jacob’s forearm hairs rose. The dog stood near the stake, the chain limp. He shook his head and howled again. Carpie’s skinny tail hung down at an awkward angle. The shadow line hunted for the river. Eventually, the high sun would push the division into the ridge itself. As Jacob considered this, the sunlight methodically marched across the scrub field, seized shallow runnels, ran across a rusting tractor fender, and cut through a decayed corner section of fence line. Jacob squeezed his temples. Fuck reconstruction. Fuck living within a landscape. Nothing had worked. All those dreams of rediscovery and regeneration. But since leaving, clear of working on either the cabin or his life. He had chosen, instead, sleep and beer and two women, one in the F150 while parked in the post office parking lot, the other on the porch atop a mattress yanked from the cabin. A hasty shuffling noise. Jacob dropped his hand and saw Carpie in a full run. He feared the dog would escape, but the chain jerked and Carpie
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was flung to the ground. The dog rose and immediately ran in the opposite direction. The chain seized again and Carpie’s neck snapped back, his body swinging vertical. Before rising from the dirt, he half-barked in pain, then rose and started back across the lawn; he ran as if chasing prey. Jacob bent forward to his hands and knees and shouted, but Carpie jerked and fell. His legs twitched as he attempted to stand. Jacob stood as the dog balanced and began another run. The back of his knees ached and his head rushed with blood. He twisted the stake’s carabineer screw lock. As Carpie rushed by – streaks of brown and blond muscle – Jacob squeezed the clip. Chain and stake separated. The dog didn’t seem surprised by his freedom. He ran from the yard and toward the river like an animal possessed. The trailing chain brought up sage and grass. acob followed, walking quickly. The dog went on, wild with a passion for reuniting with Kenton. Jacob began to run. The rough ground scratched at his feet. He tracked the dog by the glint of chain and the occasional clink when it found stone. The ground softened as he neared the river. Then the meadow transformed to wetland and Jacob kicked up splash. His shorts hung low with their wet weight. The landscape’s color dulled as Jacob passed into shadow. The air cooled immediately. He looked for the dog, but Carpie was gone. Perhaps he veered toward Kenton’s cabin; more likely, he was racing upriver to the headwaters and the mine. Twenty-five yards away a bump of earth hid the old cabin’s stone foundation. The shadow line split the jut of earth in two. Within minutes, the sun effortlessly absorbed the hump. Corners and chunks of river rock foundation shined. Jacob envied his grandparents’ surrender. During the summer and fall, while they rebuilt the cabin, they slept under tarps. By early winter they were back indoors. And in the spring they lived high above the river’s damaging floods. When Jacob arrived at the river he found it flowing slowly; the water eddied as it tested the banks. Jacob had dreamed of the river back in Madison, just as he had dreamed of the rocks and forest. He waded into the water and gripped the smooth rock with his toes. The current’s push forced him to lean upriver. River sounds surrounded him as he sidestepped toward a deep pool on the far bank. Water reached his waist and then stretched for his chest. He took short breaths, then yelped at the cold, alert water. Once in the pool the current eased and Jacob stood still. Underneath him the water held a gray-blue color. As he trickled the surface with his fingertips, the far river bank began to glisten. In a few seconds the light and heat and colors would reach him. As he waited, his sister’s voice and laugh-
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ter began to rise from the waterâ€™s swirl. Jacob took a breath, held it, and went underwater. The world went to liquid noise and bending shapes. He watched as the water began to cloud with sunlight. Bits of mineral flashed and went blank and flashed. When he could no longer hold his breath Jacob stood. The water dripped and leapt, and he wiped at his eyes in order to view the luminous display.
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Origami Teotihuacán Teotihuacán ¿Tortuga en obsidiana verde o tequila reposado? Calor. Compro el reptil, lo acaricio. Recorro la calzada de los muertos: los suspiros de una sacerdotisa se prolongan en la luna de cuerpo de pirámide. Husmea la tortuga entre mis dedos, la asfixio. Trepo, la gran vagina tragahombres. Sopla el viento, vomita la ciudad en ruinas, imperio del Sol, de ardientes sembradíos. Ojos y cabezas rodando. Dioses sordos.
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Estación la Raza La billetera en el bolsillo de adelante y salto. Se cierran las fauces metálicas, me engulle el nacosaurio.0 Respiro por los poros del vecino, babosos, achiclados. Suda la muchacha de adelante, el bigotudo de atrás. No hay aire. Un mocoso de dientes filudos estornuda en mi pecho, ¡salud! gritan desde el inframundo. No ventila la glotis del saurio que sacude la cola y alza vuelo. Deja atrás un pozole de cráneos, un reguero de canillas. Aire, ¿por qué no me trepé en los alebrijes de esternón amarillo? Aire, entro en pánico, me mareo. Si me desmayo, me clavarán un tacón en el cuello, antes de ofrendarme a los dioses. Miro por la ventana: ruido y velocidad. Cabeceo, CO2, bostezo.
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Estación Niños Heroes El nacosaurio abre sus fauces, suspira y defeca un río de zombis. Trincha carne fresca en sus nueve estómagos metálicos. Dos muchachas se besan, sudor corre por los senos de una de ellas, sal por los de la otra. Me asqueo. Los dedos en sus sexos me hacen pistola Buenas tardes señoras y señores. En el día de hoy les traigo el libro de la papiroflexia. Por sólo 10 pesitos podrán dominar la técnica milenaria del plegado de papel y hacer elefantes cantinflescos, armadillos del PRI y enmascarados de plata en trajes de hipocampos. Usted carnal, sí usted, por 10 bolitas y esta servilleta, podrá obsequiarle un girasol a la dama que está allá, y que tanto lo mira. ¿Qué tal una gardenia o un pensamiento para su madrecita? Sólo por 10 pesares, ¿quién dijo yo? De haber conocido la papiroflexia, los teotihuacanos tendrían altares y dioses coloridos. No les habrían faltado las gallinas ponedoras ni las muelas de maíz para las tortillas. Sus sacerdotisas nadarían en leche de cabra deslactosada, dormirían la siesta sobre plumas de avispato.
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Estación Coyoacán ¡Una silla vacía! Me aplasto sobre ella, una anciana se agarra del nacoesternón enmohecido, me mira ¡Ja! Ni a bala le cedo el trono. El saurio mastica una bola de pelos atorada en sus fauces. Nacalincha y zaz, grita un intelectual barbas de chivo, de torso desnudo: estrella su camisa contra el piso, deja al descubierto un colchón de vidrios. ¡Ahhhhh! Los tritura con los lunares de su espalda. Se levanta, una estalactita le prende del codo: se da la bendición con el peso que recibe. 5 bolitas por el rugir de los Tigres del Norte. Compro un disco a una muchacha, su mochila es tan grande como su espalda; le encimo la tortuga cargada en la pirámide, descargada en el saurio que estornuda nacoalérgico, salgo disparado como serpentina por sus fosas nasales. Me desdoblo sobre unos tacones de aguja. Recorro unas piernas largas, suspiro ante el tesoro teotihuacano que se arruga bajo el triangulo de la falda.
39 Rebirth Issue
When The Oleander Blooms
he old man admired oleander, the way it would flower, no matter what. He studied the plant while leaning against his cane. The cane was handy when he needed to pick up things. It took the pressure from his back, that nodule of pain behind his left hip. Two summers ago, he had put this oleander in the ground, on the morning side of his house, the only place where some shrub or tree had not been planted. Most of these things had been planted years ago. It was amazing how big they had become. His wife had often said, “Are you still planting things? Don’t you know you have to take care of everything you plant?” Well, she had been right. His wife was now gone. He wasn’t sure how long. At least seven years. He had no family, not even his daughter. She lived in Florida. Perhaps she’d had a child or two. She would never say. Perhaps she did not want him to know. Being in Florida was the same as not being anywhere. She would send a Christmas card, but no note. There had never been much to say between them. He hated what she had done to her mother. Over the winter, the oleander had died back from the cold. But new stalks emerged. These new stalks were now three feet high, the color of parsley. For a time, lice collected on the spear-shaped upper leaves, a coating of tiny yellowy eggs. But the lice had soon given up. Each morning, the old man would estimate how the oleander intended to grow. There was now a rosette of buds at the top, ivory-colored, hinting at scarlet. Oleander needs time to bloom, nearly two years. The first pink flowers would soon appear. He had made up his mind. He was sick, not of the loneliness, but of other things: the pain in his hip, how hard it was to get out of bed, or out of a chair, and pain in other places, including the side of his head, and in the morning, when he needed to urinate. In those old movies, they would get it wrong. They would tell you when your wife dies, and your daughter is gone, and there’s no family, it’s the loneliness that gets you. But it’s not the loneliness. It’s the pain. The worst thing is pain at night. It breaks you. You’re sick of the pain and you’re sick of the pills the VA sends you in gray padded envelopes, hard to open without
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scissors. He had even come to hate the Travatan Z drops in his eyes every night—another thing gone wrong. But the old man believed he had made up his mind. When the oleander blooms—perhaps in a week—that would be it. Yes, it was silly, dying by signal from an oleander. But no one would know. He would use that Luger. That’s what old alcoholic cops did in the movies. He would like to see his friend, Carlos, once more. He was worried about Carlos. They had met in Beaumont Army Hospital, in the last year of the war, a lifetime ago, when they would sit in a courtyard surrounded by thick military lawns and shrubs shaped like deer and turtles, and it was okay to wear those blue pajamas all day, a silly uniform because they were hurt, and somehow special, each hurt in one way or another. It would take a while before the old man would talk. They would sit on the concrete bench and Carlos would smoke, and talk, as if they were having a conversation. In the war, Carlos flew a P-47 in Germany, mostly in the 388th, later in the 50th, and came out a captain. He liked mathematical theory and wanted to be a high school teacher. They were an odd combination, one cheerful beyond reason, the other refusing to talk. That was sixty years ago. Things happened that would change him, and make him miserable, a misery which would eventually spread to his daughter. The old man had taken the Luger from a German soldier. The poor fellow was frozen, his face gray like concrete, a mask of dirt, a thing made of ice and concrete and deadness. The old man knew the Germans would shoot you on the spot if you carried a Luger. He would be careful. He would not carry it. When he had tugged at the Luger, the dead soldier would not let go. He still wanted it, even in deadness. The fingers had cracked when the pistol had been pulled away. The old man would not forget that sound, limbs being pruned from a tree, dry wood being broken so it would fit in a garbage can. The dead German had stuffed a nightgown around his neck as a scarf. The old man had often thought about that scarf, what pathetic good it had done. All these years, he had kept the Luger wrapped in a towel in his bedroom closet. The old man was sitting in the back patio of his home. Carlos was with him, his monthly visit. The old man loved this patio. He loved his St. Augustine grass, a mint-colored carpet, impenetrable to weeds and insects. It had taken years and plenty of water to get the grass this good. “Once in a while, get a house keeper,” Carlos said. He motioned toward the books and papers inside the house. “I don’t like people going through my things,” the old man said. 41 Rebirth Issue
Carlos had always been a good-looking fellow, never fat. He tended to smile too much. He liked to wear that gray T-shirt with Old Army across the front, a straw hat and rundown blue jeans. He looked like a farmer. In truth, he hated anything that implied work, unless it was his four kids: two sons, two daughters. He and his kids spoke the same language. The kids were born polite, like Carlos. They would pay attention when you gave advice. But the girls had religion and too much goodness. They would give the old man books about their new religion. The last book, with parts marked in pencil, was called The Case For Faith. The old man read the book. He thought it was foolish. But Carlos had no opinion of the book, possibly because he too had lost his wife. It wasn’t cancer, only a freak injection which had gone wrong. They were drinking Tecate, a habit from decades ago, when they were young and believed they would always be young, and would catch the No. 5 bus at the Main Post at Bliss and spend the day in the worst parts of El Paso, places like Hollywood Cantina, Tommy’s Hideout, Club Almas Perdidas. The old man did not care much for drinking. But he liked being with Carlos. It was because of Carlos, and those days of blue pajamas, that the old man had started to get well. They often finished the day with a Combination Mexican Plate in the Pioneer Cafe next to the Plaza Theater. The Pioneer had folded thirty years ago. The Plaza had folded, too. It was being restored into a museum. There were not many people who would remember that combination plate at the Pioneer Cafe. Now, on the patio, they pretended to enjoy their Tecate. It was a little sour if you did not take it with food. At Almas Perdidas, you got Tecate with a salt shaker and limes split in half. But being old, it was best to skip the salt. Carlos was not talking much. The old man hoped it was nothing to do with those tests at Beaumont. The old buildings with connecting porches and roofs covered with rolled green shingles had been torn down a long time ago. Beaumont was now immense, concrete and brick, eight stories. Another building had been added, The Bradley Annex. The tests had something to do with Carlos’ left kidney. The doctors had seen a shadow during a sonar scan. It could be a cyst, which would be okay. Cysts often happen to old people. But the shadow was even bigger than the kidney. You don’t do a biopsy with a kidney. Bleeding could be a problem. They would do a CAT scan but you have to wait a month. That’s the way it is in Army hospitals. Carlos often joked about Beaumont: “If you die, it’s no big deal.” It was a shame about Carlos smoking all those years, a dreadful habit. Of course, all the best actors smoked. Those great movies were filled with people smoking. Even so, the old man had never cared for smoking, al-
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though you were encouraged to keep an unopened carton in your foot locker. It helped make a good display for Saturday morning inspection. Carlos had stopped smoking twenty years ago. Perhaps not much damage had been done. Perhaps the damage had healed. Carlos was not one to worry. He took everything well. He often said things like “When it’s time to go, you go.” The old man supposed that attitude came from being a fighter pilot, and living through it, and assuming he would be lucky forever. That’s what the old man admired about Carlos. He could take things. Still, there were things the old man wanted to say. But how do you tell Carlos everything is too much, and you are tired, especially when you get out of bed? That parts of your body are failing, your blood, your back, your head? Even the old man’s bowels didn’t work right. He was sick of being worried, sick of trying to sleep, sick of Old Crow at four o’clock in the morning. He hated liquor. He hated those pain killers, pink capsules in white bottles with thick caps, and warnings pasted on the bottle about mixing the capsules with aspirin or liquor, and how these capsules had set records for killing people in emergency rooms. The capsules didn’t work anyway, no matter what the warnings said. How do you tell Carlos you’re sick of thinking you have two grandchildren, perhaps three, and can never see them, or touch them, or take them to The Adventure Zone, or leave money for them when you die? The old man believed the war was to blame. He decided he had known only two people worth trusting. First, his wife. But she was gone. Then, Carlos. Whatever these two would say, that was fine. Both meant well. That was important to the old man, the way of a person’s heart. Now, staring at St. Augustine grass and that redoubt of trees and shrubs and honeysuckle and Algerian ivy, the old man was about to offer his friend another Tecate. But what about those medical tests? Later, the old man might hint at things. He would bring up the oleander. That’s how well they had known one another. You did not have to draw a map. Carlos broke into the old man’s thoughts. He was about to start reflecting. The old man was not comfortable when Carlos reflected. There was not much he wanted to hear about the old days. But Carlos began anyway. “Years ago, the damndest thing happened in Germany. I thought I had forgotten about it. But it came back. I couldn’t get it out of my head.” “The war ruined us,” the old man said. “Stop interrupting. Let me tell the damn story.” “I’m sorry. Listen, I’ve been wondering about those tests they did to you.” “Those doctors won’t tell you much, not at first.” 43 Rebirth Issue
“Is it serious?” “They come into a room and tell you something, and that’s it. But I’ll be okay.” “Do you feel okay?” “I wasn’t sick until they told me,” Carlos said. He smiled in that way of being philosophical. “Anyway, let me get on with my story. It’s not a bad story. I know how you are about things being decent.” “Not if it’s about the war.” “Will you please shut up? This isn’t a war story. This isn’t about screwing people, or eating chemicals or red meat, or what Wal-Mart does to its employees.” “I’m sorry,” the old man said. He laughed a bit. He meant to apologize. It was true, though. He hated all kinds of unfairness, including immovable forces like Wal-Mart. Carlos began his story. “The idea was to destroy anything that moved--a truck, a train, a cart pulled by a horse. You killed the people in the cart and you killed the horse. The Germans had pulled back their guns from France and Russia. You had to stay on the deck or get torn apart by those yellow-burning shells. The sky was filled with crazy markings. You followed the contour of the ground, only 10 feet in the air. You dodged trees and houses. Those four-bladed 13-foot props could kick up enough dust to blind the Thunderbolt or P-38 behind you. Turn sharply, let a wing or prop touch the ground, and that was it. You fired the rockets and pulled on the stick. You needed altitude in a hurry, the only way to save your ass …” Carlos did not want another Tecate. But the old man might get one for himself. It might be better than a pink capsule or an aspirin. The idea of the Luger was still on his mind. He would think about it later. The real problem was not the Luger. It was Carlos, that shadow on one kidney, unidentified specks on the other kidney. “Ten feet off the ground, everything is a blur,” Carlos was saying. He paused. But the old man said nothing. Perhaps Carlos did not understand how to tell this story. He had never told it, not even at those three-year reunions. “The gunfire around that railroad yard was a bitch,” he went on. “Straight ahead, a German soldier was standing. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. An unbelievable thing was coming at him. You idiot, hit the ground! Save yourself! His ugly Nazi helmet was dented. His face was like a statue. I did not want to hit him. If I turned, I’d scrape the ground. If I pulled up, I’d be a clear target at point-blank range. I had to go straight ahead.” The old man did not like this story. Why bring it up now? It was an
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understanding between them. They would never talk about the war, at least not in detail. The old man hated wars, no matter their reasons. He did not want to think of things which had once made him sick. “Well, that’s a fine story,” the old man said. He began to get up, reaching for his cane. He believed he had been dismissed. “You don’t know the ending,” Carlos said. “I can figure it out.” “No, you can’t. I couldn’t figure it out myself. It bothered me all those years. I didn’t even know it bothered me. I decided to think it through. Now I have the answer. Please sit down.” Carlos touched the old man’s hand. He meant to assure his friend. He would not bring up that sickness in Beaumont Hospital, things which had caused the doctors to try electroshocks. That therapy was new back then, at least for the military. It was radical. They could not try it until the Red Cross had notified his parents. There were six treatments, each a horror. They had put electrodes on his head. The doctor, a major who lacked good manners, was worried about a mood disorder. Soldiers with mood disorders might do serious things to themselves. The risk also involved his memory. He might lose it. Strangely, the treatments helped. His memory was gone, but only for a week. After the electricity, he came to accept the idea that some people were okay. Mexican waiters were okay. Waitresses at the Pioneer Café were okay. The fellow with the garbage cans who would wave to him from a truck—he was okay. The old man remembered the first time he had spoken a real sentence to Carlos. Until that time, it had been words here and there. They were sitting on that concrete bench in the Beaumont courtyard. The old man asked: “Why do you smoke those shitty cigarettes?” Carlos wanted the old man to hear how his story ended. The ending was the best part. “This fellow disappeared beneath me. But no thud, no lurching, no guts across my windscreen. I did not lose a prop.” “You were high enough to miss him,” the old man proposed. “No, I went right into him. The absolute impossible had happened.” “You dreamed it, the way they do in the movies.” The old man was kidding. “No, listen. I was doing 250 miles an hour. That’s 2,250 RPMs, about 135,000 revolutions. With four blades, that’s 540,000 blades passing the six o’clock position each hour.” “You’ve lost me,” the old man said. He was mildly amused. It seemed a clever fantasy, the gibberish of some insurance wonk. The old man recalled those clever lines by Edward G. Robinson in Double Indemnity. Robinson was in charge of insurance investigators. Everything was based on probabilities. “Listen to me,” Carlos said. “I figured it out. I was going about 1,320,000 45 Rebirth Issue
feet per hour. That’s simple mathematics. Divide that by 540,000 and there’s your answer.” “What answer?” “My plane moved 2.44 feet each time one of those four blades passed a given point.” “You mean this fellow happened to be standing in exactly the right spot? One blade almost touched his nose, another just missed his butt?” “Exactly.” “That’s fine,” the old man said. “Now it’s off your mind. You’re clean again.” “All those years, I assumed I had cut him to bits. Now I’ve brought him back. He could be like us, an old fellow drinking his beer. That’s not a bad feeling, saving this old guy!” Carlos laughed. “Well, that’s quite a joke,” the old man told him. “Actually, your point is a good one.” “It’s unbelievable, how a man could live through that,” Carlos said. “What a story. It’s the kind of story people like you have instead of religion!” “Where did you get that line?” the old man asked. “Hemingway, I think.” “One of these days, I’ll tell you one of my stories. It doesn’t end so nicely. Maybe it’ll do me good, after all these years. I’ve hated thinking about it, though.” The old man smiled. He meant to imply he might be kidding again. But Carlos would not have it. “Don’t be silly,” he said. “You could take those things. I couldn’t.” “That’s true,” Carlos said. His voice lowered a bit. “Germany was the best time of my life. I loved it. I was someone special. I never thought I would get hurt. But sooner or later, shit happens.” The old man began recalling that time sixty years ago. He was 19. He remembered the winter, trees like Christmas cards, ruined by killing, and people dragging parts of horses, cows bloated like horrid balloons with legs sticking out. He remembered the German soldier with the Luger, and the ruined school they used as a barracks, and how he had put the Lugar in his duffle bag. The Lugar was an ugly thing. He really did not want it. He had taken it by impulse, a symbol of things he hated. The war was far away. American soldiers were doing a Christmas party for German kids in the village. The old man had nothing to do with the killing. He was an intellectual. He was reading D. H. Lawrence. The idea was to read all 55 short stories. If he could hold on, the war would be over. His job was the weather. He would keep his mind on his work. Every day, he would
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measure temperature and humidity. He would do reports on cloud cover and visibility. He worked out of a jeep. Except for the killing that had been done around him, his assignment was a good one. He could manage it. But then the Germans came. The Americans ran. Many threw down their M-1s and carbines and grease guns. They had never seen a King Tiger tank. It was an awful machine, big, noisy, relentless. The only way to disable a Tiger was from the rear. The old man was supposed to measure cloud cover. What did he know about Tiger tanks and running for his life? He became a prisoner. The Germans were nervous but fairly reasonable as long as there were no SS troops around. They were cocky at first. The war was changing. The old man could not sleep. He could not hold his urine. The food was bad. It was dirty. The whole prison camp was dirty. He had diarrhea. He had lice. He lost weight. He followed the rules. It’s possible to live through this thing, he told himself. But he wasn’t sure. He was always cold. He was always scared. He was hungry. The men seemed to crave eggs. He could not understand it. He began craving eggs himself. The guys would talk about scrambled eggs with bacon and butter and hash browns. This was a surprise. He had assumed people who were starving would call for bread. The old man kept to himself. He had no friends. He did not talk much. Each day, he talked less and less, until finally he was silent. That’s what being so scared does to you. You’re sure the worst things will happen. Then your dignity is gone. You become a small person. He knew he was giving up but he could not help himself. P-51s started coming over the camp. The guards looked worried. But it wasn’t the American planes so much. It was the Russians. They were approaching from the east. The Americans were in the west. The camp was in the middle. That was quite a joke. If they weren’t killed by the SS, they’d be killed by accident. One of the guards, Alfred, said the Americans were very close. Alfred was an old fellow doing his job. He was told to take 13 prisoners and start marching. They would go to another camp. There were no trucks. Perhaps the Germans would send a truck to pick them up. They would have to eat on their own. Some of the POWs tried to eat grass, boiling it to make a soup, but they had to throw up. All day, you could hear artillery. The shells passing overhead sounded like a duffle bag spinning through the sky, the way it had sounded at Ft. Sill. They kept marching. Alfred had to carry his rifle but it was old and heavy. Alfred was old. So the prisoners took turns carrying the rifle for him. Alfred wasn’t a bad sort. He was in a pickle, like the rest of them. What kind of a war was this? When an SS officer came by in a square-cornered staff car, and stopped, he told Alfred he wanted the prisoners. What’s the sense in marching them around? Get rid of them. Alfred refused. He said he had started with 13 prisoners and he would deliver 13 prisoners. Those were his orders. Alfred, like all German guards, was terrified of Russians and 47 Rebirth Issue
SS. Between the two, the SS were the worst, although the Russians were no picnic. The SS troops were shooting civilians who had hung white sheets from windows. But Alfred held his ground against the SS and the officer got into his car and left. The prisoners went back to marching. Alfred began wandering away. The old man went after him. He brought him back. It was important to stay together. They had marched for two more days when the Russians began to appear. The artillery got worse. The prisoners hid in a ditch. They were afraid to be seen by anyone. They did not know who could be trusted. American troops were also getting close, Alfred said. But they were in the middle. The world had gone mad. The old man could no longer take it. He could not take the idea of being blown to dust. That was his worst thought, being hit by artillery or mortars. You would be smashed into particles. Nothing would be left, not a finger. The millions of thoughts that had made you what you are would be gone. You would disappear. But where would you go? What happens to you when nothing is left? He and Alfred held one another. Alfred began babbling. The rifle had been lost. The old man was not in much shape when the Americans found them. He would not say his name. He would not believe he had been saved. He would not trust anything. His hearing was bad from all the artillery. The medics said most of his hearing would return. His nerves would settle down. But he did not believe them. He did not think he could hold himself together. Like Alfred, he began to babble, but not a lot. It was only a conversation with himself. The habit lasted for a time. Eventually, he would only talk when no one was around. His thoughts were private. He would also weep. The Americans never did find Alfred. Even the old man could not find Alfred. Later, the old man would not answer questions about Alfred or anything else. He wanted nothing to do with these people. The old man had gone to the standby room where they had put Carlos. They were waiting for surgery. There had been an emergency. Things were behind schedule. Carlos was in bed, smiling, surrounded by his two daughters and two sons and people the old man did not know. There were three priests and one pastor, an old-timer who looked like Buddy Ebsen and had done his evangelical work in Mexico. He seemed at ease and smiled continually. The daughters had come to the hospital with the priests. They were part of a new religion. Carlos was wearing tan knee-high stockings to keep blood clots in check. The stockings looked like old nylons. His sons and daughters were close to him. They were holding hands. One of the priests was reading from his Bible. This new religion was something to do with getting on the ground and speaking in made-up languages. Carlos and the old man did not put much store in these things. How could babbling do any good? Still, the new religion pleased the four children, especially the
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daughters. When the priest finished reading, the old man approached the bed. He touched Carlos on a foot. The surgery would take seven hours, perhaps more. Carlos was pleased by so many friends. The old man said, “You’ll be fine. I’ll be waiting downstairs. Next week, when you’re on your feet, we’ll have a few beers, like the old days.” Carlos laughed. Yes, it would be fine, the old days. “Where will we go?” “Almas Perdidas,” the old man said. “Almas Perdidas? That place closed twenty years ago!” “Did it?” The old man put his arms around his friend. He whispered. “I swear, you’ll be fine.” But he turned away to keep from showing his eyes. His tears were hot. He left the standby room. He was not sure about the priests. He could not stand to see his friend this way. Perhaps it might be better to leave those kidneys alone. It was an infection gone wild. The doctors could not save him, even with a team of trauma nurses. The services were held in a house owned by one of the priests. The house had been turned into a church. It was called The Dwelling Place. The old man did not want anything to do with these services because he knew the priests would say his friend was now in a better world. The old man stayed in bed for a few days. He did not have the energy to get up. The pain in his left hip was getting worse. It was beginning to burn. But he could take it. All that was left of his friend was a jar of ashes. That’s what it comes down to, after all those years. Perhaps the old man’s daughter would come to visit. She would bring her children. She would fix chicken noodle soup. Every night, they would go to a different restaurant. One of his grandchildren might be a little girl. The old man got out of bed. He would write a note to his daughter. He started the note. Then, it came to him. It was useless. Why would she help him after all these years? There was nothing between them. He would face these things. That’s what Carlos would do. He hobbled into the kitchen, using his cane, and dropped the note into the trash can. He did not bother to rip it in half. It was not that important. Later, he would go outside. He would look at the new oleander. It was an amazing plant. You could not hold it back. There were pink flowers. Next summer, this oleander would be as big as a pickup truck. It would be gorgeous, a mass of blooms.
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Bearing Light 2009 Oil on Paper 44” by 30 1/4”
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Artwork by: Susan Breen
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y husband Steve has attracted a new cyber-stalker. Not his first, but arguably his strangest. “Weird shit out of nowhere,” he wrote to me, forwarding an email from a reader in Holland who appears to have discovered Steve’s book Live from Fresno y Los and taken a fancy to one of his characters. Or so we thought. The subject line reads “Alice in Wonderland.” Nieuwegein, august 2011 Dear Mr. Gutierrez, May the Hero of my (next) ‘Novel-That-Never-Gets-Finished’ fuck with one of your Female Personages? In more than one way I am struck by her. You perhaps intuitively know which indelible personage I have in mind. I promise to respect her first name, and give her – as a slight acknowledgement of your authorship – your family name, alright? In a new chapter she will be put in a brothel, called Alice in Wonderland, in the New York of 1900, where my principal character Prendergast mixes with other contemporaries. In order that my novel keep its probity, I will omit direct references to axillae, pubic hair and labiae mayores, being, as a matter of fact, too cliché-like. I am still in doubt about almost hackneyed indications like a wet regard and smouldering. Matters like Prendergast’s fearless genitalia need, however, be firmly maintained. You needn’t be afraid I will not respect her as she is. Maybe not quite unsoiled like a virgo intacta, but surely almost the way she has emanated from your typewriter. And I’ll surely not make her groan and pant under my Prendergast and his illustrious co-prostituants Freud, Jack the Ripper, Sherlock Holmes, Nietszche etc. In this letter I allow you to object against my new Chapter, well aware a whiff of unethic behaviour might enter, as – in case of reprobative eyebrow movements on your behalf – I sort of seem to oblige you to react. Your willy-nilly fan,
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Wouter Noordewier Orpheuslaan 76 3438 VX Nieuwegein The Netherlands Steve’s reaction to his willy-nilly fan was understandably mixed, mostly horrified. What kind of reader was this? What kind of lunatic was out there? Ralph Waldo Emerson suggests that reading is an imaginative act itself, a kind of creative rewriting: we read to find our “other self ” on the page, which we then appropriate and reproduce. But there are some readers whose imaginations an author would rather not inspire. Steve appealed to me for advice. Could this be a malicious trick played by someone he knew? A disgruntled student from one of his creative writing classes maybe? Naturally, I started by Googling Wouter Noordewier. The name sounded fake, the Orpheuslaan address as well, like something out of Nabokov’s Lolita, where Quilty stalked Humbert Humbert, or rather Humbert Humbert stalked Quilty in an unparalleled road trip across the United States, signing a new name in every motel register. Nabokov was inspired by “William Wilson,” Poe’s classic tale of a man driven to murder when he was stalked by a whispering double who shared his name, birthdate, appearance, and wardrobe. And by “Annabel Lee,” Poe’s virginal girl child by the sea, as “Wouter Noordewier” purports to be inspired by the fictional virgin Helen in one of the stories in Steve’s book. Humbert Humbert’s florid prose style and his murderous pursuit of his arch-nemesis and double were in the back of my mind as I launched my cyber-research on the lecherous, potentially pedophiliac, possibly fictional Dutchman who wanted to fuck with the hapless Helen of “Feeding the People,” a kind of double herself. My first surprise was the discovery that Wouter Noordewier indeed exists, at least if numerous Internet citations, some dating back many years, serve as evidence of existence. My second surprise was the discovery that he was a legitimate author. Legitimate may not be precisely the right word, for as I surfed the websites of multiple out-of-print book dealers in the Netherlands, I gradually pieced together the following eclectic, even outlandish array of publications from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s: a book on Japanese poetry, a book on South American poetry, two further books, possibly of his own verse, titled Noordewier onder Mensen (Noordewier Among People) and Hymne aan een vieze stad (Hymn to a Dirty City), none of them translated into English. Most peculiar was his first book, published in 1976, Spookkonijntjes, a title that Bookfinder.com translates as Ghost Bunnies: Sixteen Portraits, To see what gnaws at the soul, and also to see whether self-knowledge through Another possibility is the description of the men is also an homage to a charm.
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UCLA apparently owns a copy of the book, in Dutch, but I was unable to find further information about it on the Internet. The title wasn’t exactly illuminating. Amazon has set up one of their fan club pages for Wouter Noordewier, which is absolutely empty. No photo. No fans. “So he’s a real guy, Steve. Maybe you should write back.” “He’s a nutcase.” “This could be some kind of postmodernist experimental work. Of course it could also be a blog where he’s embarrassing people.” “Or neither. I don’t want anything to do with this guy.” “Maybe his query is meant to be playful, not malicious.” “He sounds hostile. And unhinged.” So we left it there. At least for a week or so, until Steve’s publisher looked over the email and wrote back, “Yikes! Looks like he wants to pen some ‘fan fiction,’ which is apparently all the rage these days. He must be referring to Helen, right?” My curiosity revived, I typed “fan fiction” into the Google textbox, and immediately Wikipedia popped up with a convenient entry on fanfic, “stories about characters (or simply fictional characters) or settings written by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creator.” The fan becomes the author’s unauthorized double, free to write sequels, stage new scenes, fuck with his characters. The earliest works of fan fiction were based on Alice in Wonderland and Sherlock Holmes (himself based on Poe’s French detective Auguste Dupin), two of Wouter’s literary references. There are apparently databases where any fan can upload reams of ungrammatical and otherwise poorly written fan fiction, works like Wouter’s Novel-ThatNever-Gets-Finished, and specialty databases for subgenres such as “Crack,” “Angst,” “WAFF/fluff/schmoop,” and for fans who favor sexual pairings, “Slash,” “Femslash,” “Heterosexual,” and “Kink.” FanFiction.net turns out to be enormous. “Unleash your imagination,” they counsel, and hordes of would-be authors have done so. “Noordewier, Wouter” yields no results. There are a couple of hits for “Novel-That-Never-Gets-Finished,” apparently a common affliction on this site, but none with titles that sound like his. I’m not sure about the “Heterosexual” and “Kink” sites, so I turn back to the Internet, where I discover error-riddled commentary in English by Wouter appended to David Louis Edelman’s blog review of Martin Amis’s novel The Information. At 8:14 a.m. on May 11, 2008, Wouter wrote:
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How easy life can be… I have just read The Information during a long night in which, like a typical reader of Tull’s novel Untitled, I spat a mouthful of blood every twenty minutes. At five o’clock in the morning I finished the book full of contradictory feelings, and called for an ambulance. I have successfully been operated on in some Hick’s hospital (Frantic search for injection-needles, etc.) and have slept for four fruitful hours. Well, I must say I easily (glibly? naturally?) endorse the opinion of Mr Edelman. I’m great at having mixed feelings, and always enjoyed them, but not this time. I may have risked death by reading on till the end, but– together with numerous thumbnail markings wherever I intend(ed) plagiarizing Mr Amis– I must also confess reading this book has been a gruelling experience. My Problem was: Why? Wording it proved to be too forceul a mental task. So I googled up The Information and lo and behold, Edelman deftly (the man does have a wide vocabulary, which he handles wit natural ease) worded everything for me! Of course I will read other books by Mr Amis, who has just provided me with some 30 passages, sentences and word combinations smoothly insertable in my 540 p. novel called ‘Roman-Die-Nooit-Afkomt’ (Never-Ending-Novel), already published, but being made fatter and fatter by the same procédé, till it reaches 1300 pp. Kind regards to everybody Wouter Noordewier I raise my voice to read it out loud to Steve, who’s working at his laptop in the room next door to my study. “I told you he was insane,” he yells back. I have to agree, the guy sounds insane. Spitting blood as a reader response? Edelman as Noordewier’s double, writing Noordewier before Noordewier gets around to it? I can’t help but recall that Baudelaire said something of the same about his discovery of Poe. “The first time I opened one of his books, I saw with astonishment and delight not only subjects I had dreamed of, but SENTENCES which I had framed in my thoughts and which he had written twenty years before.” Maybe the most dramatic instance in literary history of a reader who found his “other self ” on the page. Baudelaire proceeded to manufacture a French Poe, reinterpreting his biography and translating his stories into French. “Curiouser and curiouser,” Alice in Wonderland said. I keep Googling in pursuit of my quarry, and suddenly I’m in Blogland, with multiple windows opening on the screen, blooming like a bouquet of Dutch tulips. Lots of writers have blogs, it seems, in many countries. Using Google’s convenient but highly unreliable “translate this” feature, I discover that many of them are pissed off at Wouter Noordewier, who sent them, you
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guessed it, an email or hard copy letter that started, “May the Hero of my (next) ‘Novel-That-Never-Gets-Finished’ fuck with one of your Female Personages? In more than one way I am struck by her.” In January 2010, Wouter Noordewier posted a brief response to a poem on the weblog for “Stadsdichter Leeuwaren,” asking where he could send fan mail, and a flurry of posts followed, the first one anonymous: “This strange letter I received from Wouter Noordewier. It seems that this exact same Wouter sends letters around to random people. Strange? Who has more of these letters?” Linda was the first to respond: “Yes, I ‘m also receive. Today. … I ignore strange emails like this.” Ingrid Levens was next: “Was also delighted with such an epistle, but via the trusted postman. The strange thing is that the letter was delivered to my brother, but indeed intended for me. I’ll call the police, because I think absolutely not.” And then Gerrie Hondius: “Today I found the same letter in my mailbox. I had to laugh, really, but now it appears that the letter was addressed to me personally, I think the joke is significantly less. Fat breakdown, Wouter remarkable.” I should note that the Google translations are decidedly peculiar, probably because a computer is translating word for word on the spot, arbitrarily choosing among possible definitions, and arranging words in the order of the foreign language’s sentence structure, with no concern for making sense. The garbled translations are something like the versions some of my freshmen produce on exams after reading books they haven’t understood. You could say that each reader translates what they read into their own words and mirrors the text back as best they can. The recipients of Wouter’s letters are also annoyed, even incensed, so they may not be fully making sense in their own languages. Fifteen more of them chime in, expressing varying degrees of irritation and outrage. Roos Boum, who imagines Wouter’s penis ripped off by bees in her first entry, apparently went to the police, and posts the letter she received: Mrs. Boum, Meanwhile, at my request, the police officer visited Mr. Noordewier and as a ‘good dicussion’ held. Here is Mr. Noordewier told that not everyone will appreciate to be contacted by him the way he did. Hopefully, the message arrived with him. This is just for your information. Regards,
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Anne-Mieke van Es Assistant Leakage detection; Also privacy officer and specialist UGO “Assistant Leakage detection” must be wrong, and a later contributor to the blog observes that the police warning apparently didn’t do much. Rihana Jamaludin calls him a fetishist. Vinco David calls him a flasher, “the digital version of open beaten tattered raincoat with scabrous images.” Two more writers responded in longer posts on their own blogs. The crime writer Peter de Zwaan reports that he’s received three identical letters from Wouter, and supplies a list of ten authors that Wouter has accosted by mail. He doesn’t tell us how he knows this, but adds that Wouter has asked for the mailing addresses of three others, and has approached Frank Starik, “the poet who at the funerals of the deceased lonely recites poetry.” I am momentarily distracted by this interesting new personage, a poet who shows up at funerals of the friendless declaiming his verse (or perhaps someone else’s verse), and immediately visualize the scene. It’s raining, the sky darkening to pewter gray, and the poet is holding a large red umbrella aloft as he reads. Passersby slowly collect outside the spiked iron railings of the cemetery to listen. The women are wearing headscarves. I tear myself away and return to the blog. Speaking specifically for the women on Wouter’s list, De Zwaan closes with a not-so-veiled threat, assuring concerned readers that the female writers Wouter is stalking are not “frightened poeperds” (an unaccountable lapse of Google’s translation into complete gibberish). “They will not shy away from violence.” Another award-winning Dutch writer, Karin Amatmoekrim, jokes on her blog about Wouter’s “creative” letter and her disappointment when she discovered online that he was 75 years old and that he’d written to others. She’s not so sure about writers who called the police. “I’m curious about the book he intends to write. Although there is some disappointment. Wouter … I thought I was the only one for you!” A black and white photo accompanies this entry in her blog, but it’s not clear whether it’s of the elusive Wouter or someone else. A man in a hat and overcoat walks on a city street with a cane. His cheap wool overcoat is knee-length and wrinkled. We glimpse him in three-quarter profile from behind, through what seems to be the window of a bus. It appears to be raining, or to have rained recently. We wouldn’t be able to recognize Wouter in a lineup, from this photo. I try to imagine Wouter at home. An old man of 76, unshaven, white and gray stubble dotting his face. He’s sitting at his computer in a ratty plaid bathrobe, gaunt and wild-eyed, cutting and pasting long passages in his
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1300-page novel. Is the entire novel made up of repetitions of the same missive? “May the Hero of my (next) ‘Novel-That-Never-Gets-Finished’ fuck with one of your Female Personages?” He hawks and spits, and then sips out of a cracked mug. Vodka maybe. Or coffee. He’s been up all night and the gray light of dawn is creeping in through the slats of the closed shutters. My reading of Wouter reflects my cultural limitations. That is, my imaginary Holland is a composite of clichéd national stereotypes and odd bits of tourist lore and memory. I was there when I was nineteen, a long time ago. It was in the nineteen-seventies, when Amsterdam was a hippie mecca, and Wouter was penning Ghost Bunnies. I don’t remember much more than canals and cobblestone streets, the feeling of freedom in the air, along with the pungent, acrid-sweet smell of marijuana. I went to the Van Gogh museum, I remember, a tranquil space in a woodland setting. There were narrow vertical windows with glimpses of trees, and just a few paintings displayed in each airy room. My image of Wouter is beginning to overlap with the famous self-portrait of Van Gogh with the bandaged ear. Crazy Wouter, glaring into the bathroom mirror with deranged, ice-blue eyes, ripping the bandage off to stare at the scabbed remains of the ear he gave to a prostitute at the Alice in Wonderland brothel. I remember the red light district in Amsterdam, and the strange novelty of walking with crowds of tourists to stare at prostitutes in various stages of undress, artfully posed in picture windows as they stared back at us. It’s not hard to picture a prostitute dressed as a literary character among them, or Holland selling herself as a little Dutch girl with blonde braids and wooden shoes, breasts spilling out of her unbuttoned blouse, straddling a chair to display her transparent underwear. As Baudelaire reached out to his reader, his double, when he called him “hypocrite lecteur—mon sembable,—mon frère,” so the prostitutes stared with mingled contempt and kinship at their hypocritical doubles on the other side of the glass. Van Gogh. Brothels. And windmills, little Dutch girls and boys in clogs, all that I can remember from the books I read as a child about Holland. Particularly that story about the little Dutch boy who saved his town (or was it all of Holland?) from a flood by sticking his finger in a dike. The tale was part of Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, which I can barely remember, but Hans Brinker’s father suffered from pressure on the brain, and I’m wondering whether these letters are like sticking a finger in the dike that threatens to flood Wouter’s psyche. Hence the bureaucrat in “Leakage Detection.” It’s hard to know. Impossible really. All sheer speculation, and my project is beginning to feel like Wouter’s 540-page, never-to-be-ended opus, which he claims he will augment with 59 Rebirth Issuee
plagiarized, “smoothly insertable” passages from Amis’s novel and others, until it reaches 1300 pages, at which point it will presumably not end either, just as the search for Wouter Noordewier won’t end with his death, which he has cagily anticipated by posting a future death notice on the Internet. (On a site called “Sterfdatum,” which will calculate anyone’s date of death and post it. His will be on Thursday, December 9, 2015.) It’s 2:37 p.m. California time right now, which makes it 11:37 p.m. in Nieuwegein, the suburb of Utrecht where Wouter lives. I realize I’ve been picturing a richly-appointed bourgeois interior out of a Vermeer painting, but Google satellite has pulled up a photo of a drab, box-like apartment building at Orpheuslaan 76, so I’ve revised my mental image. Wouter is hunched over an over-sized, old-fashioned computer at his shabby dining table, surfing the Internet and scratching his balls, every once in a while Googling his own name to verify that he’s really there. He’s breathing heavily, looking for a writer, any writer, just a writer who feels protective about one of his characters. That’s it, the virginal one: the one they don’t want to see handled in a public brothel by every sleazy John, Dick, and Harry who cracks open the pages of their book. Which raises a question for the writers among you. Who’s reading you right now? Enough of the Internet. I resolve to read a book. I could obtain Wouter’s book from UCLA through interlibrary loan but I couldn’t do much more than look at it, so I make a side trip to the local library and check out Martin Amis’s The Information, which turns out to be a virtually unreadable tome of 374 pages with doubles and parallel plots run amok. The protagonist, Richard Tull, a bitter, failed novelist, works part-time for a vanity press that he calls a “brothel.” He has twin sons born a day apart, and he in fact was born the day before his archrival and college chum, the undeservedly successful novelist Gwyn Barry. Hundreds of pages later, after paid hit men have almost murdered Gwyn, we learn that Gwyn hates Tull as much as Tull hates Gwyn, resenting his victories on the tennis court, and has fucked his wife. We exit a novel with no protagonists, and a literary world rife with envy and backbiting and bereft of talent, much less genius. Tull’s manuscripts accumulate, crammed into drawers, adrift in the back seat of his car, “all of them firmly entitled Unpublished. And stacked against him in the future, he knew, were yet further novels, successively entitled Unfinished, Unwritten, Unattempted, and, eventually Unconceived.” Pointless, all of it. Enough to drive a writer over the edge. Is it possible that Wouter is doubling the life of Amis’s character and has identified so utterly with Tull’s failure that he is perpetuating it on the Internet, launching missive after missive in wearyingly repetitive attacks on award-winning writers who’ve
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enjoyed modest success? I may finally have discovered the key to his psychology. But I find I am tired of Wouter and his spite. No longer interested. I consider the possibility that what sent me on this quest may have little do to with Wouter Noordewier and more to do with the personal effect of reading his letter. Every recipient of his letter must have gone through a similar series of reactions. First, excitement that a reader had written to them; then shock at his aggressive violation of the privacy of their literary world; and then insatiable curiosity about the “female personage.” Writers from Holland, Belgium, and France in the unfolding blog entries on the “Stadsgedichten Leeuwarden” site openly wondered what characters he had in mind. “I just want to know what character he wants to fuck.” We spent some time thinking about that too, Steve and I, feeling oddly protective of Helen and of his book. All of the writers were undoubtedly embarrassed later at the time they spent speculating on what character he meant. But Steve shrugged it off. When I emailed back and asked him whether he was going to answer Wouter, he wrote, “I’m not going to reply. Don’t forward. I’m going to kill it. S.” Something got under my skin. Maybe my years as a scholar and literary critic, and suspicion in my darker moments that Wouter’s scenario is what we really do. Bring along Nietzsche, Freud, a few literary forebears or French theorists, and violate some author’s text and characters. Use them. My feeling, again in my darker moments, that the literary world is a brothel where writers, critics, and scholars alike are more intent on advancing their careers, turning a profit, and beating the competition than respecting or celebrating genius, their own or others’. I consult Steve. “I mean once you’ve published a work, your reader appropriates it. He recreates it in his own image, makes it over, screws with your characters, does whatever he wants,” I say. We’re sitting at the kitchen table, a candle flickering between us. We’ve finished dinner, chicken enchiladas and sliced avocado and beans and rice, and haven’t cleared the table yet. It’s almost dark outside. We’re pushing a blue glass bowl of cherries back and forth, dropping the pits onto our plates as we eat them. They’re ripe and sweet. “You’re giving this asshole a lot of credit. I don’t think he was thinking of any of that.” “Well, even if he wasn’t, it might be true. Once you let go of a character, anyone can mess around with her.” “I don’t think so. We don’t write for madmen. You expect your work to be read in a certain spirit. There’s a largesse we assume on the part of 61 Rebirth Issuee
the reader.” “But don’t we take something over when we read it? Filter it through ourselves, with all our limitations, translate it into our own terms, find the ‘other me.’ Recreate it?” “It’s still the author’s, not yours. A good reader doesn’t fuck with the characters. They care about the integrity of the work.” So maybe I’m ready to leave Wouter behind at his computer, one hand on his dick, one on the “Send” button, contacting authors whose books he hasn’t even read while his bulging, never-to-be-finished monument to impotence gathers dust in the corner. He’s irrelevant. I realize that I’ve been seeking something else. Integrity. Nabokov’s “aesthetic bliss” perhaps. Which is not Humbert Humbert fucking around with Lolita. It’s the sanctity of art. “For me,” Nabokov says in the Afterword to Lolita, “a work of fiction exists only insofar as it affords me what I shall bluntly call aesthetic bliss, that is, a sense of being somehow, somewhere, connected with other states of being where art (curiosity, tenderness, kindness, ecstasy) is the norm.” That’s what I want. Some renewed faith that we’re all in this together. Writers, fellow writers and readers, critics, scholars, readers, all of us, enjoying some humanizing, shared aesthetic bliss that transcends Wouter’s petty bullshit. “Steve, each time I finish this essay it turns out not to be the end.” I’m in my study bent over the keyboard. I’ve been going over the essay one last time, adding here, subtracting there, polishing in preparation for editors and readers. There are stacks of books everywhere, and the frame around the computer screen bristles with Post-it notes, reminders of mundane realities I’m apt to overlook. “Cat to vet Friday 10:30.” “Get parking permit from Steve on Tuesday. Return after class.” Amidst the confusion of postcards and notes and clippings on my bulletin board, Poe stares down at me, and also Beckett. Both seem appropriate muses for this never-ending enterprise. I believe I’ve found a shape and resting place in all this chaos, but it’s elusive. I’m not sure. Steve calls back from the bedroom. “It’s late. After 11:30. Turn off the computer and come to bed. You can work on it tomorrow.” I give myself ten more minutes, which turn into a couple of hours, and then I finally close the file. The glow fades in the dark room, the cat yawns and stretches as I stand up. I catch a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror on the way to bed, preternaturally pale in the bright light, hazel eyes staring. Obsessed. “Wouter Noordewier,” I whisper. “Who are you?”
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The Wheel of Rebirth Illustrated by: OĂsin McGillion Hughes
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Charles F. Thielman
Dense Fog at Dawn The first crow call a beacon void of promise for those who play solitaire well. The queen of hearts, heavy with the imprint left by a mask, waits to see which cards are dealt. Then, we find a home for the sad one-eyed jack as fog trails mist onto sliding glass doors. Gray brush over the mural of one life.
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You trifle and chance until one day you are underwater, where the silence is noisome and din, and the light, strewn like split cords on the workshop floor, dims and dims further, until the body is just another form of abandon, and you sense the swollen heart first plummet, then rise to the still, scarred surface of being, where impermeable and quivering, inexplicable as the seraph, it quacks and buoys like a duck.
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The Calm Jew
ohrab Khan was standing beside the sewage grate that was next to his store and was looking into it with a deep contemplative look. Iraj joined him from across the street and said: “Hello Sohrab Khan…” Sohrab Khan took a quick glance at him and replied: “Hi…” And he squatted next to the grate. Iraj took out a cigarette from his pocket and put it in the corner of his mouth: “Alright... are you coming or what? Some supermarket this is!” “It makes you wanna puke.” Iraj held the cigarette between his teeth and said: “What?” And after a moment, he added: “You weren’t open when I came by earlier.” “I overslept…” And he was still gazing through the sewage grate. Iraj took out the cigarette from between his teeth and bent over the grate. Without paying any attention to Iraj and Sohrab Khan, two rats were searching around down in the gutter, right below the grate. Iraj looked at them a bit and said: “There’s more garbage up here on the surface… that’s why they come up.” Sohrab Khan got up and went toward his store. He said: “It makes you wanna puke.” He entered his store. Iraj followed him and sat on the boxes of soda bottles. He said: “Why did you come so late, Sohrab Khan?” Sohrab Khan handed him a bottle of milk and replied: “Told you… I overslept…” And then while standing in front of the small mirror on the wall and trying to rearrange his white kippah on his head, he added: “I lost track of time.” Just then, he noticed Iraj’s face. He asked:
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“Why is your face so black?” Iraj removed the bottle from his lips and said: “It’s because of the rain, Sohrab Khan… think it was black.” For a moment, Sohrab Khan looked at him and then looked outside and said: “Hmm… I noticed everywhere was black… maybe that’s why I overslept… the sky lit up too late…” He looked back inside and kept himself busy. He said: “It’s like doomsday.” He picked up a box, put it on the counter and inspected one of its corners. He said: “Look… bastards!” Iraj sharply turned around. Sohrab Khan picked up the box, looked underneath it and said: “Not only they have taken care of the sacks, but they have also chewed on the boxes.” He put down the box and picked up another one. He said: “It’s not the work of one or two. Anywhere you go, they always show up before you. They’ve chewed on this one too…” He put the box on the counter and bent down to look behind the refrigerator. An old woman entered the store. Iraj put the empty bottle of milk on the counter and said: “Hello Khanoom Soltan. How are you?” “Fine.” Sohrab Khan exclaimed again: “Bastards…” Holding a dead animal by its tail with a napkin, he rose and put it on the counter. Iraj and Khanoom Soltan, both, jumped back. “What in the world is this!?” Iraj said this and slowly approached the counter. While looking at the animal with widened eyes and raised eyebrows, Sohrab Khan said: “Well, it must be a rat…” And since he didn’t hear a reply, he looked at their faces and added: “Isn’t it!?” Iraj slowly put his finger on the edge of the counter and said: “Is it a mouse? Or a rabbit?” He then raised his head and looked at their inquisitive eyes. He said: “…it’s as big as a cat…” “But it’s a rat…” Khanoom Soltan who was silent until then, slowly advanced and said: “A rat can’t be this big!” Without raising his head, Sohrab Khan said: 71 Rebirth Issue
“But it’s a rat…” And after a moment, he added: “…it must be!” He then raised his head and looked straight into their eyes. Iraj said: “Don’t look at me, Sohrab Khan! The rats I’ve seen were as big as a sparrow… this one is even bigger than a cat…” Sohrab Khan said: “But it must be a rat…” This time, Iraj and Khanoom Soltan looked at each other, and Khanoom Soltan said: “It does look like a rat…” “Well, that’s why I say it’s a rat…” “That’s not a reason, Sohrab Khan… a hawk also looks like an eagle, but they’re two different creatures…” Iraj said this and then turned to Khanoom Soltan and said: “Right!?” As to not have entirely understood the question, Khanoom Soltan somehow nodded and then asked Sohrab Khan: “Well, is it only this one?” Suddenly they both looked at each other and looked around as though they had not thought about this before. Sohrab Khan replied: “God willing…” After saying this, Sohrab Khan raised his head from behind the counter and added: “God willing, Khanoom Soltan… we can’t handle a single live one, let alone a whole bunch of them!” And as though he had just seen Khanoom Soltan, he immediately put a bottle of milk in front of her on the counter and said: “Sorry to have kept you waiting…” And while taking the rat by its tail with a paper napkin in order to throw it in the garbage can, he asked: “…did you need anything else?” “Now if this is a rat, then it can’t be killed with a rat poison…” Iraj said this and then instantly asked: “…can it? Sohrab Khan who had the tail of the rat in his hand, held it above the garbage can and at a distance, carefully scrutinized it and said: “I don’t think that even poison can kill it…” And he dropped it in the can. Khanoom Soltan asked: “Do you have any Goli1, Sohrab Khan2?” 1 Goli is an Iranian brand of dishwashing liquid. 2 Short form of the Persian name Siavash.
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Iraj chuckled and said: “Huh!... You can’t kill a rat with Goli.” And he put the cigarette, which he had been keeping between his fingers, to his mouth to light it. While scratching his skin through his gray beard, Sohrab Khan slowly approached the counter, laid his palms on it and in a gentle tone asked: “Khanoom Soltan… you want to kill rats with Goli?” “We don’t have rats… I need it for my dishes.” And she looked at them both in confusion. Sohrab Khan, who was frowning when he asked the question, by hearing Khanoom Soltan’s answer, lifted his eyebrows and while glancing at Iraj from the corner of his eye, went to find a bottle of Goli. Iraj took a hard drag on his cigarette and while putting his arm on the edge of the counter to lean on it, he said: “Don’t say that Khanoom Soltan… they’ll come after you if they hear it!” “Who?” “Well, the rats of course…” “What? Do rats understand things as well?” Trying to see the dead rat, Iraj looked into the garbage can and said: “Huh! If a rat as big as this doesn’t understand then it’s not a rat at all…” And he sniggered. Sohrab Khan returned with a Goli and put it on the counter. He said: “Don’t worry Khanoom Soltan. Right before you came here, this boy drank some high fat milk and has become a bit lively. The effect will wear off in half an hour and he’ll feel better.” A faint smile formed on the old woman’s lips, and while unclasping her small change purse, she asked: “Sohrab Khan, give me a scouring pad too.” Iraj flicked his cigarette stub out of the store and while following Sohrab Khan with his eye as he was going to fetch the pad from the shelves, he asked. “Any news from Sia2, Khanoom Soltan?” While looking at the garbage can and the tip of the rat’s tail that was sticking out, she said: “They say he has sent a letter.” Sohrab Khan put something next to the Goli and the bottle of milk and said: “We don’t have any scouring pads. I’ll give you one of these instead… they’re not bad… they work too.” And after pausing a bit he continued: “So you have some news.” Before going out, Iraj paused near the old woman and asked: 73 Rebirth Issue
“How many months has he served3 so far?” “Twenty months and eighteen days.” Iraj took a look at her and headed out. He said: “That’s all right… only a few months are left.” “Is there anything else that you wanted, Khanoom Soltan?” While saying this, Sohrab Khan picked up a big paper bag to put the milk, the Goli, and the thing he had brought in place of the scouring pad, into it, and then continued: “He’ll be back soon. It’s almost over… well, what else do you need, Khnoom Soltan?” The old woman was still looking at the rat’s tail. She said: “Do you think this is the only one, Sohrab Khan?” Sohrab Khan slowly turned and looked inside the can. He said: “We hope that it’s the only one…” And when he turned his head, he caught sight of the old woman’s broadened eyes that were still staring at the garbage can. He said: “On the other hand, such a big rat is very unusual. I don’t think we can find one like this anymore. Even if we could find any, it would be mostly in the stores... a rat this big must eat a lot. So it can only be found in stores…” “God willing, this one won’t bring more…” Khanoom Soltan said this and asked: “How much is that, Sohrab Khan?” Sohrab Khan immediately said: “Sixteen tomans4 and five rials.” And he started to close the bag. While searching inside her small change purse with her trembling wrinkled fingers, the old woman said: “I don’t know where this soot has come from, today. All of Siavash’s clothes have turned black. I had spread them on the railings to dry.” “It looks like it’s in the rain.” “The rain!?” The old woman said this and finally took out a ten toman bill, placed it on the counter and said: “Sorry, Sohrab Khan… Siavash will come in one or two months and he’ll settle the rest…” “I know, Soltan Khanoom… don’t worry…” And he opened the paper bag and said: “Let me see here… I think I’ve made a mistake…” He looked inside the bag and continued: “Yes! That would be five tomans.” And while saying this, he took the ten toman bill from the counter, threw it in the drawer beneath, and said: 3 Referring to the compulsory military service. 4 One toman is an equivalent of ten Iranian rials.
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“Let me give you your change…” And he took out a five toman bill and put it in Khanoom Soltan’s small change purse and while doing so, he said: “And here’s your change!” “Are you sure, Sohrab Khan?” “Of course I’m sure!” “God bless you… Siavash will settle this, once he comes back.” Sohrab Khan put his palms down on the counter and said: “Okay, Khanoom Soltan… I’ll settle this with Siavash when he comes back…” While they were talking, Iraj opened the door of the store and walked in noisily. He said: “You’re still here, Khanoom Soltan?” And he looked at the old woman who was trying to keep a balance between her goods, her purse and her chador.5 He said: “Let me carry this bag for you…” He took the paper bag, turned to Sohrab Khan, and said: “Give me a pack of cigarettes…” “Fifty Seven6?” “Yeah, of course...” And he put a large bill on the counter and added: “Keep the rest for me… will be back in a flash... need some more things.” And while going toward the exit along with Khanoom Soltan, he asked: “By the way, I asked Hooshang to come over and fix your heater… did he?” “Yes, my child… God bless you!” “So it’s working fine now?” “Yes, my child…” “How about oil? Does it have any?” “I don’t know...!” “Let’s go and see… I’ll get you some oil if it doesn’t have any.” Sohrab Khan followed them across the street with his eye. He then slowly turned, stood above the garbage can, and looked at the dried body of the rat. He said: “It looks a lot like a rat… so it must be a rat!” He said this under his breath and added ; “It must be…!” Then, through the store’s window, he looked outside which appeared still dark, although it was already past ten in the morning. He slowly went toward the doorway and took a look at the sky. After a moment, he lowered 5 And outer garment worn by some Muslim Iranian women. 6 Fifty Seven is an Iranian brand of cigarettes. 75 Rebirth Issue
his gaze to the sewage grate. Then, he slowly went closer to the grate to take a look through it. A few drops of water fell on his face. He stood still and looked at the sky. He then held out his hand and a saw a few black drops fall on his palm. “And here it is... black rain... what on earth!” He said this, looked at the raindrops on his palm, and then gazed at the sky.
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J. S. de Monfort
apá, es hora de entrar en casa, hace frío aquí.— Pero su padre no le contesta. La masía familiar queda toda rodeada por un terreno inmenso de naranjos, hasta donde se pierde la vista. A su padre le gusta permanecer entorno; no sabe Francisco si por una cuestión de sobrevenida nostalgia o quizá por la imposibilidad de abandonar el hábito, pues a sus setenta y dos años (y por obstinación de su madre) ha decidido poner fin al trabajo de supervisión de los huertos, dejándolo en manos de la cooperativa. Un trabajo este. El del cuidado y mantenimiento de los huertos, que prácticamente le ha ocupado toda su vida adulta. —Mamá dice que subamos… —Sígueme —le ordena su padre, mientras se arregla la manta a cuadros, que le cubre las piernas. Su padre avanza montado en la silla de ruedas. Se trata de una de esas que son como cochecitos automáticos y con la que va desplazándose por toda la casa. Ha hecho instalar incluso una máquina elevadora con la cual poder sortear las escaleras por las que se accede al primer piso de la masía. Pero, en verdad, no la necesita. Así, al llegar al borde de la zona hormigonada, ya cuando comienza la parcela de tierra húmeda de los frutales, más allá de la enorme parra que en verano da sombra a la zona de la piscina, se pone en pie. —Siempre pensé que te harías cargo de todo esto, hijo —le dice su padre, gritando, sin mirarle, señalando con el dedo toda la extensión que cubren los ojos. Podría pensarse que se trata de una confesión sentimental; sin embargo, debe habérselo dicho ya dos mil quinientas treinta y seis veces o acaso ya tres mil. —Papá… no comiences de nuevo, por favor. Ha venido a comer con sus padres. Su madre le ha pedido que le sirva de acompañante durante la tarde para dedicarse a algunos preparativos de la boda. No ya el chaqué de su 77 Rebirth Issue
padre, que ha visto extendido sobre uno de los sofás del pasillo (es obvio que se lo habrá elegido ella), pero sí el suyo propio, —y tu traje, hijo; que quiero que estés bien guapo—, le ha dicho. Durante la comida, su madre se deleita en explicarle algunos detalles. —Ya tenemos cerrada la fecha. Será el 22 de Mayo —le dice.— En la ermita de santa Quiteria. —Ojalá puedas venir —observa su padre.— Como siempre estás tan ocupado… —Papá, por favor… Su padre cabecea, y añade “sí, sí, yo sé lo que me digo…”. —La misa la oficiará mosén Facundo, una cosa breve —continúa su madre.— Total, no será más que una renovación de los votos. En este momento, su madre parece acordarse de algo importante, porque dejando que la cuchara caiga y choque contra el plato hondo lleno de sopa de la que apenas ha comido, se pone en pie, y advierte: —Ah, mira, se me olvidaba, ahora te enseñaré la lista de los invitados —le dice. Y sale rauda del salón comedor, dejando que sus pasos se pierdan por el pasillo. Su padre aprovecha para sentarse en el sofá, frente al televisor, dándole la espalda. —A ver qué opinas. De entre la lista de invitados que deja su madre sobre la mesa, hay uno que —de inmediato— le llama la atención: Laura Garmendia. Al levantar la vista, descubre la impaciencia de su madre, que finge un distraimiento, como si hubiese estado concentrada en algo importantísimo. Entonces Francisco no dice nada, simplemente levanta la tarjeta y llama la atención sobre ese nombre, Laura Garmendia, señalándolo con su dedo. Su madre, mientras se rasca el cabello con indisimulado recelo, señala a su padre, levantando al tiempo los hombros, y susurra: —Pregúntale a él. Y rápido carraspea y se levanta de la mesa. Desde el pasillo, grita: ¿queréis café? —¿Papá…? Su padre no le contesta; Francisco, entonces, se levanta hacia donde está su padre, sentado en su sillón favorito, cara al televisor. Al llegar a su altura, descubre que tiene los ojos cerrados. Cuando comenzó a trabajar de comercial, y habiendo conseguido huir de la tiranía del trabajo en el campo, todo le resultaba de una fascinación prometedora; el dispendio del alquiler de los coches, los gastos del hotel y las
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dietas, la libertad de una visa de amplio gasto; y, sobre todo, la imprevisible aventura del viaje en soledad y por tierras desconocidas. Ahora, diez años después, el asunto se ha vuelto más rutinario, monótono. Lo más imprevisto es el ingenio con el que se tiene que zafar para no verse arrastrado a cualquiera de esos locales de putas donde siempre quieren llevarle sus clientes, agradecidos por un eventual descuento o por simple cortesía gremial. Claro que tampoco se sale indemne de tanto viajito, ya le costó en los primeros años el abandono y posterior divorcio de Laura Garmendia. Siempre le repetía dolorosamente: “Ahí estás tú (en Nueva York, o París, o Londres o Berlín) y yo aquí, en esta mierda de pueblo, sola. Y es sábado por la noche, y a saber lo que estarás haciendo, encima”. Pero normalmente no estaba (ni está) haciendo nada, nada más que jugar a la consola de videojuegos wii que siempre se lleva en la maleta, para distraer las horas muertas del final de la tarde, en la deprimente habitación del hotel, mientras espera (o esperaba) para bajar a comer solo en el restaurante. —De haberte quedado aquí en el campo, esto nunca te hubiera sucedido —le ha repetido su padre en cientos de ocasiones. Hoy está también en uno de esos hoteles, en Nantes, cubriendo el reconocimiento cuatrimestral de sus clientes del sur de Francia. Ha quedado (o había quedado) para cenar con su contacto en la zona: Jean Paul, pero no en el hotel, por esta vez, sino en un restaurante del centro de la ciudad. Sin embargo, le acaba de llamar Jean Paul, que si no le importa que cancelen la cena; le ha surgido un imprevisto, dice, y además, estará ocupado durante el fin de semana. —Claro, no hay problema —contesta Francisco, mirando con una incierta melancolía la wii blanca yaciente al lado del televisor. El imprevisto resulta ser la falta de ánimo. Se lo confiesa Jean Paul el lunes por la mañana, cuando Francisco pasa a recogerle por su casa y toman un café en la cocina antes de ir a visitar a sus clientes. En la bonita casa que Jean Paul y su mujer tienen en una de esas zonas residenciales con jardín todo parece en orden: las fotografías familiares en su sitio, los libros, la cocina recogida. Pero, sin embargo, hay algo, una sensación de ordenado descuido, que le delata. La casa está limpia y no desarreglada (pero eso será porque habrá venido la asistenta en los últimos días); sin embargo, en sus gestos se evidencia esa forzosa desatención que Jean Paul procura a los objetos antaño queridos. Y, en efecto, Jean Paul no tarda en confesarle: —Claudette se ha marchado con las niñas a casa de su madre. Francisco cabecea, mientras piensa que se veía venir. 79 Rebirth Issue
Resulta extraño, pues, que toda la gente de cuarenta años ande divorciándose y que quien vaya a casarse (por segunda vez) sea una pareja de viejos de setenta y dos y sesenta y cinco años, sus propios padres, que llevan la friolera de cincuenta años juntos. El miércoles siguiente (nueve días después, pues ha aprovechado lunes y martes para subir a Brujas a tantear el terreno), ya de vuelta en la fábrica, cruza las oficinas y se adentra en la parte frontal de la nave 2, donde se preparan los palés de los pedidos para despachar, a la búsqueda de Norberto Ruiz, el jefe encargado de planta. Y es que necesita que le confirme una partida que tiene que salir hoy mismo para Burdeos y que Francisco pasó la semana pasada por teléfono, desde allí mismo. Pero no se fía. Al no ver de primeras a Norberto siente que algo no va bien. Le pregunta a uno de los chicos del almacén. El chico le informa de que Norberto está afuera; “con el vasco”, añade. Mal, piensa Francisco. Fatal. Y no se equivoca, pues atravesando la puerta trasera y saliendo para la zona destechada, se encuentra con un escándalo de azulejos desparramados y un contenedor volcado y yaciendo como al desgaire. Al lado, el fenwick, también volcado, con las palas todavía erguidas y, en el centro de la escena: Asier, que se ríe como un loco. Piensa que debería disculparse con Laura. Pero mientras el teléfono da el primer tono, ya se está arrepintiendo. Así que cuelga. Y se queda unos minutos largos mirando el teléfono, la pantalla ya oscurecida, mortecina; está convencido de que será ella ahora quien le devuelva la llamada. Fuma en el balcón, tiritando. Se pregunta a qué este secretismo adolescente; por qué ha salido afuera, piensa, si vive solo en este apartamento alquilado, Frente a él, refulge en la oscuridad el hosco bramido de las olas. Parece encrespado, el mar. A lo lejos se ven las luces iluminadas de la terraza del hotel Voramar. Hace mucho frío, así que no hay nadie sentado. Ahora sí que se pensará Laura que la invitación a la boda ha sido cosa mía, rumia mientras pasea por la casa silenciosa. En su mente habla con ella, le dice: “ lo siento, Laura, de veras”. Imagina su respiración, mezcla de angustia y rabia, al otro lado del aparato. “No he tenido otro remedio, Laura, me he visto obligado a despedir a tu primo; ya es la segunda vez que me la hace… No puedo seguir ya más dando la cara por él, por mucho que tú me lo pidas”.
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Pero Laura no le llama. Ni en los diez minutos que vienen después, ni en la semana siguiente. Ni en lo que queda de mes de Mayo hasta hoy, día 22. Y entremedias: Dubai, China y una breve visita a Chicago. Se supone que los novios deberían ser los últimos en presentarse. Sin embargo, cuando Francisco llega a la ermita (todavía cerrada, pues no ha venido ni siquiera el cura), el viejo Volvo azul de su padre ya está allí. El siguiente en aparecer es mosén Facundo (con una furgoneta Citroën gris), que enseguida abre la puerta menuda exterior de la ermita. Ha traído consigo un monaguillo joven; se presenta: me llamo Arturo, dice. Es mi sobrino, aduce Facundo en lo que parece una disculpa. Mientras mosén Facundo se arregla, de espaldas a ellos (pues no hay espacio trasero en esta ermita que haga de vestidor), Arturo se ocupa de distribuir los bancos y, habiendo dejado todo en orden para los asistentes, comienza a encender los cirios y a arreglar el altar del oficio para Facundo, extendiendo los mantelitos, el cáliz, las hostias sin consagrar; todo. Quedan quince minutos y los invitados se resisten a llegar. Francisco se acerca al Volvo de su padre, donde su madre sigue encerrada en el asiento del copiloto. “No entraré hasta que estén todos”, le repite, igual que hace diez minutos. Por fin, un ruido se hace notar en la lejanía y su eco se desliza por la curva que conduce hasta la ermita; Francisco respira aliviado y lanza jovial el cigarrillo al suelo y corre a situarse al lado de su padre, en la puerta de entrada, dispuesto a ayudarle a ir saludando a los invitados. Los primeros son Ramiro y José Luis (antiguos capataces de su padre). Enseguida llega Aurora (la hermana de mamá, que ha venido con su marido y su cuñada desde Zaragoza), después la tía Magen y su marido Aitor que han traído consigo a Ernestina, la monja, que es la mejor amiga de mamá. Se hace raro verla vestida de calle; bueno, de fiesta, o algo así, pues lleva puesto un traje chaqueta pantalón que tal vez estuviese de moda en los años ochenta, o tal vez nunca. Y al que le ha añadido en la solapa un broche dorado. Un antiguo alcalde y antiguo republicano, como papá, Alfredo Gimeno, viene después. Y su viejo amigo de juventud: Jaime Palacios, que ha llegado desde Valencia. Y también la prima Eugenia, con su marido Carlos… En fin, que van entrando todos y se van sentando. Unas veinticinco personas; treinta quizá. —Ya están todos, mamá —anuncia Francisco al llegar al coche. —¿Estás seguro, hijo? —le pregunta su madre. —Sí, mamá, voy a decirle a mosén Facundo que empiece con la música. Le hace un gesto a su padre para que salga a la búsqueda de la novia y con
ambas manos indica a los invitados que se pongan en pie, que la misa va a comenzar y enseguida entrarán los novios. Suenan los acordes de un órgano grabado (que se escuchan tanto adentro como afuera de la ermita, gracias a los altavoces exteriores) y Facundo se sitúa en la parte central del altar, enfrentando el menudo pasillo por el que habrán de aparecer sus padres. A su lado, Arturo, el joven monaguillo, junta obediente las manos sobre el regazo. Pasan unos diez, quince, treinta, cuarenta segundos. La gente se comienza a impacientar y a mirar hacia atrás; pero desde dentro y debido al menudo marco de la puerta, se tiene una visión limitadísima de lo que pasa afuera. Ello excita a los invitados y aún más alienta sus cuchicheos. Ante el primer conato de intercesión por parte de la tía Magen, que ya está empujando a su marido para que la deje pasar, Francisco le ordena “quieta”, y sale raudo afuera. A la izquierda, resguardados al lado de la pared de cal, bajo el feliz chopo, se hallan sus padres; su madre agarrada al brazo de su padre. Ambos tiesos, serios, concentrados. No entiende nada. Al girarse a la derecha todo queda claro: Un BMW rojo (que pagaron sus noches de hotel en Nueva York, o París, o Londres o Berlín) está aparcando a uno de los lados de la carretera. En efecto, su madre tenía razón, no estaban todos. Ahora ya sí.
Sound on Sound “Propulsion”n
83 Rebirth Issue
VAST CURIOUS AVIARIES A Comic
Written by: Ryan Johann Perry Illustrated by: Oisin McGillion Hughes
85 Rebirth Issue
87 Rebirth Issue
Wintering, Pacific Grove To the fourth generation come the gifts of a longer life and a journey to trees that remain strangers to winter, as in their native Australia. Beside the Pacific Ocean, in eucalyptus, clusters of butterflies long for the warmth that frees their wings, making each a solitary monarch. To the fourth generations comes a diapause, energy diverted from eggs to flight, until leaving the winter shelter of trees, moving northward, they lay eggs in milkweed. To following generations come the drifting back to meadows scattered across the country, along the veins of serpentine, on air currents, riding thermals that lift hawks above our heads
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Navajo Rug In A Picture
“There is a loom in every tree.” -Ancient Native-American saying”
Three men in ducktails and rolled short-sleeves Each corner and the middle On the edge of a flat-roofed store Whose name is obliterated By a twelve-feet square Navajo rug they hold In a black-and-white photograph. Three women stand on the ground Wearing ceremonial blankets like shawls One grasps each corner of the rug The woman on the left hugs her baby. A young woman stands center facing the camera. She must be the creator, Because her head is slightly cocked, a tiny weaver Whose soul resides in the finished work. Her smile is victory of thwarted time The patient, meticulous weaving of days Between sheep-shearing, wool-gathering, and lamb harvest. An intricate design that spreads Like wildfire, sticks like cockleburs. Warp-strings, blocks, three-step stairs And ninety-degree angles, edges and borders Patterns that mimic the weavers Of Wide Ruin and Burntwater. Turkey red and indigo Jet black--grey and white.
89 Rebirth Issue
Two cat eyes in a dream Rounding steep canyon walls Near the imposing cliff-dwelling White House in Canyon de Chelly. Merino sheep graze on grasses Growing on the Chinle Wash. A tight and slender yarn, spun several times In a Spirit Line of continuous thread Strung up and down through the edges Releasing the evil spirits to the air. Four corners folded to center Wrapped around her body becomes endless As she levitates above the gravel parking-lot Of the pawn shop and vault Where the rug of splendiferous design resides Locked away safe until next year When they clear the pawn.
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The Jazmin Syndrome
Insanity feels comfortable. Taste of vermillion slithering down raised arms. The skies above; stars’ light slithering down, down the edge of the dark night. The rains gone, the lightning gone. Jazmín gone; the face of roses, her soul took eternal flight. The sodden earth beneath my feet, the mystery of the trees, the coyote howl. I used to hum the rains that fell from the skies, but not tonight. The grass smells of the past; Uriangato, the village of the sun (only, the days keep turning dark). Hands to my face; another sunset, red, collapses upon me now. The laughter, the slivered songs turned to dark pain, dark love. Home at last — a childhood hum; “Es triste ver que un tren se aleja y en el se va lo mejor de tu vida…” Taped up dreams don’t work, I’ve come to realize as I sit down under a tree and see the stars spin like the hands of the clock now gone where my childhood lies. But it’s okay. The stars revolve around me. I’m the center, the core of something great; the eagle’s cry, the plumage on the Indian’s head, the ethereal night that comes and touches my face, the sleep… The yearned for sleep. Eternal. A distant bird sings the blissful night. 91 Rebirth Issue
La Adivinación Glamorous nymph with arrow and bow. -Bob Dylan. Ves ese hilo de luz que está allí arriba, Es tu buena estrella, te protegerá. Entonces cuando todo al fin se vuelve insoportable, Cuando el mundo y el veneno dan dolor, Todavía sigue allí tu buena estrella, Buena estrella para todos, para vos. -Fito Páez.
oma aérea, 45º por encima del suelo: silueta (de perfil) de un hombre desahuciado, de pie y sin compañía. Atuendo: elegante traje gris, vistosa camisa azul, abrigo azul oscuro, descansando cuidadosamente sobre brazo derecho (el más cercano a nuestra posición), corbatón a cuadros guindando desamarrado sobre sus hombros. El personaje se enfrenta a una escena que no logramos divisar. Sólo se ve una planicie baldía y desolada, cortada por el ángulo de nuestra perspectiva. Los ojos del hombre brillan con una intensa mezcla de intriga y emoción, sentimientos que no logramos compartir. Detrás de aquel hombre se distingue lo que resulta ser un detalle del acabado interno de la puerta de un coche que se larga apenas ella se cierra. Una nube de tierra y polvo surge de las llantas del carro escondiéndolo mientras éste se aleja del personaje. La cámara se acerca desde su posición original recorriendo un trazado en espiral alrededor de la nube de polvo, merodea momentáneamente en algún punto detrás del personaje que, aunque aún de pie, no obstruye nuestra visión, y finalmente aterriza unos metros a la izquierda de aquel hombre. Por primera vez se nos revela el paisaje al que él se ha enfrentado todo este tiempo. Una premonición, un instinto; una visita inesperada había procurado este espontáneo viaje al lugar que en algún momento de su infancia lo había privado de su niñez. Eres demasiado joven para estar aquí, le había indicado una voz aquel día que había permanecido encerrado en alguna parcela del lugar donde se aloja lo que ya no se recuerda. Regresa cuando la vida te haya susurrado su acertijo. Sólo que no había acertijo; de la misma manera que no cabía ningún tipo de duda: algo lo había traído de vuelta –no sé qué. Sólo sé
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que debo estar aquí. Pasos lentos pero firmes a lo largo de la planicie desierta: uno, dos, tres cientos sesenta y cinco mil pasos. Pasos seguros. Pasos sin rumbo. Pasos cortos pero firmes cargados con el deseo de ser avistado, de ser descubierto, lo llevan a las puertas del asentamiento. Aquella peste ácida que por tanto tiempo había relacionado con el miedo vuelve a su conciencia. Una sonrisa escapa de sus labios al notar que el pavor no tiene aroma, al saber que la poción de orina, heces, semen y sudor que infecta aquel recinto no provoca más reacción en él que cierto disgusto. He venido a visitar mi pasado hecho un hombre más sabio. Una gran carpa redonda –posiblemente la estructura de un antiguo circo– hace las veces de plaza central de esta precaria aldea. Sin ningún orden, ranchos de madera y cabañas de latón rodean el decrépito edificio. Grandes espacios abiertos albergan la claustrofóbica sensación de que al caminar por ellos se invade el patio trasero de algún vecino. Un vertedero lleno de objetos valiosos: sillas de hierro oxidadas, antiguas máquinas de coser, ruedas de bicicleta sueltas forman pilas esporádicas que marcan territorios aislados. Nada se mueve. Nada muestra señales de vida. Nada, aparte del viento y el montón de perros callejeros. De hecho, nada en absoluto. Perros marrones, perros negros, perros pequeños, perros enloquecidos. Perros por doquier, reflejándose los unos a los otros, peleándose, atiborrados, vagando, deambulando, buscando comida, agua, aire. Perros por todas partes (en los techos, bajo la chatarra, a lo largo de las calles); perros callejeros patrullando la zona con ubicuidad, invadiéndolo todo, abarrotando la tierra como abarrotan las moscas la mierda, y ni un solo gitano a la vista. Camino. Camino solo. Camino sin obstáculo, sin interrupción. Camino sin mirar, porque vengo en busca de nada. Camino para ser visto, para ser descubierto. Camino sin miedo, porque sé que es aquí donde tengo que estar. Sé que tengo que estar aquí y sé que tiene que estar aquí, y, sin embargo, aún no se manifiesta. Así que sigo caminando. Los gitanos duermen, o tiran, o se esconden es este pueblo nómada que además se ha vuelto fantasma, mientras un hombre de atuendo exagerado atraviesa un laberinto canino sin miedo ni urgencia. Mientras los gitanos tiran, duermen o se esconden, un espécimen rabioso escupe un río de espuma sobre un hombre de atuendo exagerado que, sin urgencia ni miedo, exige ser guiado. Enséñame el camino. Silencio. Furioso intercambio de miradas inquisitivas. El animal poseído da un salto en dirección contraria, huye enloquecidamente hasta perderse de vista. No hay pista. No hay opción, más allá de continuar deambulando alrededor de aquel circo abandonado. De pronto, entre la porquería y los ladridos, surge una brecha en el camino. El aire denso que flota sobre el resto del lugar se encuentra aquí con un impenetrable campo de energía que la protege de cualquier con93 Rebirth Issue
tagio; la angosta avenida da la impresión de ser más brillante que el resto del poblado; la calle se ve librada de bestias vagabundas, de cadáveres en estado de putrefacción. Camino esperanzado por aquel pasillo interminable hasta llegar a una encrucijada donde encuentro más de lo mismo. Sin saber adónde ir, espera confuso, sin siquiera cuestionar la situación, cuando la figura inconfundible de Jacqueline Helles de la Boissiere surge desapercibida desde el interior de una “casa”. Cual demonios autónomos, sus rizos color rojo incandescente invaden su propia cabeza; una nube de humo escapa de su nariz torcida con cada exhalación; sus helados ojos albinos perforan el espacio con dos rutas directas al más oscuro de los secretos; su cuerpo carnoso destila un detestable vaho de lujuria insaciable. Su rostro muestra evidencias de la mayor desesperación; sus manos halan vehementemente de las serpientes que nacen en su cuero cabelludo; está a punto soltar el alarido que está destinado a sacar a la Tierra de su casilla cósmica, cuando nota la presencia de Juan Lorenzo esperando, solo, pensativo, en medio de la nada. Nunca tuve la oportunidad de ver el rostro que me ordenó salir del lugar al que había entrado como un niño curioso y salido como un adolescente asombrado –aterrorizado. Sin embargo, un solo vistazo bastó para asegurarme de que ese monstruo es la razón por la que me encuentro aquí. La vida se ha tomado su tiempo contigo. Pensé que nunca volverías. Su actitud cambia, aunque su aspecto permanece igual de repugnante. Sígueme, no tengas miedo. Él no ha podido disimular sus repentinos nervios, su falta de compostura. Un pequeño perro despeinado hala la pierna izquierda de sus pantalones de lana. Juan Lorenzo dirige la vista hacia la choza de latón. La toma se aleja lentamente de la figura de Juan, abriendo el ángulo de enfoque mientras comienza un movimiento circular alrededor del cuerpo del hombre comenzando a las cuatro en punto y continuando en el sentido de las agujas del reloj. Detallada inspección del aspecto de Juan Lorenzo. Justo antes de avistar su expresión (diez en punto), el ángulo cambia. La toma adquiere un movimiento acelerado en espiral que la lleva hacia lo más alto, girando alrededor del personaje central. Tres oscilaciones más tarde vemos a Juan Lorenzo desde arriba, parado en medio de una encrucijada, listo para seguir las instrucciones del gruñido de un animal insignificante. El interior de aquella misteriosa casa constituyó la mayor decepción en la historia de las expectativas. No hubo trazo de olor a sulfuro; ni cacerola donde cocer pociones mágicas; ni siquiera hubo un gato negro, para mantener las apariencias. Sólo un salón desastroso, adornado con trozos rotos de una vida arruinada esparcidos por doquier. La paupérrima cortina de semillas negras y rojas que guindaba sobre el angosto marco de la puerta ni siquiera pretende servir de separación entre el salón y el área de adivinación. Una pila de semillas amontonadas a un lado de la mesa explica la lamentable
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condición de la cortina. Juan Lorenzo ya no se muestra intimidado por el horrible aspecto de la mujer. De hecho, por primera vez aquel día, Juan Lorenzo cuestiona la cordura de su decisión inicial por visitar aquel lugar. Antes de recibir invitación, se sienta en la silla, coloca su abrigo sobre la mesa. Jacqueline Helles de la Boissiere se desliza de un lado a otro de la habitación, completando labores insulsas sin prestar atención a aquel individuo, mientras un millón de pequeños pasos la llevan de una crisis a la siguiente. La esperanza que en algún momento había albergado la posibilidad de algún vaticinio revelador se había esfumado junto con su confianza en sus propios instintos. El respeto que inicialmente había sentido por aquella horrorosa aparición se había largado por el mismo camino. ¿Cómo te llamas? De pronto, un defectuoso cartel de luces de neón, que pudo o no haber guindado del marco de la puerta cuando él la atravesó, cobra vida, dibujando el nombre de Jacqueline Helles de la Boissiere. Ella logra captar su decepción al leer su nombre, voltea en su dirección, lo espía de reojo. No todas podemos ser Casandras. Su corazón entra en revuelo cuando sus ojos se encuentran con aquellos dos rayos de vacío infinito proyectados desde un costado de la espalda arqueada de la mujer que, agachada, busca sus cartas en el cajón pertinente. Ven conmigo. No temas. El escepticismo de Juan Lorenzo se había visto, al menos de momento, derruido por la nada que brillaba desde el interior de aquellos ojos. Sin embargo, la escena dentro del cuarto de adivinación basta para volverlo a anclar firmemente en las bases sobre las que se sostenía momentos atrás. El cigarro ha extinguido su fuente de espiritualismo en los restos de un caldo sin tocar. La bola de cristal lleva tanto tiempo guardada en su cajón que la mitad de ella se encuentra completamente enmohecida. Jacqueline optaría por leer los granos del café, de no ser porque su vista ya no estaba en condiciones adecuadas. De todas formas, las cartas son lo único en lo que se puede confiar. Aquellas palabras ya no logran atravesar la capa de incredulidad que recubre a Juan. Primera carta: La Muerte; Los Amantes; Rueda de la Fortuna. Veo máscaras; veo estratagemas e intrigas; veo capas. Juan pierde la paciencia. De un salto se levanta de la silla, expresa su indignación. Lo que ves es una pobre puesta en escena de Romeo y Julieta. Muchas gracias, pero yo también conozco ese nexo. Jacqueline Helles de la Boissiere permanece impávida ante la interrupción. El Diablo; un dos de copas: confusión, una decisión apresurada, una visita. Cierta curiosidad irreprimible lo hace detenerse en el marco de la puerta, a pesar de su inclinación por salir de ese lugar. Ella levanta la mirada, lo priva de todo tipo de fuerza de voluntad. Siéntate. Juan Lorenzo escucha atento, incrédulo. El Loco; tres mazos; Justicia. ¿Cómo puedes saber a qué responden las cartas cuando ni siquiera tengo qué preguntar? Inmutable, ella continúa su tarea. Serás hechizado; aquí está la Fuerza; y el tiempo. De pronto, una pausa. ¿Qué ha pasado? ¿Qué? No encuentro a El Ahorcado. Un conato de sonrisa invade el 95 Rebirth Issue
rostro de Jacqueline Helles de la Boissiere, mostrando sus fétidos dientes negros. Juan Lorenzo conoce la cita, no comparte el humor de la adivina. Esta vez, prácticamente vuelca la mesa mientras se pone de pie. Esta vez, su disgusto puede más que la tentación de permanecer en el lado oscuro de la cortina de piedras. Debo temer la muerte por agua, ¿eh? Pasos rápidos lo llevan con determinación hasta la mesa donde lo aguarda su abrigo, hasta la encrucijada fuera de la casa. Toma aérea, 60º por encima del suelo. Sólo se perciben tres de las cuatro ramas de la encrucijada (el pasadizo que ha llevado a Juan Lorenzo a la cabaña de la clarividente se encuentra detrás de nosotros, fuera del alcance de nuestra vista). Hombre descompuesto (cabello despeinado, ropas sucias, rostro sudoroso) se aleja de la choza con prisa. Lo sigue la burlona figura de Jacqueline Helles de la Boissiere, mesurada, a gusto. Piensas que no tienes qué preguntar pero aquí te va una respuesta: cuídate del regalo de Gregorio. Y no temas el agua; teme a los peces. Juan Lorenzo ya se encuentra fuera de vista, recorriendo sus pasos previos. La espera no llega a ser más que aburrida –ni siquiera molesta, sólo monótona. Un pasajero sin visa vigente; una señora extranjera que ha perdido su vuelo y no habla una palabra de castellano. Sólo necesito cambiar la fecha de mi retorno para hoy. Por supuesto, señor –con gusto. Pase por aquí. Un par de ojos castaños bien entrenados dan un vistazo a los documentos, tipean alguna información en el teclado, procuran el cambio con un aire de rutina. Un viaje bastante largo para una estadía de apenas dos días. Cualquier otro día, Juan Lorenzo habría tenido a mano una respuesta apropiada. Cualquier otro día, Juan Lorenzo hubiese examinado el efecto de su respuesta en esos ojos castaños. Juan Lorenzo, cualquier otro día, no habría sabido dibujar esa patética sonrisa que ahora mismo ata sus ojos a sus labios. Aquí tiene: su ticket ha sido enmendado con nueva fecha de regreso el día de hoy, 29 de Febrero. Su vuelo está listo para abordar por la puerta 25, cruzando a la derecha. ¿Lo puedo ayudar en algo más, señor? –No, por Dios. Simplemente sáquenme de aquí. Sombrío hombre blanco sentado en la ventanilla de una fila sólo para él. Elegante traje gris, arrugado; vistosa camisa azul, desabotonada a la altura del cuello; corbatón y abrigo descansando cuidadosamente sobre asiento colindante. Un velo de sueño invade los ojos de Juan Lorenzo, lo hace cabecear de lado a lado mientras intercambia desvelo por somnolencia. Señoras y señores, les rogamos que presten la mayor atención mientras nuestra tripulación de cabina les indica las normas de seguridad a bordo de este Boeing 757. Hinchados ojos rojos vuelven a encontrarse con la habitual pena del sueño interrumpido. Afuera, una inmensa bola de fuego cae muy lentamente debajo de una capa de nubes que se dibuja sobre el horizonte. Este aeroplano cuenta con ocho salidas de emergencia. Máscaras de oxígeno; chalecos salvavidas. Juan Lorenzo
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mata los minutos previos al despegue ojeando la revista que encuentra en el bolsillo frente a su asiento. Con la altura, el atardecer se vuelve cada vez más impresionante. Por occidente el horizonte arde cubierto por las llamas radiantes de un sol que ya se ha puesto. Una capa de nubes blancas acentúa el contraste entre el rojo escarlata del crepúsculo y el azul cobalto del cielo. De repente, la superficie algodonada se ve perforada por un bolsillo de claridad que se abre entre lo blanco. Tres segundos más tarde la apertura se ve brillar con la lumbre anaranjadiza de algún centro urbano sobre-poblado. Luz eléctrica: la versión humana del sol. Escocés y soda burbujean, estimulando el paladar de Juan Lorenzo. ¿A quién se le ocurre? Mano izquierda se aproxima a cien izquierda, a ceja derecha, cae sobre párpados, ejerce presión con índice y pulgar, relaja tensión, sostiene cabeza sobre palma. ¿Fue eso acaso el vacío del sueño? Yo no quedan cubos de hielo en aquel whisky diluido. Viajando hacia el norte a 30.000 pies de altura lo único que se ve es la negrura de la noche reflejada en la negrura de las nubes impenetrables. Entre ellas, apenas por encima de las nubes, la delgada línea del crepúsculo derrama un destello de luz amarilla que se va degradando con presteza, pasando por un verde pálido antes de convertirse en un parche de azul oscuro. Y al fondo, absurdo pero palpable, mi propio reflejo, supervisando lo que veo, lo que pienso. De pronto, una luz fugaz deja un rastro de humo a su paso. A 30.000 pies de altura no se avistan estrellas fugaces. ¿Qué fue eso? ¿Una emergencia? ¿Otro avión? ¿Mi imaginación? Otro scotch con soda, por favor. Nuestra trayectoria cambia, todo vestigio de luz queda atrás. Ahora el único adorno que interrumpe la oscuridad de la noche es el brillo intenso de un lucero solitario apenas por encima del horizonte. Me pregunto si es eso lo que vi. Y, ¿cómo va a serlo? El alcohol afecta mi razonamiento. Tal vez debería dormir un poco, después de todo. Toma aérea, 45º por encima del suelo. Hombre cansado, apesadumbrado, emerge del terminal de llegada. Fuerte ráfaga de viento desacomoda su cabello, induce temblor. Cuerpo agazapado bajo abrigo azul se dirige hacia puesto de taxis. Juan Lorenzo hace una seña al último coche de la fila. Cámara hace una aproximación, enfoca la parte delantera del taxi. Escena: parrilla de un vehículo antiguo; rostro de taxista tras parabrisas; puerta trasera entreabierta. Por favor, déjame tomar este taxi: ¡Ya llevo retraso, y es mi propia fiesta! En su estado de ánimo actual, Juan Lorenzo no logra procesar la información. Intentaba captar su atención desde aquel lado de allá, pero nunca me vio. Ojos verdes, nariz aquilina, sonrisa cautivadora. Ninguno de los dos llevamos equipaje: tomémoslo juntos. –¿Adónde va a ser, jefe? Un dulce tono grave despide instrucciones, se apodera de la atmósfera como la fragancia de un perfume. Dos paradas. Primero la dejamos a ella, luego me llevas a mi casa. Miradas furtivas se entrelazan al azar y tú como que necesitas un trago. Yo como que he bebido un 97 Rebirth Issue
trago de más en aquel vuelo. Te invito a mi fiesta. El tema es “naufragios” y, la verdad, pareciera que ya vienes disfrazado. Teme la muerte por agua. ¿O acaso era por peces? Un vistazo hacia adelante delata a aquella estrella solitaria flotando apenas por encima del horizonte. ¿Vamos hacia allá? Y, en tal caso puede que me quede por una copa.
The Lusitania “Galaxy 500 Song”
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In the Eye
Snake Man Slithers Out of Prison. The headline appeared at the top of my email inbox every day one week. I read that he was 19 and escaped through a food hatch in the door. Then I read about inventors discussing the promise of self-assembly. What if it was possible to break a complex piece of machinery into a thousand pieces and then, at some predetermined moment, have the machine put itself back together again? I kept thinking of the things that serve out their little lives in small spaces (I mean tampons and IUDs) with handy strings that hang unused but ready until the moment of their extraction. I kept thinking about how it feels to raise my arms until my shoulders disappear. You
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may not have done it recently, but you can loosen in such a way that itâ€™s impossible for anyone to hold you. Itâ€™s also possible to be born in no less strange a position, to make your world wail around you as you go, or to push through a hole no less tiny, then to assemble afterwards.
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Stella Maria Perry
A Creation Myth
and I were in the Bosque with our sticks and a makeshift, cardboard compass. Z was telling me a story about a knight from outer space that had fallen to earth. “Today,” he said, “today he fell.”
Where the dialogue went from there, I forget, because at some point we encountered part of this being, this Space Knight. “It’s his head,” said Z, holding up a chunk of driftwood. A moment of silence as we stared at its cerebellum. It had had a sloping bird-like front and no ears (?) “The ears disintegrated upon entry,” claimed Z, “as well as the nose.” I imagined its nose would have been a large, gently rounded beak with amoeba-shaped nostrils. I would have posited this to Z but, he had already moved on, exploring the surrounding landscape. Looking for more parts.
“Where is his sword,” mumbled Z to himself. Dumbfounded as I was that we had found the head, I resolved to find the rest of its body. “He isn’t a knight without his sword and shield” muttered Z. This being had to become something. Z was looking for that component that made him what he believed him to be. I could find a scepter and determine him a wizard but, today was the day the knight fell. This particular myth had to come alive. “Where is he from?” asked I. A pause…. Then: “Where are knights from?” asked Z. “Well…the knights that I know of are from the Middle Ages in and around Europe.” “From Earth?”
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“Yeah.” “Are there any in Albuquerque?” “No.” “In El Paso?” “No. They are from a long, long, long time ago.” “They went to space. Here is his sword.” Z placed a pointed stick next to the head. He proceeded to find the horse, which according to him, fell after the knight because the knight was heavier. A condition of wearing all that armor. At this point, I busied myself in attributing the head with practical appendages, like arms and legs.
III. The Inquisition
Would a space knight have only two of each or more? Three arms would be useful. Two could wield the swords and the third could hold up the shield. Maybe the third arm would be longer than the other two and able to extend around all sides of his body to protect him! “Two arms,” said Z, who removed the third that I had laid down and carelessly threw it behind him. “Here is his horse” he said. He held up a long skinny stick. “Just that? Doesn’t the horse have any legs?” “It flies. Doesn’t need legs.” “So he flew to Earth on his horse?” “No” said Z, getting annoyed with me, “he crashed on Earth after his spaceship got blown up. His horse was with him.” “Who blew up his spaceship?” Z scans the Bosque cautiously. “Someone around here.”
IV. Oh, Shitballs.
Were we being spied on? Was there some paramilitary unit out in the Bosque watching us re-assemble this Space Knight? Z didn’t seem to mind. He moved on, singing to himself: (Note: in the tune of the Flash Gordon theme song, you know, the Queen version) Space Knight Wooooaaaaa Defender of the Galaxy Space Knight Wooooaaaaa Crashed in the forest 103 Rebirth Issue
Wooooaaaaa Turned into Driftwood Wooooaaaaa And we are going to fix him Awooohaaaa Something came over me with this little tune. I felt inclined to sort of… dance. It started as a hop to the left and a shimmy. However, the linearity of this move bored me and I began to spiral around in wild, manic circle until it evolved into an elaborate calypso that almost sent me spinning off into the goddamn river. “He’s done!” shouted Z. I composed myself and solemnly joined him. We stared down at the disproportionate being. “He needs eyes so that he can open them.” And Z was off finding the right color berry to mash into the wood for eyes. “There” he said. The Knight was complete. Berry-shot eyes and all. I looked over at Z to read his face. What did he think would happen? He remained serious. The entire Bosque got quiet. I was then reminded of the spies and quickly looked around. It blinked.
Twice. It blinked twice. Z hastily stuck a small pine needle across Its face for a mouth. “Woooaaaaa!!!!” It sang. “Woooaaaaa,” spoke Z. It nodded. The weird wooden thing propped itself up on one arm. The other arm was too short for this position and just dangled helplessly on Its right. Damn, I thought, if It would let me I could snap the longer arm to match the other. “Errrr....giben dis bobby iz feared ib ooonabulll t moob a ulll” It stammered. Trying to lean on one side and stand up, the Knight just fell backwards. Its horse however popped up on one end and bounced around like a pogo stick. Whinnying and whinnying with such jubilation that I was sorry to have ever doubted Z and his architectural (anatomical?) reasoning. Sadly, though, the Knight could not move. Its driftwood head was much thicker than the torso and the arms and legs were all different sizes. Z glared at me and the Knight turned its berry-smashed eyes to Its sword with such longing and
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sorrow that I could not longer remain inactive. I grabbed the longer leg and cracked in half over my knee. The Knight screamed in agony. I did the same with Its longer arm but, the twig was still green and would not break cleanly. After some moments of bending it back and forth to break it, Z couldn’t take anymore of it. The Knight had been writhing and twisting in the soggy-leafed ground. The horse had been bouncing frantically and repeatedly in the same place and was now just a stick in the mud. Z took the horse and broke it in half and placed them on either side of the Knight. It calmed down. Z then found another large stick and broke it in half for its legs. “Go find him another horse” he commanded. I went off and searched for the best horse-stick I could find. When I returned the Knight was standing upright with no head. “He can stand up without his head. We’ll need a new one,” spoke Z. I could tell that Z was upset because the head had been perfect. The head was Its origin. It was what inspired the rest. The head said: “Armor.” Z smiled. I was then sent out to create the poncho of sticks that would be its protective armor. This, It figured, would restore balance. While I was gathering, I could hear Z and the Knight exchanging words. Mysterious and monosyllabic. To this day, Z refuses to tell me what had been discussed. The head was once again mounted on top. The armor was the right weight. The Knight bowed to Z and me. “Sir Montrickle” It said and trundled off into the forest. “Where are you from?” I asked. “A great body of water.” “From space?” I asked. The Knight nodded. Z gave me a look as if to say, “Redundant.” The Knight drew his sword and slashed at some thorny branches. “This is adequate,” It said. “Have you always been wooden?” I asked. “Well. Wood is our original form according to the Sagebrushes.” “Sagebrushes?” “Our leaders.” “Oh.” We three walked on in silence. I pondered. Z hummed. “Is there land, then, where you are from?” I said. “Just water. A giant teardrop in space, if you will.” “So, then, your people are all – well, similar to what you are now? Driftwood?” “Petrified wood. Our planet was absorbed by the water. So, now we just float along.” 105 Rebirth Issue
“Who are the Sagebrushes?” “The Elders. They remember the Root System of our past. All our roots used to be one and the Elders were the first.” “Why did you come here?” “I didn’t. A comet-type thing passed through the water and picked a few of us up along with it. The time change must have reversed my petrified state.” Silence. “So, no spaceship?” spoke Z. “You mean the metallic-winged comet with multiple turbo boosters and aerodynamic front? Yes. A ship transports and a space ship is in space and well, here I am.” Z exhaled.
VI. Onward, ho!
“I am born anew” and the Knight stretched its twiggy arms to the sky and giggled. I looked over at Z and stopped in my tracks. He was staring hard off into the distance. “Uh oh” Z said, “I hear trouble!” I squinted hard and saw nothing. “Quick!” Z grabbed my arm and pulled me down behind a fallen tree. The Knight dropped down into a pile of sticks. Z pulled out the compass and pointed east, towards the mountains. “There’s a Secret Superhero hideout that way. Let’s put on our rocket packs and aid the fight against Grashoit and his men!” Z darted off to the east. “Grashoit? Who is Grashoit?” “He’s the leader of the prehistoric Galapogos-men!” With only that bit of hesitation, I was off, crashing through the brush behind him. In our immediate past lay a pile of sticks.
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rĂo grande review
Each to Each
Early and late, hawks sweep over the house where we sleep, each one hung on a handful of wind, sky suspended above us like an empty bell. Where land merges with sand, I gather shells that smell of sea, listen for names within the waves. Come now, into the shadow where we were born. Water calls for our return. We will twist our hair with seaweed, swim into the swell.
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Salvador Galan Moreu
n un bar llamado Los Cangas un joven poeta comprueba que aún tiene cinco minutos de tranquila lectura y sorbe su café. Debe recoger a un chaval de nueve años que estudia en el colegio de enfrente. Su curro. La empresa le dio un móvil como coordinador de ruta y por eso se permite descansos mientras lee un libro de un autor contemporáneo, unos veinte años mayor que él. Si cualquiera de las tres guapas educadoras de acompañamiento y merienda a su cargo lo necesitaran sólo tendrían que llamar. Todos los días son iguales. Siempre es lo mismo; el joven lee al consagrado (aunque nadie está nunca del todo consagrado y menos si escribe poesía); lo hace con mucho gusto, pero sin perder el sentido crítico, al escritor que podía haber sido si no su padre, un tío. La clase de tío también joven que lleva a su sobrino de borrachera o de burdeles. Ya no quedan burdeles y este joven poeta nunca hubiera acudido a ninguno de haberlos conocido. Siempre ha tenido una sólida conciencia social, hija de su generación, que no concibe irse de putas. De hecho él ha trabajado para ayudarlas como voluntario en un programa de la Cruz Roja. ¿Qué hace si no en este trabajo ocupándose de niños/niñas en riesgo de exclusión social? ¿Por qué no se matriculó en un MBA si su madre y su padre tienen pasta y amor? Un tío joven y bohemio: así contempla el joven poeta a su compañero entre las páginas, boquiabierto como quien toma la primera comunión o recibe la definitiva unción de enfermos. Son hermanos. Santos. Veinte años, quizá un poco menos. Apenas la edad del poeta joven más el doble de tiempo que precisan ciertos eventos deportivos (las olimpiadas, los mundiales de fútbol).
río grande review
Nada. Cuando pasan cinco minutos, el tiempo despierta al poeta (como debe ser), y las monedas son acurrucadas por sus manos torcidas y callosas; forman sendos tótems minúsculos de color gris sobre la barra. Se despide con timidez y sale al frío de las cancelas escolares. Alguien susurra vaya chico tan raro, pero él no lo oye. Un murmullo infantil trastorna la tarde y la lluvia que cesa. Niños que corren en la misma dirección por primera vez en todo el día; todos son hermosos, tan hermosos como los poemas que se ha leído; mucho más que los adultos que aguardan con los bolsillos repletos de quehaceres. Tan solo una madre le inspira la belleza que halla en su libro. Es pelirroja y su hijo tiene un nombre extranjero: Ethan, Ethan, lo llama dos veces con voz delicada, de estalagmita cayendo y clavándose en la nieve, y pareciera que al niño su propio nombre se le clava también pues acude al abrazo con amor puro e imposible. Todos tenemos nuestro nombre hincado desde niños, piensa el joven poeta sin querer. Y su alumno se llama Mario. Mario llega con el flequillo en la cara y la capucha puesta. Le ha visto entre las rejas y viene con la mano estirada, chocan las palmas, clap, desnudas, a pesar del frío tan mísero, tan pobre, se sacuden la presencia ñoña y familiar del resto, con su orgullo de viejos amigos, compañeros de algo que ni Mario, ni el joven poeta aciertan a comprender del todo. Los niños envidian a Mario porque no le recogen sus padres y Mario se consuela con su estatus de edad breve. El joven poeta no le da la mano cuando caminan. Ninguno de los dos va a casa. Siempre hablan de fútbol y coches, a veces de consolas pero de eso el joven poeta no sabe mucho y suele callarse. Cierto día el joven poeta le contó la historia de un hombre que tocaba el trombón en una orquesta y que se tiró un pedo tras acabar la sinfonía. Por soplar tanto, dijo el niño, sellando una alianza de risa en la que solo cabían ellos. Una alianza secreta que permite salir de un colegio y entrar en otro. Cada tarde. Aguantar eso sin llorar, hasta que la noche se vierta sobre el abrigo blanco de su madre, sobre sus zapatos de tacón despiadado, sobre su bolsito plastificado. Y pasan por las mismas calles tristes y por la misma plaza en ruinas a diario, y llegan al mismo colegio y toman la merienda y hacen los deberes, 111 Rebirth Issue
y realizan manualidades. Si todos se portan bien juegan. Algunos niños son amigos, otros no; las chicas son tontas. Esto piensa Mario anhelando que a su madre no le tocaran esos putos turnos diabólicos. Deseando que su padre no se hubiera largado jamás. Y el joven poeta que ya lo sabe, pasa su brazo por el hombro cuando cruzan la calle a pesar de que no hay tráfico. No como un padre sino como un tío. La clase de tío también joven que enseña a su sobrino un poema o a sobrevivir.
río grande review
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En medio del cielo Photo by: Alex Brise単o
Volver a verte
n Octubre, los árboles estaban completamente secos, sin ninguna hojita. Parecían muertos y me causaban una sensación mixta, algo entre tristeza y melancolía. Me pregunté ¿qué pasa con los muertos? ¿Se quedan así? ¿Secos, fríos, sin vida, para siempre? A diario me daba tiempo para ir a sentarme frente a esos árboles y hacerme la misma pregunta; ¿sin vida, para siempre? No sé exactamente si de verdad quería encontrar la respuesta o me deleitaba morbosamente con mi sufrimiento, ya que siempre tuve la manía de compadecerme a mi misma y después admirarme de mi resistencia ante el dolor. Corrieron los meses, casi volaron sin que yo me diera cuenta. Noviembre, diciembre, enero y febrero, parecía irremediable, parecía que era cierto que la vida termina con la muerte. A esos árboles no les había salido ninguna hoja. Pero a principios de marzo, sentí algo extraño en el ambiente y noté como que los árboles muertos me sonreían. Entonces me acerqué a observarlos mejor y no me equivoqué, de verdad me sonreían. Los dientes de sus sonrisas eran pequeñitas hojas verdes, nuevecitas, frescas, recién nacidas. Entonces supe que los muertos no se quedan fríos y secos para siempre. La vida no termina con la muerte, la vida sólo se duerme y después, cuando viene la resurrección… ! Despierta!
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Simple Decision Will they still let us live when money becomes obsolete? Let us lie on a gray concrete curb no obstacle to passing cars, a simple change in litter laws, and red blood soon fades dull brown, just until Monday morning when trash trucks growl and groan, returning health to busy streets, just let me like an entire weekend to recuperate, an eternity with a simple decision at the end.
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rĂo grande review
119 Rebirth Issue
Photo by: Julian Kliner
Contributors Biographies Oscar Godoy Comunicador Social Periodista de la Universidad Externado de Colombia (Bogotá), con estudios de América Latina con énfasis en Literatura Hispanoamericana, en la Universidad Sorbona IV (París). Periodista por 12 años en diversos medios de comunicación de Bogotá, y profesor de escritura creativa a partir del año 2000. Publicaciones: Duelo de miradas, novela (2000); Doce relatos eróticos, antología con otros autores (2001); El arreglo, novela (2008). encuentra en tercer año del MFA en Escrituras Creativas de la Universidad de Texas en El Paso. Wendy Gist Wendy Sue Gist lives in the Navajo Nation with her husband and two dogs. She has written for regional and international publications. At times people mistake her blue heeler for the offspring of her bluetick hound. Her recent poetry is forthcoming in The Tulane Review. Julian Kliner Julian Kliner lives in New York and is a photographer of the waking dream, of the beauty in ugliness and ugliness in beauty. Antonio Pillado Avila Nacido en Sancti-Spiritus, Cuba, Licenciado en Lengua Inglesa por la Universidad Pedagógica Silverio Blanco, y Derecho por la Universidad José Martí, Cuba. Estudiante de M.A. Spanish en la University of Texas at El Paso. 0 Donald Carreira Ching Donald Carreira Ching was born and raised in Kahalu’u. He received his BA in English from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa and is persuing his MA in Creative Writing. He recently completed his first novel, Between Sky and Sea, excerpted in Hawai’i Review and Bamboo Ridge. His work has also been featured on the radio program Aloha Shorts, and has appeared in The Star-Advertiser, Cirque, and Honolulu Weekly. José Ocando José Ocando was born in Venezuela and immigrated to the United States with his family when he was four years old. He grew up in Florida, but now lives in Tennessee. He studied English Literature in college and currently works in the housing industry.
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Ángel Valenzuela Ángel Valenzuela (Juárez, México, 1979) grew up immersed in the bicultural border scene. As a professional graphic designer, he has developed a keen interest in letterform and book design & production, activities he has combined with his practice as a writer. “Dosis Letradas”, his first book, (UACJ, 2008), features a collection of his short stories. He is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Texas at El Paso. Doug Heckman Doug Heckman lives in Moscow, Idaho where he is Director of the MFA Program at the University of Idaho. His stories and essays have appeared in various journals, including Other Voices; Weber Studies; Beloit Fiction Journal; and War, Literature and the Arts. His novel, Reclamation, is under editorial review. He’s currently at work on a novel set in Albania, based on his experiences there during the 1999 Kosovo War. Rubén Varona Rubén Varona, escritor colombiano (1980). Autor de la novela policiaca: Espérame Desnuda entre los Alacranes, Editorial Axis Mundi, 2007. Sus relatos, ensayos y poemas han sido publicados en antologías y revistas de Colombia, España, Alemania y Estados Unidos. En el 2008, fue elegido como Vicepresidente para América Latina de la Asociación Internacional de Escritores Policiacos –AIEP. Acaba de terminar sus estudios de Maestría en Creación Literaria en The University of Texas at El Paso, y en el otoño comenzará su doctorado en Texas Tech University. Dick Alwan After graduation from UCLA, and military service in El Paso, Dick Alwan was an El Paso newspaper reporter, and later, for some 25 years, publicist and marketing director for pari-mutuel racetracks, mostly Sunland Park and Ruidoso Downs. I have published serious fiction, the last being the 8,003word short story, “A Man Who Is Too Good,” in the spring/summer 2011 issue of the prestigious Alaska Quarterly Review. Susan Breen Susan Breen is a painter represented by Woodward Gallery in New York City. Her work has been shown at the Islip Art Museum, the Housatonic Museum of Art, Aljira Center for Contemporary Art, and the Cahoon Museum of American Art, among other venues. She recently contributed to Sony Legacy Recordings’ release 15 Minutes, exhibited at the Pollock Krasner House and the Andy Warhol Museum.
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Rick Dinges Rick Dinges has an MA in literary studies from University of Iowa and manages business systems at an insurance company. Slant, Concho River Review, California Quarterly, Sunstone, and Miller’s Pond have most recently accepted his poems for their publications. Jacqueline Doyle Jacqueline Doyle’s creative nonfiction and fiction have recently appeared in Front Porch Journal, Blood Orange Review, Pear Noir!, Prick of the Spindle, Bartleby Snopes, and California Northern Magazine. Her flash prose can be found in elimae, Monkeybicycle, flashquake, 5_trope, Prime Number Magazine, Everyday Genius, and numerous other journals. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she teaches at California State University, East Bay. Alex Briseño "Fotografo fronterizo aficionado (o apasionado?) desde hace aproximadamente 8 anios. Me encanta la fotografía urbana, pero sobre todo disfruto de utilizar esta disciplina para documentar lo que esta sucediendo alrededor mio. Me gusta mucho también difundir este maravillo arte que es la fotografía. Mis cámaras favoritas son todas aquellas que siguen utilizando película… entre mas arcaicas,mejor." Charles F. Thielman Raised in Charleston, S.C., and Chicago, educated at red-bricked universities and on Chicago’s streets. He has been published in The Pedestal, Poetry365, The Criterion [India], Poetry Salzburg [Austria], Rio Grande Review, The Oyez Review, Poetry Kanto [Japan], Tiger’s Eye, and Uphook Press’ anthologies “you say. say” & “hell, strung and crooked”! My chapbook, “Into the Owl-Dreamed Night” [Uttered Chaos Press, www.utteredchaos. org ], was released June 15th. Christine Gardiner Christine Gardiner is a student of the English language and its literature. She holds a BA and MFA from Brown University and is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Denver, where she is writing her dissertation on television. Siamak Vakili Siamak Vakil was born in Iran. Ten years after the revolution she moved to Norway. Two years ago she came to the United State and has been here since April 2010. She has worked as a journalist and publishd several literary articles, critics, and short stories in Persian. “The Calm Jew” is her very first in English.
J. S. de Monfort J. S. de Montfort (Valencia, España, 1977) es Graduado en Estudios Ingleses por la Universidad de Barcelona, así como diplomado en Literatura Creativa por la Escuela TAI-Madrid. Forma parte del consejo editorial de la Revista Literaria Hermano Cerdo y es miembro de la AECl (Asociación Española de Críticos Literarios). www.jsdemontfort.com Ryan Johann Perry Ryan Johann Perry’s Becoming occurred in Cold War Era Germany, a plane of existence that occurs to this day wherein he raises dairy cows in Southern Bavaria. Co-Founder of The Charming Elusive, a writer/performance group, he has written/directed numerous theatrical pieces, performing them in El Paso. He battles homogeneity as a Creative Writing/Philosophy student at The University of Texas at El Paso Oísin McGillion Hughes Oisin McGillion Hughes studied film and theatre at University of New Mexico at Albuquerque. He’s co-founder of Zemifilm productions. Some of his films include “Traumland,” and “Stringfellow.” Trina Gaynon Trina Gaynon volunteers with WriteGirl, an organization in Los Angeles providing workshops and mentors for high school girls interested in writing. She also works with an adult literacy program. Her poems appear in the anthologies Bombshells and Knocking at the Door, as well as numerous journals including Natural Bridge, Reed and the final issue of Runes. Stephen Barile Stephen Barile resides in Fresno, CA. He teaches writing at Madera Center Community College, and is a long-time member of the Fresno Poets Association. Montague Kobbe Chiromancer and illusionist, Montague Kobbe is a German citizen with a Shakespearean name, born in Caracas, in a country that no longer exists, in a millennium that is long gone. During the past decade he has resided in Bristol, Leeds, London, Munich, Madrid and Anguilla – a recondite Leeward Island to which he has had ties for over 25 years. An expert manufacturer of castles made of smoke and mirrors, his work has been published in a dozen countries in the Caribbean, Europe and the Americas. He has had a literary column in Sint Maarten’s The Daily Herald since 2008, and keeps track of the tricks he has used through his bilingual blog, MEMO FROM
LA-LA LAND, on http://mtmkobbe.blogspot.com. His first collection of short stories, Tales of Bedsheets and Departure Lounges, is expected to be published later this year by Dog Horn Publishing’s imprint, Fruit Bruise Press. Carolyn Williams Noren Carolyn Williams-Noren is the recipient of a 2010 Loft Mentor Award. Her poem, “Mistakes,” received a Pushcart Prize nomination from Seems. She has poems forthcoming this summer in Slipstream, at Literary Mama, and in the new magazine of gardening literature, Greenwoman. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband, two daughters, and a cat named Comma. Stella Maria Perry Stella Maria Perry is a writer and co-founder of Zemifilm, an independent production company. She enjoys a tall glass of soymilk with mud pies on convoluted Wednesday afternoons. Visit: stellamariaperry.wordpress.com for more of her projects. Ruth Bavetta Ruth Bavetta’s poetry has been published in Rattle, Nimrod, Tar River Review, North American Review, Rhino, Poetry East, Atlanta Review, and Poetry New Zealand, among others. I am included in the anthologies Twelve Los Angeles Poets and Wait a Minute, I Have to Take Off My Bra. I’m a graduate of the University of Southern California, California State College San Bernardino, and Claremont Graduate School. Fabian Gonzalez A proud graduate of Sonoma State University and Cloverdale High School, Fabián González González was born in El Charco, Uriangato, GTO., Mexico. He immigrated to Cloverdale, California in 1998. His only published work appeared in the Río Grande Review Fall 2011 Issue. Salvador Galan Moreu (Granada, 1981) psicólogo. En 2008 obtuvo un DEA en linguistica con la tesina Roberto Bolaño y la bandera de Chile y en 2011 publicó su primera novela El centro del frio en la editorial Lengua de Trapo (IX Premio Caja Madrid de Narrativa)ñ ademas ha ganado otros premios como el Injuve de Narrativa y colaborado en revistas como Barcelona Review y Espéculo. Lily Padrón Lily Padrón was born in H. Matamoros, Tamaulipas, México, on March 17, 1957. She is a senior at the University of Texas at Arlington. Her major is Spanish, and her minor is Mexican American Studies. (Lily.padron!mavs. uta.edu)
Adelmar Ramirez Adelmar Ramirez es un escritor que vivío en Juarez toda su vida, y ahora esta de paso en estas tierras. Se exije ser lo más experimental posible, exhumando su poedía del sonido. Reconosce ser reciclaje y resistencia se renueva cada día en su familia, sus amigos en Juarez, que lo levantaron de las cenizas, y su novia Jackie quen le a enseñado vivir en versos.
The Editors would like to thank Mari and Fabian would like to thank several people who helped make this issue possible and/or better: The Creative Writing Department at UTEP, especially Rosa AlcĂĄla for her support, Lori de los Santos for her time and patience, and Benjamin Saenz for his enthusiasm. Also a special thanks to Ryan Johann Perry for his help and contribution, Julian Kliner, Gerardo Huerta, and our Board of Readers, who took time off from their studies to help with the selection process. Weâ€™d also like to thank PDX printing and Mr. John Bauer for his help. And, of course, weâ€™d lastly like to thank all the contributors who sent in their work and took the time to ponder on this complex theme we so enthusiastically proposed.
The only one of its kind in the U.S, the MFA at UTEP offers a fully bilingual (Spanish and English) course of study in fiction, poetry, playwrting, screenwriting, literary translation and nonfiction. Our close ties with Theater and Music give our students the opportunity to produce collaborative work and see their work on stage. Our bilingual literary journal, Rio Grande Review, is entirely MFA-edited. Our student/faculty ratio (3.5) allows for close mentorship. Our mfa students come from all over Latin America and the United states, and recent gradutes have won major literary prizes in the United States, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, and Argentina. We offer assistantships to our students. FACULTY Rosa Alcalá Daniel Chacón José de Piérola Sasha Pimentel Chacón Luis Arturo Ramos Benjamín Alire Sáenz Jeff Sirkin Lex Williford VISITING WRITERS Juan Felipe Herrera Susana Briante John Rechy Edwin Torres Rocío Cerón Sara Anderson Vaux Elena Poniatowaka
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