the airfield, the airplanes, the heavy machines, the hum, all of it, back along the fence, back near the wildlife preserve, back at the beginning, this is the way we go, this is the way we’ve been before, the grass is wet, the chain links on our fingers as we pass the old ammo dump, this is the path we took, this is the path we take, this is the field with the antennas, this is the pine tree, this is the bridge, this is the sunlight, this is the water, this is the time, but this won’t work, we’re always walking, we’re always coming home, we’re always running, here is the water, we’re always jumping in, we’re always swimming, we’re always climbing out, the old rope swing is over there, the rocks are here, we go in now, we go in then, we can’t look, we don’t look, we never see, here is the beaver damn, this is the still water, this is the beach rose, this is the pine tree, this is the foundation, this is the firmament, this is light and dark, this is the spray paint, this is the graffiti, a black swirl, the name, the almost name, this is the trespassing sign, this is the hole in the fence, here is the bunker, this is the slab, this is the oil slick, this is the paving equipment, see how it rusts, see how it sinks, see how it’s gone, this is the landing pad, this is the radio tower, this is the field, this is the marsh, these are the reeds, these are your feet and mine, we can’t see the trail, the trail is overgrown, we’re walking, we’re running, we’re waiting, this is the duck blind, this is the fallen tree, this is the gully, this is the place where, that is the place when, we say this, we said this, we passed from the trail into the grove, this is where we came up, this is how we moved, this is my hand in yours, this is your hand, this is us, we are here, this is the irrigation ditch, this is the old orchard, this is the star chart, these are the airfield lights, this is what I remember, this is now, this is not, this is the beginning, this is the time I left, this is the time I called, this is me on the roof, this is me in the sun, this is the road, this is the stop sign, this is the tremor, these are the cars going by in the night, this is the farmhouse, these are the field-stones, this is the moment I’m thinking of, this is so far away, this is never not close, I’m coming to the end, I’m coming up for air, I’m coming home, I’ve already arrived, I’m already gone, this is me in the morning, this is when we were ready, this is the branch, this is the trunk, this is the wind, this is the way, we will never, we are not, we will again, we are in motion, we have walked here before, we can walk here again
I have to go, I’m already gone, this is the beginning, I’ve got to get there, but there is where I am, I am there, this is the bridge, this is the tide, this is the beginning, I’ve said that, I’ve been here, I’ve already gone, it’s all the same, I’m rolling back, I’m not here, but I can’t go forward, this is the beginning, I’ve been digging, I’ve been down, I can’t reach the top, this is the top, I’ve been down too far, I’ve been from the farm to the destruction, I’ve been from the destruction to the fire, I’ve been from the fire to the farm, I’ve returned and gone away, this is the middle, I’m in the middle, I’m not going in one direction, there is no middle, I’m down in the sand, I’m up in the leaves, I’m in the coal stove, I’m on the way, this is all a big misunderstanding, this is a rift, this is the breach, this is time, the middle, the opening, the tunnel, the farm, the house, the road, the tree, the stone, the wall, the field, the bramble, the field, the leaves, the fence, the barbs, the wire, the rust, the sign, the trespassing, the plane, the light, the opening, the door, I’m going back, there’s nothing keeping me here, I’m not here, I’m on the road, I’m down the road, get down, go down, be down, stay down, put it down, put it back, manners, please, manners, this is the rest of the story, I’m out, I’m there, I’m coming back, I’m back, I’m here, I’m going out, this is the way I see the night, it’s never night, it’s never coming, the light is everywhere but I can’t see the light, I’m left alone, I’m never alone, I’m at the tree line, I’m in the gully, I’m on the path, I’m coming through the reeds, I’m coming through the wires, I’m digging into chalk, I’m the ghost, I’m the tree, I’m the figure in the window in the house in the woods, that’s where I have to be, that’s how I remember being, I have to get back to where I am, get back to what I remember, I don’t know memory, I don’t see, I don’t want to see, there is nothing to see, I’m only looking, I’m only seeing, I’m only eating, I’m only breathing, there is no air, there is no water, there is no spirit, there is no firmament, there’s no way forward, I’m already there, I’m already knocking, I’m already coming in, I’m bringing bread, I’m coming through the light, it’s not a party, it’s not a funeral, it’s breakfast, it’s supper, I’m coming, I’m here, I’m leaving, I can’t come home, I’m already there, I’m at the beginning, it’s time to begin
1. My Soup is Cold: by Tex Ragu and the Sin City Sinners
2. Shut it Down: by Lucretia Netboxer and her Five Tall Friends
3. Beef? What is it Good For? Absolutely Nothing: by the St. Louis All Vegan Pipe-Fitter’s Union Choir.
4. Four Large Men: by Four Large Men
5. Songs for the Weeping Willow What Weeps Outside My Window: by Al Fuster’s Chocolate Fondue
6. You Call That a Fire? I’ll Show You a Fire: by Bic Tempo and the Michigan Flambé
7. Suite 47 in G (Ode to Tired Feet): by Gustavo Mu and the Beacon County Trombone Association
8. The Collected Speeches of Vicky Von Vanderschmidt, Inventor of the Tornado Capsule and Part-time Telescope Defiler
9. Dark Night of the Soul: by Grinning Jane Smiley and her Giggling Hyenas
10. Common Cents by Tom Pain and the Angry Colonists
1. Cooking cheese based delicacies for a dinner party consisting of stuffed animals and voodoo dolls.
2. Pumping up the jams.
3. Two words: Jazzercise
4. Wondering what happened to Lumpy from Leave it to Beaver.
5. Repeating “I pity the fool” to their own reflections in a dimly lit room that smells of lemongrass.
6. Man-Ape project in the basement.
7. Day drinking PBR in martini glasses.
8. Reading The Thorn Birds.
9. Knife fight.
10. Wondering when this dude is going to shut up I mean jeez c’mon wut?
Nine jobs I watched people do and one job I didn’t watch anyone do.
1. Cartographer’s Brow Mopper
2. Manual Rolodex Whirly Doodle
3. Simon’s Sesame Seed Swedish Bun Baker
4. Oil Derrick Jeter Lookout
5. Tuna Duster
6. Squirrel Hustler
7. Part-time Rascal
8. Full-time Hubba Hubba Ding Ding
9. Whoa, now, take it easy
10. Hiker lost near Sizzler All You Can Eat Salad Bar
scrub each socket
each gnarled joint
see the meniscus?
see the remaining light?
careful be careful
everything will evanesce
pull this thread
see what happens
what is undoing?
what are you?
no one understands time
we have only memory
are you awake? please
pay attention please
open the book please
please begin please
It’s the only place I know.
Start in the hallway
go down past the mirror
and the little hutch
with the silver and china
turn left at the dining room
table and on thru the kitchen
and out the back door where you
smoked weed for the first time
behind the little green shed
and further even, out past
the fence and down Willow Lane
and into the woods behind
the subdivision and then
down to the creek—
and then Route One and 95
North and South, that corridor
on which you’ll spend
a great chunk of your life
and down to the Potomac
and out to the Bay
and then into Maryland
to get some soft-shelled crabs
that are poured from a bushel
a big steaming pile in the middle
of a picnic table and then all
the way out to the Atlantic
where you can catch the winds
that will pull you North
You never even thought
of the North, not in any
real way, only when Mr. O’Neil
told you about living in Boston
before Earth Science in 9th grade.
One day he came to class
and put his head down
on the table and told you
to do whatever you wanted
so long as you were quiet.
That’s all you knew about Boston.
That’s all there was to know.
Who knew that you’d drift even further
North, up past Massachusetts
and wind up in NH
writing at the end of a long day
at the end of a long semester
with a group of students who
don’t even know about paper maps?
You couldn’t have known
no one ever knows
that’s why I’m giving
you directions now
even though it’s
already too late.
I want to get to the plains. No, I want to get to the moon, a sandbar, a place with air and ice and granite. I want to get to the reeds. No, that isn’t right either. I want to get to where I can explain the moon. First it’s the tunnels and then the water and then the moon. No, first it’s the house, then the tunnels, then the water, then the moon. Is that right? That can’t be right. There’s too much blood. I’ve been counting my teeth and I come up with a different number each time. I came through the code. I came through the black ink. That was me in the blank field. That was me in the tunnel. That was me at the door. That was me entering the house. I was in the water. I walked down to the water. I came down through the water and up onto the plains. I came to the plains and I came to the moon. No, the moon was behind me. I was dragging the moon. That’s how this begins. I was knee deep in fire. I was knee-deep in ash. None of this sounds right. Was I down in the bilge? Was I someplace and not someplace at the same time? I can’t get to the sound. I’m out of range. There is no sound. There is so little sound that its lack reminds of what sound is. It’s a hum, or a ring. It’s a single oboe played into a pillow in a field halfway around the world. It’s less than a whisper, the nothing. It’s nothing, but I can’t stop hearing it. I’ve been down in the reeds. I’ve been down in the mud. I’ve been down to the old docks. I’ve been down to the flat-bottomed boat. I’ve been in those gardens. I’ve been in this house. This house sells candy. This house makes pirogues. This house was built by slaves. This house was built by beer. This house is mine. I don’t have a house. I’ve climbed on that stage. Don’t tell me I’m lost. Don’t tell me I’m afraid. Don’t tell me I’m dead. Who would do such a thing? Rude. I was on Daniels Street. I was at the intersection. I took a left on Penhallow. There was no one around. It was dark. The streets were empty. I turned left on Sheafe. It was three-thirty in the morning. The sleepy bakers were in Ceres Bakery baking bread. What a job! To be up so early. Or maybe to be up so late. It doesn’t matter. They were at their table. They were kneading dough. They dipped their hands in the flour. They pushed the dough with floured pins. They stood before the ovens. The heat poured over them and through them out into the street. They wore bandanas and aprons. They were singing Reeling in the Years. They were laughing. They were coming out back to smoke. I’ve been listening. I’m here. I was down on Cabot Street. Inside Cabot Market, a man was buying a single cigarette. I was down on Parrot Avenue where two policemen stood outside their patrol cars and watched the moon. I was over by the tugs. I found the salt pile. I found the salt. It was a mountain. The salt came in waves. I was down in the salt. I was down in the reeds. I was down in the mud. I was sneaking through backyards. I was in time. I was time. I’ve been up in the little red helicopter. I’ve seen the teeth. I’ve seen the coal. I’ve seen the unopened stones. I’ve seen the faces. It started in the tunnel. It started in the house. The door. The hinge. The ink. I don’t know where it started. I don’t know what started. Will I always be alone? I’m standing on the stones. I’m standing at the shore. I’ve come down through the trees. I’ve walked through granite. I’ve packed my pockets with nails. I’ve come down through the marsh. I’ve parted the reeds. Yes, little birdie. I’m just passing through. I’m above the ocean. I’m iris and canal and joint. I’m body. I’m moon. Is that right? I wish I could get to the place. I wish I could snare that sound. This is where. This is when. This is how. It started with. It came down to. It was always. I was not. I am never. Once, this was. Now, this is. Yes, this stone. Yes, this reed. Yes, this spume. Yes this grinning tide. Yes this straw. Yes this no. Yes this yes. Yes again. Yes.
The long street in the dark, the branches hanging down low over the pavement, the lights and their yellow pools, the neighbor’s dog barking in her deep, slow voice, the other neighbor’s dog answering, the call going out, relayed across fences and through hedges, alert, alert. Danger, Will Robinson. Remember when Brazil’s National Museum burned? We didn’t see it, of course, but felt the heat, despite the distance, the oceans, the entire continent. We cried together in the living room for all that was lost. Notre Dame burned today. Something else tomorrow. There was an opossum on the porch earlier, digging its nose down into the recycling bin. I watched it for a while through the kitchen window. It seemed neither bothered nor curious about the barking next door, and went about its business licking out the empty tomato cans. I came out onto the porch later, but it was gone. It lives down underneath the porch. Now that the dog is dead, we have all sorts of animals in the yard. We had to build a fence around the gardens. Your mother designed them, and I helped build them. There’s nothing else happening here tonight.
When I’m out there, I’m never sure how to get back. I’m not sure how to get back now. I’m not sure I want to get back. I can go out to the tunnels or follow the trail down through the marsh and across the bog and down toward the industrial park and wander around in the Urban Forestry Center, but then I’m gone too far and coming back is a math problem that can’t be solved. When you’re deep in the Urban Forestry Center at night, you can see the MacDonald’s arches glowing across Route One. You can smell the coffee roasting at Port City Roasters. You can hear the crackling of the power lines and the ringing of the buoys out in the bay and airplanes coming down at the airfield. You can walk to the edge, and it’s like you haven’t gone anywhere at all.Down in the tunnels, I make my way to the iron door that’s welded closed. You can tell someone has been trying to get in. Someone has been hammering on the door with a rock or pipe. When I’m down there, I never see anyone. Someone has scratched an eye into the door. You can hear something coming from the other side, water maybe, or roots growing, or animals burrowing. The tunnels are broad enough for me to stand arms spread wide. Someone has spray painted in giant letters: Welcome to the Jungle, You’re gonna die. There’s one branch of the tunnels that I won’t go down. It splits from the main tunnel. It’s too dark for me, darker than the dark I’m already in. I leave it be. Once I sat down across from the other tunnel and turned off my light and just listened and I couldn’t hear anything. It was so dark that there wasn’t any sound.
I can go down through the bulkhead and into the cellar and get lost around the back of the furnace. Or crawl into the old coal stove someone pushed off to the side. I know the way through the fieldstones and the sand. I know the path beyond it all, but it’s different going out than it is coming in. The light is bright under the coal dust. There is a path in the sand that leads to a door with a name carved into the wood. I can see the name and the grooves made by the knife. I can trace the letters and slip in between the curlicues and lines. This is all alone. This is not here. I can’t get there. I can’t go. Once I’m down into the light, I can’t see anything. Once I’m gone, I’m gone. The only way to get back is to keep on going. Then I’ve got to go down into the rock, way down below the sewers, way down below the skin and scars. I’ve got to get down to where the bones are teeth are thick. It’s one layer after another no matter how far I dig. I’ve been down there, and I’ve been back, but it’s not something I can do now. It’s not something I want to do twice. Still, here I am. There I go. I’m not looking. I’m outside the door and down inside the teeth all at once. I can’t let it happen again, but I can’t stop it either. I can’t see any other way home.
These are the things I can see: our street; the trees across the street in Mitch’s yard; four gourds hanging in each tree; Mitch holding one of the fallen gourds, looking into the hole he drilled to see if there are any birds, or eggs; I can see the bridge; I can see the highway, barely a car going north or south; the remnants of a poster that said Welcome Home Joey; the American flag caught in the wind over at the Alternative School; the softball field that always has puddles; the fencing around the fish-stick factory; the coils of wire down by the power lines; the Great Bog and its trails; the train tracks down near the industrial park where I fell while walking a few years ago and scraped up my legs and side. I can see the hills past the Walmart and then I’m basically to the water. I’m almost there. I’m down near the marshes. I’m crawling through the rushes. The water is splotchy with oil. The birds are quiet in the trees along the edges. I’m down low. The wind is above me, cattails rustling. I’m down by the ranger station. I’m down on Cable Road. There’s no one awake. I’m past the ice cream place and the place that sells sunscreen and t-shirts to tourists. The path is thick with beach roses. The sun is just breaking the line. The terns and gulls coo and preen near the tideline. A sandpiper calls to me, drawing me away from its nest. He dashes past, hopping over the rocks, looking back, chittering once again. I say: I’m not here for your eggs, little one. The sand is cool. Rows of seaweed tell me where the tide has been. I’m down in the water. I’m up to my ankles. I’m up to my knees, my hips, my chest. I’m down in it now. The ocean is very still. I can see all of this. I can see all the way home.