Job Thingy

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



Get here.

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—

pure wilderness—

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 grin at thee, thou grinning whale

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.

how do I get back now?

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.

Now he goes in the door and

down past the rooms where the men are eating and past the rooms with the shoes and the room with the shirts and says to the woman ironing in the ironing room that he has arrived and she says, They found the boy with the jacket made of pins and he nods and heads further back until he finds his mother polishing his father’s mask and there is a pile of masks set off to the side that she will polish, too, in her long day of polishing, and he takes off his mask and says, I am here, and she nods and shows him her palm where she wears her eyes and he says, I will tend to the ovens, and she lowers her fingers over her palm and adjusts the position of the mask in front of her. He traces the path her eyes make from his mask to the mask on the table and says, No thank you, I will take care of my own mask and then he retreats into the hall and continues past the rooms of knives and past the rooms of chairs and past the assembly hall where the old men without masks and the women gather together to help each other walk and then down into the basement where his ovens await and he can remove his mask and spend the day without its weight

this one has a woman screaming

That’s her biting her hand. That’s her down on the floor. She’s screaming or biting, down on the floor curled around a life vest, a old carpet, a flag draped over a child. It’s tucked into her elbow, a part of her. She comes to the window. She’s carrying a bundle of rags, a duffle bag of scarves, the blankets of the dead. When she speaks, there are no words, a noise like static. She is moving and talking and screaming all at the same time. She’s carrying a bundle of rags, a child, a life vest, old newspapers, a wind-up radio, a mask of feathers, her father’s teaspoons, a bottle of teeth, an ancient leather bridle, the wind, the birds, an unspeakable ancestral tongue, a history of broken bones, a scar below her eye, a scar on her chin, a scar down her right arm from the knife, a scar across her back, a pair of laceless shoes, a pail of hot coals, a sack of ears, a canteen of blood, a face seen best in thirds: here first, then here, now there. She is thusly divided. She is best one at a time. That’s what she says when she’s done screaming. No one can see all of her, she says, no one would want to. There is no way home, there is no new place, no way to begin, no hope in finding her now. Once she hits the window, once she gets outside, she’s gone, she’s out, she’s flown, she’s on the street: fast down to the bridge, fast down to the highway, fast right to the water, and once she’s in the water, you’ll never catch her. She’s past the water. She’s lost, she’s carrying herself, all her secret stashes, her swollen elbow, her swollen knees, the gimpy hip, the scars she won’t talk about, the scars she won’t reveal. She’s in the water down in the deepest well, down too far to swim up, down in the tunnels, out into the inky core, she’s found her vortex. She’s new. She’s next to the hot heart. She’s praying to the next open door. She’s never coming back; she’s never coming home. You think she wants any of this? What’s here for her to use in the blank field? What can we offer that she won’t toss away? What is left of her anyway? What is left as she’s running? What’s left as she’s gone? What’s left now that we don’t remember? What part of her is hoping we’ll follow? None, nothing, no one, never, no thank-you. She’s speeding into a fresh unlit space. She’s looking into the dark. She’s down too far to return. She’s down too far to see. She’s alone with her own aloneness. She’s down into the darkness now. She’s following the sound. She’s brought along her bundle of rags, a purse full of nails. She opens the door to announce her own arrival.