O how so like the circus it was!
The ass could hardly keep up with the speed
of the film crew’s dizzying routine.
The cameras had followed him all throughout the day
on dolly tracks, sometimes disguised
as a rosebush, or a plastic bag,
and they whirred and clicked about him
like enormous, mechanical flies.
The crew fed him three full meals a day, as agreed upon
in his contract.
He had grown comfortable on set.
He became good friends with the film’s director,
and they drank coffee and smoked cigarettes together
in between takes.
The script the ass could not read (for he was illiterate) and so
the director had to read it to him, scene by scene.
(The ass hardly understood French, though luckily there was
a translator nearby.) At the end of the film
his character, Balthazar, was written to die. The ass felt
this was too pessimistic of an ending, and suggested
a happier one, but the director flatly refused to change it.
We’ll make a saint out of you yet, he said.
In time, the ass became infatuated with his co-actress,
with whom he shared a love scene in the film.
She looked like an angel (he had seen angels before),
and he wanted to tell her, but then he remembered
that she was a girl, and he was an ass.
It just wouldn’t work.
So, when shooting had wrapped, he thanked the director,
the cast and crew, kissed
his co-actress on the cheek, and parted ways
with the film (though
he had later heard that it became a great success
with the critics).
A thunder it rumbled and then night’s hours came down
over him, and over the mountain, and over the sides of the mountain,
and a plum fell from the sky, fat and black and wet
round shining down, and then another,
and it had begun to rain plums from the sky – fat, wet, fragrant,
and rolling and tumbling down from the inky upright abyss
of the purply night sky.
The ass looking up with all six of his eyes and with his one horn gold,
hollow and erect,
and sounding a bright hum, tries to catch a plum
in one of his nine cottage-sized mouths.
The Lion’s Mouth
The red house is closed tonight, Richie said.
They’d fixed a new lock on the door.
On the way, Dust holds on his uncapped pint,
Ye wan’ hit the holy water? How could I not,
the kid replies, I’m a fuckin’ Catholic. Oh
sure h’yuk h’yuk
Richie’s got the screwdriver,
becoming familiar with it in his hand.
He presses up on the door and says for the others
to turn away.
When the door swings open the kid waits
to follow them inside. Dust shoves in
wide as a bear, a bear
with a grin, H’yuk
They were not out in the open, but not secluded
either. It looked like a bomb had gone
off, the nearest sign of life a water reservoir on stilts
some yards out, hidden if not
for its beacon blinking bright red and brightly isolated
in the night like a newborn star: deaf, mute, unalarmed.
The kid put some effort into concealing his panic –
from Dust, from the others.
His phone signal oscillated, flickered like bad
electrical wiring, between one bar and none.
Dooley cools the missile hissing in a wet washcloth
at the kitchen sink. A cough, dry as bone,
in another room, indicates it
is time to leave.
Dooley insists his cousin come with…
The powder-blue dawn broke like a fever
upon the kid’s brow – he takes each step down
the fire escape dreadfully aware of it.
The kid takes a quick look
in the rearview mirror, adjusts it with a
twitch of his hand and reminds Dooley not to slam
The ringing of his ears had started up again
like the string-tunings of a broken violin.
He dry swallows another green goblin, the Dark Knight
watching from the other side
of the platform. A Fire Will Rise.
He speaks up in defense, I am still on earth.
The Dark Knight replies, Only just.
The wood quivers on the heels of his boots.
The southbound approaching now, roaring in now
on its track, had it never before, he felt now, had
it never before allowed itself such a magnificence.
He had summoned no boldness; it was only a matter
of stepping beside yourself, of getting behind.
He was no stranger to this – it was after all how he was
most of the time: scheming beside himself.
They’d decided to leave the kid behind. There was no way
of anticipating what he had pulled. Either way, Dust finished it.
One less of a loony in the world.
The way his mouth stayed was hard an image to shake off.
It remained, like an after-image, like a sear in one’s retina.
It could’ve been the phase of the moon that drove him
to do it, to snap like that – was it waxing
or waning? The moon, I mean.
Dooley spat on the road.
Behind them you could still see the pyre, now just a speck of light
in the wood.
If they’d leave the kid, they’d decided, they’d have to leave
the car, too.
Their voices echoed throughout the place, this sorry
little cathedral – flittering up and above and from all directions,
ringing in the air.
He did not insult them by pretending to be one of them.
He understood his place amongst them. It was what
it was, that which is left of a dream.
It was as true as gravity; and too, like gravity,
a rule by which he had long accepted to live.
Ixtab stood there for some undetermined length of time (minutes, centuries?), feeling it all go flat again; and, after some time, when she understood that yes he was really gone this time and that no he wasn’t pacing just outside the door with an apology and that he wasn’t this time going to shuffle back in with a bouquet of tulip flowers or a box of pixies chocolates or a tarantula spider in a shoebox with holes, she unfroze and took to sweeping the place, starting with the china on the floor.
Slumped in the cream colored sofa, Ixtab remembered something. She went to the kitchen and found the bottle of bull’s blood long hidden under the sink. She uncorked it with her teeth and poured herself a full round dark-ruby glass that she held up for a moment in the light, admiring its opacity.
Leaning now against the kitchen counter, Ixtab’s eyes caught the refrigerator door and noticed again the calendar and how it was now not two, but three months behind. She went to it and turned it over to Capricorn.
There was nothing that anyone could have done, nothing –it hadn’t even made a sound! But next thing to all the passersbys’ knowledge there was a poor damsel in distress right there smack dab in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city square and before all their very own eyes, in broad daylight, and with an enormous, thousand-ton iron anvil fallen on her, this poor girl, arms and legs sticking out from the bottom, all contorted and mangled-looking, all the public stopping to look, soon forming a bustling crowd round the ugly sight; and this crowd was quickly taken notice of by two policemen –one tall, insectoid, and the other short and stout as a tea pot –who duly scampered over to the scene, assuming their authoritative postures, politely but firmly ordering the public to stand back. It was their job to get to the bottom of this –whatever this was. The public speculated about it themselves: It’s a sign from God, said one, she was guilty of something awful, indubitably. It’s the blind whims of chance, you fool, said another, nobody in the world deserves such a thing. It’s the Devil probably. All right now, enough of all that, said the shorter policeman. The taller policeman jumped up and down. By Gum, sir, there’s a girl under this thing!
The bell rung above Ixtab’s head when she stepped through the front door of the bookstore, a rickety little place with perfumed and feathery things hanging all about its wood-paneled walls. Sitting in a chair behind the front desk counter was a woman in a purple turtleneck sweater reading a thick leather-bound book with translucent yellowed sheets for pages. When the woman heard the bell her face looked up to meet with Ixtab’s.
“Can I help you?”
“Yes, hi. Do you carry a stone called Larimar?” The desk woman’s lips formed into a tiny smile.
“Yes, we do. We keep it in the back.”
Ixtab followed the woman to the back section of the store, seeing all sorts of marvelous things along the way: aquamarine Buddhas, lemon quartz elephants, big and small –and they sparkled and glistened and winked at Ixtab from up high on their shelves as she walked passed. Approaching the back wall, in a glass case at the very back, Ixtab saw it: it was a beautiful stone, like the entire ocean caught up in a little chunk of rock. Its name rolled through her head again.
“It really is a lovely stone,” the desk woman said, as if divining Ixtab’s mind.
“It’s very pretty,” Ixtab heard herself say.
“You know what makes it special, right?”
“It’s from Atlantis,” Ixtab replied. Her eyes spotted something and softened. “How much is that pendant right there?”
This Henrik is a problem, said the Chief. He eats our food, drinks our liquor, and above all he beds our women! Well, I just won’t stand for it, I tell you! Something must be done. Who in the hell does this guy think he is? Aren’t there any women of his own where he’s from? He’s a painter, said one. Well, an artist he says. He paints pictures, but they’re not very good. Pictures of what, the Chief said. Pictures of our women, piped another. Women? Yes, Chief. Well, I tell you, this man is a problem. He must be done away with, but it must be done in a clean way. I’ll do it, said one, stepping forth. This man took my woman from me, and so the rage within me makes me strong. I will put an end to this man and his farce in our town. This was a respectable town before he arrived; we were an honorable people! Our women were our women. And now, we are the laughing stock of the land! Lucky if that! Damn this man, and the bird he flew in on!