today I was thinking about learning spanish,
mostly for small reasons centered around myself
to sing Selena songs at karaoke
to save myself the gringa tax and occasional embarrassments
to have something to talk to my little brother about on the phone while he’s at his new school because lord knows I’ve forgotten all my calculus and I am too afraid to talk to him about anything real because I know we both still have slugs in our blood we are both not always well we are both not always sure whether we are having the appropriate reaction we both have built such delicate structures to keep the madness rushing out and breaking everything so let’s please for my own sanity’s sake stick to adjective agreements and dormitory food
to better make my way through southern california
to remind this boy of his mother in panama
before his fluttering hands push his hair back and pick at tablecloths and move drinks up to his lips until they finally settle tight around my neck
while he is finally very still, while he looks me dead in the eye
but then I wished I could tell this man standing on the sidewalk
that he didn’t need to feel bad in that moment
that I had been there
that I have taken many trains on other people’s dimes
that I likely will again
and now, alone in bed, I simply have my fragment french
and the half-remembered ending to someone else’s poem:
todo cuanto los dos hemos callado
lo tenemos que hablar
Brother, tell me, do you have bad dreams? Do you see them, the Furies and the angry gods? The ones whose voices worm their ways into your head? Sometimes I think the voice you hear must be Apollo. It shattered all your hearing else. He whispers to me, sometimes, late at night, sometimes, just before I fall asleep. The sound as clear as day. And I think that I have begun to dream before I have ceased being awake. But there’s a part of me, there’s a part of me that wonders.
Your mind’s made up, my brother?
Yes, and do not hold me back. There is an avenue down which I go, all shadowed by my father’s prayers, and dark with Furies answering his call. Do these obsequies for me, when I am dead, and Zeus reward you with a brighter way. In life there’s nothing left for you to tender me. Now let me go. Goodbye.
My destruction as Fate allows. It is spelled out in our polluted blood. I cannot stop the clockworks of Fate. We did not see the darkness rushing towards us, up from the murky water in a car with no plates. The madness rising from our blood like steam. Knife drawn, I have no enemy to turn to. Every bullet I would take for you litters the floor where I lay howling. I am no worthy guardian. I am sibling only to the night’s difficult passing. But still the sound of thunder declares the will of the gods, the sound of breaking glass ringing in our father’s ears, all his sins around him like a blanket. No turning back. No halt in silent march. A little halter in a house of dark deeds. And I fled the ocean, but everybody knows you can’t escape your blood.
text from an audio sketch I made this week. you can listen to it here; it begins with an old cassette recording of me and my brother playing music as children, skip to about 1:00 in for the more sound art/textual stuff.
the italicized section (as well as a couple of short phrases throughout) is excerpted from Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus, the scene in which Antigone and her brother, Polyneices, speak for the last time.
To my beautiful daughter Samantha on her 10th birthday, today
November 23, 1997
May you find your passion, treasure it and keep it close to your heart. Peace, wisdom, beauty and creativity are already yours.
With boundless love,