Topping Off (3)
(from "Character in the Works: Twentieth-Century Lives")
1 Measure the flaws, slice in, correct what had been certain to break free. A deep calypso entertains. The summers cool at distances. But tonight love thinks it has bever been so chilled, explaining itself in this new west, a grip or stance that had seemed awkward at the start, then wholly natural, that left us a little worn afterward, listening hard to catch the secrets of the landscape. And just when we believed the heat would never quit, we're chilled, stiffening, affections coursing through such parts, labors done for one, and done for one this husbanding of lifetimes. Had any of these, we'd ask, been ours, the rooms or boutique brands, these kids, like hot-wired delivered vehicles, ours?, ourselves?, offending, in all that battered idiom, filling the bat-cooled dusk, offering to us their spots in weather-curled pictures? Allurements leave this half-sleep afterward, adding the flats and summits up, the poor phenomenal desire, volumes of acquitted mystery. And I, ready to speak, to explain because she might be interested, would say what sisters meant, what brothers meant, called in to mealtimes, appearing as boys again in March, that shook with Spain and all the fervor of the labels, because the food was good, the original and timely reds, the coral registers brought brothers again to twilit hobbying, and boys to channel ice, to schooled and public decibels, their bodies defined by speed, brightening air and brightening the skate blades under them. They enter the ranks of stars, bright peddled air the children tumble out of on themselves, who stand and step and glide, perfecting themselves for once in flash-along and distance, enter the ranks of stars, through doors with all their implications for promotion, leaving that past to local trees, to lines suspended between trees and sheets in bleak-bright yards, competitions followed into all the carried places. I speak because she might be interested. And let the hand-held children stand, bring us in to see, their festal salience and fires laid down, established again in serious, wind-cindered laughter. A child might quit to listen as the President soothes hearts, listen to that plain talk, imagining, hand-to-hand, realigning space behind the European murders, sending the kids from home for exercises with live fire, men in arms, men squinting to catch the glint of Nazi buckle. Imagine the children at their play, leaving the blood to deepen into useless camouflage. What would the medics think of it, the human waste, the false joy diverting afternoons, a woman's loveliness receding into straighter parts, into the rock rain plays to, into the names of men, peddling blood for scraps, spared their own short ends, the latest if muted prints like specimens? 2 Saturdays, Sundays like turned dice, ghostly bridges to old decades, children lost in the star lists and in the course of product cycles, so many odd and now disinterested appraisals. Listen to the young men guess the stakes, and to the flaming up of guest lists, half the fun perfecting courtesies, to months of newsmaking dissolve in near-forgetfulness, bearded, because the wool was limited, because the young men quit the runningboards and stove-tops. So much for rich solemnities, for conversations as the calendars required, for getting away with it, the politest smooch, as planned, inviting remedies, as the daylight ends more mercifully, or dignity permits, the next in love ordered up or ordered off the property. -- Delano turns the image of the world to his liking. Sunlight ranges through near-sleep, among the early morning crosses. You may call this what you will, miracle, turnstile, the daylight gone, the day's selections of detergents and the nightly smokes, and Bloom, M.D., made calm, made delicate, quitting the violence for desserts, the happy suppers, she believes, moved by all the influence, to step over pools reduced in front of houses at mid-block, into the moonlight acting up, the moonlight settling on curb's edge sludge, and in these voices like her own, ascending as friends leave, a syncopation sounding the dark air of the sub-porch, and following after him, until the chipped news quits. 3 He counts on lasting then, counts on the faces coming out, the shoemaker's sons or ballplayers, given their roles in reading time, and in his own good reticence, weighing the sweet mileage, remembering the diva, drag, and all this smoke between, such looks as darkness concentrates, more saved, he thinks, more paid, he thinks, than longing realized, ransomed here, where fit men dressed themselves, where afternoons drain off as weather or health assumes. -- 1986. The small bones crack, relax. He sees the cat outdoors, paying in her flesh, millennia-old decisions steeped in her turned gaze, looking after him, hunting for the night done, yielding to him the yards between some men and their withdrawals. Happy, close to home, sitting the deep shade cast by streetlamp and eucalyptus, she watches him pace porchboards, more still in that oval where only the ears twitch, until her still head turns and nearly breaks the spell... 4 Choices from which there'd seemed no turning back haunt their common dark, reminders of a style, where men had once seemed cliff-divers or shaman, huntsmen shouldering poles, bearing their vivid prey, leaving a man tonight his snagged accomplishments, sparing a man the sentence he was not prepared to ask. Let me tell you this: She died a brutal, unlucky death, indulging its full authority, leaving the holiday yard to kids, 7 and 8 year olds already dizzied by departures, leaving the words on it for kin, for these that seemed to search the nests of origins for sources. The lucky or caught calls resonate. And this chance glow, the bright ski-weather, appoints the looks of these, the looks of dusks and all their passionate surprises, with all the white-walled dreams by which the midnight compensates, revealing the shapes of calves, powdery leotards, the haunted tunes on meaty corners where wilder drag ensues, where these were waiting just, appealing for cool water, sewn to soft extremes, and to the morning's cooler pastels peeled back, leaving these wrecked interiors, this nastier tag of questions clinics obfuscate. I listen to tough kids cry alive, driven more deeply now, as if this gaze into cupped palms were not some instinct for survival, defying a mind to ask, to speak and not to flinch, to let the treble affect key change, bringing about, in slow discovery, some desire to ease the earliest cries again, as if these were not the source of every distance, as if these wild descents would after all seem rational. 5 She swore blue skulks. She swore featureless and mean, smoke spilling where lips were, gathering on shears she'd raised to hurtle into shadows, until the moods exhausted her, the pinched collars drew men's hands to eyes and buttons, leaving a shocked wife bachelor, and the hoarded murmurings peopling grey air, above the mouth of her noon bottle. I could not forgive myself, adding lightning's shock to all accomplishment. Time would not shake free, release a man in his own custody, letting him breathe, and not to feel the catch, feeling the fear he was, and the torque events applied to task the linchpin, emptying homes lived in, deranging the pop songs with no man's syllables. And after all the tracks the tires scratched in the raked stones, I think to answer after all and innocent, finding a heart in these redone insignia, stealing, you'd say, preparing the mind to stand the shock of human volleys, that seasons should bear such urgencies, urged light should list behind the failures of intention, and the delicious circuitries, sharpening a man for this mused green, should now engage a man, at 80 once and not, each of the fit plugs drawn, feeling fabric's worth and touches of construction, and feeling all the unkempt items under mark. 6 We whipped ourselves to shape with suppertalk, as if we'd meant to advertise, or happened again on variants for spires, peeled through backlots, chasing guarantees, pursuing the strict light left to us as solace. I might as well be talking recipes, as well slip home, a charmed runt weathering freeze and his first hungers, and lovely costumed as the deepest hungers then, as mighty discipline, nothing for him to catch, startling him with moods and incapacities to fathom. Could she accept, subscribe to advertising cardboards, or feel the conditions of such skin, reasons that shops should stand, in their exhausting differences? Imagine how patterns warm even the iciest of lifetimes, or lives regain themselves, redress that first exhuberance, confessing the seasons ahead, the celibacies ahead and studied healing, the years ahead for them as concert seats and board lengths... It wouldn't be wisdom then, another year's dull show, rations refining family, all of the wishes finally trusted to oneself, observed in pictures from such heights, in aerial or tunneling light, or in the mind adjusting notions to such speeds, and speeds to all capacities to measure. -- Vantage could now be any of dull porches, the seasons dusting off recruits, a traffic's sequential blanks, where the enlisted sought impossible routes home, riding the breeze we'd sworn the rabbi authorized. So lives pursue their own revenge as recreation. And so a man will sit this long, encouraging her to eat, a physician made to pay, hearing the commotions sweetened now by outdoors orchestra, easing a man tonight, a woman tonight who just upset the dinner tray, attempting to pass blame, acting as if there's not a soul besides herself, and he, absorbing the breaking amplitude, paying in dreams for every failure to matter. He readies himself to face, to repeat the nightmares now, repeat the looks where everything appeals, takes cheer from grey-bright arcs of a new daylight, grey dusting hills, grey rigging spans and all the moving water, all of the hazards marked, and even the presence of their mothers, putting the numbers up and rushing ahead from accidents. -- It wouldn't be wisdom then, remembering the ways first love struck men as spirited, the slim sides of harbor tossing an image back, or this unspoken loveliness, brought dull before the riprap and sequoia, too much to fancy we knew better once, that choice could fall in such eventful increments, patient to reveal, until a man forgives himself, forgets, wears out designs, and finds the shapes of his believing, talking this way to suit perceptions of the treatment, that talk itself might find ways home in steady guesses. 7 Carl would seem so cold, punished again for company, as wildly roused by blue remainders as by counting, by texts and columns and candied nubs, the wooden forms and subjects of a research, worn that way, between the thumb and the first finger, from riding on a thigh. Cold, so cold, the names made alphabets. And here, say, as motion comes apart, leaving the low leapt hedges where the children ran, the casings from waxed missiles they had first sucked dry, Carl remembers the pitched fruit, the limbs and chestnuts, imagining himself through wars the kids would settle their faiths in, anything but this, feeling the heat of services, the lightness of riot afterward, inventing the love of women and what that must be like. -- Cold, so cold, I'm listening, chilled as we all were, remembering the blanks where lightning crossed, the blown wash acquainting silhouettes. He welcomes his guests tonight with cheese and San Francisco ales, believing he's thought too much to say things presently, and cold, so cold, even as sunset factors the searing colors in, factors the young men cresting somewhere with the hours, feeling their limbs' poor news, the inconsolable blue shivers, and their limbs made red as if with rubbing over beachstones: biographies to tell, stories as lost as the tears were, lending fiber to the downpour, as words were lost when lifted from the neighbors' histories. -- But who's insured long life? And who, dying now for intimacies or dopey jokes, would stop to blame the anchorite, the capable vivante, missing in action say, absorbed by street fires as men were, or taken away by the machines so much in operation, so many nights to walk off wine, leaving the cold selves shivering as the censors clip? He mirrors the hard right hand, steps down into the river where the guards patrol, seeing the cold eyes there, glazing with excuses, and steeped in news with casualties and next exams: 1942, the decades, perceived as lengths a man turned from, leave him their the noise and rinse, leaving a man his long matriculations of surprises, and the daylight then, like extremes of appetite. 8 The kids run off, as if to run were not an experiment in choices, getting an eye for speed, kids that played too close to country highways, patching themselves in present time, feeling the shock of seasons and designer medicines, the music tasked against coincidence. And now the task's to be of use, to throw off fatigue, repeating air and asking miracle. So husbands forget themselves and ask. So wives impress themselves on their physicians, charmed to think what distance makes of it, nothing to dazzle but place names, the blocks condensed to bankruptcies and glad-handed reductions, decades condensed to this sipped water, this cracked wiped lip, to lyrics the children entertain, and the failed guardians, settling themselves again on air times, abstinence, imagining safe routes home, whispering young men and houses emptying, believing, because we all were strangers here, the grafts and sidereal forms, and love as the next or next new wave of immigrations. There might be something said for all this follow through, this heat and now these hybrid antidotes, reminding a man of homes at risk, called on to depend, to feel the daylight strained, as he, who sweats into my hand, lets his eyes go on, unable to will himself to choices, to understand what he or August is becoming, to balance the forms where two stood up, perilously steep, and must repeat, when asked, the blank expressions squarely searched. * Have I been 50 years at this, shaping the timbre of new thoughts, repenting lost materials, Bloom, M.D., sleeping out of doors, stretched by the bellowing, boasts, and the sad news of the republic? And this, we think, could be the end of it, sleeping out of doors, approaching certitude, seeking a voice to blow storms off, Bloom, M.D., 50 years at it, stepping from the screened front rooms, as if agreeing to ambitions, hearing the laughter left as explanations of a format, permitted to sift this latest news about their bodies, until the reflex turns the while to new uses, reminding a man of love and other kinds of recreation. Maybe I've stood too long, looked too long through scopes, thinking to find the space, the performances of surf that meant the last days of a summer, getting what love men called, in all that men might be to men about their bodies. He attempts the crisped bread, tea, settling himself to days ahead, to futures ahead like rented vehicles, feeling this sovereign absence build, the spells in gilt or teak displays, who cannot lift a hand, or bring a spoon around with the weight of a spooned portion, remembering the flatbeds moving north, relocating half-tracks, and young men on maneuvers, chilled trucks and chicken parts, treatment lines reformed, in drag and body paint, confusing his own porous sleep, and these attending relatives, causing a heart to catch, bearing the looks of it, full moons and rifts, and trackings of libretto. 9 Daylight climbs the rooftops and the eastern trees. We think the smart things said, the bituminous or reedy voices of the wounded, second takes on jokes, propped by restaurant raves, stories of wooed terrestrials, by Browning or St. Paul, these nearly synonymous regions of belief, appealing as it were, as much by heat as by the stats on the equipment, as the honey smeared all over biscuits or the tummy's rise, 1942, meaning the tongued, conditional treats her eyes in love stood for, until the props fell out, the evenings changing everything, and we, act and audience, stepped down from love to long walks into countries. Hadn't we, rather, watched ourselves perform, brightening dim rooms, spared for that short time the frisked and dangerous streets, the stabs, stammers, hungers for your money, because a moment satisfied, the once in it, two adding themselves as two and then subtracting bass? And hadn't I, to believe myself a party to such loving, believed a southern girl come north, and north enough to feel the needs of northern winter, and north enough, as far again as grammars, receiving the words for ice like a prescription for her future, finding herself another way, another night to stand the tinkering and timbre of the voices, the dawns past all imagining, the harder spaces, hemispheres, and nuisance points of origin? Not so much to tell, but explanations of first love the children might take home with them, might find a use for finally, foster loves a man would then adapt as a profession, and find a use for finally, hearing the horns outdoors, meaning the season's had its way, and now the blowers starting all this insufficient heat.
Go to Topping Off (2)
© Copyright Robert Lietz.