SALT ALREADY, SHE MELTS IN THE RAIN
when I said regret I meant the settle
of solvent at the bottom of a glass
the muted chime of the spoon that strikes
its sides I meant the small whirlpool
that slows in the center of the water
as salts dissolve
for a glass of water on my nightstand next to where my contact lenses hang in saline
and my pages molder in their only language
next to where my fragment body saturates with recall
you gather me into the gulf
where we one-two-three under
even salt, our bodies
still pop back up
toward the storm
deja-vu intrudes through static
two half-left humans reach for each other
eventually every laugh becomes an after
party when I said regret I meant
the echo of steps down the hall
I meant a mylar balloon half deflated
dragging its ribbon in any direction
how any direction is toward the sea
if you walk for long enough
Linseed, a pigment binder,
hints at the age of paintings.
Linseed is derived from flax, flax
whose roots grip into soil that,
since 1945, contains traces
of radioactivity. Isotopes that fluttered,
flared from nuclear detonations—
one thousand American explosions,
two thousand globally. Operation Latchkey’s
fanciful blast names: Absinthe, Khaki,
Tangerine. What fucked a whimsy of physics
disrupted. And that hyperbolic Soviet
explosion—hydrogen, Tsar Bomba.
Under Indira Ghandi—explosives
radiated around plutonium like petals
of a lotus—the explosion coined
Smiling Buddha. Grins whirled
out from crowns of flame.
Flavors radiated. The last apple
grown in isotope free dirt has long been
tasted. The first test was named Trinity,
after Donne (Batter
my heart, three person’d God). Just
twenty-two days later, Little Boy
exploded over Hiroshima—fissure
where city was, flash-burned families,
witnesses say flesh fell easily from bone.
This is not my tragedy, and yet my public
education has told me that my life, as is,
depends upon those deaths, depends on deaths
ongoing, remotely. Flags incinerated, in America,
did they wilt half down their poles? Betrothed
unto your enemy. Oneness thunders, this is not
my tragedy, my breath from the air of American
terrorism, my breath depends on war crimes—
can I reject this premise?
Art answers: shatter,
balm, a millennia-long howl, a laugh that rattles
atoms. I have heard that artists waste time
with their iambs, time signatures, dabbing
paint onto canvas—mixing pigment
with linseed. Picasso said that art washes
away the dust of everyday life,
can art extract isotopes, bind flesh
back to stripped bones? Fruit flesh
must have tasted pure as snowfall
before that first explosion. Can art pry
the radioactive tang from an apple?
What, exactly, has this new Eve
bitten—image, sound clip, litany—
fraught with authenticity, or not,
who cares? The lost and possible call
from art. Genuine shadows dance
on genuine cave walls. Has Lascaux
remained untainted? Would a test of those old pigments
hint at our radioactive lineage? Linseed, loose lips
that flap about the age of well-forged paintings—
I am isotope laced, too. I am artifice and nothing
but, mothering nothing, breathing
the losses of far off mothers, sleeping through
rupture, offering nothing, no one dying in my arms.
REFUSING THE TRANSMISSION
On Sunday, I walk up historic Caoling Road,
arterial during the WWII occupation,
now a well-trodden hiking trail, peopled
mostly with elderly Taiwanese couples:
canes, cargo pants, handholding.
On my way up the mountain,
strangers ask me why I am alone.
That Saturday afternoon, I sank
onto the metro, emerged in the north of the city,
clicked through tiled courtyards into a stadium,
where my ad hoc Sangha waited
for the smoke offering to begin.
Red-robed: stadium lights spangle
naked skulls. In the mountains,
ferns carry on ticking. The Master
summons his lineage. Every mouth
is full of mantra, and still I want
attention. I have heard nothing
changes but our minds. Beside me, a child
makes shadows with her hands, her parents
attending the altar. She heckles light into spider,
demon, bird, dog. The Master enters
amid sonorous conches, cymbals. Arrhythmic,
the disco ball flings spangles over the waxed floor.
Buddha Shakyamuni's bones hover
somewhere inside a glass stupa.
I crane my neck but can’t see.
Our congregation scratches its plastic chairs
across the concrete, rattles its throat. We walk
around the altar, chanting mantra. I’m told
physics listens, but the forest won’t shiver
while I am watching.
An elderly couple passes me
on their way
up the mountain. I am not
the sort of muck from which
a lotus grows. I wait
in many angles of sun.
IN FOR THE EVENING
Home dwells in the under-eye paunch of a leader sending men to war, humanity’s shadow, the false choice of children here dancing as a consequence of children elsewhere killed, the shaft shadow-gathered or the shadow-gathering shaft, I can’t tell, the cannon’s black flaked off and fogged the idea of an evening in, until the thunderhead of munitions fills up the lower lids of his eyes, this leader with his disinterest in the lived experiences of others, and his disinterest thunders, there, in his bags, pouches with a bounty of artillery weighing them down.
Home gathers in history’s skin tags—our fearsome heroes raping, our fearsome heroes keeping people as slaves. America wears a manufactured incandescence, casually draped over abuses of spirit and flesh. In the dream, I can’t capture the leviathans’ images with my phone camera—they slide over and across one another, their scales knocking as their jaws unhinge to admit the unlucky or incautious—
who tripped, who was tripped? Soaked in dream-solvent, my identities separate. Women with slick hair and caged breasts, girls with gnawed-on cuticles and prismatic hopes, citizens with split ends, tricksters with quick vaginas. Home floats around its occupants, potted plants waft among plaster and scaffolding, rooms are thickened with wind gusts come through their windows. Home’s cell walls are made of money, of the thunderous disinterest of powerful men in the experiences of others.