“…the ideally infinite arena of ideally infinite exchange…”
—Lindon W. Barrett
Tallying Song: Huck or Tom
Feb. 4, 2008, like summer for a day. We made love too fast, out of practice but we get up from it like it’s all the time. My feet hit the wood floor, the one window that opens and the fan work a breeze around, 80 degrees. 5:35 p.m. light persisting, our bathroom in cream tiles and the long green vines of the Pothos more beautiful when they think I’m not looking. When Katrina happened, when the levees broke, when Katrina happened, when the levees broke the voice I could make said, Look at you, you’re not even tryin’ to get a Camry, you never even tried to get a Camry, so now you can’t get out. Of course I’m angry I don’t have a Camry either.
Let’s be plain about it. It’s a filthy winter here. We’re one day back in Dallas from Manhattan where I got sick, a snot that hugs the germs of my brothers and sisters tight in my head. I take all of us, the entire possibility of a democratic republic, together in my sinuses to the Blockbuster to get a movie. Inside, a little girl corrals her baby sister away from the jawbreaker machine, pulls her by the hand to a framed poster of a white infant wearing headphones and looking surprised, jig-a-boo. A fancied object of terror. She
points at the poster and forces a Ha ha, loud, didactic. The little one mimics. My friend said, Don’t say the year. I want to know if there’s a documentary on Nina Simone. In the information age do such easily answered questions stand only or, principally, as a sign of the interrogator’s buffoonery?
I had summer with my baby today. Cornel West talks about the niggerfication of Jim (Youtube it). He says there is a moment when Huck tears up the letter, when Tom tears up the letter, when Huck tears up the letter, and refuses to believe or be party to the niggerfication of Jim. “It’s a moral moment.” I remember a white man on the tv, when Katrina happened, he said, A lot of people got out, the roads were full with early evacuees. So when I translate this into the language of Camrys, should I tell you about it? I said my indecorous line at the tv most times it showed people standing on their roofs. Ha, ha. We got summer today. I don’t know anything, my black friend has an Irish name. So what, sometimes the signs don’t work? To find the Loa, to pass through the earth, I can only tell you about sympathies. I wouldn’t let you at the jawbreaker either. It was sweet to make love, affirm life. There is dignity in hard work, there is dignity in a Camry.
Windows smeared in our own dust
if you want to come in here
you’ll have to get through us
Tallying Song: 2.10.2008
You’ve gone again, this time to Mexico. Come back love so we’ll have us a day, drink a fountain Coke, go driving. Our apartment has oranges. The day was warm, the paper came, somebody left a Bud Light bottle on the grass, Sunday drivers with good tires passed over the patch of new asphalt on our street – loud, quiet, loud.
I woke from a dream of old men sharing a kitchen table. Their beards were long and clean. The light from the dream now takes on this light; the table from the dream now takes on this paint.
A friend sends me a link to the Los Angeles Times homicide blog. He calls it his paralysis. Everyone killed is a black man or a Latino. Everyone doesn’t mean anything. I send him a link to a tally of people lynched between 1900 and 1939. Can you help me tell, maybe from the names, if the list is as inclusive of difference as was the pastime?
Scared about the economy so I go to a training day at the university. When I walked the dog in the early morning the air was dry, I could have been walking us into El Paso. At a seminar on teaching African American history, the professor makes a distinction between his field and that of race relations. Lynching is about race relations, he says, while history is the story of agency. He says, Adjust for inflation, multiply the value of just one slave ($500 on the low end) in the antebellum American South by 100 and you arrive at a mid-level bmw sport sedan. This season it’s the 535xi, stock. Or you arrive at two years of private school tuition or one year for two kids. Or a good down on a good house.
Tallying Song: 2.11.2008
I can imagine becoming familiar with the sedan’s cabin. We could go for a drive. The days are getting longer, which you like.
Twice while I lived in Austin:
I park on a residential street facing my office building,
once a home for Confederate widows. Complete
devastation. I step out of my car and a white guy is there,
asks for money. I like I can afford it. I like my country.
He snatches the bill from my hand with precision. His
flourish is to look into my eyes. He bores a space there, I
suppose, where I can go fuck myself.
A man and a white woman come up to my car asking
for money as I pull away from the video store. I bark
the ungrammatical people
Stay with me love, no more vacations; we’ll make what’s ours.
Tallying Song: 2.13.2008
You come home soon. I’m sorry you have to leave Mexico, that’s how much I love you. This is American History: the ladies of The View are not The Golden Girls. Your alarm sounded the theme music of some NPR morning show. Yahoo refused Microsoft; the new Defense Secretary said something to everyone.
Legal Aide Northwest Texas
Dallas Fish Market
Chase, Gulf States Building
Pegasus Credit Union shade
the plaza, leave it cold, protect
winter. New lofts above
an old parking lot
pigeons walk their own lines.
I came to Main and Akard
like an idiot looking for Allen Brooks
and the people who lynched him
March 3, 1910.
A parade on the next street, Scouts
sons in front
fathers in back, slogan banners
as sails, fake blood.
Three carts wrapped in sheets
are topped by tin replicas of mosques
(finely tooled) and
one crib. Men and boys
then rub their faces.
I am handed a flyer: Let us tell our fellow Americans the heartrending story of terrorism in Karbala in a manner they can
On this day of Ashura
cell phones coordinate attendance, everyone’s
digital cameras (slice sound) and chests sing
an old man keeps time
softly on his thigh
and a boy of some retardation
about three years old, approaches
lays a hand on my knee.
I give him my mother’s smile.
The New York Times Magazine reports on themes in cross-cultural morality: an aversion to harm, a desire for fairness, loyalty to the group, deference to authority, a preference for purity against defilement, and just look at the
allowing its leaves.
Back home Tyra Banks is doing a show on counterfeit purses to help us tell the difference, she cuts open a real Chanel
– please don’t
do that again.
David Dorado Romo writes some 300
Mexicans lynched in El Paso between 1910 and 1920
5000 if you count the skulls with execution-
Tallying Song: By 1900 1/6 of the Cotton Market Grew Within 150 Miles of Dallas
Allen Brooks, dead at 68
Main and Akard, still here. Well
John this is a token of a great day
March 3 – a negro was hung
for an assault on a three year old girl.
I saw this on my noon hour.
I was very much in the bunch. You
can see the negro hanging on a telephone pole.
You step from the white light of the terminal wearing your winter coat in a shape suggesting summer, announcing some step you must have taken, now at your new age, toward becoming the child who rests her head against the glass of a car to see the world in a passing lull that makes of it a pure screen for her mind. I bend down to kiss you.
My mother is a few months dead.
People step into the frame
what it means goes away, then comes back a little.
Loud, quiet, loud. Form is the lair of the hare, to go inside, pass
the earth by the shape of its
skull, find the Loa.
Everyone wants to own their own suffering.
Any of the ways
a word may be inflected
Old Saxon: giskapu (pl.), creatures.
Old Norse: skap, condition:
I am 34
my bank account
keeps growing slow
the dog is safe, healthy
we have jobs
nothing to stop us
children on the street think things of us
in the shape of my feet I see the stamp of my family
no afternoon storm we can’t make about fun
in study of each other five years
we step into
a soft sun
the trees and shrubs of our neighborhood
are dusted by
What do you want to do now?
Mockingbird takes power line
It’s a Saturday
the sun looks warmer than it is
I’ve rolled down my pinstripe oxford
to full sleeves
slipped into my cardigan
a macaroon in
flowers in our neighbors’ yard
about their plaster fountain
I dress in the styles
of the rich
but the slowness
is every body’s –
dye the earth,
I remember once, further west than here
what a great, big, purple mountain!
The stone of it screaming out
to the desert cracking ahead: “Generations forget each other!”
Tallying Song: As Far
New York City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-Queens) wants to ban the N-word.
“W e still have people who participated in the Civil Rights Movement. We still have people who are descendants of people who were hanged. I personally know people who sat at lunch counters, who walked on the Edmund Pettus Bridge... There’s been a major disconnect between young people and the struggle and pain of the Civil Rights Movement.”
Things that will be forgotten: the hairstyles we attempted, the right kind of paper to print our photos, the cars we rode in. Let’s go get a Coke. Look at Gettysburg, surely the time will come for 9/11 reenactors. Our son will be the fire, his best friend will be sirens, that one lady will be the dry air, another guy will be the Atlantic.
By what means and bodies do we make extensions, change ourselves, I mean in the real world, which is the one we make? The hare pushes the earth with its skull, which, some say, gives a little to accommodate the earth.
“ how can I write/” Jorie Graham asks, “in a lyric poem that the world we live in/ has already been destroyed? It is true. But/ it cannot be said/ into the eyes of an other,/ as that other will have nowhere/ to turn.”
Either it has all been destroyed or it is all present. The empty trees, the clean and healthy pigeons. Any of the familiar variations on my mother’s name.
I was given things, materials. At thirteen I found myself in a house on the rich side of town with older kids listening to N.W.A. ask us: “Makin’ more in a week than a doctor makes in a year/ So, why not call myself a nigger?” I was given some images and recordings of Dr. King. I was given an E.T. doll and made sure it was in the frame of my 4th grade portrait. I was given the chance to make some money; I was given people who ask for it.
Now that you’re home we wonder about the type of cedar out the window. Japanese maybe. Ugly thing with temporary wings flies in and is caught between the window and the screen. Write something about spring coming through.
The tree is no type other than the singular one that grows through this patch of soil beside this pier-and-beam foundation and responds to this air: Dallas sprung from the minds of men, drivers and their playlists down Ross Avenue each at the freedom of their weekend, it’s the type of tree that answers the things that reach as far as here.
Later we find a book about trees.
Farid Matuk lives in Dallas. This selection, from This Isa Nice Neighborhood (Letter Machine Editions, 2010), has also appeared in 6 x 6.