I am unable to see. The attendant stretches
in his chair. The chair feels thirst below its feet
in strips of oak. The oak tears away to reveal
rows of red reef. We climb “out on a limb,”
wave a small flag at cars passing by.
An emergency in the woods—
pull over. Woman with a rag for a heart,
child with rags for hands. We have no money
to give you, we’re betting you’ll be kind enough
to pull off alongside the road. We pray our need
won’t turn against us—that in seeing us you
won’t shift the balance, start to hunt us down.
We make it to a delicatessen in the nearby
town that splits and bleeds in its hide
of brick and awning. We pass
red brick crawling with threads;
the tailors and seamstresses of metonymy
are out on break, huddled under
awnings. A group of teenagers plays
basketball down the street. Metonymy
cuts off their arms. The hoop closes into itself.
Lush the teenagers all over the bloody street.
Mercy that such strange luck could have
come their way. Mercy that the margins
were too narrow, we had nothing to gain.
We scoured the road for clues to the event
glimpsed behind the trees. The event
was stripped in our listening. The eyes
refurbished it—cell-like, a red chair.
Love, dry mattress with seed packed in it,
began to grow—sent out boughs, leaves.
Love releasing briskly white leaves, lustrous
hysterical white. Love hauled from a motel room,
thrown into ocean water. Love’s laughter
and dispersion of evidence. We did not
take our time. We filled our stomachs with souls
and forgot to speak. We were overwhelmed
by the thrust and intensity of action. Waves
hit us in the chest the blood fanned out
from the sternum. Softly spoke then
of a violence farther off—go find help.
Of a heel caught in the mouth of a snake
pressing up from the sand. Above windshields,
billboards, mouths closing around the light
driving above the road in crystalline packets.
There is a heavy wind and I cannot eat.
There is no end to the meal. The charge
leveled against us is that we are bodiless.
I was stuck in the sedan’s snow-like leather.
I was stuck with Kai and Dana on the roof
of the Savoy; the red and black bungalows
nearly swallowed us. I was stuck in a tank
feeding packets of diamond dust to thirsty
soldiers. Uncrossing our bones, subject to debt
and loose laws, if we’re not realized then at best
rehearsed, skillfully tuned, fanning. If a body,
then fan out the bills. It is impossible that we
should reach the roadside. It is impossible
the levels of virulent water shuttled into us.
We are not rough units of sense we are sand-
blasted. I meet fathers, meet daughters, sons
and mothers in lidless durations on the road.
We imitate the overpasses stretching above
the roads at night. A fan of eyes. Loss of
hope. Bounty. Unable to see. Thus poised,
we evacuate—roughly glitter. Everything
addresses you. The clouds ball up behind
your sternum. You are listening. You see.
A challenge is on its way. It wets its beak.
Because we are flesh, we glide then think.
A mountain of eyes, of rubber bullets,
pours through us, washes clean across
the pines. A wall of seeing passes through
with its shuffling laughter. There are pale-
red pills with pentacles stamped on them,
there are bruises on the road. We are open
to suggestions. The beaches are soft black.
We stall. We unfold soft economies, soft
residences. I am waiting for the answer
to the request the disclosure the spell
that could not listen long enough
to float up its beams of presence and say
this is reality. Laughter. How arcane and
does it not now seem you had a hand in it,
the rose-and-amber carp, a Venus or Adonis?
They restored us; they did us good. Suddenly
the bonds are broken, suddenly the arms don’t
work so well. Faint and rapidly drawing closer
to the disease—flag us down. Flay, remove
the roe, lay out the spine. The spine, scales, the
earth are fallow. Platitudes and folly. The earth
is impossibly young. I like to drink black beer,
get fucked up on boardwalks on black sand.
I would sell my name back to myself in
exchange for a ride, in exchange for cords
of order, for a face, clouds—nothing. Who
compels us with their restless batons? Where
is the motive? Where is the mandate? Outlaws
rule these hills. Angels rule these mountains.
We recall, looking up at the violence of spinning sky—
recall a violence that took place in sound alone.
Skilled, we see our arms unlock, souls trained
on fresh estates. We flee from mountains,
from pavilions building across the eyes
in thirst and scarcity.
This poem is from We Are Pharaoh (Canarium Books, 2011). Robert Fernandez lives in Iowa City.