The 2River View 16.1 (Fall 2011)

Virginia Slachman

Coach of Black Water

Now I have a right to silence.
Tanikaro Shuntaro

I can't read anymore. The words slip into my mind though I hardly notice
their coming. Today I read about the death of Lorca, again, how he was taken

from the house of Louis Rosales. It was a mild day in Granada, a day like many others,
sounds of the cantes and quejios falling over the abbey and the gardens of the Sacromonte.
                         At least I imagine it so: death simply appearing among
                                                     the usual events: the old women in doorways dressed
                                                                 in black, the white houses of the Albaicin—
                                                                                the Falangists came, loaded

him into their wooden cart. A schoolteacher, two banderilleros. The light
must have been startling.
                              I picture this over and over having read it many times. How suddenly

the world was vivid. Thirty-eight, one bullet for each and the hand that made the bullet, I think
                         of that man. They may be buried by the olive tree,
                                                  a twisted old thing, raw rivulet-barked, turned
                                                  and bent. There was a time this would have meant
                                                                           nothing. The white-washed caves in the hills
of Valparisio, Andalusia his pilgrimage, his singing, how they danced through the streets

and orchards, and the fire of the duende. If I tell you I hear
               the flamenco's stiff heels explode the floorboards . . . In another book, a man dies
                                        in a furnace though his key is in the door. You can't be betrayed unless
                                                       you are first loved. I want to know the words

that slip through the mind when the duende is no longer a shadow.

                                                       Each afternoon, a child dies.
                                                       The dead wear mossy wings.

So many things are true. Oysters have small, three-chambered hearts and colorless blood.
               It is the irritant trapped in the dark
                              interior the oyster refuses; in the flamenco, defiance. Lorca was

                              Gitano in a land of gypsies, one of them. When he stepped into
                                                       that rough cart he saw a world
                              he'd invented. In a coach of black water I will go . . . his death slipped in
                              unnoticed as words to the mind.
                                                                                The oyster secretes nacre
                                   to obliterate the offense, each layer a lustrous dark
                                                       shining—precious, unwearied, wordless.

Map of the World

Geese in the field, likely a hundred. Heavy black and taupe bodies framed
               against this gray day, the field a packed mass of dirty snow.
                                   I think how the light in L.A. is not
                                                                                          so oppressive.
                                                            My grandfather tacked a map
                                                            to his cabin wall, traced his travels
                                             on a paper world.
                                                                           In Aspen, Starr Peak
                                   rises 14,000 feet—My neighbors, gear folded like bunched
                         wings, hiked all day up its angled slope
                                        for one run down
                                   years after my grandfather inscribed
               his map, retracing his routes—out from the west coast and back
                         to the east—an orbit repeatedly made. I'm losing
                                                  the names of so many things—
               that tree in the park, for instance, stripped of its towering branch
                         etched with a wrenched scar down half
                         its body. We all see what
                                   we need to see
                                             no matter the light.
                                                       Describe the world: this was
               Adam's task, but who recognizes
                                   what he meant? The geese
                                                       woke me in the night
                                                                      out on the pond, a mile
               from here. They circled the sky as my grandfather circled
                                                       the globe from the bowels of a freighter,
                                        year after year. Once he fell down
                                        an elevator shaft,
               a dark tunnel in air surrounded by night—How can we tell
               intention from chance? Those boys tunneling through air
                                                       that close to the peak: Is it as simple
                                                                                     as not enough light?
                              These geese should be elsewhere. My grandfather's map
               was long ago folded, packed in his black trunk;
                                        after his blindness, what was the point—those wavering
               lines he'd drawn each year
                                        suddenly reduced to
                                                       cuts on a great rind of fruit, no longer
                                                       traces left by a life. My tree
               will thrive in the midst of the park come spring, leaf out around its
               damage. Adam named an unrecognizable
                                                            world. We compose its wounds.

Virginia Slachman is the author Inside Such Darkness (Tiger Bark 2010). Slachman, former poetry editor of Aspen Magazine and associate director of the Aspen Writers Conference, teaches at Principia College in Elsah, Illinois. contact