Coach of Black Water
Now I have a right to silence.
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
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.