At least one of the panes in the warped and brittle frame was cracked enough to need a newspaper. You never bothered to replace it. From the desk, you looked across a small patch of gravel at another rowhouse, another upstairs window. Sometimes, a face would appear between the curtains, then vanish. You didn’t know it, but just a few years before a poet had died just a few doors up the street. The Greek Revival is brittle, and brick. The room is yellow and small and has a ceiling fan. On the wall, there’s a thriftstore reproduction of Goya’s little boy in red with all his birds and cats, next to him, a postcard of a coffin.
On a major thoroughfare between a porn theatre and a filling station, it was just past the central cemetery and the bridge over the railway lines. A young communist lived in the room across from yours. He worked in a hotel. You had no job and no prospects but, for the moment, didn’t care. You’d sit together at the brittle table in the kitchen, all dark browns and orange, smoking, and listening to cassettes of sixties pop tunes, with small cups of coffee, now and again a beer. You had a couple of books and some traveler’s checks. Day after day you’d wander the sunburnt city, surprised, over and over again, at how often you got lost.
From “The Little Light that Escaped”
But I remember.
The scent of sun and ash, a taste of resin, blame. Summers across slanting floors and smiles like sickles for thoughts of flight. Abandoned streets and a feeling of sinking. Makeshift holes not far from the sea; closer in, the cicadas’ hum the whirl straight up to twilight’s hem, brittle wings which brought no breeze while all the rest were busy drinking, swallowing the searing-eyed, searing-tongued prophets and seers, and jaundicing into the yellow silence of the years. The tonal monotony of the land.
Days passing, just out of the reach of the sun. Days passing, in a basement room, watching the arc of the sun through a small square of sky. Tides of no turning. Blocks of light mosaiced while the slow days tasted of mineral, copper, rust.