Patrick Clark, Seth Wilson,
Roberts Houghton &Rome
28 October 2010
Week 1 Collaboration
Luggage: 4 Arrivals La Frontera
I. Woven Plastic and Daggers
Thick mangrove and cypress knees, crossing the Atchaffalya basin, black waters thick with their own desire, I drifted into a sleep. My head a soft rattle on the hermetic windows of the cross country GreyHound. I wanted to wake up on the moon.
I came to within something more vast than I could have imagined. Everything was a variation on beige, punctuated by circles of deep green, almost like orphans the Mesquite trees of the Texas hill country avoided intimacy. I remember thinking how something could live in an ocean of daggering sand, cruel and emaciated. I felt empty of the humidity and thick narcotics of the Delta. I felt exposed. The passengers on the bus had changed as well, as if we had crossed some line during my sleep, a line that changed color, but also something else. Backpacks and duffles were replaced with inventive grocery sacks, and woven plastic threads of red, green, various blues, and yellows. These rode in laps and between feet calloused and exposed in plastic sandals. Why all this plastic? It was everywhere. Cloth had become plastic, black into poured copper. White fused and isolated. English, and southern twang Spanish. The sounds of the passengers eddied around my head, and I began to lull in this language of confusion, and incomprehension.
It was like this for miles of desert, until the bus rolled slowly to stop on the edge of the highway. Two men, stern and blanketed in green and aggression boarded. Stopping at each passenger, exchanging papers and phrases. People, some of them, were waving mint colored sheets, folded and dirt creased. People were looking around, at each other, away from others, no one’s gaze settled on me. One of the men in green nodded at me, and I raised my eyebrows. Let me see your bag he said, he said more through his steel eyes than his mouth. I motioned towards my bed roll, upright between my legs. I was hoping he wouldn’t take my knife, the one my grandfather had lifted from a dead German’s hand during the war. It had and eagle or something on the handle. Or the small bag of weed I had hidden in my sock.
After the two Border Agents had made their way through the alley of people in transit, one of them shouted something I didn’t know, later I would recall this and know he had said vamonos. Three men with rolls similar to mine rose as steady and habitually as the sun. They left with the agents behind them. The bus continued on, and no one was talking. I had no idea what had happened.
II. Kissing the Cactus
Las Cruces greeted me with snow
the first time we met.
She greeted me with a vagabond
outside of my motel room
who waited in the cold for me to get up
so that I could buy him breakfast—
to the consternation of the waitress at the diner
who told me I wasn’t the first to get taken in by that fool.
The second time we met
she sent a swarm of bees to intercept me
outside of El Paso. I mostly killed them with my windshield
except for two who came in through the window
and made me take an impromptu pit stop.
Undeterred, I stayed, rented an apartment,
formed a neighborly bond with a man who’s
pride and joy is a near exact replica of The General Lee.
Soon she killed my car
and now in the mornings she’s been greeting me
with quail coveys, goat-heads, and colorful bus stop sun-ups,
then ending the day with an uphill trek behind the Pic Quick
through the bedrooms of wayward old men who spend most nights
drinking, chatting, and urinating on cacti—
so I guess things could be worse.
If I had to describe this town
in one word I’d say: aquarium.
Sometimes I feel like a fish here,
and not in a bad way, but
sometimes I feel a giant peering at me
from behind the Organ Mountains,
and sometimes I want to hide from her
in a skull or a miniature treasure chest,
or maybe in The General Lee,
but I don’t, because I’d miss the scenery.
I hear that here and there are roadrunners
though I haven’t seen one yet,
but I have seen those quail, and I did steal a cactus
so I guess things could be worse.
III. Las Cruces, NM
In a year, I’ve seen
more rainbows than I’ve seen dust
storms and black people
At times, my reflection—on
Pine-sol mopped floors or
in Windexed mirrors—confirms it’s only me in Walmart.
Right now, I stand with
arms stretched out between Taco
Bell and organic
My palms are damp from
their ‘beef’’ they dish out—sister-
in-law and brother, Virgin Mary and God the Father
This Friday night, I
smell sweet scents of heaviness
from her hair I sniff
and inhale more air and steadily
like how lungs, oxygen, and music charm
King Cobras to dance, her heavy pepper-minty fragrance
draws me out of bachelorhood
This season, the sun
overcooks the redness of mosquito
bites, which heightens cancer
I have a high tolerance for all three cancers:
Mosquito as a cancer: they spit Southern plasma out like how
grandmas spit out tobacco chew into a government-issued
silver can of peanut butter
Skin as a cancer: Sun exhausts itself by trying to burn
a skin that has already been burnt alive, dead, in closed spaces, and
in nature, coliseums, metropolitans, and skyscrapers
Summer as a cancer: Las Cruces, NM’s heat has nothing on
Grandma cooking lima beans and collard greens, pig feet for my
father and pork chops for the rest of the family, buttered creamy macaroni and cheese
for everybody, honey-dipped biscuits—plus the added sugar grandma
commands me to splash into her leaven for the children because
grandma doesn’t believe in a child’s necessity of candy, Uncle Ben’s rice—I prefer
with butter but others add sugar, and the lemonades, Kool-Aids, sweet teas, beers,
wine-coolers, pops, and water pitchers all cool grandma’s kitchen but,
with the heat from her kitchen, the southern humidity, the summer heat, and at least
one family feud, we all breathe indifferently to prevent creating more friction
in order to lessen the heat as chemo lessens the weight of cancer.
IV. Land of Enchantment Blues
I was twelve when I first visited Las Cruces, rather, Mesilla, because it was a historical place to go, which to me, meant, it looked like they hadn’t gotten around to tearing anything down in awhile. It was always Mesilla Valley This, Mesilla Valley that, they were always having wine festivals and jazz festivals and art festivals, so much snooty shit I almost hit the roof every time I heard the name. I will say this about Mesilla, or Cruces, of wherever it was my parents drug me that day, at least the damned light didn’t fall so hard on you, hard and yellow and like a wall just coming down all day and giving you headaches and nosebleeds. Who needs that shit? No, New Mexico light was soft, it just sort of settled down on you. At least that was alright. I didn’t get the Indian stuff, I mean, we beat them right? And now they make all these beaded things in China and we pretend to like it. Really, come on. But it’s historic, everyone would say. I’m fifteen now and this doesn’t impress me one bit. The McDonalds on the way out of town doesn’t make it better either. But there’s history here. Hell, there’s history at home, 100 years worth of plowing it over in the same rows year after year. My grandma says the Texas Rangers used to have a camp where my High School is, and they used to tear-ass around shooting bandits and hanging horse thieves. Can you believe they built a High School on top of that? And here, all these adobe buildings, where people have probably been selling old lady clothes and Indian Jewelry since whenever. That’s history right there, only the boring survives to live another day. At least they still have the Billy The Kid store. Now that’s historical. But they shot him. God, another turquoise bracelet store, someone shoot me, please. I can’t take anymore history.