from Stories from the City Beneath the City
A breeze. A tropical bird flown far from home. A desperate economy. Truck gears at a precise pitch. Wherever you’re going, you’ve been there again. Why do you write about the indescribable beauty of the thin lines woven across the skin of the pottery of your city? Why do you imagine the Mind of the mind that envisioned them the hand that inscribed them unless it was you or your double at some time in history? The house where the murder took place is closed up now and the family dispersed. Who founded your city became a myth in the shape of an animal whose shape remains changeless throughout time. In the piazza outside the 4th Temple a band of musicians plays throughout the afternoon. Having made your small daily sacrifice to the most simple god, the god of the moment by continuous moment where the water meets the land, you settle down to observe the whiteness of things or the sound of a spade made by your friend cultivating the soil across the road. Last night with the window open so you could see the moon to make sure that it still existed you read in the book how good, how pleasant it is to sit together. The fragrance of lemon mixes with the smell of tomato from the arbor inside the garden. One bird has abandoned the tropics for another paradise. A wandering singer knows only the one song about death but it’s possible that everyone has already made a pact with the eternal. You drink only water now because wine tastes bitter in solitude. Someday, you swear you will begin, or you will begin again. You would tell yourself a story to pass the time while waiting for the others to arrive in time for it but you are a little tired now, and stories take energy, so instead you give in to a momentary living in pure hope, for people who have exhausted the colors of their art forms for a time then wait for the seasons to pass to restore the necessary pigments to the harvesting grounds. The town crier’s song awakens you though at first you can’t tell if it’s just the calling of the hours that he chants or the latest dramatic news that might require your attention.
Game : Card : Window
If you keep playing cards it’s possible you will be dealt a card you’ve never seen. You will show it to your friend of many years even though you should never show your cards. After a good laugh together, you and your friend agree to put the new card aside so you can go on with your game.
When you’re done for the evening, you clean up as usual, but you leave the new card on the table where you find it the next evening, when you come to play again.
The Stolen Hour
They arrived by bus, the boy and his mother together. They got off the bus that afternoon without knowing anything about us or our village. When they stepped off the bus I couldn’t tell if the boy held the mother’s hand, or the mother held the boy’s hand. They stepped down the bus steps into the cool air of that spring afternoon. The sea is wrestling with the air, my friend had said to me at that moment, as we stood together there, watching the mother and her son. Well, I was watching the mother and her son. My friend, probably, didn’t take any notice of them. You know I hate that way of talking, I told my friend. The sea doesn’t wrestle with anything, it is just the sea. I have been to sea so many times, so many different ways, in so many different weathers, with so many different purposes, that I know that our sea has no intention and no desire. The bells rang from the church then, drawing my attention away from the mother and her son, momentarily. When I looked back the mother and her son had walked past the line of waiting taxis not refusing them but unaware of them so involved as they were in walking that way, together. They walked all the way up the hill toward the upper village then turned left at the last street before the crest, where the motor repair shop takes up the whole corner.
The child didn’t speak, she told us, until he was 32 years old. Everyone knew, she told us, somehow knew, that he could speak. Physically could speak. Vocal chords. Tongue. Teeth. Mouth. Even the mind for it. Especially the mind for it. They knew. Why wouldn’t he speak all those years? Why wouldn’t he say, “I’m hungry,” “I love you,” “I’m sad,” something. She said that some people who were around then took him as having a special kind of speech. His father always said, He speaks. We can’t hear him. His cousin said he spoke to her but everything his cousin reported him as saying was so obviously what the cousin wanted him to say that no one believed he actually ever spoke to his cousin.
Copyright ©2009 by Martin Nakell
Los Angeles poet and fiction writer Martin Nakell has published several works of fiction, including The Library of Thomas Rivka (Sun & Moon Press), Two Fields that Face and Mirror Each Other (Green Integer), and Settlement. He is a professor of literature at Chapman University.