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Flotilla, and: Narrow Hallways

From: Colorado Review
Volume 40, Number 2, Summer 2013
pp. 106-110 | 10.1353/col.2013.0045

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:


Moss takes hold
inside a tree before anyone
can see it. Green
is what it means to wait
between the bark and the question—
the earliness of matter, oh you
a shapeless mutter, the who
before bone or homeland.
To belong depends
on how you enter or
if anybody sees you.

Slowly the sea chews
all borders down to silica,
but not in time for the ghosts
who will not join you—
on this bus, the forever
detainees. The empty seats
you weigh down with anchors,
the only remainders
of the ships on which you tried
to enter. You’ll return
by air and not by harbor.

A body spelled backwards
grows heavy in this turning
of the light. A face regarding
elsewhere. What can it mean
to identify? When I look at you,
you look behind me. The sum
of our gazes, an arithmetic
that opens the blockade
behind my looking. The autopsies
revealed the guns were fired
at close range. The ghosts
go spilling through the floor.

To feed on damp and darkness
precedes the slow pilgrimage
to light. I think of the monk
who told me to hold my belief
inside an open palm. I think
of surface area—the sky
compressed to earth inside
your raised fist, how a moment
like gunshot, the grammar,
the problem of exposure—
an auxiliary sky
between the person and what happened,
the subject and what you saw—
a sky you won’t let go of.

You travel not so much by bus
as you do by window—the others
clothed in shadow, their shirts
the stain of night which is
the heaviest of cargo,
the sunken body, relief.

Some species of moss
will not die for lack of water,
or they will die so slowly
a distant rain will feed them.
When moss grows, it fills
the seams of memory
or what precedes memory
with its own footsteps—
the softest spear whose climbing
makes a cluster—as if we too
might walk like this, as if
each hollow grows a limb.

Narrow Hallways


Before the invention of glass,
time was not translucent. Mostly
it kept to itself, bandaging
the wounded, sleeping inside
the minerals that formed below
our restlessness.

Sometimes a volcano
spit out a fugitive star—it cooled
into obsidian, a window
we could neither repair nor
see through. But its arrows
taught us the meaning of distance,
the beginning and ending
of our skin, incision.

The body we could not see
was never colorless—ghel:
the root of amber, green or blue,
or may colorless be the harbor
of all ships except for red.
Inside the coming clouds—
sometimes we strung them
around our neck—is the memory
of sand, a narrow hallway
between the ocean
and the mountain. We warmed
our kettles on the cargo—
the ore we scraped from caves.
The etymology of glass,
an accident we dared not drink
became an empire.


A boy’s hand
is the hand of restlessness, a clock
unwinds your own mother’s face
to look outside the window, her youth,
the swing that reaches its highest point
and slows, behind the door
that covers her lips, the cloth
of memory, so slow
it appears to stay there.

Behind the door is a room
you won’t enter—it’s bare
except for one wooden chair.
If it’s the first or last day
of the year you will not see your mother,
for this is when she burns
the chair and builds another.
At night she bathes in ashes.

Your father laid the bricks
for this street until you could say
that you belonged here. The stones
who claim you live below you. Each one
flattens the ground into a book
whose words you learn to swallow.
A word is only so much ash
that rises from the street. But the clouds
keep shaking the pages
free from letters, the holes
we make in gravity, a body


You travel far to be a face
inside the newspaper. Every month
I cut out the photographs
and lick them so their edges
stick together. Our windows
break so easily. I want to see you

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