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  • Flotilla, and: Narrow Hallways
  • Brent Armendinger (bio)


Moss takes holdinside a tree before anyonecan see it. Greenis what it means to waitbetween the bark and the question—the earliness of matter, oh youa shapeless mutter, the whobefore bone or homeland.To belong dependson how you enter orif anybody sees you.

Slowly the sea chewsall borders down to silica,but not in time for the ghostswho will not join you—on this bus, the foreverdetainees. The empty seatsyou weigh down with anchors,the only remaindersof the ships on which you triedto enter. You’ll returnby air and not by harbor.

A body spelled backwardsgrows heavy in this turningof the light. A face regardingelsewhere. What can it meanto identify? When I look at you,you look behind me. The sumof our gazes, an arithmeticthat opens the blockadebehind my looking. The autopsies [End Page 106] revealed the guns were firedat close range. The ghostsgo spilling through the floor.

To feed on damp and darknessprecedes the slow pilgrimageto light. I think of the monkwho told me to hold my beliefinside an open palm. I thinkof surface area—the skycompressed to earth insideyour raised fist, how a momentlike gunshot, the grammar,the problem of exposure—an auxiliary skybetween 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 busas you do by window—the othersclothed in shadow, their shirtsthe stain of night which isthe heaviest of cargo,the sunken body, relief.

Some species of mosswill not die for lack of water,or they will die so slowlya distant rain will feed them.When moss grows, it fillsthe seams of memoryor what precedes memorywith its own footsteps—the softest spear whose climbingmakes a cluster—as if we toomight walk like this, as ifeach hollow grows a limb. [End Page 107]

Narrow Hallways


Before the invention of glass,time was not translucent. Mostlyit kept to itself, bandagingthe wounded, sleeping insidethe minerals that formed belowour restlessness.

Sometimes a volcanospit out a fugitive star—it cooledinto obsidian, a windowwe could neither repair norsee through. But its arrowstaught us the meaning of distance,the beginning and endingof our skin, incision.

The body we could not seewas never colorless—ghel:the root of amber, green or blue,or may colorless be the harborof all ships except for red.Inside the coming clouds—sometimes we strung themaround our neck—is the memoryof sand, a narrow hallwaybetween the oceanand the mountain. We warmedour kettles on the cargo—the ore we scraped from caves.The etymology of glass,an accident we dared not drinkbecame an empire. [End Page 108]


A boy’s handis the hand of restlessness, a clockunwinds your own mother’s faceto look outside the window, her youth,the swing that reaches its highest pointand slows, behind the doorthat covers her lips, the clothof memory, so slowit appears to stay there.

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

Your father laid the bricksfor this street until you could saythat you belonged here. The stoneswho claim you live below you. Each oneflattens the ground into a bookwhose words you learn to swallow.A word is only so much ashthat rises from the street. But the cloudskeep shaking the pagesfree from letters, the holeswe make in gravity, a bodyupside-down.


You travel far to be a faceinside the newspaper. Every monthI cut out the photographsand lick them...


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pp. 106-110
Launched on MUSE
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