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Callaloo 25.3 (2002) 734-735

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Six Sketches:
When A Soul Breaks

Michael S. Collins

1. The spy

Years later, the house paid for, the church his rock, he was caught selling
his nation's secrets. The sudden silences, the sudden executions overseas
now had their explanation. A woman whose husband's cover
he'd blown tried to shoot him, failed, shot herself. Interviewed
in jail, he pleaded frustration, money problems, office politics:
"It got so bad I thought, 'the enemy can't be worse . . . '"
When a soul breaks
There's no outward sign at first.

2. The hooker

Deborah, gorgeous, sixteen, could not decide which one was worse:
going home to mom and school and giving up Larry John, or selling
herself to buy a place as his woman. Arguments shook her, as politics
shake a statehouse. But a touch from him drove them into the seas.
After the knife fight with Mary Jack the Bear, Deborah, interviewed
about her rival's death, said: "I was freezing. Her blood was warm cover."
When a soul breaks, they say,
The devil is its lover.

3. The poet

The poet, plotting suicide, planned to be found once more, to recover.
She'd written of her resurrection, and expected nothing worse
than a triumphant convalescence, Cerberus left whimpering, herself interviewed
anew by some severe psychiatrist. How could she have foreseen the selling
of her death, the secrets cracked like eggs, the word war across seas,
the perverse success of her plan to rout defeat, and mold the muse's politics?
When a soul breaks
Triumph and folly are in the mix. [End Page 734]

4. The musician

The guitarist builds a city of air. With sidewinding feedback, pitch politics,
he drives democracy past the speed of sound. His blues riffs uncover
the will of the people: his overtones guide it arklike over seas. . . .
And born of doubt, that ark carries all: swindles, acid hits, power trips, worse-
than-flimsy philosophies—but also what the heavens are selling:
infinity in a gracenote, fulfillment rising up, the Mystery interviewed.
When a soul breaks all hail
the voodoo tune that is debuted.

5. The philosopher

His reason rode the centuries, probing beyond good and evil. It interviewed
the universe, plunged past creditor and debtor and mere politics.
But syphilis rode along, a monstrous link back to buying and selling,
to shyness and pride that left only a pain-drunk prostitute to cover
his hurt. As the books spilled out and idols trembled, the disease grew worse,
devoured his mind, plunged him in madness deep as the seas.
When a soul breaks,
Accidents crush philosophies.

6. Manias

Greed and skill can make a tulip worth more than the seven seas
or bring a storied bank crashing down, or topple a much-interviewed
CEO, leaving him rich with his word worth nothing. But worse,
some say, is purity, bright in the strongman's heart as the moon, shining politics
in place of gold, and sending thinker, poet and singer running for cover—
purity that leaves spy and pimp trading favors where selling

is banned: Purity of the moon-bright man of politics, interviewed,
selling again his old guerilla triumphs, and saying, "tighten belts! It's worse to cover
our battles with foreign credit, or throwbridges across protecting seas."
When a people's soul breaks, they say,
the ruler raises his fees.
And when a soul breaks,
the devil is its lover.
And triumph and folly are in the mix
when a soul breaks.
But there's no outward sign at first—
until a voodoo tune gets debuted,
and the ruler raises his fees,
and accidents crush philosophies,
and souls break.


Michael S. Collins is an assistant professor of English at Texas A & M University in College Station. He has published poems, articles and reviews in a number of periodicals, including Callaloo, The New Leader, Parnassus, and Salamander.



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