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  • Her Makeup Face, and: Blues with a Feeling, Cassis, and: The Bathers, Cassis
  • Garrett Hongo (bio)

Her Makeup Face

L. T. H., I. M.

There were years at her bedroom vanity, daubing onmakeup, fussing with clips and brushes, a clampfor eyelashes, the phalanx of powder jars and perfumebottles assembled like the glassy face of a wave standingover a box of Kleenex. She'd paint on lipstick,then blot the excess with a fold of pink tissue pressedbetween her lips, pulling pins and a net from her hair,grabbing up her purse and high-heeled shoes,almost ready to step up the tiered flights of City Hall stairsand the long day's work bossing the typists and Clerk IIs.

How long was this her life, composed or grudging amidstthe clatter of machines, the pouches and memosthat swelled like a tide of incoming blather each dayshe stood at her desk, commanding Stella Sue from Memphis,Helena from Jalisco, and Kay (short for Keiko) from Boyle Heights?How many times must she have thought of flowers floating in a tree,archipelagos of plumeria buoyed on their branchesas a soft, onshore wind brought the scent of the seato the subtropical pietà of a mother and her newborn,wrapped in blue flannels, in her arms as she sat on a torngrass mat on the lawn by the browning litter of bloomsbeneath a skeletal tree by a bungalow in Kahuku?

In her last illness, while lying comfortably in her bedin the semiprivate room of the care center in Carson, California,her mind and lifelong rage sweetened by the calm of forgetfulness,she said she wanted to go back, that it was "a good place" [End Page 95] and she'd like living there again. "Ripe mangoes and guava tasteevery day," she said. "And everybody knows you your family bess."

She spoke in pidgin like this, without demands, no fusilladesof scorn nor admonishments like I'd gotten steadily since childhood—the torch of discontent that had lit a chronic, rancorous façadehad doused itself in the calm waters of a late-life lagoonthat caught her in its tidal fingers and captured her moonlike faceso that, when she gazed upon me those last days,she did not scowl but smiled, her tyrannous visagemade plain, beatific without blemish of pain or artifice.

Blues with a Feeling, Cassis

It's a hazy day and an onshore wind blows in from off the Mediterraneanin Aeolian puffsthat billow the straw-colored drapes I've drawn aside for this Dufy-likeview of pleasurecraft, Zodiac boats, and double-deck tour cruisersoff to the Calanques and their narrow bays of glittering Byzantine blues.A battered fishing dinghy and what looks like a Chris-Craft nearly collidein the channel,and I can only consider the solace of waters shading from celadon to cyan.

It's a better discipline than calculating my equity balance on May 28, 2005,than rowing in a flat scull cutting past the fearful prow of a dread future.Seagulls peep like Erinyes wearing white linen suits, sky-jockeyingand sailing in the graying zenith of woe.I'm just a dharmakaya short of True Enlightenment, my Self and Soulparalyzed between Baldo and the blues. . . .

What would the Householder of the Azure Lotus sayabout my life without consolation?Issa about my having lost nothing but the dew of morningto the engines of weather, these benign winds of nonchangefrom the Cyrenaica and Fezzan?

I make a fretful drama of sinecural worries, the orchestral churn of caregalloping over the currents in my blood like that frantic outboardon a boat half past the horizon and too far out for rescue or secure return. [End Page 96]

The Bathers, Cassis

It's too hot to think much about the ochre cliffs of Cap Canailleor the moan of a tour boat's engines grinding through the aquamarineof the Mediterranean.I'm inside measuring the width of the white ribbon of the wakelike a long skin shedding itself from the exoskeleton of a Zodiac boat...


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