Song of Meera
I read you my poems. You enjoy them. You fill my heart with gratitude. Together we share the ones I like, the ones I want to make better. Together we can save our drifting love, and we make it by chance, surviving by a hairpin.
I grew up across the street from you. You never noticed me. I was too young. Years later, we’re in New York, and I walk around the house in my underwear to see if you notice. I bet you do. It’s summer, and it’s hot, and the heat makes me crazy and I lie in bed thinking of you in the next room, wondering if you want to fuck me. I have nice legs, dark, smooth. I shave for you, and I have to do it all the time. You follow my legs across the room, peeking out of the corner of your eye while playing the guitar, or drinking from a bottle of wine. So much wine, so so much wine. I never say no to wine, even in the heat, especially in the heat, especially at night. I never say no to wine when we’re lying on the floor, when I know my lips will turn red and chapped with grapes and you’ll smoke your cigarettes hungrily and tickle my feet with the ends of your smoke. Malbec wine, Malbec wine. One bottle, two poems. Cigarettes, joints. Records from Nigeria in the1960s, Jamaicans at Studio One, Afro-beat and Afro-jazz. Traveling the world with our records. You want to run, you want to get a pair of wings, trade in the soles of your feet and fly outward, over the paramount sea and into the darkness. I want to see you fly, I want to see you go. Take me with you.
I find work, you don’t. I work for a publisher during the day, and for a filmmaker at night, and I take my voice recorder out onto the street when it’s time for me to play and I record all the voices that want to be heard on their own, everyone who admits they have something to say, or who has nothing to say and doesn’t care. You don’t. You wake up and you feel lost. You wake up and run for some coffee, and then you spend the last of your money on records and weed. But you write. You write so much you forget to eat and when I find you all you want is a plate of steamed rice and you’ve forgotten the taste of meat.
How much are you writing? Who are you writing for?
You find a studio and rent the space. You share the space with nineteen painters and the only one writing, you’re the only one, the only person scared, without a motive, who doesn’t have something on their hands, who doesn’t use their hands, who spends their time staring at the wall, at the ceiling, lost for measures and for words, lost for expression. Desperate for those memories that only come shooting forth when you’re head is on the ground and you’re closing your eyes to drift away to sleep, and you see that first shining star at breakfast, the room where you spent your first few tears, the stairwell in the countryside, the classroom and the afternoon naps. You find yourself there and you feel safe. You find your father’s moustache and you touch it, you hold onto the ends and he tells you stories. He tells you he’s safe, and that he misses you. You remember how much he believed in you and it hurts. You remember to close your eyes but it’s too late, your eyes are swelling and now you’re weak.
Why didn’t you let me find you?
You are a night watchman, keeping guard of the other souls, canvases wrapped in felt blankets. You watch the paint thicken overnight, you smell the oils dry onto the canvas. You put your fingers on the crease. You put your lips against the edge of your desk and you tear your mouth open with a jolt. You cut yourself, so many times. Nobody hears and I’m watching.
You hide in your painter’s cave and I miss you. I miss going with you out on the streets, running with records in our mouths, playing against the earth with our teeth. Censorship plays against the evening score. You found the soul, you tasted it. And when you tasted it once you couldn’t let loose again, dreaming away your days like the sad button souls the rest of us are. You can’t play the game, you’ll lose. It’s empty, you say.It’s empty and it’s gone.
You want me to leave. To center myself elsewhere, for my work, for my words. For my poetry to touch and strike to the bone. For my music to trickle on a forest fiddler’s song. I bounce with you, I bounce and fall into a poet’s lap. Fine on the body, fine on the mind.
You disappear. A few nights, gone, without the records, without the contour at the window, overlooking the city scars. The heat wave falls and passes into crumbs, eating away the nights with our relentless tossing and turning, hanging our tongues from the windowsill, begging for sight of an oasis. I’m worried. Ten days, you’re gone. Where are you? I know you and your people, and I’m afraid. I want to seek you out, to find you, to pick you from the little sludge hole on the street and bring you home. Why are you afraid? Why do you keep running? I can feed you, we can love. I can order you breakfast in the morning, bring your coffee to the bed. You can read tome from the book of wishes, the book of lies, the book of dreams. Take me to the water. Take me.
My writing takes another turn. I play the empty records. I play the ones you remember well. It’s not the same, you can’t go back. It’s finding fresh records off the shelf. It’s bringing the record into the day. It’s not turning back and doing it all over again, unless it’s your day off and the first signs of a winter coming to close. A space we can all crawl into and hide. My poetry grows. In longing that’s what poetry does, framing the invisible into words. Speaking on behalf of loss.
When you show up at the door it’s like you've been to war. It’s like I’ve been waiting and I’ve been dying. You walk in, wearing boots with steel horseshoes on the soles, pins cut into the steel. I hear you on the stairs. I see you at the door. We watch you come in, somberly, walking like you’re carrying a stick, like you’re leaning on another four.Someone chooses to read the news out loud. The others are gossiping about their ingenious lives. We turn our heads, to give you the floor, to feed you our attention. You sit quietly, smile, as though we’d agreed to do it like this. As though everything had been a distraction. A means to forget your disappearance.How do I mend your absence?
You take off your hat. You sit next to me.Someone asks, faintly, where you’ve been. A smile grows on your face, I’m no longer afraid, now I’m curious. You’ve been out searching, digging, praying, begging. You’ve been fucking your face into the dirt and running your lips over the country crumbs. You found that thing, and it looks brilliant in your eyes.
You look handsome. I tell you. You look excited. You tell me we need to talk. I finally smile, and I remember how long its been, and how a short time can feel so long, and how long time can feel. We go outside, to walk. We walk towards the water. You don’t say much, I listen, to the quiet, to your intention. Finally you say you met some people, and it took off from there, and you don’t know, but you had to keep going. What kind of people? The sorry kind, you say, good at living, bad at life. You smile. I take your hand. We talk about home, about traveling back if we ever could, if it’s still possible, if we can say the names. If things quiet down, you say, if the war drums were quieter. If the theaters weren’t shut down. If the enemy wasn’t out for revenge. If the hills weren’t overrun with mines, and the shores at a loss with all our waste. Would you ever go back? Do you remember the names?
You stare over the water, searching for your father’s gun. You talk about his life, his losing. You talk about your plans. You ask me if we share a home. I tell you I won’t go back. I tell you I’m hereto feel the sinking. I want to see America fall. I want to stretch my arms over her grave. I want to reach for the surface with my tiny hand, begging for the light of liberty.
I have a home here. Even though I’m shattered, scattered like leaves blowing in the wind. I feel my heart when I walk around. I feel the pulse of the city nerves, and the city people going softly to their deaths. I don’t discover what you found. I don’t hear from you and you won’t tell me. But I know.
You found the voice you’ve been searching for your entire life, and it calms and it haunts you, and it takes you away like a ship sailing out to sea, straight into the unknown. You throw away your book, the one that brought you over the waters. The one you said forced you to escape, because you needed to escape to know if it existed. You needed to escape to know if it would end. If it could end. And so you begin another journey. Saying what you can with the will of a nightingale.
You meet the prophet Jules. Everything takes the power of an industry. We lose sight of time, losing account of the damages.I find a clue to what you found. I find your little clues and I know what you were hunting. Crossing the ancient seas. Digging ditches overnight, riding the bus over Anatolia.
I find your notebook on the couch while cleaning, banal and trite in my common domestic life. I sit with you under the cosmic order, we reorder the stars and align them to their freshly gotten names. We sit, perched on the apex of opportunity. I find a word I don’t understand. I say it and it means nothing but it slides off the tip of my tongue with authority and lightness, gleaming in some shroud of linguistic harmony, I feel my body ache to the sound of the seven chords, I feel the room implanted with the tremors of our songs.
I say the word a thousand times. I walk the streets of Manhattan, dying a different color, shining in the filtered screens of the sacred. Bowing to the invisible. Longing urged for the absolute. I float over the concrete jungle, tattooing your flower to my lips, pausing at every window. I give you my scent. I give you my other life. We call something born. The custom of an auspicious love. The prophecy of a lunatic. Suddenly my poems fall, deeper into the cracks of sanctuary. I sit under the naked trees, and rest in the temple you gifted me.
I yell with my many mouths closed.
I can see.