Nocturne

Flight by night of the bicycles. It could be a modern Italian overture, or a sixties popcorn special. I snap my T’s and milk the sentence from my head—a truant, lost in the funnel of winds.

Down these longing, silent streets, acorns have appeared. I won’t be here to see them fall. Falling—yesterday, and my knee pressed bloodied on the sidewalk; above, young doctors ran to class. Tonight, your mouth lost between reverberations of a band ignored, spelling three words that made you shake.

Brakes pull up in the wide-bladed grass. The acorn is in my hand—this and everything else separates your world from mine. You argue they have gum trees in California, and that all western worlds are the same. But Gondwana has left Laurasia, and tessellations grow further apart.  Leviathan! You cry to the grackles that roost, Leviathan, give us the sea! Small faces peep behind mist and glass; we are expelled in untenable language. Twelfth and Chicon, don’t leave me like this. There won’t be time for apologies later. I’ll follow you, you say, it doesn’t matter where. In the dark, I can still see mirages.

To the kitchen once more, to the safety that will come. There, we can challenge Monet’s dawning skies with cider and barking pups. Rental houses are haunted by people’s best years. All undergraduate’s rooms look the same—ironic obscurities and one set of sheets. I sway this country’s history from damp, rotting floor all the way to your bed and blanket. In silence, we cup warm slices of streetlight through the half-opened blinds. There is love in that act everyone can agree on.

© October 2012

 

Image: Benoit Paillé

http://www.benoitp.com/

From an Aeroplane

ImageHave you ever seen the city scape of Mexico City by night?

It looks like an electric reef – stuck, and swaying to the earth.

 

Image: Peter Alexander

http://www.peteralexander.com/pa/?page_id=169&nggpage=2

Tagged

Soft-Serve

“The hands of an angel!”

He sprays

Gobulating lightly

In droplets

Over crystal veneer.

Tanned branch twitches

Fingering lightly now,

This paper straw,

Into paste, pulp,

Paper mache.

 

This chance encounter today,

What a buzz!

The third hour

After lunch digestion.

A bank, currency exchange.

No gold band,

Was the first and last thought.

And as the notes flew,

Other exchanges are made.

Her age did not show

On that perfect amber wrist.

 

It was the eighties,

She tells shyly later, bourbon bursting

The buds of her mouth.

You remember how it was.

No-one appreciates gold watches the way we did.

“I would have put you in Switzerland, Italy or Japan.

But I’ve got to know,

What are your breasts like?”

Ice, it tinkles.

Two round scoops,

“Like soft-serve, baby.”

© August 2012

Maternal

I’ve spent a lot of time wondering when I’ll get old.

When it is not just subtle rolls

But folds, in my stomach.

When I will still have my sass, but not the ass

To pull it all off as cute, or something.

 

I could keep on moving.

I could just keep this frantic shift

From one country, to another.

But nothing is getting older than my own mother.

Who sits in her home looking at the sea,

Who has lived only once in the one place,

And only bore one of me.

 

Everyone says we could be sisters.

At this, she always smiles,

I see something flash behind her eyes

And she looks at me,

I gaze back, entranced.

There is no space between our stare.

I could be sick from the similarity

Both our faces round and fair

I could go mad, questioning

Does she want to live through me?

 

I talk at her of my toils

In love, sex, boredom, life.

I read her out a message from a boy:

He says he thinks he loves me.

She screams with joy, clasps her hands to her cheeks

“I feel just like it’s happening to me!”

I laugh, I wonder,

If this is the closest I’ll ever get

To another person.

© February 2012

WE DON’T DIAL 911

A Dutchman and three Australians borrow a car and go to a shooting range. It sounds like the beginning of a terrible joke. In some ways I wish it were. I have always been strongly opposed to America’s gun laws, and even more so since moving to Austin and having listened to many of my young, left-wing friends talk anti-war but still advocate their right to a gun. Interesting. Also interesting is that at my school, the University of Texas at Austin, a ginormous and wildly proud institution of more than 50 000 students, there is a continuous battle by gun advocates for the right to carry concealed handguns on campus. Also interesting that on the 6th floor of the library where I slave away my evenings, a gunman in 2010 pulled out a AK-47 and let fire on a popular walkway, before turning the gun on himself. Last week another shooting took place at a different Texan University, luckily this time outside of Austin. Have I set the mood nicely? Good.

The main point of this story, however, is that despite all of this a few days ago I went and shot 6 bullets from a handgun, making me even more of a rampant hypocrite than I already was. It was Pim (the Dutchman)’s 22nd birthday, and what a better way to have an American birthday than shooting shit for the first time. Of course I refused the invitation, as I had done many times before, giving my regular spill on pacifist political correctness. Pim replied simply, proposing that you can’t have a proper opinion on something until you’ve experienced it. Applying that logic to this situation didn’t quite run with me. But the renovated “well you can’t have a proper opinion on write about something in detail until you’ve experienced it first hand” did pretty nicely. So there: my defense.

Anyway, the story: at this point in time, its 41 degrees outside and we’re about to walk in to the building. We’re far south of Austin, standing outside a huge warehouse, which is painted bright white and red. Nice and sanitary. The Colgate colours. And hey, it’s called Red’s Shooting Range. Red’s sits on the outskirts of a deserted shopping complex that has obviously seen better days. Better days being the 1980s. We are all childish excitement and burning energy until we pull open the heavy iron door. Everything is windowless and dim. An endless abyss of khaki, camouflage, and gun-babe postered walls. Framing the babes, the walls are lined with more guns and knives than I’ve ever seen in my life, with a few bows and arrows for good measure. I’m not talking the humble few in that hunting shop on Elizabeth st, I’m talking hundreds. The air is thick and heavy and it’s quiet, except for the punctures of sporadic gun shot, coming from somewhere I’m yet to pin point. I realize I’ve been holding my breath since we walked in and I look across to Alex (another Australian), who’s got the same perplexed feeling all over his face that for me is turning towards fear.

I’m surprised how packed Red’s is for a Wednesday afternoon. It’s all men and lads and boys and dads. One father is helping his son hold up a rifle that’s more than half his height. In a brief moment of relief I notice a woman half hidden behind her man. She’s all giggles and screams taking photos of him, who’s posing for the camera behind another beast of a rifle. My relief quickly reverts back to the disturbance that has been sinking deeper inside me as each second drags by. We move to the counter and my nerves are so shot to shit that even the snapping of the woman’s gum on her tongue is making me flinch.  I’ve walked in to the aorta of all that I hate about America, and there’s some guy asking what type of handgun I want.

“First timers eh?” He smirks to the other server.

The images and words of all the countless stories of American shootings start blurring my thoughts.  I realize I’m not alone: the others are quietly discussing the most recent gun scare at the new Batman screenings.

“Sorry, I can’t do this” I tell the guy behind the counter.

“You gotta, it’s an experience like no other” He drawls inattentively. I wonder how many times he’s had to say that. Everyone else is signing the required forms and I remind myself again of the story. Legitimate defense, legitimate defense. I sign, put on the protective ear and eye wear and follow them into the range.

I knew gunshots were going to be loud, but nothing can prepare you for an echoing corridor of ten people firing right next to your ears. The sound of each shot is gone in an instant. It comes and goes so fast that by the time you’re aware of what has just happened, all that is left is your nerves electrocuting your entire body and a heightened sense of alertness that I hadn’t felt since I was 11 at my local swimming competitions. I felt horribly alive. No one talked as the guns were loaded; there was only one reason to be here. Time took on a new motion in that hot, heavy air. I’d stopped jumping at every shot (which was happening on average three times every ten seconds) and seemed to be in a distant trance. Pretty soon it was my turn. I’d watched Pim earlier load his gun with a methodological calmness that probably came from experimenting on the hearts in his lab (ed. Note: despite this description, he is not a psycho). I had no such grace and the bullets swam in my sweating fingers. The magazine was loaded, I looked at the gun, there was nothing left for me to do but shoot. So I did. And I felt nothing.

Leading up to this moment I had experienced the most intense mixture of emotions I’d had in years. But as soon as I pulled that trigger, no single emotion registered. All there was was the tremendous sound, and the force of the gun as the weapon sprung back in my hands. I shot again, and again. The sheer power of this thing was so engulfing that for those seconds, my existence seemed to amount to no more than the gun itself. Was this how it felt in the act of murder? A momentary lapse of humanity as the gun takes over all senses? I don’t know what I was expecting to feel, but to feel absolutely nothing is still the greatest shock. I walked away feeling numb, and took photos for the others. Being behind the viewfinder seemed to match my increasing detachment from the reality of the situation very well. They loaded, re-loaded; I shot a couple more times. I don’t know why.

We ran out of bullets, paid silently, and left the warehouse with hardly a word. Everyone had a similarly confused look on his or her face, except for Andrew (the third Australian), whose smile reached each ear. Seated back in the car with the A/C blasting, I seemed to finally let out a breath. We drove home and proceeded to have a party on the roof. Ten bottles of wine later and wildly drunk, we sung to the Texan sky and its shooting stars, as the day’s somber activities finally slipped from my mind.

I want to call this new side of American culture that I was exposed to, something like: “the seedy underbelly of America”. But it’s not an underbelly. It’s a part of this country’s spirit. And whether it is condoned or not, it’s a stone each American must carry with them. For some, first and foremost, it’s a right. A right to security, a right to be your own agent. To take the law into your own hands, to serve and protect yourself, and your country, without relying on a government body to do it for you. But it’s also something more than security. Something I can’t quite pinpoint. I don’t know, and I don’t think I really want to.

So now I can say that I’ve done it, and I know I’ll never do it again. My opinions haven’t changed; I’m just even more confused by humanity. But now when someone asks how it was, the thing that scares me the most is that I’ll tell them what I felt was nothing. Somehow, this seems pretty close to the root of the problem.

© August 2012

 

All photos by Pim Oomen 

http://pimspired.com/

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