Ese Louie… Chale, call me “Diamonds,” man! —José Montoya He shined shoes as a boy for movie money, & I imagined how a shinebox might fit under the theater’s seat the way it fit decades later when I saw it in that dark beneath my grandparent’s old, sunken spring-bed. Later bulldozed, the Phoenix theater must have looked like those pre-war cinemas mostly lost now but documented in the photographs of Hiroshi Sugimoto —for which the artist placed his large- format camera in the last rows of spring-shut seats below ornate wall-carvings & baroque sconces where he then left the camera’s aperture open for a full feature. It is what we see of stars—all endings & untouchable beginnings: images, characters, & plot gone & only white light left. The cedar box housing brushes, rags, & tins of polish had its hinged latch & the handle that also cradled a shoe. My foot’s never touched it, but I wonder which brush inside might brush back, against the grain, one of those photos to extend the wet finger of projection over a boy, who looks up toward the screen like he looked up from a shine. Or is the figure to borrow from that other invention? Could I carve open a pinhole in the shinebox for its storehouse of inverted images? —as if revolutions were that simple an apparatus of optics to have the shiner ascend there to what shines.
One for tree, two for woods,
I-Goo wrote the characters
out for me. Dehiscent & reminiscent:
what wood made
Ng Ng’s hope-chest
that she immigrated with
—cargo from Guangzho
to Phoenix? In Spanish, Nana tells me
hope & waiting are one word.
In her own hand, she keeps
a list of dichos—for your poems, she says.
Estan mas cerca los dientes
que los parentes, she recites her mother
& mother’s mother. It rhymes, she says.
Dee-say—the verb with its sound turned
down looks like dice
to throw & dice, to cut. Shift after shift,
she inspected the die of integrated circuits
beneath an assembly line of microscopes—
the connections over time
getting smaller & smaller.
To enter words in order to see
In the classroom, we learn iambic words
that leaf on the board with diacritics—
about, aloft, aggrieved. What over years
accrues within one’s words? What immanent
sprung with what rhythm?
Agave—a lie in the lion, the maenad made mad
by Dionysus awoke to find her son
dead by her hand. The figure is gaslit
even if anachronistic. Data & river banks—
memory’s figure is often riparian. I hear Llorona’s agony
echo in the succulent. What’s the circuit in cerca to short
or rewire the far & close—to map
Ng Ng & I-Goo to Nana’s carpool?
I read a sprig of evergreen, a symbol
of everlasting, is sometimes packed
with a new bride’s trousseau. It was thirteen years
before Yeh Yeh could bring
Ng Ng & I-Goo over. Evergreen
& Empire were names of corner-stores
where they first worked—
stores on corners of Nana’s barrio.
Chinito, Chinito! Toca la malaca—
she might have sung in ’49
after hearing Don Tosti’s
recording—an l where the r would be
in the Spanish rattle filled with beans or seed or as
the song suggests
change in the laundryman’s till.
I have read diviners
use stems of yarrow when consulting
What happens to the woods in a maiden name?
Two hyphens make a dash—
the long signal in the binary code.
Attentive antennae: a monocot
—seed to single leaf—the agave store years
for the stalk. My two grandmothers:
one’s name keeps a pasture,
the other a forest. If they spoke to one another,
it was with short, forced words
like first strokes when sawing—
trying to set the teeth into the grain.