I saw the body of the jack fruit fall. I saw the body of the hero
fall, his armor clanging on his body. Then the juice and sutras
of the little spell of emptiness or the greater discourse of seed
and ovary. I saw the place ransacked to find a substitute
for the succulents—the lychee, the peach, the flower
infolded in the fig—that give up their season, their nation,
[mango, American pumpkin] the famous fated beauty/terror
rift before the swoon of the future. I saw that luscious rot.
I saw first thieves then police toss that place. I loved
that part. This is the farewell, the flailing without the salt.
This is the brood in place of a bowl of fruit, the fret
in place of a hero’s rage in his tent before he remembers
to sleep, eat, regret. I saw how the light scratches into all
the surfaces, how the air agitates. Then the virtuoso work
of the one-celled begins to mortify and multiply the world,
as if it were doing nothing, so much done by doing nothing.
I live in a sorrow culture, a pleasure culture, a culture frothy
with grievance, yeasty with nostalgia. I live in a pre-war,
post-war culture where what is written is pulped and vectored
like a virus. Ashen light, clouds of sulfuric acid, signatures
of lightning: this could be the planet Venus where love is
adored and scorned, life is sentimental, life is 400 dollars
or more. It froths. It foams like a god in the ocean.
On this planet I saw flights of sparrows and hooded crows.
There’s gratuitous beauty, unwarranted, immoderate beauty
as an agent to oblivion. This blue, this curvature, this Rome—
a further way to forgo. Because no one else will, reader,
remember the things spirited away. Remember those hustling,
those surrendered, those breathing then not. The spectacle
makes us forget. I forgot the shape and color of the cup
and the tear-gas canister. I forgot about the occupation
and the middle passage when I saw the sea’s glint
and green muscly swells. Beholding is a kind of blindness.
History smells as the body becomes a bubbling godhead.
What separates the curds and whey? What allows me
to enter, through the small door, this faltering conversation?

More by Bruce Smith

Untitled [I closed the book and changed my life]

I closed the book and changed my life and changed my life and changed my life and one more change and I was back here looking up at a blue sky with russets and the World was hypnotic but it wasn't great. I wanted more range, maybe, more bliss, I didn't know about bliss. Is bliss just a rant about the size of the bowl? The trance was the true thing, no, the rant, no, the sky, now, that icy whiteness.

What Are They Doing in the Next Room

Are they unmaking everything?
Are they tuning the world sitar?
Are they taking an ice pick to being?
Are they enduring freedom in Kandahar?

Sounds, at this distance, like field hollers,
sounds like they’ll be needing CPR.
Sounds like the old complaint of love and dollars.
Sounds like when Coltrane met Ravi Shankar

and the raga met the rag and hearing
became different and you needed CPR
after listening and tearing was tearing
and love was a binary star—

distant bodies eclipsing each other
with versions of gravity and light.
Sounds like someone’s trying to smother
the other—a homicide or a wedding night.

The television derives the half-full hours.
Time exists as mostly what’s to come.
Losing also is ours…
I meant that as a question.

Is I the insomniac’s question?
Are you a dendrite or a dream?
Between oblivion and affection,
which one is fear and which protection?

Are they transitive or in?
Are they process or product?
Are they peeling off the skin?
Are they Paris or the abducted?

They’re reading something after Joyce,
post modern stuff that can be read
but not understood except as voices
rising and falling from the dead.

Do they invent me
as I invent their faces?
I see surveillance gray wasted
with bliss at having thieved identities.

In the AM, when turns to usted,
the sun clocks in to overwrite the night
with hues and saturations and the red
hesitates for a second to be incarnate.

Garden

I walked in the romantic garden and I walked
in the garden of ruin. I walked in the green-skinned,
black-skinned garden of Osiris who was ripped to pieces
and reformed and adored. I walked in that wet,
incestuous plot. Am I the only one who reads
for innocence? I walked in the garden of Amadou Diallo
whose shadow was punctured by unnumbered shafts
of light leading from West Africa to America where wallets
are guns. The chirp you heard in the garden as of two black
holes merging is what we called the soul. And when we cup
our hands to drink at his fountain we make the shape
of his skull. Am I the only one who reads for thirst?
I walked in the gardens of Houston where anole lizards
took their colors at the borders between terror and wonder,
dread and leafy glade, between silence and Sinatra.
I walked in Pope’s garden in Twickenham that rhymed
wilderness and picturesque, walled in and out the stunted
self. In the garden of ruin new growth from the palms
I read as artful, neutral. In the romantic garden the fascists
sing I love you, I love you not. Statues in the gardens
are wrapped in Mylar blankets and blue plastic tarps
like refugees. I read them for reflection. I read for nation.
I read for color and form. In the orangery of Guantanamo,
in the grapevine of Babylon, I’m lost. I went there for the buzz,
the fiction of silence and a better self. Dressed sentimentally
in a dynamite suit in the garden of dates and pomegranates,
I read for patterns of the blast.