Evolution of Danger
I'm the one in the back of the bar, drinking cachaça, fingering the lip of the glass. Every dream has left me now as I wait for the next song: Drag and drum. They'll be no humming in this room, only fragrance of sweat and fuel. To make the animal go. To make it Hungry. After that there is Thirst. * I danced in the border town until it wasn't decent, until I was my grandest self hitchhiking, my slim arm out like the stalk of a tired flower, waving, silver rings catch the headlights. I'm not sure what I wanted as we rode on his motorcycle where Chinese signs blurred past, flashing red, then blue, and I breathed in the scent of fish and plum. My hands found their way to his pockets as I rode without helmet, careening toward the cemetery, the moon dripping light onto avenues of tombstones. * If the Tunisian black market was hidden within a maze. If I couldn't find my way, I asked. The wide eyes of the boy who led me to the Mediterranean Sea. If I took his kindness as a version of truth and stood posing for a photo in front of bicycles leaned against the sand colored walls. If I arrived at the center of the market, women in black muslin sold glazed tile on blankets. When I bent down, the men surrounded me. If they asked for money I had nothing. If they threw their bills around me, I recall the purple and red faces crushed on paper. * Attempting to cross the border with no passport, no money. The contents had fallen out of her pocket as she ran for the bus. She made promises to the officers, bared an inner thigh until their eyes grew wide, until they stamped a sheet of official paper with tri-colored emblems. The man's fist was large though it twitched as he pounded the stamp onto the translucent page. The little money she had inside an orange handkerchief tied to her hair, coins rolling to the ground as she fled. * Perhaps it was chance that I ended on the far side of the earth. Atrocities of our entanglement not on the bed but beside it. Using our mouths as tools for betterment, for seduction, for completion. The vertebra twists into a question mark to conform to another's. In the Patanal, the cowboys steadied the horses in the barn, the animal's labored breathing, the sigh as the coarse brush worked through the mane. The owner's daughter learning to move her hips as she practiced her samba before the steaming pot, and radio clicking, and lid drumming. Of the men I've known, you were the most steady, reliable one near the window killing mosquitoes, gathering cool water to press to my scalp. One-sided heart I was then. Selfish one. I wanted everything. Macaws flew past in quick flock, pushing outward toward the earth's scattering filament and mystery. * I don't ask myself questions anymore (but it is not a question you ask yourself), rather it was born, rather that the statement was peeled like a film of dirt, (rather the words were meaning) wrapped inside a scarf, stuffed into my carry bag, rather that the camera caught all of it (the hunter and the kill). When danger itself was restless, (it had four legs and it ran with speed & vengeance). Though there was no purpose, (though the past had nothing to do with the chase now). This grand state (pumped from its own engine of blood), centuries of evolution, first as a red-eyed embryo, then reptile, then mammal, then man, pure racing, push of muscle and tendon, the tongue loose and dragging as the body made its way forward. Each time more powerful, a new version of waking until the species grew great wings and lifted.
Copyright © 2010 by Tina Chang. Used by permission of the author.
Born in 1969, Tina Chang was a finalist for an Asian American Literary Award from the Asian American Writers Workshop for her debut collection Half-Lit Houses. She is the poet laureate of Brooklyn.
Date Published: 2010-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/evolution-danger