Volume 5: DISAPPEARANCE

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Barbara Henning, "An Arc Into the Bougainvillea"

Barbara Henning

from An Arc Falling Into the Bougainvillea

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The poet is wearing a pink tee shirt and a turquoise bandana tied around her head, reading a philosophic essay on the poet and critic. Every particular is an immediate happening. At night we walk home from the Boulderado. Barbara, what were you going to say? I could feel you move toward me and then you went back. I have a raw tickle in my throat from eating cheese and corn and from talking too much. We pass under the locust trees. Three poets in white hats. Which is which? The one who begins with ideas, the one who begins with sound, or the one who can’t stop telling a story. Strange dream yesterday morning. A big white rabbit with a long tail. I’m watching it, losing it, forgetting it, catching the tail and pulling it back. Then on the bus I’m trying to get back to the house to put the rabbit in the right place. Lots of wrong turns. The plants I put into the earth, mother of a million little secrets, are populating like night and day.

*
The cowboys scare me because they demand obedience. I like jazz swing better—each of us has the possibility of a solo. At dusk, I unravel the hose and water the cacti. So hot that a bunch of kale cooks inside the car in fifteen minutes. Men on tv in a ring beat the hell out of each other. With fear of poverty, it is difficult to live in the poetic order. Lightening. Doves cooing. Palm trees swaying. Mocking birds. If you mock, you will be mocked. Yesterday I tried to remember Louie Armstrong’s name. Four hours passed and suddenly I was humming What a Wonderful World and his name popped right into my head along with news of torrential rains, streets flooding and body counts.

*
Then the sun comes out and the clouds travel quickly somewhere else. I remember cutting through campus once late at night in Detroit, heading over to a boyfriend’s house. There was no one outside and it was a cold icy night. Frightened to be out there so late and all alone, I ran as fast as I could until halfway across the mall, I met George in an old tweed overcoat. He wrapped his coat and his arms around me. Then he never came back again. I tell Anne about some guy I like today and she looks at me and says, I really don’t understand anything about what you’re talking about, this is so out of my realm of understanding. I’ve slept with two men in my entire life. Both of them asked me to marry them on our first date and to both of them I said yes. When the sky is the sky, it’s like a blanket over the sea at night.

*
In a yoga class in down dog. Om nama shivaya. On one leg, the other parallel to the floor and one hand on the floor and one pointing to the ceiling, flying, breathing. Down into child’s pose and suddenly the woman’s face from Law and Order floods my mind. So what if she killed him I think. The sound of a helicopter overhead. Shifting plates under the city. The smell of sulfur. I inhale, concentrating on my breath and rising up into ardachandrasana again. Om nama shivaya. The moon, the tv and me.

*
Last year during the drought, doves and pigeons were falling over dead in the street from a lack of water. Today, both doors are open and a cool breeze is passing through the house. Then it starts raining, one of those monsoon downpours with giant drops filling up every hole in the yard and the entire street. The trees and bushes are ecstatic. Into or out of. The old woman whose car got stuck in a wash on the far eastside, now a foot and a half into the soil—she’s not happy. And in some parts of the country, the water rushes away with all of our technology and our appliances, dishes, spoons, papers, pillows floating off into the bayou. Gambling and lack of direct action always leave us scrambling at the last minute. After the clouds pass into the mountains, I take Anne to physical therapy, old people rolling in and out in wheel chairs, hobbling around with canes and walkers. Thin skin, sores on legs, arm and faces, sleeping in their chairs. Yes, suffering, yes, stink, yes, frightening, but in fact not all that different from a disintegrating butterfly wing or the waves rushing away with our financial woes.

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