I learned to keep concealed the peevish complaints about myself, a technique that’s overstayed its welcome. I’ll write one with golf pencil tonight on a scrap of paper and bring it to the altar to be burned. I can’t summon the right defilement to disavow. I’m flying with conceit— the ache lights me up from inside. I’m holding the blank square of paper handed to me at the doorway when we took off our shoes. Maybe I’ll write
about the 10-point rise in systolic pressure since my last physical, my fear of dreaming about dead relatives, the constant jolt I feel in back of my neck on the train platform when I realize anyone could catch me off guard, push me on the tracks (embarrassing). I’m relieved the chanting is in English and before rising from my seat I write: Anything my mind does to fuck itself and make me indifferent to love. I walk heel-to-toe in synch with the man in front of me, the candlelight fidgets as we approach the altar. All light
in this room comes from tiny candles cradled in our hands, and my palms flinch from the heat. My turn at the altar, I’m thinking about the odds I can catch a cab after the service—New Year’s the deadliest night for pedestrians, most walkers hit by cars drunk themselves. A senior Zen student, cross-legged, burns the paper I handed to her. It simmers a moment in the water-filled urn, smoke the odor of chocolate and basement musk. Here we go, burning land to make a garden.
Peeling Out of the Garage
I can’t taste the falafel when you swerve this close to the parking garage pillars. I’m sorry about earlier, when I said I’d take a cab if you wanted to stay. It’s hard to eat when you take the corners so fast. Drive like this—ride your finger and thumb along the rim of a glass. No one should strand you anywhere. Just don’t give me
the look that says you wish I owned a car when actually you’re jealous I’m chewing falafel, not driving. If only the goddamn garage didn’t dump you onto the one-way street we didn’t take here. Remember, I don’t hold it against you for owning a car
We’ll never escape them, so it’s about time we accept they were farmers even though there were cities to live in. They caught fish with bare hands through lucent streams. Their descendants (not us but those in the old country) make hoot and catcall at your girlfriend and it’s condoned the way we allow
the dying to flirt with their nurses. We can visit our friends in love in Paris who promised to find us a one-month rental in their neighborhood, smoke in the studio where they write with the front edges of their desks touching. We can vow to travel only where the Métro takes us. Then fly back to the States, where we pretend our ancestors
were famous. But, really, some of them—we can’t tilt the machine for a more favorable outcome— some no doubt were run over by their own tractors, even though they prayed for rain and rich soil to a shepherd god imprisoned in the underworld. I’m telling you, not everyone in Italy is a farmer, and people live in cities in Sicily just like they do in Pennsylvania, where it’s Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and everything else is farmland.
-- Tony Trigilio’s newest collection of poetry is Historic Diary (BlazeVOX, 2011). Recent poems are published or forthcoming in American Letters & Commentary, Denver Quarterly, FIELD, The Laurel Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Seattle Review, South Dakota Review, Sou’wester, and Spinning Jenny. He is also a co-founder and co-editor of Court Green.