Monday, May 31, 2021

That Verb Again


What is a poem when it’s torn away from its date, like two graduation balloons I watched slowly ascend the Ko`olau? Would we rather guess, as if time were itself an allusion (to illusion). After visiting Kwan Yin at the museum, I ran into my mother, or at least my mother’s clothes, her shoes, her skinny legs. She would not have been my mother then, but as she fails to age with us, she becomes herself more clearly. The wool checked brown and white skirt, the long-sleeved cream blouse, the crossed legs. Everything a bit spiky: feet, breasts, nose, the pen she holds to never finish her short-hand dictation. She sits in the gallery corner, so specific, so unmoored. I kept returning to her, told a guard she was my mother. A friend on Instagram noted she was her childhood piano teacher. The specific is what renders us “universal.”Post-date that.

The date is a puka, no matter the text. Even if it’s dated, the times of day, the context of surrounding seconds (air temperature, wind speed, all it takes to fly) shorn away like post-pandemic hair. A hapu`u’s orange fern fuzz brings Trump to the rain forest. My phone will remind me when that was. If my iPhone tells me I have “new memories,” whose are they? Are they still my memories when they pop up as photos? Or do I recall only what I and my phone have taken? “Happy to donate what you took,” reads a sign at the museum. Give your memories for art. There’s a word inside the photograph, like DANGER, or O.

How we see is only angles. The little girl appeared, wrapped in a styrofoam cape. An angel. But she took it off before I could take the photograph in the room next to a row of shelved Buddhas, each wearing a tag around its torso. Not price, but place, but time, but marker of the Buddha’s lives before he was entered into storage.

The city fills up with storage units, hidden behind cream walls and orange signs. There you can still possess what you almost never see, like a shelf inside the chapel at the cemetery, or like memories that await their re-charging. If you plug your phone in each night, more memories will be available to you in the morning. The non-narrator in Joyce does not have name or character, is the one who sorts things into chapters. The non-narrator of your story owes much to Steve Jobs, who was adopted by a man who fiddled with machines in his garage.

Seek your origins so you can discard the muck between then and now. The start of it was clean, like ideology, but the so-called nuances are tar pits. Why do kids love dinosaurs, and not mastadons? What did the ice know to preserve the mastadon? Museum worlds are slow, like early retirement. No more roll to call, attendance to be taken.

That verb again: to take. Unrelated to token, except by concept, which is not blood but iCloud. Even less substantial than cloud, visible only in the information it spits out when called upon to do so. Use the analogy of food for thought, and cough up spitting and cramming and stomaching and no small amount of nausea. When “amount” is substituted for “number.” When “number” has little to do with the verb form chosen to hobble across a sleeping policeman.

They took aim and they fired. 68 mass shootings this month. One mother says her son was well-educated and did not deserve to be shot. I’m saddened by the allusion to his resume, as if less education might have gotten him there more naturally. The second amendment, Bryant tells me, was made to keep black folks down. Much like everything else. Surveillance works better at the end of an AK-47.

To take a life is rendered as giving it. It’s Memorial Day, and we thank the dead in ritual deadpan. Little flags pop up at the cemetery; I saw a heap of them in a bulldozer plow one day. Today I saw the grave of a private, bearing no flag. At half staff we see less of the outside, but more of the internal organs like pins on a digital map. Look on zillow to find the value of your elbow room.


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