Monday, January 17, 2011

20th Century by Yarrow Paisley

We advised options, but
the woman bore her child to term.
It drank her breasts
and ate her cunt to the fill of its belly.
Its belly was a ball that was always empty.
This round ball spun through
the spaces of the world,
itself a space that eliminated its fill.

When I wasn’t working, I watched
with fascination.
The child did not seem to notice me, but was this
my imagination? The woman lay
in bed all day and night,
exhausted. I saw
the plumes of her cigarette sometimes, but
only in my mind was I allowed to envision
the lips as a smokestack and the body
as a factory
that transformed raw materials into
mostly waste
and just one product, a round shiny ball
that spun through the universe.

I awoke to its cries one night, its metallic
wailing. My pity overflooded me.
I went to the window and
saw out on the lawn
this little round ball of a child
above the grass. Its pleas rose
in a steam from its body.
The steam dissipated by the time it reached
the second story,
my story.
I watched for twenty minutes,
then returned to my mattress,
pulled the blanket to my chin,
stared at my eyelids
on which were painted twin globes,
misted and portentous in the mist.

I must remember the woman who bore
the child. She is the hero of this story.
Her breasts are crumpled sacks now.
Her cunt is a bloody gash.
We all know the reason.
Someday, the child will appreciate my efforts.

In each hand I held an orb,
each orb shining, each orb
an eye that could not see.

What was there after all
to be seen that night
but a single child that stood
ten feet off to the right,
and ten feet to the left
a naked woman whose lips
were deformed
to the shape of a
diseased branch on the tree
outside my childhood window?

I made my fingers as a vice
and crushed each orb
to make a juice upon my palms
that tasted of an ancient spice.

All was dark now -- I could not see
to right nor left. But I heard them wailing
as even if bereft of pity
they would continue on alone without me.

But both remained nearby
all night
and I refrained from asking

In my mind I see them clearly, and that
is quite enough sensation.

We circled each other
on that hill,
he with a blade of silver
in the moonlight,
while I carried no weapon,
but my hands were
curved in shapes of
the Orient scimitar.

Our feet sank in the loam,
and fixed us there, we
threatening each our lives
with a knife
and with air.

His head was in eclipse with the moon.
Somewhere in that black round face I knew he grinned --
and sudor dripped,
collected in a pool above
his lips.

Planted in the earth,
anchored in the age, we stood
each to our turf,
monuments of rage.

As I held a girl in my arms,
a trembling girl frightened by the
sudden appearance of
the moon above a stand of
where no moon before had dared
to appear, I recollected an
earlier time in the history of
the world:

the day a veil of skin parted
to reveal one healthy infant
and one dead twin:

no one could decide
which should have lived
and which should have died,

but every one knew
what was done must do...

I told the girl when her
weeping abated
not to worry, for soon
the sun
long enough having waited
would rise
from the earth
and cast down the moon.

In the sky we saw that morning
a doubled sun, one blazing
the other blazing none.
I, on my knees, looked with the rest.
Some were on their knees, some
stood proud, their backs buttressed
by an empty west.
The left-hand sun was set soon
to collide
unto the right-hand side. “Fry!” grew
the chant. “Set fire to the sky!” My neighbors
overturned their cans
along the curb, danced among the bills and peels
their last earthly dance.

But by the afternoon things had settled down.
The second sun
had joined the first, making only one
to shine upon our town.

Author bio:

Yarrow Paisley writes fiction, usually, and his work has been seen in 3rd bed, Web Conjunctions, Sein und Werden, and Denver Syntax, among others.

No comments: