4 études

I.

Oil is lighter than water.  I saw, on my TV set, the rescue ships treading the rich black surface, laying lassos of buoys to contain the contagion.  I saw them light fires and let the familiar stench of burnt oil rise up: the scent that made the twentieth century famous.  I saw the aerial photos of the gulf coast, of contaminated marshland, of stained beaches.  I broke down.  It was too much.

I write the press releases for an oil company.  Questions?

No, I did not plan for this coming out of journalism school.

Yes, I fall asleep to the smell of cars and images of the hobbling movements of oil covered fowl.

II.

The city smelled foul after a rain.  In a delicate ecology, each class of road contained its own brand of rubbish. The packed dirt roads were home to animal excrement and bygone political posters.  Youth ditched cigarettes and needles in the alleys.  The highway bridging the city and the beach was raised above the surrounding desert, and half-buried paper and glass debris collected on the slope of the embankment.  In the busy streets, waste water mingled with old food and styrofoam plates stamped flat from the tires of honking traffic.  When it rains there is an apocalypse.  I remember opening the door that night and the instant vertigo, it was unforgettable.  Thank goodness I got just one dose of the apocalypse.  J smelled it a thousand times.  We would buy her bread with sweet butter, but did her sweet butter taste like my sweet butter?  My imagination can’t build a facsimile of her world.

III.

It was sometime after the death of Pompey that Cicero went north, to the fields of historical Gomorrah.  Fields of red peppers pulsed in the divine winds (the same that parted the sea for Moses) and the old orator thought about history, never an idle task.  His perspicacity was so thorough that after finishing with the second and first centuries (before year zero, that is) his mind went on and saw ahead of time.  He saw the fall of Jerusalem, then the fall of Rome, the changing of the guard in Anatolia, spice roads to China, the rise and decline of serfdom, cities and tenements.  He saw long knives raised high and brought down, over and over.  But the violence was nothing compared to the thin red peppers cracking with the energy of nature and sin and history and religion.  And the capsicums they were small fry next to Julius (the prototype of a man).

IV.

ATTENTION —

jungle people,
animal sympathizers,
intellectuals,
children,
characters of myth (Greek and modern),
army generals,
varsity athletes,
Marxists,
workers at plants which manufacture office supplies,
lovers of art,
my dear ladies and gentlemen:

I was told to tell you this, and don’t you shoot the messenger:

Just beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated

Don’t wanna be a boy (you wanna be a man)
You wanna stay alive, better do what you can
Just beat it
beat it

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