The stairwell is empty. Her steps ricochet off the cement. Around her, the air is filled with impossible odors: foxglove, traces of some unnamable chemical.
“This door leads to another door, leads to a disinfected room.” But this can’t be right. She has arrived at a balcony—where the wind carries hooded birds safely through the city’s fog.
Leaning against the guardrail, she scans the skyline: the tar roofs, the distended gutters. She is searching for something—a spire? a capstone? a brooch?
But the scenario is all wrong: in apartment windows, she finds nothing but maps of unknown cities—behind her, nothing but the sound of steps ascending the darkened stairwell.
What a joke—opening these wooden doors
as if offering the palm trees & sandpipers
a shot at understanding the patterns created
by repeatedly exposing the body to the sun.
Through unfathomable accidents, I arrived
in this seaside town, where beige liquids stream
between my toes & where seagulls with felt eyes
whip like boomerangs through the waves.
“Surely, we must just be getting started,”
you say, shattering a conch against the ground.
“Surely, there must be diamonds or at least
phosphates hidden beneath our feet—surely
there must be some fragile word trapped,
struggling like a ghost crab beneath my tongue.”
Ah, I try to retain my innocence in this age
of crime—but for some reason, I am bleeding,
I am perpetually sick. Sputtering, I enter old hotels
& find the rooms vacant.
I find strands of your hair clotting in the drains.
When I look into the mirrors, I see my face
tattooed with vowels; I see your gun in my hand
& a small, silver rat watching me from the door.
Standing on the third-floor balcony
where the policeman died
with a sapphire lodged in his mouth—
you observe the tracks
of this punched-up city: the sidewalks
that expand after four a.m., the mezzanine
slicked with piss & littered with photographs
of a girl’s lips.
In front of you, branches sway
like loosened veins—your own hands
outline intricate maps.
Quietly, the streetlights go dark.
You become suddenly aware of a small stone
resting on your tongue—& a camera
hanging around your neck.
Yellowed lights effervesce like champagne
as the girls remove their pixelated masks.
Here, you arrive, you tremble—your ghost adores
the noises & the chairs that adorn the room.
We give ourselves to this campaign,
embrace the flowers scattered on the ground.
You lead me through the aisles—you ignore
the proverbs ringing like encores in your ears.
Exile? No. We enter the scene—in front of us,
the stage is empty, the curtains are drawn.