She had stood too still for too long in the clothing store window, and found that now she couldn’t even shift her weight to the other foot without frightening the customers, who weren’t necessarily paying close attention but who did know the difference between art, which is immobile, and its pale imitators that insist on moving, bulging, sagging, wrinkling – looking for life, so to speak, in all the wrong places.
It was always the same April that came around to raise up the same clumps of daffodils and pry their petals open for the same refreshing breeze, I figured the old dog statue might be thinking, ignoring for a moment the new hairline cracks the winter left behind and the fresh flakes of paint furring his haunches.
An amazing coincidence, really, she said, that in Spanish el bis, the encore, and Elvis, the singer, are homonyms – not to mention that in English you can rearrange the letters of the King’s name to get lives, Levis – which he sometimes wore – and evils, which he battled in his own bloated way, enthroned on a golden crapper.
After a while, even sunflowers grow tired of craning their necks, and that entire motley field ended up with heads bowed, facing the dark and unremarkable earth, so that they did not see the bear come out of the woods to eat and smash and roll on his back for delight among the stripped stalks.
With the clumsy puzzlement of a minor prophet carrying two smooth pebbles in his mouth, he was unable to explain those spectacular failures of the eyebrow to rise in the east and the toenail to metamorphose into something with an insatiable hunger for tunnels.
But what faith hasn’t taken its cues from the living body, I wonder, thinking of bell tower and stupa, grotto and lingam, remembering labyrinths engraved on the pads of fingers, twin doves in the thighs, the spine’s vertiginous ladder: smiling now at the scandal of it, how all roads led to a rose tattoo just below the navel, that stingless bee.
A herd of goats stood in the branches of a thorn tree as if to take the place of leaves they had eaten, the shade they had banished to their tough stomachs, the perpendicular light that must have tasted a bit like dust blown from the cover of a book too large to fit in the shelf with all the paperbacks, a book of photos meant to be paged through and nibbled at rather than actually read – a book specifically designed for guests such as I am now, sipping my coffee, stroking the hairs on my chin.
What all these hip bohemian kids are too young to remember, he told us, is the way one used to see black shawls and dresses in every square, black in the long coats of the police, black ties and belts and suspenders on men in ordinary restaurants, black rooks and lines of ants that came to pick everything clean and carry off the sugar, black even in your one maybe glimpse of garters against, you know – the very word, let alone the stark sight, remained off-limits still, I think, for two or three years beyond the death of that son of a whore, the president-for-life.