‘While Josh Sleeps’

I am a system of oppressionand you’re a Scorpio, with Austincoasting toward us as the shark, though allwe can really see from hereis a polar sheet of clouds, the world not round at alllike we’ve suspected, nor in possessionof the manufactured edge, but flat aloneand going on forever, nothing up hereto walk across or screw a headboard to,and I fear we won’t be ableto maintain this level of honestywith each other. People are listening. Depressionis the normal body, just the giant thingstrapped to G-forces, so hardto lift one’s head, and in the final analysisI hate a cup of tea: it always tasteslike roots to me, and rootsare so proud, headed for the hidden sourceslike scholarly experts, moving always furtheraway from what they feed. You knowI didn’t want, along with the earthwardmermaids, to honor my wayonto the beach, pectoral fins evolvingtoward the better flagof hands. Rather than that earth,if we should break into it, I’d like to fall into the seafrom here, grow tails with you, returnto where fish robs fishand the big snails moveponderously, alone as automobilesand far from grace, as we were told,the word salvation not invented yetnor the forfeiture of sound. I don’t knowwhat I mean. Microbe and harness,the ocean will not invent us, and 1) as I have said, honestyis important; 2) in stature, yes, you are a verytiny person, and yet, 3) you know how it iswith some sharks: youngerin testament, emergent conditionsin the water park, but neverleave a tooth behind. And so it isI fantasize that I’m a smaller personon airplanes, though history teaches usthat bodily confinements—the tray stand, the void—sometimes lead to thoughtand vision. Josh will tell youif you ask him it was William Blakewho walked outside one dayand saw a tree, teeming with angels, and I thinkBlake may have even thoughtthey were a pretty sight. I wouldn’t have been so sure: hardto tell an angel from a ghost:both of them repositioning chainsin high branches, both extremely dedicatedto craft, both with the heavenly lightstreaming out of their mouths, both utterlyand horribly dead. In truth I don’t like flying at allbut not for the usual reasons: I think they should make flighta more terrifying experience, the employmentof glass bottomed planes, or pilotsreciting the Lord’s Prayer, other bitsof inspirational verse, flight attendantswho pretend to hear me sayI have a bomb, come and live with meinside this bomb. But mostly I feel so vulnerablewith all these strangers lookingat the back of my head. I wish I had eyesback there, but also a living nose, and a mouthfulof working teeth, though this of coursemakes me wonder how it would feelto kiss two women at once,on both sides of my head, with the regular mouthand the back-up. You would besuch a conduit, the women sending messagesto each other through your skull, and sinceyou were the implement, you would never knowif they were telling lies about youor just speaking intimately, like sisters,who dig their tunnels through a hillfrom both directions, meet in the middlewhere they hold hands and collect grubsand earthworms in a Holly Hobby lunch-box.But I like it best, with the single mouth,when the woman misjudges the spacing a bit,then cracks into your teethwith her teeth, like a shark hitting the cage, and this all well beforethe underpants and the nicotine patcheshit the floor, you and your partner the known centerof the named tradition, the body’s mystery unanswerable(sweet, sweet lunch-box)yet completely exhaustible, the malestill the taller of the species, and not a differentkind of animal. There’s an honesty, at least,in these collisions, maybe just becauseyou get reminded of your skeleton, there beautifulbut hidden, so no one ever gets to see itin the light, at least not during the parleyof affectionate conditions, its vision only sanctionedby the body through a windshieldand later in the weirdflirtation of the trauma ward.  When youwere just a kid, I rocked Austinon back into Mexico, afterwards walked the stripwithout bodyguard, my tongue like a sheet of sand paperworking the roof of my mouthinto a vaulted proscenium, the angelic ordersinscribed into the fishscale patternsof the hard palate, and I wishedto be small enough to standon the stage of my own tongue,ping a couple of high notes off the newacoustics, as it seemed sometimes—like in the myth about the maiden changed to stone—that my voice would never end,and the man stamping hands outsidethe club I wound up in (Austin), did he not hold my handa little longer than necessary? then lookinto my eyes? He smelled likea copy machine, the void rolling off of him8 x 11, and in that way—and I mean thisas a compliment—you kind of remind meof him. So when you finally take yourself awayto the other passengers, I’m going to hitthe call button, and you’ll come walking back to medown the narrow aisle, and then we’ll head offto the bathroom together, leave the occupied signunlit, so one by one the passengerswill have to look upon us, unawares,but be forced to hold their disapproval in abeyancesince we will just be standing in there, clothedand deciding where we’re going to stayon our honeymoon, joking over howwe forced an entire wedding partyinto wearing white, how down the aisle the best man wheeledyour ring to you on a tiny cart (thanksTommy), and all the cows sleeping below usin the pastures as we fly over them, they will lay themselves downand finally sleep like normal people, without fearof the rubric of the wolf or the gallowsof their own untenable weight. The earthis funny that way, not always the receptacleof monoliths. In the mean time,though, I’ll have a couple of aspirinand whatever it was that William Blakewas having, and then I’d like to ask the pilot nowif I could be returned to this bitof airspace again, this one, right there,it’s gone now, so sad: it had that anonymous,rectangular feeling to it, like a hotel roomor the top of a pool table, and for a just a coupleseconds there—remember?—right before we started droppingthrough a bank of clouds topping off Austinlike a barrister’s wig, we were happy in it. Read the full Gazette story on Josh Bell and hear “Hidden Lake.” read more