Red Velvet Jacket
By Lynda Hull
It's almost Biblical driving this midnight burning highway
past South Bronx exits
with the names of streets once known, where torched cars
acetylene blue & white. We're in the universe of lost things
where the lights are out,
the lamp pawned & soon the record player, that enamelled table,
clothes, the rooms & faces,
air hissing soft through the rolled—down window like
silk velvet slipping hot
into my handbag, velvet fine as a fingerprint whorl,
maroon as the long dusty cars
that sharked these avenues, mildewed upholstery like
it was always raining night,
the insides ripped out of everything. But I was talking
about the red velvet jacket
that hangs even now in the mind flaring its slow veronicas
in recollection's wind that breathes
the mineral glamour of cornices & pilasters, districts
that burned years ago.
These days at the fringes even trains turn express,
the bombed-out blocks & clustered faces
blurred featureless. Out of sight, out of mind. Midnight's
burning highway, another charred strip-job.
Recollection: gather back the gleaming fragments & Warsaw flashes
a museum model of the Ghetto—
the Jews immured, a system of catwalks and barricades,
the trams' blackened windows
so that citizens might blindly pass, might invent consoling fictions.
Columns of flame light now
this tangled graffiti to a kind of incantation.
Called back in wonder,
the strangeness, the story endlessly told any life unfurls,
causal chains of small decisions,
almost random, those accidents of grace or luck. That red velvet
'30s jacket. How it sleeked
over the hips, elaborate glass buttons, how it made me feel
a little dangerous, a sense
of stolen fortune or history, as if I'd been chosen
for extraordinary moments, as if
I'd walk untouched, fire parting smoothly before me, liquid
& blue, that refused to singe,
to mar the bearer with a scar to signify the event.
Red velvet the color
of that long car we'd cruise under the river through Alphabetown,
then the Bronx, Hunts Point
& its flooded streets awash with crates of rotting fruit,
streets that figure still
relentless in the endless anarchy of dreams—
the Puerto Rican dealer, Juan, his wife, the kid. (Shift the car
to 5th, don't stop,
don't slow down.) But the door splinters all over again.
The jump-the-dealer routine.
Red velvet sleeve rolled up, snake of blue vein, snake
of salsa rising from the streets
the warmth sexual, turning me capable, the grain of the wood
on the floor flowering into the music, each fiber,
each splinter, until the tree
it came from greened in the mind. No, it's the watery
green of neon flickering
the boy's face by the window, the baby in his arms dangling
over the street, the mother screaming.
His faced striped green & blue & the water of the neon
stutters turning Spanish
on my tongue. Danne, danne el nino. Accidental grace.
I just wanted the screaming to stop.
Someone muffles the mother, but he's watching me—sole white face,
blanched translucent—& across his face
all the complexity a gaze can be. Calculation at first, fear,
disdain, the crying child. And what
did he see? Some hopped-up 16 year old with police-colored skin.
God I was innocent then, clean as a beast in the streets.
At the fringes of Warsaw's Ghetto
stands a prison where they sorted Jews from politicals,
politicals from homosexuals,
where masses dispersed to nameless erasure. There's a tree there,
lopped & blackened, yet it shines,
enshrined in prayer scrolls, nailed icons. Oh, lucky life,
I didn't understand until tonight,
called back from the ruins in that jacket, dark stain blooming
through the sleeve, the child squalling
in my useless arms. I don't know what happened to the jacket
& all those people are lost to a diaspora,
the borough incinerated around them, nowhere in this night
I drive through. Silk velvet and its rich hiss
the shade of flame offering its drapery, its charm
against this world burning ruthless, crucial & exacting.
I had a very quiet Thursday, which I suspect I needed as the headache and aching sinuses I had all morning are finally not bothering me so much. Wrote one of the Star Trek stories I didn't get to yesterday while I was sick, tried to keep up with Comic-Con news -- original Star Trek Remastered on HD-DVD holds no appeal for me whatsoever, I'd rather watch the grainy originals as I remember them even if the new ones weren't going to cost $200+ for a single season -- and maybe I'm really just past my capacity to enjoy new Star Trek because I felt far more enthusiastic about Enterprise than I feel about Abrams!Trek. Maybe if I'd liked a single one of his TV shows or movies for more than a couple of episodes, I'd feel differently. Even Armageddon only works for me because I can't resist most of the cast.
Meanwhile real space news coming out of NASA was scary and the top law enforcement official in the US is also the biggest crook and today's top search on Yahoo is Lindsay Lohan, who along with Paris and Britney must be on someone's payroll to distract the world from anything that matters. Well, and professional athletes and people connected with them. I'm cranky because once again I see very little evidence that blogging is power at all and Obama should shut up and work on his own platform before he starts criticizing Clinton's and it's never good when I spend too much time reading internet news!
July is a very colorful month in the gardens.
Lots of varieties of roses, and lots of late summer annuals.
Plus butterflies and moths even on the outdoor plants...
...and gorgeous passion flowers (thank you, cara_chapel!).
Friday evening for younger son's birthday we are taking him to see The Simpsons with his best friend. I hope it's good!