BLACK ICE



Being a part of _The Alphabet_

from _You_

by Ron Silliman


XIV

On first seeing through the eyes of Mr. Potato Head. Time convenes, gathers.Clock's tick composed of threedistinct sounds so tightly batched I frown to concentrate hard enough to hearthe even, compulsive reiteration.Bungalow life.

Houseful of doors, neither completely open nor entirely shut. Frozen French fry. The symbolic in Anselm Kieferfunctions as an excuse. Mozzarella rolled in pesto. The God in Godzilla. Photoof a young man dead of AIDS. Lightas a form of terror.

Clark's track composed on the typewriter, words thick as nicotine. Horsefulodors. Post op, a young womanexamines a bruised breast. The tiny storefront in which I last saw JuliusHemphill play sax.

My brother's beeper. Old pump, my chest, the sheer weight of me, the war ofinner organs, heaving, writhing grabbag of the torso. Financial types think that if you've counted an asset you'vemanaged it.

Diffusion of sunlight on a hazy day, world devoid of sharp edges, distinctcolors. Resiliency of your nipple when aroused. Stirring the microwave pasta (nocontent to the steam). Examine themouse type.

Don't push the bat. The inner organs of beasts and fowls litter the roadway.Mocking bird in the dark, flutelike.

The dancers in pairs whirl through the hall. At midnight, a man under astreetlight is practicing t'ai chi, apparentlyunaware of the rain. Next door, steam serves as the curtain as the young blondewoman steps from the shower.Birds scream in the trees. An antique clock that hasn't worked in years.

XV

The smell of excess. Raindrops sizzle in the hot coals of a barbecue. Here inthe very neighborhood I grew up in, apocket park I've never seen before. Two Dalmatians, one with black spots, theother red-brown, race through themeadow.

The narrative of bones. A cough that sounds like a scrape. Velcro monkey.Driving in search of an all-night copyshop.

Martian culture ('70s disco music) is broadcast to millions. That part of theAM dial where one never travels. Aday of dark rooms and blinking slide projectors. Chicken in a nest.

The room is empty, save for one green balloon. Inside my nose, the snot hashardened into a thick crust. Inanother room, someone muffles a sneeze. On the train, she deliberately occupiestwo seats while others must stand, holding infants and heavy bags. Laugh of themockingbird rings throughthe dark. How does it know thatdawn is near?

Dream in which my mother and a friend are jogging through the streets of westBerkeley (she's wearing a colorcombination black top, gray slacks that in "real life" she would never chooseto wear). Decision Servcom, aname that only a merger could have created. From the West Oakland BART station,I can see the neighborhood(7th and Adeline) where, 98 years ago, my grandmother was born, not one of theold Victorians left standing.Keeps his motorcycle in his loft, five floors up.

Bandwidth of the poem. Ladder made entirely of interlocking sections of pipe.In the distance, a jetliner threads thethin cloud (distance itself assigned by the size of the plane). How manyfingers am I holding up?

To resign, to sign again, a sign. Out the window, beyond the business park, thehills are a thick emerald green. Afat robin perched on the hood of the car. The expression in the possum's eyes,dead in the middle lane.

XVI

Furniture in the windows of the houses in the hills far away comes suddenly,sharply into view. A plastic slipperhas been left by the princess doll, around which to construct an imitation ofCinderella. A fiddler in the corner ofthe tiny, crowded house. Blond wheatfield hair on the back of my hand. Animage of the world upon a tennis ball, hovering mid-air, in view of the oncomingracquet.

From the window one can see the entire bay, the Golden Gate framed between thebranches of the neighboringeucalyptus. Over and over, the mockingbird twists its predawn riff. Wakeexhausted. The peel of a banana,abandoned by its core.

Windchimes rime. A cancelbot (first bot, best bot). A Gemini Research CertifierIII radon measurement system(model 202) blinks green on the corner of the mantle. When finally I meet AlanShepard by accident in an Atlantabookstore, he's grizzled, nearly 70, not at all what a young boy would haveimagined.

Javelin quivers as it sails overhead. La la la . . . artichokes . . . la la la. . . drambuie . . . la la la . . . catastrophe . . . la la la Nissan Sentra . .. turkey vultures . . . la la la . . . bed stead.Involuntary spasms of the surgeon's hand. Pink meatof the salmon, just barely opaque. Gone to hell, books to sell.

The explosion flowers up and out, a rose of force, sculpting its own image outof the face of the federal officebuilding. Windchimes mime the tone of a ship's bell. Passing the Dublin grade."Congratulations, Benedict,"laughs Jay Amato, boy president.

The specificity of the dream is intense, although upon waking collapses to asingle emotion. By the train's whistle(not a whistle at all), I can follow its travel through the dark. The marginitself is physical. The sky is so much whitespace until you realize it's alive, swarming with particles and dust.

Moment at which this valley cow town became a suburb. Scavengers, the trafficcopters follow the long commute.Red sun, swollen, settles over the bay. On San Pablo Avenue, security guardsloiter by the entrance to the cardclub. A woman who is not really hitch-hiking meets your eyes for a second, thenquickly looks away.

XVII

The ferris wheel pauses at the height of its arc. The still, cool air of dusk(one rose bush exploding with blossoms,the other nearly spent). A lone, small plane appears headed for the moon. Bluejay rests on the wire. In thedistance, someone's dropped a plate, but it hasn't shattered you can hear itspinning. Mockingbirds, start yourengines.

Blow joy vests on the wine. What works. Cloudless night, but virtually starlessalso. I through my neighbor's openhouse, startled at the impact of four years' neglect. Words added, then takenaway. My hand on the small of yourback.

COBRA, COLA. In which I walk into the biggest bookstore in the western US,ready to buy, and come away emptyhanded. Woman by the parking lot of the Goodwill store begging discards frompeople coming to make donations,which she then turns instantly into a makeshift yard sale (amid the debris,some of it barely recognizable, I see anancient toddler's walker). My night at Moe's.

Don't copy that floppy. As men and women grow older, features shift, even thebones in their faces (her teeth blackening, her eyes sunken, going perkily aboutthe same shitty job year afteryear). To the question, "Is yourhouse lined with books," I reply, "No stacked."

Bird song wakes me. Salmon taro cakes beside new potatoes on a bed of arugula.The difference betweenexhausted and sleepy. Old deep purple bookcase still has original "ImpeachNixon" sticker not entirely faded. Doyou think we'll ever find fresh artichokes on the East Coast? I envision Eliotdropping from the bridge, twisting inslow motion all the way down to the water.

Delurk. The public defender's other business is psychic communication withanimals, conducted with a headsetfrom his home "dead pets are a specialty." Last chance to buy books.

Graphically, bear and little mouse make for an interesting set of companions.The pink, almost translucent flesh ofthe salmon fillet, the broccoli hot but not limp, the pale off-white bed ofcouscous. Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.

XVIII

_For Bob and Francie_

P=H=I=L=A=D=E=L=P=H=I=A. Under the dogwood tree, scampering, playful as asquirrel, a large grey rat, fat ascan be. Old hardwood floor, impossible to cross silently in the dark. Dogattempts to hump the cat. For Spring, anold closed-in porch, a neighborhood crow.

Three old men play golf in the rain. What is a redpoll? Street cobbled afterall these years precisely to reduce thespeed of traffic. Thanks to Paul Hoover, I can find my work in any strip mallbookshop in America. For Pound onthe Main Line, the trip to Penn proved no journey at all. Business centerparking lot on a Sunday, a half dozen carsparked by the squat brick six-story building.

Beyond the tightly clustered streets of the small town, half-boarded up MainStreet surrounding the single tallspire of a church, the road quickly turns rural (cluster of mock castleexecutive homes out by the golf course).Twin clouds of steam rise almost forever from Limerick. Concept of a basementas "finished."

Suppository understood as a term of rhetoric. Early morning, cheap ballpointpen falls into a urinal in the fourth-floor men's room who knows how? never tobe removed, to become a target,moved willfully by streams ofurine, pushed counter clockwise around the white who knows what it is madeof? urinal cake. Returning in therain from the old brick bank to the car, I realize that I forgot to feed themeter, had scurried right past it in my hurryto stay dry, only to have gotten by without a ticket, little gift of fate.Kitaj's eyes.

Back roads amid dogwood. Terminal emulation. Rag doll anatomically correct. Acloudless sky but for the powerplant. An old small town at the center of all this development. Holds askateboard the way you would aschoolbook. Pink petals everywhere.

Man sitting zazen has stroke, falls forward, suffocating in the soft foam of anempty meditation pillow. Cat locked out all night in the rain. A pager in everypocket. Suburban train.

Whoever lives by the aphorism dies by the cliché. A dream in which I might knowthe bomber. A dream in color.Idea of a road as a "pike."