Route 7 Review

Issue #  2015

 

MICHAEL PEREZ

 

EMBRACING STONE

We learn history through the family around the table.

                                                                                JAMES MERRILL

We learn more through the family around monuments:

once my uncle paused to grab the entrance arch of Notre Dame

as if he’d sensed a needed hum in there—the aum of centuries?  Perhaps

 

the steadfast rhythm of an ancient, metamorphosed yarn,

deeply embedded, resonant to just its source.

Moments ached and passed as slowly as an adolescence.

 

I scratched at cobblestones with my new loafers, gawked

at foreign men who shot hard gazes through us like stalactites,

like shafts of malachite’s detrital green and steely bronze

 

that pierced the overarching grey of March l’apres-midi

the moment holding in a stiff tableau of ornate stasis,

my uncle in his stoic, grizzled grip. He wouldn’t budge,

 

his face stuck in a thick, prophetic smile. I looked up, anywhere,

finally held the stare of gargoyles above us on their buttressed watch,

their grimaced squats dressed up with sooty hats of ash-flecked pigeons.

 

And I’ve seen the way my father bolted from a car, someone’s Renault,

to throw his arms around the pockmarked walls of a cathedral in Rouen,

nuzzling in its nubbly, weathered alcove with his arms outstretched

 

                          to stay there, a corporeal protractor.

                 

I swore I’d never show a trace of geologic quirk, that day

the only hardened view was mine, within a monumental chill---

no tremored hint of rifts, no earthly link. But now I hear the echo

 

of their flesh tectonics deafen, waiting for my voiced embrace.

I know how outed remnants of the earth’s past did it for them,

how to sense a bonded plot in geologic landmarks:

 

They’ve left their mark, their dent: now when I say I want to get to

know you, what I mean is, Let me reach the fission in your core—

 

 

 

 

Come in, touch with talk, turn these worn stones back to spark, chart

the uplift, clutch and notch, you’re so much more than artful edifice.

 

This is how the body builds the legend of its genesis,

as if we had become carver and quarry, all at once.

 

 

 

 

THE MOMENT I WAKE UP, BEFORE I PUT ON MY MAKE-UP,

I say a little “Hair O’ The Dog That Bit ‘Cha” hymn

to last night’s lithium, and swallow reverently, down

the hatch, and in a tiny stroke or two, a face begins

that’s mine, let’s drink a toast with toast and ligon-

berry jam, a hoity-toity spread to mask a crisp

white starch greased for consumption, painted: fast

break, cheers mate, out the door, a pharmaceutical

tune-up.  Before I put on my bloodstream’s make-up,

let the outer match the inner, torch-song swallowed

on a timer: it may wash down; it won’t wash off.

Crust of bread and such, God Bless the salted sucrose

after-taste of scripted morning’s pancake base,

foundation surging through your veins, closer, mister,

closest dose to fine you’ll ever get that rinses on.

You’re on!— Inside a fine bronze residue of you, only

a cover-up, conspiracy of easy breezy covered girl

uninterrupted since the day your made-up music died.

 

 

A NIGHT COURSE IN PHYSICAL GEOLOGY

What men leave behind I used to hoard—

boxers, face-scratched watches, unused Trojans,

matchbooks, grass-stained briefs, withdrawal slips

from ATMs, spare change, a shoe, twelve socks,

(unmatched)—all stashed inside a dresser drawer

and ordered, like a syntax.      At some point

 

it all became a language, or a shorthand. What my

eyes avoided every morning in the dresser’s mirror

was my naked torso with its fresh imprint of welts.

What this means in layman’s terms is, in a deep ravine

beneath my parent’s bedroom window, Jims or Keiths, on

waning weekday nights before exams, would batter

me face down into a ragged mouth of granite.

 

What it smells like: feldspar and potassium, rotting teeth

and seven gin-and-tonics, rimmed with salted fear and

coming up. What I think of: glacier ice that grinds

and shapes what’s underneath, depositing scraped till

into a landfill of composites;  the dense cycle of pressure

and abrasion that it took to shape Long Island through

insensate, thoughtless movement.    

 

                                               Not quite the answer to,

What is a terminal moraine? a question I leave blank

on an exam I’d take four times or five, the morning after

each nocturnal test I barely passed. During the day, the freshman

geologic survey textbook made no sense. Once, my parents’

bedroom light went on, stayed on, as I slammed up and

down. I know the hidden axiom of terminal moraines: it says

the tapped stash of your trashed selves organizes

one day fine, you as one heap-scrap left wise from mounting

chill, temperate, deciphered. Here to tell you. It’s a lie.

 

What stays for what goes down refers to nothing much—

a motley heap of rough-rocked selves defined

with worn desire’s hieroglyphics.    Nothing’s really changed:

I stand morained at lust’s sharp end: a light goes on

and sometimes stays, I start to get it, gather dregs, and

for a second, then or now, I almost thought it all poetic.

 

 

MORE LIKE PARKAY (ODE TO SARAH VAUGHAN)

There once was a “talking container of

margarine” commercial back in the 70’s. (Drugs!)

 

The lid of the tub would leap up and flap,

muttering“ butter!”, correcting some fool

 

who had dabbed a fingertip-full to taste, then

proclaim the Parkay the real thing. What

 

a crock. (My sister-in-law pronounces it

buhttah, as she’s from Tifton, Georgia.)

 

Ms. Vaughan, I’m told I can’t duplicate the sound

of how you oiled a lyric. No way to inscribe,

 

in your song about no-good-unkind-about-to-

dump-you-Jim, the creamy manner in which

 

you elongate the lyric’s qualification But even

if he does with every vowel slid out sluggishly,

 

yet swift, like a sun-stroked kid on a water slide in

mid-July. I must try, for my mind slipped for good

 

around ‘68: had too many bowls of cereal

with sugar listed first on the side of the box,

 

followed by Blue #8 and some hydrogenated gunk—

I’m fried for life. Only unnatural replicas, these

 

artificial ingredients?   Sarah, forgive as

I sample and savor and spread your uhs and ees

 

and ahhns, your ii-ee-uuuz, so supple and no,

not like butter—but more the manner in which

 

            you might apply it to someone loved.

 

 

 

ANOTHER COFFEE (BUT LESS CREAM THIS TIME),

another chance, another watch ten minutes fast,

another attachment, another deletion, another

friend not ‘liked’ fast enough to show support

in a time of crisis, another computer or car crash, this

isn’t really the way we live now, who am I,

breaking the spine of another used copy of Du

Cote De Chez Swann for the first time, thrilled at

the word releve’ Proust uses to say how a bird’s

trill upraises a virtual distant forest to anyone listening

farther off, the sound a melodic lever of sorts, like

a switch to a sonorous panorama, lifted up smoothly,

just as a dancer will softly own air as she lifts up

                                   on toe pointes, to pause—

 

another day at the barre, a rehearsal, rejection, five

drinks and then surfing for porn, one more download

or virus, the loads not taken, the easier softer way, there

is none, one more new Pet Shop Boys song with ten

bootleg remixes you can’t afford but will search for

for years, the future memory of each version

like an incessantly humming musical grail with no form,

except for some strain of a tune underscored

with a verdant, mechanical pulse you’ll have lost

by the time you can burn a CD of the song, or decode

the encrypted file of it from a Russian pop website, “Les

Pet Shop Comrades”—as the first notes begin not like

you had remembered, you pour cream in coffee, ignoring

the past, save for one raised remembrance: Wait—some

enlightenment: this mix is perfect, this time got it right.

 

 

 

A BEAUTY AISLE IN HOUSTON

Last night at the grocery store—shampoo aisle first,

as usual—“The Look Of Love” by Dusty Springfield

came on (damn those oldies, they make you shop more

when you’re forty-something-and shopping horny). 

She came on like the sound of husky silk,

the audible shell of a soul when stoked, sliding,

quietly, into white heat. I thought of her lacquered sheen,

 

her blonde back-combed beehive flip stacked

like a hairway to heaven; “The higher the hair, the closer

to Jesus”—Southern American psalm; how she once quipped

in an interview, “I’ve used so much hair spray during

my career, I feel personally responsible for global warming.”

 

I went home and played Dusty In Memphis twice

through, Where Am I Going? once, with never enough

Doritos. There wasn’t much worth recording, except

whenever her voice slid to falsetto with no breakage,

then I knew a soul is just one long reaction, noted—

 

As Dusty sings I float from high up and sight each Safeway,

Kroger or HEB that dots the globe as I hover suspended

in cheeto dust   pink sucrose   seventies lacquer and BHT—

surrounded in sparkling airborne clots like bugle beads

torn off a queen after her last drag show in El Paso,

she’s wiping her hands on her dress in a tumble

-weed alley before she’s disrobed, made to kneel—

 

I thought of how the black keys on Aretha’s piano stuck

to the white keys recently, and when the repair-man came

he noticed a dust on the white keys—a vibrant orange.

Forgive me Ms. Franklin for asking, he said, but do you eat

Cheetos a lot? She answered, The Queen is entitled

to snack with her 88s when she feels the spirit.

My hairdresser told me this—so you know it’s true.

 

He had lots of dirt on Dusty: his favorite linked

“Miss D.” with a famous American r&b songstress,

a pissed-off background-singer chick and a girlfight

in the street—over Dusty. He wouldn’t name names,

or say who won, just that Dusty sat coolly, legs crossing,

uncrossing, upon the hood of a nearby Rolls-Royce, chain-

smoking as Big Ben tolled and the babes came to blows.

 

In London he’d done Dusty’s hair for ages,

claimed Dusty was blind as bat, stood squinting

an inch from the mirror, to see what he’d done.

The look of love is astigmatic, often incites brawls

or binges, removal of clothing, clandestine fantasia

that stories itself into a mythic, imagined bouffant

we all sport, and you’ve got yours on now—

 

I can see it and child, it’s high and loud, entangled

as the Tower of Babel, before weaves and braids

and Final Net, before Dippity-Do became Don’t.

Isn’t every hair-burner a modern-day girlie-boy

Homer, a teasing Tierisias—sightless to how their

armchair folklore survives, how it falls or sets?

 

Tell it, tell, hairdressers of the world around your

tiny cauldrons, vials of peroxide, streaking mixes,

third cups of coffee; could you do me some high-

and low-lights and anecdotes, you know I will pass them

along to my twenty-two-bestest girlfriends, allelu

 

keep the chain chain chain unbroken, the vaulty truth

in the mix, work with the untouched-up grace

before the makeover, original color irrelevant;

our blotchy, ungelled selves like an endless clean-up

on Aisle Five, as we squint into light every morning

with spirits tousled until the first mousse-spritz or Pop-Tart;

 

praise product, praise this stocked ersatz democracy

of gossip, muzak, Aveda, Suave and the all-night super-

market; comb the hell out of dust and ash and unsung

bards of beards and closets, the hunger that glamour and

Motown and Stax cannot stop in the name of 2 AM,

when your check-card’s overdrawn

                      and Dusty and love look unrevivable.

 

Your mouths stay open like unsung doors.

Guide us to speak with a look like a beauty shop

Saturdays around noon—work that dusted,

common, truthful gorgeous lie of artifice:  look, love: 

help us make up the well-sprayed surface unpraised

we display to the world.

 

 

 

Good witches, until our outsides catch up

with our insides or vice-versa, please consult

and check us out, push those products like snacks,

let us know God’s both paper and plastic.

MIKE PEREZ earned an M.A. In English (Creative Writing & Literature) from FSU and an MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) from The University of Houston in 2004. His poems have also appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Bloom Poetry Journal, The Journal Of Florida Studies, and as a finalist in the 2004 War Poetry Contest sponsored by winning writers.com. He’s been at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida since 2008, currently as an Assistant Professor of Humanities and Communication, and is working on a poetry manuscript on geological themes called (today) Geodes: Stone Poems.

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