Route 7 Review
Issue # 2015
We learn history through the family around the table.
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.