The Catacombs

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Caper Literary Journal's Archived Work Summer 2009-Forward

Notes On The Bruises, Mel Kozakiewicz

I was whack-attacked by a steering wheel on Cinco de Mayo. Herman was hot hot hot.

It happened right after we connected on the street in front of OK’s house. He only had one condom but we well usually we use condoms all the time. As in: every time. As in: I’ve never in my life felt his naked cock. As in: he is the King of Kondoms. Read the rest of this entry »

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Filed under: Caper Issue 1, Mel Kozakiewicz

Clemente, Andrea Fernandez

There is an old wise saying, because all old sayings are deemed by their antiquity wise, which says wisely “shrimp that falls asleep, the current will away sweep.”

You are an industrious creature never heeding that old saying as today’s fast-paced life leaves little room for falling asleep. From dawn, when your little beady eyes push away their nightly sleeping mask of soft membrane to reveal black, cavernous pools of barely-rested-fifteen-minutes-I-hope-it fools-everyone-at-the-reef dark circles, you, Clemente, are already lying. Naturally, old wise sayings are irrelevant to full grown shrimp going about their shrimp business, trying to keep that prodigious pink alga from appearing at your coral work station, in shrimpy towns such as Coralliville. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Andrea Fernandez, Caper Issue 1

The Albatross Wall, Dennis Leroy Kangalee

She was a quote whore and had legs like a seagull, beautifully bent as if awaiting take-off, eager to follow the visiting ships.

We’d wheeled hypnotically for hours at a time once before in different corners of the world, often flapping in a cul-de-sac of frustration. I had learned of her through a truncated message tossed from a virtual skyscraper and tried my best to reciprocate. I’d spent the better part of my life on the wing, but my wandering had slowed when too many of my fellow searchers were snared in world wide webs devoted to no one but the faceless spirit of the machine. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Caper Issue 1, Dennis Leroy Kangalee

Piano Lessons, Repetoire, Ruth Dominguez

During my youth, when I lived in Northern Virginia in the cul-de-sac on Tuckahoe Street, went to Tuckahoe Elementary School, and played in the playground and woods of Tuckahoe Park, I took piano lessons for a number of years on Tuesday afternoons. I had a love-hate relationship with the piano. I was to practice 20 minutes every day, which would either make me cranky or filled me with the heavy, sleepy feeling of drinking several glasses of milk or sometimes left me alert and tuned. At times, I would go a whole week without practicing, and my piano teacher, Mr. Swift, would remark on my progress: “Very fine,” said Mr. Swift. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Caper Issue 1, Ruth Dominguez

En Granadilla or Lemons For Heartache – Lisa Marie Basile

It struck me in Granadilla. I came to beautiful countries to see beautiful things. The beauty of the summer was sincere, always as it seemed — reds and browns and sweating people selling old, hot fruit in violent marketplaces. This was the place where beautiful people behind vegetable tents went sneaking off to kiss other sweating faces.

    The summer in Granadilla was beautiful; this place was the product of the sun.

    And then I saw him in a church. I bowed my head to a Sacerdote and an old woman.

    “Perdón, who is that man?” I asked the holy man.

     I was a white monster from a far away land. But I wanted to know, who was that man? I felt the heat dance on my foot. I walked here without shoes. They stared at my feet.

    “Tercero is his name, but you would know this,” they said. “Does he pay you with fruit or with money?”

    The Holy Father’s lips were pulled down; he had a tired brown face.

    I did not understand.

    I walked away, to Tercero, the stranger at the pew. I slid my feet down the holy isle. He knelt still and did not respond to me. The church was so quiet, I could hear Mother Mary’s eyes bleeding as my heart fluttered. Tercero wore a necklace of salty water. He was golden and his veins were hard and sticking from the surface on his skin. His pores were stars; I connected them from where I stood, and I watched the little black strands of his hair sit in patterns on his neck.

    If it were winter, it would be the same: sweating, wet, panting. 

    “Hola Tercero,” I said, wringing my fingers inside my palms. Jesus glared at me disapprovingly.     

    Tercero turned and looked at me, and I watched him closely.

    My stranger greeted me, “¿cuál es su nombre?”

    “Soy de Norteamerica,” I told him. “And my name is Lourdes.”

    I said this because I watched him look at my arms. They were gold now, but blurs of white sat inside my armpits and the tops of my breasts. I knelt beside him.

    “Lourdes,” he nodded. And then he looked at me, from my hair to my legs. His eyes lingered in places I felt afraid to have him see. 

    “Why are you here?” He was seeing through me. I could not tell him a lie.

    “If you are asking if I’m praying, I am not. I don’t believe in God,” I told him. “But churches are very beautiful.”

    He now looked at me intensely, with a hairy face and wide eyes the color of dying green sea hollies. His lips were dripping and bloodshot red. But his skeleton was showing itself; skinny. I wondered if he was fasting. The brown cotton top was cut at the shoulders and hung down as a sleeping gown would, to his knees. 

    He too was barefoot.

    “What is good looking to you, here?” he asked.

    I looked at the pews beside me. “Probably I think it is something foreign to me. I do not understand it.”

    He watched me. His eyes were flocking toward me, so that he swooped me from the church and dragged me from goodness. 

    “Probably you came to this church because you do not understand it? And Spain, why Spain? Do you too not understand our country, no?”

    I told him I came for the colors and for the sun, and because the people seemed honest. I told him that I came because America is lonely.

    Tercero laughed. “But your people have medication for that, yes?”

    I watched the way his stomach breathed through the cotton. “Yes, we do.”

    He told me that Spain was more lonely, but that it was not a disease.

    “But you would not live here, ” he stated.

    I told him no, honestly.

    “It is far too much a dream, and if you stayed, the dream would end. You would catch another disease before the loneliness made you sick.” He smiled. “It is temporary. It is too beautiful for you to stay.” 

    I told him yes. 

    “It is like life, no?” His laughter was no lie. “It is only noon and we are talking gravestones. We can leave, yes?”

    I smiled. And Tercero seemed to pray in his head. I could see this on his face.

    “Did you finish your prayer?” I asked him.

    He crossed himself — to his forehead, his navel, his right and his left.

    He smiled slightly. “I do not believe in . . . Dios . . .God, what ever they are,” he said quietly. He stood. I stood, and followed him.

    The sun was behind a clay wall with little children sitting in windows. With mothers hanging clothes and swapping at those children. The sun was still yellow, not orange, and the day was not yet ending. I loved the daytime of Spain. Things could be seen and they were beautiful. And in the night here, the sweat clung to dirty sheets when bodies lay in beds waiting for a breeze. These people did not hide in their shadows; nothing was hidden, everything was felt and revealed.

    I followed Tercero. He moved slowly. The old woman watched us move out of the door into the street. The Father hung his head. They moved aside like we were demonios, their faces in both in pity and disgust. Children screamed into the dust, and some apples rolled into the light. Women were women here, and their legs were dark and wet and their warm nipples poked through their little white chemises. Collarbones were everywhere, saying I want you I want you I want you. The town was a casa de muñeca— everyone and their toys smashing them together and taking off their clothes, playing man and wife and man and man, woman and woman. Men stared here. But so did the women. And then there would be writhing people in doorways together. I enjoyed their honesty. We were in the sun; it was brighter than it had been earlier. I heard the bars clanking with their songs and children and the men that came from Church and work. 

    I asked him, why do you go to church if you do not believe in God?

    “My benedictions are in the hope of a God, that is all,” he told me.

    We slid into the tightness of the bodies around us. The people throbbed. We were siphoned into them and their pulsing pushed us out to the other side, where we got past the dusty main square and into a canyon area overlooking some houses built into the rock. I followed my stranger. He removed the dirty brown shirt he had covering his chest.

    “I live in an Inn. Do you mind?”

    The mosquitoes chewed my earlobes. Their song was constant.

    “I don’t think I should be concerned with that,” I said. “Are you just visiting?”

    My stranger, Tercero, he laughed, and swatted at the air. The big insects often came out before sunset, their last hours on the playground. I looked up at sky, at the little white constellations that were faded tracings. The day would end soon, but the breeze made no prediction. I was glad I wore nothing but a thin sunning gown. It went to my knees and blew about; I had nothing beneath it, and my body was thankful. We passed a few old women pushing carts, some men selling different teas and aguardientes and then eventually, the quiet was muffled by a small village that fell closer to the sea. We walked down several adobe steps. Animals ran wild here; I saw a fox glance at me between two shrubs.

    “Do you speak Spanish?” he asked.

    “I speak a little Spanish.”

    I didn’t know what I wanted with him. But I followed his careful step still, inching toward a row of white buildings built into the orange mountain before us.

    “Why do you follow me, Lourdes?” He stopped and turned to look at me.

    “I thought you looked kind.”‘

    “You did not look at me like you thought I was kind.”

    “Did I look at you like I thought you were cruel?”

     Tercero laughed wholly, his lips thick and circular. Little wrinkles around his eyes framed the green. He looked as a young man would underneath a painting of tired skin. He did not look like a man of God or the devil. He looked real. 

    “No, you look at me quite the opposite.” He smiled. I stood confounded.

    “Come.” He led the way, parting the mosquitoes to our sides with his hands. He was a slow walker. This was something I did often. I went places to see them; I went places to love them more than the place I had been before.

    “Why did you come to Spain? You said the Church was beautiful. But what of Spain? For a gringa like you. Crete is beautiful. Algiers is beautiful, like the provinces in France and the water in Venice.  Saigon has beautiful people.” he said.

    “I wanted to visit Spain because I have been told that the people are honest here and because a woman offered me a free place to live. So long as I helped her with the her garden.”

    “And everyone else lies?”

    I defended myself. “I wanted to come to a place I’ve seen in paintings and read about in books. I don’t have a reason or an answer, really.”

    He turned and looked at me and he smiled. “Ésa es la respuesta. That is the answer.”

    We looked at one another for a moment; the sun was between us. I squinted to see him, and he cocked his head to see me. With the bugs and the shadows and the breeze, we stood. The valle del sol Inn was a crooked, dirty thing. It was built with clay and painted white. Jagged foundation scars cracked through the walls, ornamented with red pots of dying brugmansias.

A small window had an unlit candle and a fine white drape sitting in the sill.

    “This is where you live?” I asked.

    “For now.”

    “Until when?”

    He unlocked the door with a long key. He led me through with a wave of his hand.

    “You’re the most curious yet.”

    I stood in the room. It smelled sick. Like bodies and sweat and mouths. Like food in the sun. The sheets were twisted into the bed, as though an invisible body was still swirling beneath them. The floor was kissed by a large square, red, fringed carpet. The designs were aged by wet feet, long-ago triangles and ovals made into ghosts. Flowers sat in pots, some dead. Some were blooming. More brugmansias.

    “Until when,” I asked again.

    “Maybe a few months. I do not know.”

    I crossed the room and sat on the edge of the bed.

    “Where will you go next?”

     He came and stood before me. “If I knew I would tell you.”

    “Well, where do you think?”

    I slipped my sandals off. He was looking at my legs.

    “Lift up your dress.” A soft breeze passed through the room. Gnats chewed at themselves near my ear. Children screamed loudly in a nearby waterhole; I heard them splashing.

    No, I commanded.

    His face was blank. The same tired brown shell it was before. I got up to leave.

    “I suppose I am naive. I am not a whore.”

    Somos todas las putas, Tercero said, “we are all whores.”

    I walked out, the mosquitoes at my ear left to eat him in his dirty little cell.

    Maybe he said goodbye.

    In the night, I bathed my sore feet in warm water from the well outside my little room. Senora Dolores left a bit of coffee and a yellow piece of cake at my door. She was a little woman who gave me my room in exchange for care of her plants and her three cats when she went away to care for her husband. He was a solder and in a war, he lost his legs. He lived in a care unit, she said. For sick people. But it was for hysterical people, too, I knew.

    She told me when I came to Spain a month ago: “He cannot live here; he says whenever he comes into the room he remembers the day he left, walking across to open the shutters to a party in the street. The good people had a street party for him, Soldado Eduardo Manuel, my handsome, brave man. Mi amor.”

    “My courageous man,” she always said. “His legs were so strong,” she told me one morning.

    She was kneeling over a patch of grass in the sun, her five fingers spread apart wide, planting a seed between each. Her knees were solid into the ground, her back out and vertical with the sky.

    “We used to make love every night. His legs were so hard. I loved him so in those nights. I pulled myself down near to her and watched her soil-colored eyes fill with restrained water. I would shout nasty things . . . things about my body. He liked that, you see. He liked me to beg for him. Y diga, yo le quieren, yo le quieren.”

       This is when she cried. I held her shaking hands in the soil, shaking the little seeds into a small pile so she would not lose them. She had wrinkles in that moment; suddenly, she was an old, sad woman in my hands and not my landlady. Not an older, wise woman. She was just as broken as any human had ever been.

    “Do not cry,” I attempted. No llore, senora.

    “I miss his sex,” she would clamor. “I miss making him little pots of tea and setting them at his bed-side as he took his bullets out of his rifle. He took his boots off at the foot of the bed and sighed like a man sighs.”

    She sighed like she was Soldier Eduardo Manuel. But it was not a mockery. It was a eulogy.

    “I cannot make him hard,” she would weep.

    I blew the soil off of her hands and took them in mine, to hold them and feel them. She felt like my mother. A sad woman without her love, a human ticking toward the future with nothing but a body’s beating heart.

    “I begged him not to go to war,” she cried. “I said, no, Eduardo, usted morira.”

    Her breasts hung low, the big things sitting at her belly button. I could make them out under her yellow bathing gown. I thought of her as a beautiful young woman, watching her husband take the bullets from his gun, sauntering over to his side to make him touch her.

    It did not matter if her face was aged and if her hands shook when she sewed. We were the same person.

    I wonder if it would be different if he would have died, she whispered.

    Dolores looked at me like God would strike her there in our little yard.

    “Oh forgive me, lo siento,” I cried. “How do I help you?”

    I wiped the tears from her face and settled the soil in the holes as she spoke.

    “Then I would not be tempted to want him. But my solider thinks his legs are his penis,” she would say. “He believes he is ill and nothing will work. I have said, It is only your legs.”

    She fell into my lap. “I could still make him feel things,” she would say.

    “Do you think I could?”

    The hot sun held us both in the dying grass. I kissed her forehead and said, “Yes, Dolores. You could.”

    “You are saying this because you are young. America tells you to say this,” she said, but her fingers clung to my warm thighs.

    “I am saying this because these things are not your fault, Senora.” She dug into me. Her skin felt old. I lied right into her eyes.

    “I believe war can be blamed. But not you, no.”

    I was happy for Senora’s pain. This is why I left America — that was a nation of shame. In America, if you are not perfect, you are broken. In America, if you cry, you are weak. In America, if you love deeply, you are hysterical. And if you do not, you are safe. People there forget to feel, as though the moment that they do, they may die. And then, there is no point to life at all, then.

    She shrugged deeper into me, her apron and her gardening tools all pressed into the dirt against her knees. I would remember this forever. This was sadness. I walked her to the door, where we sat in the dim kitchen with it’s foolish little window and I poured her a shot of Campo Azul and stirred up the gazpacho on the counter-top.

        I cut up more ripe little avocados and dropped them into her bowl. I took the garlic hanging over the window in a sachet and cut a piece into shards, spilling them into her soup, too.

        “Eat,” I said. “This will make you feel better.”

        I gave her a wooden spoon and I took mine and made myself a bowl, and we sat in the room eating like worn out children after a day at play. The town made noises in the distance, but we were far, far, far away.

    My sad wonderland, Spain.

    But I ate her little cakes and drank the coffee quickly; it was cool by the time I had gotten home, even when the sun kept the jar warm. It was a jarring and welcome difference — the warmth on my fingers and the cooled coffee. I dried my feet by laying on my wooden floor. Some planks jutted out uneven. I could feel my back and thighs arch where the floor protruded. I could not help but imagine Dolores and her husband, on the floor, when they were young.

    She gave me her memories in her tears. The evening breeze poured in, my toes curling in from the cold. I moved the plate and jar away and stood to strip. With the curtains open and     the rooms across from me lit with candles and dim lights, I undressed and watched for people.

    This was thrilling — this was accepted here. People here were naked and they saw one another and that was alright.

    Undressing in the cool room, I thought of Tercero.

    The world is a whore, I thought. I wanted to understand his insult. Did he think I was a whore? I wanted to see him again. Most of life is unpredictable. Humans are bits of skies and seas, just gently guided by something above that we will never understand. At least the moon is certain. God is not. It is true, I did want to kiss Tercero, too. But I did not come to part my legs. I did not come to his room to have sex with him. I felt guilty for leaving.

    What if he was gone, I worried.

    What if he had moved, like he said he would?

    I took down my underwear and slid them against the right leg of my bed. I pulled a sheet down from the bed and laid myself out across the floor. I did not miss home. I wanted to stay here forever, on the floor, thinking of strangers like Tercero and of legless soldiers making love to their wives.

     At home, people lived each day like the next would come. They stretched their desires so thin they never became real. Vacations were chores to those people. The sun was a contusion. Their summers were disguised; they slept in rooms frozen by machines.

    Here, it was hot. And the people, smelling like old onions, were real. They stole fruit from street vendors and they danced until they couldn’t remember how they got there. Women’s legs were sometimes hairy.

    Men’s hands were always callused.

    Tercero had these imperfections; dirty hair in a church, a hole in his shirt, his feet like twisted tree roots. I supposed I may have wanted to be close with Tercero, to be intimate with him. But I had no mind to stay after being asked to open my legs.

    But there alone in my own room I parted my legs.

    I did not want to be told such things. Was his Inn for prostitutes, the village prostituta? Did people here rent rooms to make strange love in? I touched myself on the wooden floor and watched the moon outside the window.

    I came sadly, Tercero’s glorious face in my head.

    The morning was generous; what seemed dark the night before was illuminated. The shadows went to bed in the sun. I fell asleep on the floor, but it was good. My back was straight, and the cool wood collected me up in the rays coming through the window.

These mornings were not like American mornings. You don’t wake up to disguise yourself. You don’t dress your face. The sun is so hot that you do not dress at all. But America is the country of runaways: the poor, the lonely, the ugly, the Communists. You wake up to yourself, and you stay yourself during the day, red-faced with dirtied knees and little bellies filled with tapas and wine.

    Senora Dolores came to the door and gave me a piece of paper.

    “There was a man at the door. Un hombre esquelético, but he is a nice man. You have a boyfriend, Senorita?”

    The piece of paper was wet. I imagined his hands sweating into it. Written in by pencil, the words blended into a blob of grey: Meet me at la aldea a las cuatro, when the breeze comes, it said, by the cantina del sol y del mar by the river.

    After stopping at the local markets with Dolores for fresh lemons, I went near the river and knelt to help the water onto my face and hair. The sun was a murderer on days like these; it was everywhere you went. Inside your palms and in your roots. Inside your smile, even, when the cracks of your face feel like they’re made of grain. He came from behind a small mango tree. He was skinnier than before. His wrists dangled, a Frankenstein-like figure — stitched together at each seam and joint.

    “Hola, Senorita,” he said. From behind his back he held a yellow flower. I could see this, but I pretended not to.

    “This is for you.” I took the flower, and then I thanked him. And I wrapped it’s stem around the strap of my dress. The smell of patchouli drifted from him to me, and each time he turned to look at the sun or the valley besides us, his hair rolled into waves that I could decipher: beauty, danger, something desperate. I asked him what was wrong with him.

    “Just the same as us all.”

    “What is that?” I asked.

    “That is what I do not know.”

   “Who does?”

    “God.”

    “You said you don’t believe.”

    “I do not believe.”

    “So, what then?”

    “Some things are things we don’t know.”

    “But you’re sure of that there is no God?”

    “I live every day in the hope that I am wrong.”

    He hoped. But he did not know. He focused on a bed of milk thistles beside us. His eyes drew circles around the stem, the leaves, the ground it was inside. I stood deliberately quiet. This was my favorite stranger, insulting and beautiful, like Spain — because it knew things you did not. Because it drew the sun up and paralyzed you. Because the other things, America, and life outside of the sun felt limp. Because it did not care if you were sweating and your hair was in curls around your eyes. Your face was irrelevant. Your color was now the color of the sun. Your body was now all water. Your body moved in new ways, and you felt stupid and broken and from a place that makes you complacent.

    Here, with Spain and with Tercero, I must actively think and feel. I asked him why he thought the world to be a whore. And off in the distance stood a line of nuns, long dark figures with black hair and black headdresses with the red sky behind them. They seemed to dance in the heat of the air. Little fragments waltzing with the molecules.

    “Look at them,” he said. “They are whores, too.”

    He pulled me to him. “Do you white girls dance?”

    The insults.

    His skeleton pulled me and my waist was on fire. But he was there, on me, with my hips in a circle with his, front and back and front and back again. The red whirling around us, the desert a band of musicians.

    I could hear them all — the vihuela, the bordonúa and the bandurrias and the hembras.

    I asked, “Why are they whores?”

    “Because they’re doing something in return for something.”

    “What’s so wrong with that?”

    He said you can’t be afraid of what may come. If you work toward a future, you lose the present. He said these things, and the wind became vulnerable to him. It quieted. The land was quiet. Nature was his minion; the way he moved made the flowers dance. It made the sun cast perfect shadows.

    “Humanity is not gentle and accepting. If it were, I’d call us something else,” he told me right into my face.

    His hands were red on me. I let them be. I thought of Dolores and Eduardo, then. In their youth, with perfect black curls and pink mouths and Eduardo with his legs and his wife in their bedroom doing things with her body. I thought of when this would become a memory. I had a mind then, suddenly, to let Spain become the present and let America become the past. There was no future. It was in everything already: little cakes at my doorstep before sleep, and in the way your sweat tastes when you bargain for fruit with Cesar down at the morning marketplace.

    “You move good,” he said. “I can tell you secrets. And I know this by the way you move.”

    I didn’t understand this. But maybe it was the way I held his neck after just meeting him, and leaving him and then coming back to the valley to meet him.

    I asked him for a secret.

    Tercero then told me he was dying.

    “It will come soon,” he told me.

    I thought of Dolores and how the wrinkles cry on her face when she talks about pain. And I thought of death. I wondered what is worse — to be alive by threads or to be dying and dancing in the valley under the sun. You told me you are dying because of the way I move, I asked him. He stepped an eloquent foot closer and an inch back.

    “You appear to me . . .  open.”

    I thought of him inside my head when I laid on my floor.

    We danced some more, and he took his shirt off when the sun was hottest, and his ribs were all there — I counted each. One, two, three, four — pathetic and spindly, and five, six, seven, eight, twelve sad ribs?

“And it is a good thing to be, because no one knows a thing. You try and you never will.”
  *****************

     I came back and there I saw, at the door step, Dolores pushing Eduardo in his wheelchair up the steps. His legs dangling off where his knees once were, one leg longer than the other. She told me, it was the product of a lazy surgery. This is what Eduardo was ashamed of — he is an imperfect amputee and that is the weakest of amputees. She cried nightly over this. Even when she said nothing, with her old bread and her cooling tea besides the window at night, she cried and she prayed.

    “I do not care about perfection, but he cares about perfection,” she would say. Dolores, with her ghost eyes, always searching for a reason.

    “It is not enough to love it all?”

    The way she held her little cup, it said that worried about proving her love. The way she held her body in the garden, it said that she missed making love. The way she looked at me, she said that I must understand all the ways and all the reasons and all the broken things and all the glorious things.

    It is a constant war within Dolores, the begging for an answer. And Tercero, when I thought of him, I thought of the ability to be content in not knowing. Eduardo had no legs, and there was no understanding. Or why Spain was warm and why America was cold. It was the way things were made, and there was no understanding. And there was no understanding why sex is killing Tercero. I watched Dolores push him up onto the step, her fat little legs grinding into the clay. His hands gripped the sides of the chair. Her hair was in a high bun atop her head, her lips in red. She did this in her best Sunday shoes and in her little blue dress. My mujer hermosa dress, she called it.

    Finally, she got him up the stoop, and into the door. I saw her bend over, take a hanker-chief to his wet head and wipe his face. He did not look at her. I spent the time watching the passersby. I missed home, but the smell of carnes y pescados y perfume danced in the setting sun, just as the people headed towards their homes with flowers in the hair and babies in their arms and bloodied, cracked hands.

    And these things were the present. I missed America, but it was behind me. I loved Spain, but I could not stay here. In limbo, I was lonely but I needed it. When I went inside as the cicadas began buzzing, Dolores was on the floor in a pile beside her little dress. “Él no mequiere,” she cried. “Porque hagale para no quererme?”

    Eduardo sat in the chair as a frigid, frightened child. He looked away from his wife, with her frantic face and her lips smeared in lipstick. “I am naked,” she cried. “Estoy desnudo.” She stared at me, and longed for an answer. I could do nothing, and so I lingered behind a wall near the kitchen, and felt the sunset burn through the glass onto my back and I watched them secretly.

    Eduardo and Dolores, they are remnants of something beautiful.

    I went inside my room and listened to the sad shuffling of their feet, her muttering pains and praises and him grunting. I watched the gnats dance in the window. Even they touched, joined. But Dolores and Eduardo, their love was an eyesore.

    He brought war home with him, and now she was fighting too.

    “Locura,” she said, “Madness! I could have left you,” she said. “You are no use to me, now. You are no use to you.”

    A moment passed. Eduardo said nothing, but his wheelchair wheel turned and I heard the break squeak and the utterance of her desperate voice.

    “No habria podido dejarle, I am so sorry” Dolores cried. “Perdone.”

    I could not have left you, she kept saying. “I could not have left you. Oh, forgive me”

    She repeated it to the man that was now a stranger — Eduardo, the soldier. But it was too sad to stay here. I had to leave to the valley, to the sea. So I walked out and into the emptying streets, thinking of Tercero. The way his face watched the things around him, I knew I could tell him secrets, too. It was nightfall, and the same nuns lingered out in the distance, this time, with a coffin carried by four young boys. Their veils flew out about them and the sun was bleeding onto the ground. Their long shadows fell out to their sides as ghouls in the sand.

    I wished for him to come, but he did not. So I went to his room, at the Inn. I followed the brugmansias down the path. I heard the leftovers of the street kids and the markets disappear. I waited until the rooms became shabby, when the buildings built their pits into the mountains.

    I knocked.

    He answered and his face let me in.

    I walked in.

    He was wearing a sheet.

    The room was hot, and heavy and thick with body.

    “Why are you dying?” I asked. I stood in the middle, on the rug with the triangles and the dirty fringes.

    “I am human.”

    I laughed, and I then stopped, embarrassed.

    “Do you see these flowers?” He walked toward a pot of them, and fingered the petals. “It is not going to be here forever, no matter how colorful the petals are.”

    He plucked one and held it out. “Now, see? It is dying.”

    He brought it to me, and gave it me. “You will cherish it, will you?”

    I told him, yes I would. “I’d love it.”

    “But all the same as people, it will go. And you will not have the flower any more.”

    I watched his skinny knees. The hair on his body was tired.

    He put the flower in my hand. “I’m sick because of love,” he said.

    His eyes were bright in the sun setting through the window, and I could see in him the weariness he carried; this was the same weariness inside the eyes of Dolores.

    “Bodies are poison, even if you love them,” he said quickly.

    Tercero looked at me and put his fingers around his wrist. “Do you know I used to pull lovers on wooden seats through the town? I used to tame my mother’s ox. I used to make a field flowers bloom every summer. Now I can wrap three fingers around my wrist.”

    I said nothing. I wept staring into my lap.

    “I can show you my field,” he said. And he took me up in one hand, me crying slowly.

    “I won’t tell you not to cry,” Tercero told me. “I cry too.”

    I asked him if he’s afraid. He says he is, and then he says the way my mouth is shaped is what makes him honest. And I told him the color of his hair made me love Spain, and the honesty of it’s people.

    “The sun lights everything here, y la tristeza ya la belleza es aceptables,” he said, right into my eyes.

    Dolores hid nothing. She’s clean the floor on her knees, crying into the soap. And I loved her in    those moments, with her brown skin and her dry curls and the way she looked at the photographs as if its memory was pornography — longing, longing.

    In the field he brought me to, he said he planted all the flowers that could bloom, yellow at the farthest end of the valley. And then red and blue and green. Like a rainbow, he said. “In this way,” Tercero says to me, “I bring the sky down to earth.”

        He says it is a way that God visits. “We get to know one another before I move into his place.”

    “But this is my secret,” he said. “So, do not tell America.” He laughs beautifully, something I won’t forget.

        And we lay down, and I think about Dolores pulling that poor, old, tired man into her arms. I think about the white, sterile place I came from. Because all around us things are broken and limbs are missing and lemons roll down streets. You can still eat them. They’re still good, and real, and they still sting you.

    America will throw them away.

    And the dying still mean something. They’re always important, even as they leave. They are always alive until the moment they die.

    But America packs them away in more white boxes where everything loses dignity.

    In Spain, the people dance and love and fight with sweat on their faces.

    But where I come from, they wash up, always pampering their pores and smelling like perfumes made from flowers they have never seen before.

    Like the flowers in Tercero’s field: in amarillo, rojo, azul y verde.

    “I want you to rip up from the ground every single flower you see,” he said to me. “So you can practice letting go. You will miss them. You will hurt. Everything will be ugly.”

    He guided my hand to the ground.

    “You have to let some things go.”

    So I ripped up the rainbow from its roots, and I brought a handful of dead flowers to lay upon Dolores’ doorstep.

    “Dolores,” I said, with her cutting lemons against the light from the moon. “You have to let him go. Diga adiós al pasado.”

    And we cried with a bitter taste on our tongues.

Filed under: Caper Issue 1, Lisa Marie Basile

Levels of Adherence, Angel Garcia

Spent, he rolled onto his back. He knew his heart was beating quickly, because when he looked down at his chest, he couldn’t keep up with the twitching. He’d been here before. The qualities of a brief encounter were present and in abundance: clothes carelessly strewn along their trail, cigarettes cautiously night-tabled beside them, sheets wrung in approval, bare bellies up in air, no strings attached. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Angel Garcia, Caper Issue 1

Ghost Towns, Lisa Marie Basile

We are cracking open
the sky and talking about
dead light
hopeful in Bodie
lost in Dolomite
in love in Rhyolite
my hands shake
holding sanded skulls,
eyes like God’s
they watch the yellow whirl
and the dead wind
the mornings are warm
and the nights are cold
we shiver, we cling
time brings
a middleground
to Garlock to
Cima
to the dreams
we watch sitting
in glittering frames up in the
desert sky.

Filed under: Caper Issue 1, Lisa Marie Basile

Trick or Treat Me and I’ll Come Back on Christmas, Roberto Beltran

I slid her shirt off from my desk, then a pair of panties that Ihoped weren’t clean, one of  those pink razors, reading glasses she never needed to read any of my stuff, the little white string from a used tampon I think I might of eaten on a really drunken night, and a cheesy gold chain from Chinatown I gave her for her third poorest birthday that I broke by trying to choke myself the first time she died. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Caper Issue 1, Halloween, Roberto Beltran

An Oriental Enigma

Jimmy Johnson was a brutish boy sired by a brutish father who left Jimmy’s mother months before Jimmy’s birth. A large baby, he tormented his tiny, gentle mother by screaming tantrums and red- faced bawling, targeting her with his baby bottles at exquisite aim and high speed velocity. With the lack of discipline by  the  hard  working, single  mother combined with  the baby’s  unmanageable temper, Jimmy became the scourge of day care centers and later, kindergarten teachers. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Caper Issue 1, Halloween, Katie O'Sullivan

Endangered Species, Kenneth M. Karrer

A Pterodactl  and a Tyrannosaur
Came to my door
And rang the bell,
Light flipped on
A “trick or treat!”  shout
Bags thrust out with
Grubby handed claws.
Apples , oranges, and candy
Plopped in and did not
Hit the bottom of
The sacks.
They wheeled and left with a
Perfunctory growl.
I watched them walk across the
Street,
Sorting what they’d eat.
They threw away the fruit.
Dropped the candy wrappers
On the lawn,
Gobbled down snickers and candy corn.
They’ll be sick by dawn.
No wonder dinosaurs became extinct.

Filed under: Caper Issue 1, Halloween, Kennethe M. Karrer

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