THE TRAIN BLEW THROUGH THE STATION WITHOUT BRAKING. ON THE
platform, babies lifted out of their carriages and dropped back down into the arms of strangers. Nobody could figure out who belonged to whom. It was a lottery of mothers and fathers, lonely aunts and childless couples. A man who looked just like me scooped me up and together we went home to meet my mother who was working on a jigsaw puzzle at the kitchen table. I fit right into place but my father didn’t. He was not blue like the sky or grey like the arched bridge. The station was littered with hats. I set up a booth and sold them for a slight profit. My father glowed with pride.
YOU ARE FLOATING ON YOUR BACK IN THE SALT WATER. A LITTLE CORK
bobbing in the waves. A moment of infinity, brief but intense. Or, you are trying to imagine yourself as an old woman getting on a bus in Aarhus and feeling beautiful for no particular reason. Or, you are searching for a Danish poet only to find, when you look him up, that he is a pathologist. You think poets and pathologists probably have a great deal in common. Engaged, as they both are, in the peculiar and the wonder-like. Which in the Danish – underligt – means exactly the same thing.
FROGS FELL FROM THE SKY AND LANDED ON THE ROOF OF THE CITROËN.
Caught in the headlights, they bounced like gymnasts on the road in front of us. A plague? A child’s game? We’d hitchhiked a long way from home. Meteors shot across the sky. Each one’s a death, said the girl in the backseat. No, I countered, each one’s a wish. The trick is to return to the moment. To smell the butts in the ashtray, the air freshener dangling from the mirror. Stairway to Heaven was playing on the radio. God arms himself with his smallest creations. Through the windshield, the amphibians looked like embryos. Little replicas from the illustrated textbook of medical miracles and anomalies.
ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE READ THE SIGN ON THE CAFÉ DOOR. THE
ocean adzed in sunlight. Soup simmering on the stove. At a corner table, Breton was arguing with Artaud about a fly in the water pitcher. One wanted to fish it out, one wanted to let it drown. I shit on Marxism, said the madman to the surrealist. It was Wednesday. A local improv group was about to perform. One of the actors sat down at a white piano in an imaginary asylum. The audience loved the idea of madness but recoiled at language that glistened like a weapon.
EVERY WORD HE WROTE FLEW OFF THE PAGE. SOME WERE OBSERVED swooping above the Catedral de Santa María de la Sede one Friday shortly after midnight. Lovers milled about the fountain and somewhere, in the shadows, an amateur was playing a Spanish guitar. Nobody knew the war had ended. Searchlights continued to scan the skies. When the old air raid siren in the park went off, every poem, every story, every sentence he’d ever written rose in one panicked movement. A sight he tried, and failed, for the rest of his life, to describe.
IN OUR BASEMENT, THE WRINGER-WASHER BARKED LIKE A BABY SEAL.
Strangers showed up with offerings of raw fish wrapped in newspaper. My mother thanked them and started giving weekly reports on the pup’s progress. Brigitte Bardot sent a hand-written note on perfumed stationary applauding the rescue effort and chiding Sophia Loren for wearing fur. In the end, it got out of hand and my mother told the strangers, who had become her dearest friends, she had released the seal into the ocean. Look, she said, pointing to a bald head bobbing in the gray waves, he looks just like Gandhiji without his glasses on.
MY GRANDFATHER LAY MOTIONLESS BENEATH A CHENILLE BEDSPREAD.
His upturned hands drifting like little boats. He was coming and going through the open window, a little further each time. Chestnuts, spiked like medieval maces, lay on the ground in what looked to be the aftermath of a long and arduous battle. Death is inside the bones, wrote Neruda, like a barking where there are no dogs. I kept my distance. Behind me, my father was on his knees by the hospital bed. I couldn’t tell if he was praying. On the wall, his shadow leaned slightly forward. As if wanting to comfort but hesitating to intrude.
MY MOTHER TOOK ME TO A MOTEL TO WATCH THE ECLIPSE. BIRDS
fell silent and the temperature dropped. A line of darkness crossed the continent. She made a pinhole camera out of an empty pack of Camel cigarettes. Scallops, crescents, batman icons climbed the walls. Little moons spilled on the floor and onto our feet. Unsure if the world was ending, she pulled on her white gloves and opened the door to the growing twilight. Through the leaves, the eclipses on the sidewalk looked like scales. Together we walked on the back of a marvelous fish. Somebody was tying a fly at a kitchen table. Someone was about to cast a long line.