Upon seeing your request…
I want to scratch out my eyes
and tear at my flesh
in a frenzy of self-flagellation.
I want to embark on a trip
through the Amazonian jungle,
take a wrong turn,
and be reported lost on CNN
for all the world to hear –
I want to vomit black blood
and watch it swirl down a drain
without calling 911.
I want a frontal lobotomy
and any other cerebral excision
to rid my mind
of the merest hint of you.
So you can see that I’ll never
say yes to your request
to add me as a contact.
Juliette says the Everything
Book on Yoga has everything in it.
She pages through to show me
what she means, pointing to
a black and white photo here,
a line of text there.
I tell her I have high blood pressure
and she says, “Don’t hold
the downward dog too long.
It’s not good for your head
to be lower than your heart.”
Juliette is 85 and her dark blue eyes
are like marbles with no shine.
She sidled up to me,
without invitation or provocation,
as I stood in the library aisle,
looking for a diet book.
She’s telling me how yoga saved her life.
She tells me how 20 years back the doctors
said her spine was too arthritic –
she would never walk again.
But she just looked at those doctors
with her hard blue eyes and said,
“I won’t accept your diagnosis.
It’s too negative.” And the following day
she enrolled in her first yoga class.
Six months later she was walking again.
“You should be the poster child for yoga,”
I say. “That’s just what my doctor says,”
she replies without missing a beat.
This miracle occurred over 10 years ago.
She’s a master teacher now and so
I trust her when she says
the Everything Book on Yoga
has everything in it, even though
as she walks away, leaving
me with a book
I hadn’t been looking for,
she limps and sways.
Sometimes, when I read a short story in one of the latest literary journals, my mind wanders. I find myself appreciating the storyteller’s craft and control but the story itself leaves me cold. The characters seem enslaved by the story’s design and, as a result, unconvincing. Or the beautiful use of language overwhelms the narrative as a whole and takes away from the movement of the story. It may be that these types of stories just weren’t written for the likes of me. In any case, whenever this happens, I often go over to my bookshelves containing books I can truthfully say I cherish, and I open one at random. Today, I selected Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and read the short story, “A Train is an Order of Occurrence Designed to Lead to Some Result.” The story begins:
“Broom, dustpan, sweep, trash can,” Samuel Builds-the-Fire chanted as he showered and shaved, combed his hair into braids. Samuel was a maid at a motel on Third Avenue.”
At least for me, in so few words, so much is said, and yet hidden, and I at once trust this voice. I trust it will reveal in good time what I need to know—what I must know. And by the story’s end, I do know this character and feel for him. Even though I’m no Indian/native american (well, I guess I’m partly, if that means anything), this tale nevertheless makes me experience for deep moments at a time the journey of one Indian – the journey of one human being. So I say, thank you, Sherman Alexie, for restoring my faith in the magic of storytelling.
I’d like to pass the night
with a single thought
awareness of the ephemeral
in the pocket
and out of
dancing to the heart’s
no future no past
happiness within reach
like a slipshod samba
the shuffling steps
imbued with ecstasy