Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Good-Time People

The first time I heard the word Africa and knew it loved us    was struggling to reach us and love us,    would exploit every tragedy  in the business to reveal its trouble/joy    we were in that battered women's shelter in blueblack Iowa  rural hush to the authority of our curses   me and mama and her nine months' belly pretending the elevator was our flight to California, hearing the slanted beat of a tambourine between floors and cots and wounded bodies, redemption chore choir  in the water with the lights  shy flickering in the hide-and-seek mannerisms of refugees, hiding from who we longed for. For a lifetime. And the one ally we made in our shelter, Mr. Williams, round and brown and longed for, would close his eyes in the middle of a story about our impending Hollywood freedom/I'm waiting, he would drift off to his standing sleep before giving away the meaning. African Sleeping Sickness, he called it. Where was that. Why was the sickness theirs and so far away. Why was he the best at solving our case, in his sleep. Break down the grace of luck. Where was his gun,  I wondered. Where was his agony to match. How did he plan to fight it. Was he anything like us, runner. Like me and my father and my future. What was he doing to keep from living   this other man's dream. Our first and most modern Sisyphus, redeemer, redentor, casual healer, recalled in the field of my perfect nightmare on earth, you mean, I could have just slept through all this, could just turn the suffering into the dream, live happily ever after in California?