Archive for the 'religion' Category

Bottom feeder

another giant squid

This is what it’s like to be a bottom feeder. First of all, we love ink. Ink is invisibility. Ink is darkness. Ink is what we write our history with. Look out there, out there into the vast whiteness. It has nothing to say until the ink drops into its wide open. No turning back once the ink has been spilled.

You want to tell your history, that’s fine, nobody’s stopping you. You want to tell someone else’s history, that’s different. There’s danger there, smells like sulfur, smells like burning cactus, smells like the brushfire or the war that can rush in and wipe out an entire clan.

Once I was playing cards in the back room of a little trailer house in Four Corners and I heard the wind pick up suddenly, and it was like I could see them even from inside, tumbleweeds rushing across the black night and suddenly igniting, igniting like monks in red robes, self immolating and taking down the fragile open country and everything that lives there with it.

I understand the meditative life of the tumbleweed, I understand the need to move, to feel the wind catch and carry us somewhere new. I knew about that even before I left Navajo country after the fire. I found my home on water, water green and blue and dark, almost black, where I fell in and never went back to dry land again, not for more than two, three days at a time. Long enough to find myself lurching when I came back to dry land, feeling the hitch and pull of gravity and rotation more strongly than I felt them on the water.

My family’s been landlocked for hundreds of years, most of them. My sea ways made me foreign, weird and unrecognizable as a giant squid, coming up from the deep only rarely, with gifts for my sister’s children, and then her grandchildren, until I am the only old salt on the Navajo nation, bringing seaweed ristras and monkey balls and painted tentacles. I stay a couple days, give them the salty sweet taste of my bottom feeder’s life, and then I leave again, leaving behind nothing but a trail of ink, and a history they can fabricate from the secrets hidden in the bright open sky and the black mesa reaching in the four directions around them.

For me, I add two more directions: straight up into the heavens, and straight down, into the cold, dark waters, where the wild shy ones live, where I feel most at home.

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At the intersection

© Teresa Valle 2006

I. Making change

Keep it in your pocket.
Give it to the men who hold signs in exhaust.
Give it to the barista with the plump little belly, the bright nose ring.

Change happens during coagulation, the altering of blood from liquid
to solid. A settling of substance, the end result a state of no change.
During circulation, the end result is no end result, end process only,
a flowing away of substance; never stops leaving,
never finishes arriving.

The biological definition of life is irritability.
If you poke it with a stick and it responds, it must be alive.

Curmudgeonly, the living. In a continual state of reaction and withdrawal.
Tidal.  Moonscape shows the blue-lit octopus waving his tentacles,
restless and resting, reaching, grabbing, sucking      exclamation points declaiming
alive alive alive      into the deep blue deep blue below

foggy eyes move past, bubbles
rise and sing and gasp

            Luke, I’m your father. Down on his knees, Luke crying
            Jesus fucking Christ I am alive and it hurts, old dad

           But old dad just keeps on wheezing, deeper and darker, colder
           than obsidian.           What a terrible risk it is

to be alive, what a terrible risk we say, and imagine a cold old
Davy Jones and the breathless beyond. We are sure
            somehow      that the unreachable unknowable is more
desirable than here where we struggle for air.

II. Evolution

Imagine that you are on your knees praying       day and night       except 
when working at your job,      scrubbing the toilet,      weeding
your garden,      washing your children,      taking your lover in
your mouth.     One day it occurs to you that

your life revolves around genuflection
bowing and scraping and breathing for release.  A remembrance of waves
washes by one day and draws you back into the deep.  The sound of air
calls a song from over-yonder and that reminds you
          somehow
of your grandpa and his mean-spirited lay gospel.  You imagine him
in the great beyond and it seems to have surprised him.  He’s wearing

nice clothes,    but    half the Beach Boys are there with him,
and lots of old blue-black blues men, and he’s pretty sure
there was supposed to be two heavens, one for white folks,
one for coloreds.    But    even before he passed he noticed
it was getting harder to tell exactly what color some folks
was, and it’s possible that that great great grandma of his mighta
been more colored than Indian,    so    maybe there was

   separate heavens, and he’d gotten assigned according to lineage,
the begettings and begottens of  a long family. He starts to think
 about evolution and himself as  half-man, half crocodile. This makes him
smile; he pats his own arms and belly,
looking for scales, or feathers, or something that says

man, here, is part of a continuum, not a settling of accounts, not
an end point.    But      patting his pocket he finds some
change      a few quarters, a nickel with an unfamiliar profile.
III. At the intersection

He sits for a long time on a log in a quiet place that smells of
swamp and a faint sea breath, playing with the coins, flipping
    head tail head head tail tail head    smoothing them
warm with thumb and forefinger.          Eventually, the sun goes down and he gets up, walks away from the log,
toward the sea breeze and the little patch of star-sky out over there.
He believes at last in evolution, and finally he is not irritable
   at all.

the sun goes down and he gets up, walks away from the log,
toward the sea breeze and the little patch of star-sky out over there.
He believes at last in evolution, and finally he is not irritable
   at all.
the sun goes down and he gets up, walks away from the log,
toward the sea breeze and the little patch of star-sky out over there.
He believes at last in evolution, and finally he is not irritable
   at all.

 


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