Barbara Jane Reyes
Barbara Jane Reyes
After Juan Carlos Quintana's Juegitos de Guerra (American Lullaby Series) 2007
Pistolitas de Azścar Exhibit, Galerķa de la Raza, San Francisco, May 11, 2007
He is a freckled boy, a flaxen-haired crackerjack, a boatswain rosy-cheeked mopboy child. He's a crayon coloring book cartoon, forlorn ghost who's lost at sea. He is building a crippled empire. He's damaged but he's still trying to read the crossroad signs, deployed with ammo: here's a little game, a teensy weensy pistol, a pinch of salt in a great big ocean. He is lockshorn, and inside his head, he wears his father's brain. His victory medaled, easy chair safe, sweatervest safe and pomaded father. This pinch of stardust begetting the cosmos, his father is the stuff of stars.
He is caught in a web of war prison cells, where swept into festering garbage, heaps grade school rucksacks' adventure boy days, devil may care and feet swinging sunshine, brass buttoned drummer boy, bright stripey candy, secret toy surprise days. It wasn't supposed to happen this way, the angels of bloodshed descending. He covers his milk crusted eyes.
He's the man who's crawled on all fours onto the rush hour bus; he can't get up. He can't say where he needs to be let off. Somewhere. He's lost one stinky overworn sandal. He wears one threadbare sock on one callused foot. A fermented smell that clings to his hair in oily clumps and knots. He winces his destination, and no one can hear him wince. He remains on this bus 'til it reaches its end stop, and circles back around again. He rocks himself. He hums and lulls. This scene replays itself three, four times.
Before his toddler stumbling days, before he forgot how to walk, before the flowerbed dimple-kneed girls come feeling his biceps, he's naked, crutched, hollowed, swollen, and children in bonnets point up and up. They want to be him because he is their hero, of dime store comic book big briny deep, where sailorboys in unison singing sea songs, don boat paper hats, donald duck soft. Now he's a tangled weaving of blood, a painted shadow, seaman whose stardust filled head now rings with implosion. He crouches, falls backward, he's hot in the kill, with pistols of sugar, and tangerine flavored chemical dots that stick to the tongues of sugared skulls, sour milkspill into black drowning sea. His pomaded father weaves his frayed synapses, puppet and kite strings, rosary beads. He fashions these into a noose. It wasn't supposed to happen this way.
He's a haunt, he's lost at sea. He builds an empire from his crippled bones and calcified wounds. He crawls city streets, he cannot uplift. Gravel and pebbles embed themselves there, in the skin of his knees and his once fleshy palms. There, where the angels of abscess and the angels of bloodclot hush him and bid him good fight, goodnight.
He dreams the warm blanket smell of his father, his Arlington Cemetery victory father. But some pauper's grave is where some one will dump the bones of his own strip mined body. His headstone blank, and even his children, who in a fleeting moment tenderness, wished to find him (this narcosis haze), they couldn't know where to search. He'd winced his name, and no one at County, and no one at the VA hears him wince. There's no one to savor his prewar glossies, he's yellowing at the edges and fading. Fading, he's falling fast asleep.
He dreams his soul's a rusted tin of rusted nails, blunted and bent, pulled from a building before this building is leveled to dust. His body, this building, does not remember construction, or function, or the sad tenants of its sad little rooms, or the stubborn melodies of no word lullabies these long dead tenants once sang to their long dead medaled, amputee children, clinging to vacated hallways' stagnant air and cobwebs of his parched, brittle veins. How much it hurts. Oh, how it hurts. But do not cry, for God is nigh. If you should die before your wake, your soul to slake, your day is done. The angels of breach sing you to sleep.