The sand starts piling in the corners before years pass and the stuff covers the floor, who knows how it got here. It’s soft to walk around on but hell to live with: Grains get stuck in the pages of her journal, she makes him swear he’ll clean. He can see the Hollywood sign from his window, really, but it’s never lit at night, he never lights up at night. Famous census hunters bang on the door, somebody’s been making tacos down the hall for a hundred years. On the night of the blood moon she lays down a beach towel made of hundred dollar bills before leaving, and he rests on the floor in endless inexorable rumination as everything outside and far away rotates, a little at first, then a little more.
New voicemail: “I’m like an atom, humming with radiation.” This book starts like that, a stranger comes to town: A call from a strange number you know belongs to him. He comes to town, atomic. You fear him how you fear the earthquakes that haven’t come yet, but will. The voicemail is the P-wave, everything around it distends. Then the shelves and the joists and your eyes snap back suddenly, not quite righted. That’s change. That’s how one of the two types of stories goes.
Make people’s lives better, make people’s lives better. A mantra I repeat because I usually don’t, I’m drinking coffee in the tub. Make people’s lives better, or at least leave your place cleaner than found. Stop tweeting garbage, stop writing poetry. Use words because they’re prayers against violence, I’m not religious, I build paragraphs into holy shields. You could break bread on the shields if you had to, in peacetime, I’m always in wartime, sometimes I don’t / make people’s lives better.
Did you find the city of isolated men beyond mountains?
Or have you been holding the end of a frayed rope
For a thousand years?
-James Wright, “As I step over a puddle at the end of winter, I think of an ancient Chinese governor”