Dear Post-America, no, Postal America,
I’m coughing myself to sleep on howling steps that were once the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, pillowed by the tombstones of Louis and Clark, spooning the mummified corpse of Sacagewea. I can see twin towers covered in fuselage and the dead men they swallowed. Before that we didn’t do ruins.
Now we are the modern Pompeii buried beneath newspapers and motel sixes, beneath brick and stone and the bones of Pharisees and Wall Street Brokers.
I’m foreign in a familiar land. I’m a bookless, homeless, bombed-out, burned-up pioneer in a dead world made of dead words facing a sea-washed statue liberated from meaning, her flame out, her arm stretched in the air as she sinks in the sand. Over there is a mountain with four worn-away faces, there’s Washington’s limp phallis, a white house sick with the blood of Indians and presidents. I start to think this is all one big middle finger to whoever came up with the phrase ideas never die and the phrase I’d give you the shirt off my back and to whoever thought democracy was immortal.
And I know the devil’s been most patient.
We can’t afford color blinds on our windows, not with kids in Disney shirts waving from the roadside, young women stooped by rubber trees, old men smiling with malachite teeth. There is the International conglomerate and the poor indigenous and all that separates us are barbed-wire fences and fat bank accounts. I spend my day learning U.S. History; my nights playing soccer with a ball of teak root. Some locals drop a hornet nest near my head. I think 9/11 occurred in Kuala Lampur.
The skies are gray. There are no pigeons but deadly chemicals disguised as bread crumbs. We can’t let the pets outside – I wonder if it is because of the poison or the markets where vendors line stalls with freshly-gutted dogs. The Chinese see us less as bourgeois, more as barges. Strangers call their friends over to laugh at our large feet, our looming height. A business man wants my picture by a bull statue’s testicles. Poverty is swept behind skyscrapers and the larder of cranes. Our U.S. passports can only get us far. From there on it is knowing which barbershops cut your hair and which are brothels.
We live in rich man prison – a network of mansions connected by a network of canals. Transport includes travel-by-yacht. I’ll take the boat to the Mall, tie her up, watch a film with English subtitles. I’ll take her to open water and fish like Ernest Hemingway. We say what we want about Hugo Chavez. The taxi drivers never agree; they think they’re monitored. Nothing can stop the wanton – not the insurgents, not the kidnappers who take our neighbors, not the pirates asking for agua with pistols behind their backs, not the man collapsed in the Wendy’s drive-through with a bullet in his shoulder.
Santa Barbara, California
I’m idling incognito, an exclusive ooze, wasting away with a cynical smile. There are scars on my legs from jungle hornets, a little red book full of Mao. I think in languages I never use. I walk along landing strips and thumb airplanes and refuse to play tricks on Gimpel. I don’t belong. I don’t belong. I don’t know where this is going.