In 2019, New Territory is concentric circles of green grass cloistered by brick houses, brick walls, brick veins. The streets have pretty names like Whisper Ridge and Rippling Creek and Silver Lake, imagining a lost era of folkishness, only this is the knees of Houston and there never was whispering, rippling, or silver anything, only marshland turned to farmland turned to homeland.
The suburb wears a coat of trees which make the residents hostile when the government cuts them down, arguing that the trees have history, roots, are more than shadow-makers, but no one mentions that they were planted, full-grown, in the late nineties alongside the people. A militia of invisible gardeners marches through the parks, and when the trees are bare-limbed, none can tell if the leaves were individually picked or if it’s Late Winter.
An aerial photo in George Memorial Library shows a different New Territory.
Continue reading “Nonfiction—New Territory for Old Slavery”
My classroom is a block like those you stack in first-grade. Desks stand like lines of British soldiers, and students shout and throw rulers and text each other in a war of attention. My desk is the general’s tent—to the side of the parade grounds and barracks, capable at a moment’s notice to survey the ranks (all I have to do is lift my eyes from my screen to review a regiment using phones to redo eyelashes).
From this distance, it’s difficult to tell if a student is passing notes digitally or using a calculator to complete physics problems. With a war weary sigh, sans mustache, cigar, and epaulets, I rise from my command to remind the infantry that the assignment is due in five minutes.
Sometimes I’ll see a student staring out the window at the end of the hall. But what does she see out there that holds her attention? I know from experience there’s only a gray lot, cars, the track field, the tennis court—all yellow and hazy behind the dusty glass.
But I don’t think she’s looking at anything in particular.
Maybe it’s a mood she senses on the other side of the pane. Across the gold beer plains, coming from distant mountains.
A feeling she won’t find among white walls that slide into a maze of locked rooms and lockers. Halls guarded by ceiling cameras and attentive teachers.
Out there? Streets and side-streets. The brown roofs of suburbia. Highways weaving with the hills like little gray veins. And patches of trees binding shadow-flooded plains to the homes of coyotes.
Sometimes I know what she sees.
My philosophy is a lone night, with the wife far-flung on the couch watching videos about tape worms. I’ve gone to bed early, and the rain is caught by the tree canopy, except for a black fall from the roof that taps the cement. In the dark it could be the crackle of fire. My philosophy is my beating heart compared to her’s. I can only imagine she still lives, eyes fixed on the doctor’s spool, trapped by elemental darkness.
As he showered from another day,
the ink on his arms was washed away.
It’d been left by friends with ecstatic pens
who in excitement had been carried away.
One wouldn’t rub off no matter how much he scrubbed,
drawn by a girl whom he had once loved.