By Thomas Heise
— I remember a strange family had taken me into its arms, welcoming me “home,” a lost and important part of their life’s dream, they claimed, and when I heard those words instantly I developed fever — I remember red velvet wallpaper shaped with concentric circles which when focused upon seemed to spiral and thought this is a sign of my volition, my ability to move things, and this, I remember thinking, would grow stronger in the coming years I feared — I remember as a young boy wanting someone to take me inside from the wind — I remember on the woman’s dress an embroidered map of Europe before the war where desire shared a border with Russia — I remember how I dared to cross my heart in secret when I was sure no one was looking — I remember the parakeet would fly away over the fields for weeks at a time, leaving me to my own thoughts, and then would return suddenly at night with new words that left me transfixed — I remember how vexed I was on the eve of our departure into the city — I remember kneeling on the floor, sucking at a cut on her fingertip — I remember the description of the bright interior archive was torn, the understory would remain unspoken — I remember the poets year after year praising the amaryllis — I remember red was the colour of circle, red was the colour of being looked-at — I remember becoming entranced, my words began to dissolve with each repetition, each involuntary arm movement when I peered up the branches of the bare autumn and when I turned away — I remember at four being called an interruption — I remember the helicopter hovering, pivoting over the skyscraper in strong weather, someone unseen pulling up the rope ladder — I remember they put a tag with my name on it about my neck — I remember how she made me feel urgent and in the heart of the plaza — I remember something pregnant in me — The last thing I remember was promising myself — A scrap of tinfoil placed in my mouth and I thought for a moment how it was like
The city doesn’t have to make sense, it doesn’t love you or anyone. And if you were to say, I have lived in your arms a long time and the view of the refinery fires is all I’ve ever dreamed of. And if you were to say that the soft glass of the Mies van der Rohe is a machine is an island is a time zone and that there are wolves in the park and see I love you mother would it matter to the Esso Station or the squatter’s hut. And if you were to say these RGB sunsets over the rusting-shopping-cart pasture are going black and that surrealism is dead replaced by voicemail and the girl with the pink hula hoop you just imagined and the man counting the aeroplanes in their holding patterns wonders if they’re Chinese. The city is not a collection of people, it’s where we plant our antennas, the central node the roads lead from in eight directions. And if you were to say I am a bundle of vibrating strings and the city is in decline as an idea and on the time-elapsed film the mid-century apartment tower is taken apart like regret by unseen hands and in its dusty space sprout weeds and in its weeded space is melted gold. Moscow Caracas Budapest Tbilisi Yerevan my ears are ringing Kyoto Sao Paulo Microsoft Mandalay New York. And if you were to say our world will run out of air and if the sun breaks the windows at Sainte-Chapelle I am bathed in flames once more and if you were to say I separate the ineffable from the slave maker ant and confuse them again and I do this multiple times or my mind will atrophy in the blue suburban juntas and the dinner of onions and herring will grow cold in the cul-de-sac. The Well Wrought Urn holds the ashes of Baudelaire and the Rosa Mystica bleeding her aromatic oil on Palm Sunday offers her figure for your poems. And if you were to say the city in the visual static of a snow storm in 1958 before the invention of the Taser and the metro entrance is an impromptu society of hats gathering for a journey to a nouveau resort. And if you were to say to the iron lung pushed through the streets you are more important than Ulysses. And if you were to say passer-by, cinema of lush flowers where you slept like Proust. The sky a perfect rectangle with a star nailed in each corner. Aoyama: year nine times the probability of grace is not enough. And if you were to say Hyderabad Favela Agora the sex workers in Lahore have gone on strike. And if you were to say, I hyperventilate into a brown sandwich bag when I read this. And if you were to say, what did you expect, bottles thrown from the roof.
. . . And how I came to be with you again in the ruins of the Chrysler plant, beneath the coil of silver tubes dangling from the disembowelled ceiling, as if the whole place, what was left unplundered, had been eaten by worms, and the plaster from the mural of workers on the assembly line crumbling like regret when we touched it, and the dreams of Art Deco in which life is elegantly modern and destroys the world in its little way like the Ile de France crossing the Atlantic with its passengers tipping oysters as if it were yesterday or 1913 with girls dancing the whirligig and moonlight on the seagulls following the flow of the waste stream. And how I came to be with you again, without warning, when the first notes of a piano recall the aromatics of an oriental lily in a certain hotel in Berlin on Sunday where on a florid but threadbare carpet rested a Borzoi with blue eyes content and utterly still in an enigma all of its own we thought it might have been porcelain. There in the ether stretched through the misfortune of our time zones, and the rows of ones and zeroes where I come to be with you again for a brief moment, relieved, then the screen refreshes its memory and the Skype goes blank and the sky a Mondrian of aeroplanes coordinating a descent into the cantilevered city of glass and a woman sings through my headphones “I am the storm and I am the wonder” and how in the midst of my Swiss illness I came to be with you again in Akihabara, Kreuzberg, on a staircase in Astoria, in Nişantaşı whose malls have x-ray machines to guard the flowering chandeliers of Murano, a burning garden, in the Shilin night market where for a moment I lost you in the rabbit warren of vendors and pushcarts until at the end of the block under a plasma screen selling its own magical lucidity you waited with a rainbow on your face. In the postindustrial quarter the fishbowl cameras film the school of shoppers swimming through the honeyed light of exhaust when an epiphany suddenly happens and reactionary modernism is replaced by Jeff Koons who made it smile and Chloe in the Afternoon becomes the Ingres painting it once was, the odalisque with her elongated gaze in a room so warm you could bend the air. And a door slides open to a seacoast of rolling surf crested with fog and a Russian cargo ship piloted by a satellite eases past without a sound, as if someone forgot the volume has been muted, and the silhouettes playing chess in the sand dunes appear in a pantomime as if they too might blow away in the salted wind and welter and whether or not I came to be with you again, catatonic on the grey waters of my mattress wondering equally what soared above in the stars—radaradaradar—and what swirled below in the illuminated vortex, love and death collapsing into the hole of the other from which each erupted, and how I came to be with you again in the afterlife of sleep I would not remember when I woke, to find myself, as always, locked in the unshakeable present tense, perfect like the mako shark. Most certainly a chemical explanation exists for this defect. The woman who rubbed your soul so your life felt electric for once absconds in the middle of a wet snowstorm, steering and staring through the rearview mirror until her guilt is small enough she can no longer care for it. And then just like that she returns in a pair of Louboutins in the Galerie du Passage carrying the very word desire into the folds of the theatre curtains, the shutters clicking. In the time it takes for the smashed wine bottle to be recycled into a windshield in Genoa, or for the foreign correspondent to report the body count in Sadr City as a sports score when the roar goes up, or for the bird to become a hybrid that sings for its other half (Khlebnikov’s ear perched at the lip of the café table) once the deciphered genome has been rewired and an aria from Tosca explodes from a cellphone in a handbag made of python, everything, even our breathing, stops. As it does when the Eurostar slips its head under the Channel and we fall drowsy from excitement. And how I came to be with you again has yet to be determined. The citrine light beyond the minarets and wild quince trees of Tangier are a promise redeemed when the human heart has run out of water or lost its restore point so nothing else works, except goodbye. And now the film is too beautiful we want it to start over before it ends, and in the crushed dark we realize its final flourish has begun. And now the espresso machine is a miniature city and we live on its edges. And how I came to be with you again when remembrance is a species of forgetting. And now in the hollows of the fertile night every woman is a debased copy of you at your dressing table perfuming her hair as I recline on a divan in a tableau vivant, retrieving a letter from my pocket I had written to you for such an occasion.