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tearing the rag off the bush again
Our Evil Days PDF E-mail

We have to teach the baby, begged our brother Linus. He dwelt in the Yellow Room, the brilliant canary walls of which kept siblings at bay. We can't let her forget her native language. Green linoleum covered the kitchen floor; silkscreened flowers rose across the wallpaper. The television ran rented video night and day.

Our father, towering gloom in a crisply tailored suit; his eyes could melt leather, but when he died in his bed it was just meat with a sheet stretched over. We laid him naked in a pine box and burnt him. We fought them to our last drop of sweat, he would say, then beheaded our wives and children and fell onto our own swords rather than submit. They banished us, plowed and salted our cities, and what they couldn't take with the sword and the fire they took with time and sheer numbers.

We go to see our baby perform. Backstage, glaring bulbs, sticky floor. Bottles float in a tub of water and melting ice. The smell of other people's breath.

The girls plug in, concentrate. Our baby rides the deep and low, her cigarette wedged under a string where the wood is burned black above the nut, the hot red cherry leaving a trail of smoke. She rests her lips against the mic's steel mesh. A saliva trail oozes to the floor when she moves back, bellows through the p.a.:

    My days have vanished like smoke/My bones are charred like hearthwood/My body is stricken and withered like grass/I've eaten ashes for bread/and mixed my drink with bitter tears/My days are a lengthening shadow/ I'm burning like grass under the sun.

She wades into the crowd. The steel points ringing her wrists draw blood. Charms are inked into the skin of her forearms. Between her brows twists a small letter shin.

After, by the stage door, Linus has her by the wrist. She's twisting away, then smiling sadly, vanishing into the streets.

Once home, we have water on to boil and the video shop on the phone. Mysteries of the Organism, Krapp's Last Tape. Linus comes out of the baby's bedroom, slams the door; locks it; sighs. Plummets into his recliner like a stone into cream.

The white man's needle put her under, as they always do; she lost every breeze and drop of rain, every wind-dappled sunbreak, twisting alone in her bed. But we could remember her voice long after—

Downtown is dead; they're going to raze the buildings, put up something clean and inviting. Come to me. So much space.

We went where the corners were tight and the streets lay out broad and clean, the mess stuffed into grand museums. They welcomed us, our neighbors, took us in, helped us choose our clothes and our haircuts.
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