There Are No Names for Red
A taxi through night and Palms that gather desire like the dew.
A window opens onto the hiss of rain on tarmac and this smell
is old earth, and a grave, grace even and flowers rotting
at the edge of time, at the edge of the road where a child died.
It's like the way the little white plane hovers on the vastness of
the ocean between Godthab and St. John's. The Atlantic tamed
momentarily by the flight information screen and yet in the dark cabin,
all that keeps it aloft is the soft breathing of the other sleeping passengers.
And nothing is lonelier in the world at this moment
than that little white cross on the expanse of blue screen.
Faith is something like this, I imagine. Not of God. But of a pen or a brush
held up like the last flaming torch of the century, and yet flimsy –
this desire of the artist to keep the blue from swallowing it all up.
Like something that happens only at night.
Like a lie and desperation so thick you can breath it. Moments
like this, the skin widens to the lover's touch and the back arches to whispers.
Even this cannot keep the void away. The mid-Atlantic ridge is a
mountain under the sea, and its active volcanoes widen the ocean bed.
I want to say, "This one's on me, Mr. Freud! Can I get an Amen?"
Still we're lost in that vast blue and I think how did the Vikings ever find
anything down there? Stumbling about in the dark like still unrealized id's.
There is nothing clear about it, nothing lasting about this clarity.
I will do it different, I say. I will. As if the threat of death is not a smell
I will lose in a few days. This terror comes in without knocking.
Like a familiar lover intruding into the bathroom as I pee.
I will lose even this when it mingles with the old smell of her wetness
and I will forget and drown us both in wine and regret.
Chris Abani, Los Angeles, April 2006.
From ‘There Are No Names for Red.’ Paintings by Percival Everett. Poems by Chris Abani.