i cannot claim we invent any games, any more than they might say we’ve been invented by the people who sit in the garden looking back at us. passion. orange. guava. mango. zambarau. coming to the orchard only after we are spent from hurting each other, tired from performing and inventing ways of dying, we count fruits by a certain order: those that promise to fall, those ripe only for worms, those cursed to bitterness. not knowing what to do with the unreachable, we throw stones at them.
the canopy is so thick the place stays dark. we never see her. it is understood she is there and we are never to be seen in the trees. she is there in her blue garments, moving behind the trees, standing guard, turning into plant, knitting time into the fur of cats. if a fruit falls it belongs to the earth. sometimes she inspects a fallen fruit, always leaving it where it fell. so from an early age we learn to observe decay from a distance, not sensing it in each other.
one day the lady comes out for a stroll. we hide behind a door, watching her from the spaces between the loose wood. seventeen cats trail her, none daring to walk past her, their heads beautiful in the sun—her children. they look at us and fling their shawls around their necks, strutting like newcomers at a festival. two cats lick her pale feet, their tongues hard and wet and pink, another wrestles with the tail of her blue garment. we follow her round the block, thinking if the hour is suitable for licking each other. we throw stones and exchange blood and mascara and artificial sweetener. latecomers. she stops for a while at the jacaranda tree and kisses it. four years we have pissed on that tree. I think the lesson here is forgiveness. or forgetfulness.
at night we watch her shadow in the orchard. you give me your eyes—evening light. we follow her movements, our legs wrapped in bandages. at the centre she sits stooped, her hands full of dirt, strangling cats, as one might wring a favourite cotton dress the night before church. she buries them under the flowers of the mango tree. you want to know why i always refuse to come on your belly. 
we talk less and less, pay no attention to the whistling and tsk tsk tsk of the people in the garden. we learn how decay starts, how to sustain it, how to fear each other by loving animals, how to knead mud to get rid of all the air. mostly the beginnings of foreign alphabets.


2 thoughts on “xxi

  1. David Biespiel says:

    Dear Clifton Gachagua:

    What a delight to read your poem, “A Bronze God, or a Letter of Deman,” in today’s Poetry Foundation feature. These lines —

    I like the opening of your joined palms,
    which is like an urn where my ashes find a home.

    — are just first rate for their impressionist longing.

    Warm wishes,
    David Biespiel

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