by Chuck Calabreze
If you will tell me your new name, I will tell you mine. I could be Randall Bane, though I worry its closeness to banal. I knew a poet who changed her name to Lettie Hank. Her poems became lyrics for shape-note singing in a wind-infused West Virginia cabin overlooking the lopped-off mountaintops once larded with coal. One must have a mind of winter, que no? Whatever our names turn out to be, we should study the ecstatics regardless. Mallarme. The Spanish mystics. The Chileans. The unmoored Moors. The abyss-gazers and pressers-at-the-gates-of-dream. Lost poets keening in the well. There is a wall between who we think we are and who we are. The mundane is only a disguise the miraculous wears, a dull suit to make it through the day.
It’s midnight. The event tonight was splendid, though the fireworks and brass brand were probably a miscalculation. Still the white half-boots of the drum major were dazzling in the spotlights. Kicked so high and the pinkish calf exposed. When we dream of hummingbirds, the gates of desire open. Then the rush and lather. Your earnestness a squall in an otherwise calm sea. A bruised apple on the sill. Someone singing “Jesus Is On the Mainline” in a darkened room. One towel. A heart etched on the steamed-over mirror. Water. Tile. An assault that sounds like a thousand kisses. Assault? I meant assent. The sailors drunken and caterwauling as the ship moved through the locks. All the boats lifted and still you don’t call.
When the waltz ended, all the dogs howled. The peasant in the darkest corner gnawed the last bit of gristle from the femur. I thought of you when the trombonist honked his flurry of notes to end it. The song. The night. A flagon of ale and a slow retreat. How ardent you were! You pored over the text as if the fading letters were a thin gruel, were the slick noodles of meaning in a meaningless stew. You think I am lucid when I should be pellucid. Opaque when I should be coughing softly into my fist. In the language of God, a kind of furry Latin. Brush it one way, it glistens. The other, and light curls around and around in it like a dog. Then sleeps. Meet me on the other side of the river. The stentorious one. The duck-flecked one. The river that divides the mundane from the mystery. I sleep beside those waters.
Chuck Calabreze’s poems and stories have appeared in recent issues of Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Stockholm Review, Madswirl, Platte Valley Review, and Indiana Review. He currently serves as the City of Santa Fe’s first official Poete Maudit.