From Texas, published in 2012 by Quattro Books.
Before we invaded this country the President spoke to his commanders in the field. We are the truth, our mission sublime, he began, I read it in the statement I signed yesterday. Last century, phones were phones and cameras were cameras. Everywhere was far and we were free to do what we do. Tell the embedded correspondents it is important that we have comprehensive and transparent reporting of the welcome and the merriment that will coincide with our arrival. All copy should be written in advance. Fiddling and thighs aflutter is how we’ll usher in the war, said the President, and finish it. As for the stars and the moon, we’ll turn them back on again during the celebration and then for a few hours each evening. At all other times everyone can write letters to their steady, but if she’s a he don’t tell the Army.
After meeting with his commanders the President met with media moguls over dinner and some fine scotch. I started this conflict, he said, it’s up to you to decide its meaning. Let’s not forget the final solution was a media success before they built the death camps. Make sure your editors know, no corpses and no photographs of those who have begun, but are not finished, dying. War is a catastrophe and it’s abstract. Not for us to understand. These are the Texas arts that mark better days to come. Remember, he added, there are six of you and six is still too many. Before the President left they finished off the bottle. Six, sighed Rupert Murdoch, will only make the message stronger. Let’s open another bottle, said the bigwig from Time Warner, and practice disagreeing. Let’s get this story straight.
The future is garbage and a bargain at ten times the price. We send scrap metal to Bangladesh, electronic waste to Ghana while plastic forms a noose at the equator. On the steps of the Kremlin Yeltsin put a flower inside the barrel of a tank that sealed the fate of Gorbachev. Then he went looking for the highest bidder. I was there. So was the IMF, the World Bank and some other people who were not formally introduced. We helped dismantle the union, administered the shock, and the therapy. The worst gives rise to the best of opportunities. The Russian people are finally free to express their newfound hunger. But this is not my concern and much bigger than the things that I’m saying. In New York I used whiskey to backfill the holes inside my brain but in the morning they opened up again, and I had to squint to keep the buildings in Manhattan from melting.
Hakim is done with his language lesson and he’s asking about Mexico. Mexicans no longer complain about the Spaniards, I begin, those heady days when Cortez filled his ships and took an interest in Aztec anatomy. There’s less gold now but nobody cares because currency is just a multiple, the underlying does not exist. In the new economy Mexico buys guns from Texas with dollars from LA and Baltimore. In Bel Air they can’t tell the worm from the hook since they catch their fish in a restaurant. They pay good money for a pig in a poke, but sometimes the pig is just baking soda. In Baltimore it’s more of a volume business, no bricks and mortar just kids on the corner to keep the overhead low. If they run out of product they’ll still take your money. Mexicans understand markets and demographics. Where they go, Wal-Mart follows.
Texas television never goes down. They flog the red, white and blue because the other colours don’t matter. At Christmas there’s no snow to smooth out the view, but there’s plenty of kin to holler in the New Year. Hakim listens to everything I say. Many will die but in Texas they just change the channel, and on the Lord’s birthday they’ll call a ceasefire. Hakim sees his own blood in these blessed fragments, in the curiosity of a knife, a bullet deaf in a sandstorm. But this is not how he’ll die. Death does not take place where it takes place. It is stirred into the lemonade and the step of a marching band on Main Street. Death as remedy, as means, the accrual of an alibi reborn. Death is dreamed behind the walls of a Texas steeple.
Hakim told me he killed his dog so that it would not lead the soldiers back to his family. This country is ending, he said. I don’t know why he tells me these things. I suppose he wants me to know something of the man who is speaking. I told him yesterday I had visitors from Texas … really … sometimes I talk to a mouse … oh … and a dead bird … I see …but not at the same time … of course … they don’t like each other … naturally … it makes sense then … yes of course … good … eat something brother … thank you. I have a pen and Hakim brings me writing paper. There are words everywhere and I am disagreeing with all that I’m thinking, and with God, when he arrives unannounced. All I need to know is who sent him.
Beethoven wrote the notes between his ears, he never heard a peep outside the ringing. The interval, he thought, there can be no greater freedom. Everything is, because it disappears— numbers, beats and measures. This is how he received the mountains, bone and snow. This is how the sun fits inside a radio. When I got here my face was waiting for me like a gap. When I pray, the words can’t get past the ceiling, the few that do don’t mean anything. Perhaps the silence isn’t big enough. I can wait. Texas reaches behind borders, nouns and predicates, it finds the words it needs. This speaks to their understanding of the particular. It seems I no longer coincide with their point of view and so they have asked me to forget. Forget what ... everything ... I’ll think about it.
Secretly I longed for a regiment, generations of offspring and a machine gun in every window. I had a wife, so far well and good. She paraded me on the back of a donkey as though I had a way of making myself understood. I trimmed my eyebrows to look like I was thinking and my mouth took to greeting everyone. Have you been to Pompeii, everyone is so peaceful there and it’s always the middle of the day. My wife kept her head in Paris but, lucky for me, her thighs were still in our New York brownstone. You must work, she said, we will not speak of the consequences. Let’s go and see again that nothing has happened, I suggested, the years to come are already a waste of time. Then I fed her peaches to disguise the days that were growing like tumours on her lips.
Falling ordinance and the sun are heating up the courtyard, the peacock takes cover in plain view. When the time comes he’ll be easy to catch. I hide under the table, move to the window in between explosions. Everywhere I touch the beginning. The bricks that built this house will be clay again and then a riverbed. Pay attention or you’ll miss it. A gentle breeze follows every air raid but it does not know the blameless from the wicked. It simply swallows the whole town. I am a hostage. I live instead of some other matter and so I am more than the body I inhabit. I am enormous in my disappearing, bigger than the air that Texas is burning outside my window.