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Lucia Perillo

12-04-09

Jury Selectioneighb
or, drunk, stood on his lawn and yelled,eighbor, drunk, stood on his lawn and yelled,
If they could only have put that in the papers, how the winter
     light hangs thickly in those southern Massachusetts towns,
sucking orange at four p.m. from the last spasm of daylight, then
     glowing morbid and humming
with a sound barely audible-- not human, more like some rasping
     harmonic twanged
from the animated hulk of machinery that somewhere keeps it
     all running: this town
where the fish have been abandoned for over a century, the old
     men left
with just the memory of fish swimming in their bones, telling stories
     about the Azores
from their perch on rusty forty-gallon drums that have come to
     rest on the riprap
that's been brought in to seal the village from the sea.  And what
     it would feel like to be a man
walking around smothering in the fester of all that-- you can
     almost understand why they did it,
raped that woman on the pool table at Big Dan's in the broad
     daylight of Bobby Darin singing for a quarter
                 ...now that mackie's back in town...
                                    and the mown green felt smelling
 of wet wool and-- yes sweet jesus-- even fish, their blood
     stirring with the sea.
You can almost understand why a woman would have needed it.
 
But before it gets too complicated, remember: we're supposed
     to work with only the available labels
to construct questions that will discern shades of meaning, measure
     culpability.  Whether this woman
has a houseful of gray babies in dirty sleepers, which one's father
     has been named,
where it has happened before, who had drunk which kind of 
     liquor and how much.  She says she only went in for a minute
to tug on the silver nozzles of the cigarette machine, but
     the thin curtains that line her bedroom windows
are clearly visible from the street.  The whole town knows.  Even
     some of these young men
carry the blue nickels of her thumbprints on the backs of their
     thighs from this time,
but also the times before.  Who whimpered, which ones came
     in her
and how often, which ones merely watched without speaking 
     from the threshold.
 
The men were of a darker race, refusing to use our language,
     their dark arms braced
in the ancestral motions of urging we just dimly remember, which
     still arouses us, even in our embarrassment, through the
     electric current
of testimony.  Whether a crime has been committed (because the
     woman has her Chesterfields, the change coins clenched &
     sweaty in her palm)
or not, their longboned faces make this offense more palpable--
     the slick skin
and elegant, hard moustaches recalling the  brown eyes of our
     own lives, when out of darkness,
the vestiges of an anger we do not claim to know rise up
     in our bodies
and we seize them and do violence.
 
We all do violence.
 
Because the woman was as dark as any of the others,
with no green card and a name you won't find in the phone book.
What is on trial here is a thousand years of women plodding on
     thick legs, their arms draped with string baskets,
towards some market on another continent, where boats pull into
     the waiting lips of shore
to meet these women and laud the correctness of their sexless
     march with fruit, and cod, and men
come home with the musk of Ecuadorian whores still riding their
     loins.
In the end, the real trial takes place in words exchanged
in pissed-up alleyways between tight stone buildings, in words
that are to us guttural and pronounced with too much tongue.
And on the streets of town, in the late afternoon light,
mothers tear their dresses away from stout provincial breasts,
     and carry placards, and weep,
and spit at no one in particular--
for the love of their sons,
not the love of their daughters. M y  neighbor, drunk, stood on his lawn and yelled,

                                      -from Dangerous Life