Tuesday, March 24, 2009

As A Consequence Of

As a Consequence Of

my brother stealing all the lightbulbs,
my parents live without light, groping,
never reading, never saying You are lovely,

a broken Borges and a gouged Saint Lucia, hand in hand
shuffling from the kitchen linoleum to the living room rug.
The only pants my father wears are wobbling silhouettes.

My mother paints her face with distorted shadows.
One says rosaries to become a candle.
The other tries hard to be a Coleman fishing lantern.

Both eat matches like there’s no tomorrow—
but just because they choke on today doesn’t mean they aren’t
proactive. They’re building a funeral pyre

out of their house. This makes it very hard
to visit them. This makes it a lot like digging them out
from under an intimate sort of rubble—I recognize some things:

my brother’s high school football helmet, first Communion pin,
green plastic army men with noses and arms chopped off,
so much more that has been disguised by being dismantled

and spastically reassembled at 2 a.m.—lives, the electric Virgin
Mary picture with a corona that changed color, guitar amps,
deals with gods, the Electrolux canister vac. Mom and Dad

snapping matchsticks between their tender teeth
makes me taste a green clock at the back of my throat.
The ticking is cold or sour or really a pickax—

worry tastes so dirty when it’s spread out like a banquet.
It’s tough to vacuum up the food scraps fallen under the table,
especially when the nozzle and motor are in pieces
in my brother’s hands.

My brother the myrrh-eater—lost fucked-up Magi,
followed the wrong star—licking his sequined lips which
can’t shine in the shade of this growing pyre.
My dad drinks the gasoline,

siphons it from his work truck so my brother can’t steal either.
My mom tries to dress the place up—riddled doilies,
the burning heart Jesus with eyes that used to follow us

around the room—someone bored the eyes out. Now my fingers
slip down in the slick holes in his face. My mom can’t
wash the windows because my brother ate them,

instead she ties ribbons on the wood stack, hangs blackened spoons
her grandfather carved and says, What can you expect from a pyre
but a pyre. When I visit, I hate searching for the door—

usually my brother’s shoe print on my dad’s ribs. Once, it was
a hole in my momma’s chest that changed her into a sad guitar
for three years. These are more like exits than doors—

they are difficult to get through. It takes a ton of shrinking
and bending over backward to make it. The walls
have been painted misery, black enough to make blindness

a gift—we don’t have to look each other in the eye.
It’s crazy how loud it is inside a funeral pyre. We don’t
talk much. We can’t hear each other over so much stumbling.

When I do hear, the only thing my mom says is How
much longer? I prefer that to what she wrote in fluorescent paint
on the ceiling last weekend: What does he do with the lightbulbs?

But we don’t talk about meth in our house, particularly
not since it’s been converted to a funeral pyre. Anyway,
my dad only sings these days, not with words,

with small strikes and sparks. Those quick flashes
of fire that seem to satisfy my mother’s questions.

Natalie Diaz

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