Daniel was told by a psychiatrist
that there were past lives,
the psychiatrist crossed his arms.
It’s more like a library of other lives
if bored enough,
could pain themselves into seeing.
summoned into light with a dog whistle.
It must be pushed through a canal
or blown like air into the bottom of a flume.
Worlds within worlds,
hearts within hearts.
He imagined in this space he used to be a viking.
Or an alien.
Although in reality, he knew it didn’t work like that.
He couldn’t get the fantasies off his mind
as he stared out his apartment window
at five in the morning,
drinking coffee since two-thirty.
He looked at his neighbors window.
Watching the strip of light
beneath a bedroom door.
Daniel was told
by a stub-fingered card counter
that he met in Salinas,
that he could get there,
if he stayed up for three days
and opened all the doors and windows
and ate particular seeds.
He was not allowed to roast them.
Or drink more then one glass of water a day.
So that’s what Daniel did.
This is what he saw.
dirt road kicking red dust.
Lloyd’s olive work pants layered in soot and ash,
worn Atlas gloves in the back pocket.
They talked about who they used to love.
The conversation was very short.
Dawn in a white dress,
beside Lloyd back to their house.
Her thumb carried her open-toed shoes
that she slung over her shoulder.
Dawn swayed back and forth on the road.
The hills collapsed and rose near the horizon.
They were not rolling,
They inhaled and exhaled,
breathing body of Atlas,
ruddy lungs of under,
a place Daniel would say,
and did say
“you could walk all over,
or stay still,
and have the same experience.”
Lloyd pulled a cigarette from his ear
and cupped his hands as he lit a match.
The fire brightened his face.
He continued talking.
After thirty seconds,
Dawn stopped listening to Lloyd’s joke-chatter
the words Daniel could hear but not make out,
but he could tell it was nervous chatter,
based on the way Dawn looked more at the trees
and the queer tone of sky,
the lips of heaven.
She asked him to stop talking.
Because she had stopped moving.
And he had walked ahead.
And she reached for Lloyd’s wrist.
And he turned his wide body around.
She wanted to tell Lloyd a story.
It was time to match the blueprint
against something other than structured chaos,
too familiar with the way,
that someone lost in the forest
continues to make the four wrong turns,
stuck in a self-imposed circle,
damned to the loop.
The story involved choices.
Best described as a lack of choice.
And more like
“Well, shit just happens.”
The story was about no choices
in that, let us say
that a train on a lay of track
has a choice.
It can continue.
It can return,
it can stop and rust.
A story told in the middle,
like the one Dawn (finally) tells,
as Lloyd pinches his tongue
and they walk
in the way and the waiting,
a world and a blade of grass
sitting between them.
A story, a device to suggest another story.
The narrow choices of the train
swallowing coal and cinder like Dimetapp.
“They had dated for a year but never slept together.
Well, they slept in the same bed.
But, you know.
He had…drug-store problems, I think he felt
something…small, I guess,
like in the shadow of his brother.
His brother’s name was Ovid.
Ricky was, like, a simpler name.
Dawn laughed at herself.
“Ricky is an alright name.”
She stopped walking and softly kicked at a pebble
that limped along the space between the grass and the road.
A sad pebble.
It plopped in the ditch water,
realized there was a ditch there,
and tossed his loose smoke there,
spitting tobacco from his lips.
“It’s hard to say what happened
though none of our friends…
and then before it made sense,
she had fallen down the stairwell.
It sounded awful.
I was asleep on the couch.
It was that abode house…
you remember it, I bet.
You were there, I think.
The one on Anodyne St.”
Lloyd didn’t remember the house.
“The house with the really hard couch, it was like,
a wicker basket.
The stairs were hard but sort of like clay.”
There was an emphasis and her Texas twang sat up on clay.
“She made like, a soft thud.
I looked a the step later.
There was a dent.
But, I guess it could’ve been damaged from before.
Oz thought she was dead.
She was sprawled out,
she didn’t even react,
she was like perfectly still.
I can’t believe I don’t remember her name.
Ricky stepped over her to get to the car.
There was a cab outside,
to take them to the airport.
They had a flight that day!
Oh my god, I remember now.
He was high.
He was always…high.
It goes without saying, I guess…
I guess if he weren’t high.
He just wouldn’t be Ricky.
I don’t think he thought,
but I don’t think it would’ve been any different,
if he knew we were awake.”
Lloyd heard a frog hiccup.
He wanted to go find it and say hello,
but he could tell Ovid about it when they got back inside.
“Oz and I tried to go back to sleep.
…She snapped clean to while I stood…
it was just like she just…
I asked her if she was flying or if Ricky was just going alo…
they were both…
his cab was gone…
she made me promise I would
teach English in Taiwan.
She gripped my wrist
and she moved in to kiss me…
and…she nearly was gonna miss her flight…
and…I got her in a cab
and…she mouthed “Taiwan” to me as it sped off.”
“But you weren’t there, Lloyd, were you?
I thought you were Oz.
…a cab came back,
It was Ricky.
He was the one that missed his flight.
He had left maybe an hour before her.
He saw through security, and something happened.
Something always happened.
Or, I guess the right things just never happened.
She ended up boarding before he did.
He just laughed and said it was “bullshit,
that shit just happened.”
And Ricky said he walked out of the airport.
And hailed a cab.
And as the family in his cab got out,
paying the cabby,
Ricky vomited on the child.”
They went inside the house.
Ovid wasn’t home, but Lloyd would remember
to talk about the frog tomorrow.
Notes in the blueprints
a ledger of a past,
here in the sequestered,
sleeping among the horses in the stable.
Their house with no doors
wind of the deflating hills
moving through the house like an outlaw.
Gin poured into plastic cups,
that neither of them drank,
silent on the elevator,
sitting out on the villa,
red clay birthing
a simple name without words.
Dreams revealing the nature of their loops.
They took their four turns
while looking at each other on the villa
and Lloyd said
that in his last life, he dreamed he was a cartographer.