The Same Window

What should I say? That Nostradamus uttered in a strange tongue only known to him as he wrote down his prophecies? Perhaps I should mention the theory that peacocks are proud of their beautiful tails and feathers, but the peacock scream comes each time the bird looks down and sees its ugly, black foot. Even my father, writing in a gnomic book, told me that the bandit beheaded in his boyhood village was the man who ran away with my father’s grandmother. What does this have to do with Amsterdam, San Francisco, or the brittle streets of El Paso? Where should I sweat next? Someone wrote that Columbus scribbled frantic notes on the margins of a manuscript by Marco Polo. If textbook heroes were part of my schoolboy fantasies, I won first place in a fourth-grade art contest by drawing the Niña, Pinta, and Santa María, swallowing my Texas education that said the magic aspect of life had to do with great discovery by three Spanish ships and my brown skin was simply an evolutionary mistake — a hidden conquest of genes and DNA no talented fourth grader could conceive in his wildest crayon-colored dreams. Yet, what was the year when I made my first cardboard electric guitar, taping an empty cigar box my father gave me onto a yardstick I stole from my mother, the teacher? The box was the body of the guitar and the ruler was the neck marked with precise frets where I rocked out and did air guitar to early Beatles. What should I sing next because a tune titled “Alligator Elevator” has been ringing in my head for days? I have not invented the lyrics because a dog crossed the street in search of the swimming reptile on the same day I thought of the title. I imagine the secrecy of elevators must be kept from the world because today, as I waited for the first winter snow, I saw beautiful Chinese silk being passed from hand to hand, the shoulders of the traders obscured in the tremendous flakes of white that erased further celebration and put me in a position to praise the details associated with a strange intelligence I found escaping through the window. This made me recall the day Lao Tse told me he was carried in his mother’s body for sixty-two years, and that is why his hair was white at birth.

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