Lateral Deep

Camels graze in front of a power plant in the frozen desert. Dust spins in the train corridor. Sediment forms rocks in nasal cavities. A young man we dubbed Sleeping Beauty, shirt off, lies on his stomach with his face to the wall. On his back, a large tattoo of Mongolia with all its aimags outlined. It covers his wing bones.

Pursed sand dunes. Ebb and flow of power lines. Middle-aged women with square cloths over their mouths sleep fitfully on their cots. There must be something beyond or inside the relentless need to record, each of us, perhaps, with a contract if not with the creator than with what we create. A girl with good English sold used green bottles at one of the God-abandoned stops. Here not just to record or tell oneself the desert bones aren’t even new to one, ribcages a piano. The horse is the most miraculous animal. They don’t lock the bathrooms when trains jerk to stop because of stowaways, they lock them because the shit and piss flush directly onto the train tracks.

These deserted boxcars are not metaphorical. Chinese leave them in Outer Mongolia, sometimes rife with radioactive material; no history to the object. None to the earth-bowels they mined or the offal they left; they paid off the official at the Mongolian border. Traincar mate lived in Beijing for a summer, between a street of saxophone markets and a street of brassiere markets. Hello hello is what they say instead of hey to get a foreigner’s attention, the first syllable a lilt.

Once in China, the train lurches, suspended mid-air for hours while they change bogeys. In the warehouse, large orange machines go unmanned next to wheel-sets under fluorescent lights, while a hard-hatted engineer texts on his cell phone. The intricacies are not of water, or any more or less fundamental than that. A calf hops sideways in this new biome we wake up to, red paint and stacks of stalks. I move a toothbrush around in my mouth as the man who patrolled my train car salutes me from ground. The one who took over motions me to the bathroom to spit. Houses of dirt rise out of the earth, hobbit houses, corn stalks rounded so that they seem dancers.

Goldfish pirouette and shirts are ninety cents but be careful; you are in the land of many many small small. Order pig and then forget it. For the chance to walk above, reflected water plays its wavelengths on the bottom of a bridge. Women glare at your tanktop. China accordions by, its cliffs and caverns working like mouths. The star of the sun is halfway through its life. Women sing off-key fruit-cart song in the train corridor.

The fish in the sky are kites. Alley: cats, vegetables, water. One is not to try on shirts, even over another shirt, but one may try on sweaters. One is not to transcend the visual field. What color is USA money? asks the nineteen years-old in the shoe shop who says your whole face is beautiful not just your eyes. The earth’s ice caps will melt as the sun gets bigger and eventually subsume/consume Mercury and Venus, when we will become a water planet and presumably grow flippers. Will the machine give your card back, is the question. Does it have eyes. Two kuai for the hairpins and keychains. Silt gyrates. Beautiful sea animals. The sun will collapse inward, dwarf whitely, the solar system will disappear. I think I am a medium here. Do not take pictures of soldiers drilling in the sunny park. Since we only have a grasp of three dimensions, they are perhaps already here, and we would not know how to know. Evenings, high stink of raw meat hanging gives way to large block of fish smell and wet concrete. Your small is smaller; north of here, remember, this is described with use of the ablative case: I from you big. The sheer shirt you dig for in the bin is one kuai so you get a separate receipt for it, light as a leaf or fin.

White stone deer in garden, deep smell of earth unleashed. Listen when you bite your cheeks, watching children wheel along elders. Glistening through the cat-reeds. Bodhisattvas deliver beings from their afflictions. Sprinklers near bonsai trees. Towers forest around it particular to cities. Women in grey robes and shaved heads bustle through darkened wood panels. Moonlight dispels, that much is accounted for: photons are its medium. Even pine trees harvest auras irrespective of eye-lie. Where is the chanting coming from.

Lanterns bleeding into dusk. Teenagers giggle by. Bodhisattvas will not ascend to heaven until no being suffers in hell. Guard will not let us sit down and smiles to himself after. Gardeners with straw woven cymbals on their heads. Track of narrative if every word begins with an image and stays that way inked. The city in our mind, ascending. I think I am a medium here.

Based on the Ulaanbaatar-Beijing leg of the Trans-Siberian railroad

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