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John Kilroy


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Immigrants Ride Windows

by John "Clem" Kilroy

He first learned to apply poetry when he took this window out to sea. It'll be a jinx, they said, but what fear has one who's free. And when the waves rolled in, he had to taste. The gulls that harbingered land terrified him each night, in dreams, and the first one he was able to catch, he ripped apart with his teeth. It tasted like a long work day. Uniform, old coffee and one distraction after another. Take a train they said, but you know him. Window, tides and wind. What is strength in a straight line? What is destination? It's all about the specific caress of a day. Remember when he named the band, "Lost Dog Reward," because the signs were already posted all over the country? It's like that. In the politics of nature, the voting's done. The letters and words blow over us in wind tunnel test. They crawl us as if we were posted to our ears in ant hills. Stop for a while, and proclaim as prophet's truth what has no meaning for you yet. Know it first. The cargo of the cruise ships is lost. In the hold of this window, is the chance of being here, he thought. As they watch from the deck, they only fear the sea's vastness if he's in it. They're more food for the horizon, while he lets every day mark him, charcoal to a prison calendar, content to be so written on.

Janice thought she could lose 85 pounds or marry the Marine. An unknown flu causes her weight, but his death photos freaked her out. It was not a night for deciding, though. Regis Philbin's antic voice ran from the TV room wildly around the house. He had the huckster rhythm, that's for sure, but it's soothing, the sound of home, American prayer. The weather was quiet as a schoolgirl. No urge. Another night when you didn't need eyes or ears. That sort of cruise ship. Without portholes. That sea. Without wave. She sheathed her arms into the pink, chenille robe, sashed it up and walked down the amber hall, ready to tell her Dad to go to hell again if he so much as whimpered. Lorca comes later, his hand pulling her to sleep.

With darkness around her waist, she dreams on her balcony, green flesh, green hair, with eyes of cold silver. Green, how I love you green, under the gypsy moon...' Lorca allowed himself to know the thing first. Talking about why she's green puts you on the cruise ship. There's some weird, weird, unspeakably weird ‘how' to Lorca. So big, it can be the basis for an entire culture, as pervasive and all-encompassing as the one we're in. And if we merely tell the poet, "I like your work," or we read it in the middle of the night and don't say anything, we're still on the cruise ship. We haven't ‘read' the poet, despite our desire.

He flagged a freighter to Galveston. Greyhound bus to San Antone. Build sacred objects for exiles. What else is poetry for? If only to unzip the skin down your spine and finger the thing that makes you feel out of place, everywhere: This is not my language; not my dress; not what I was raised to do. He knew this God, this Everything. Opens its eyes, perhaps sleeping still. It probably didn't even see him. And the eyes close. And that's it for his life, because no one has the geo time, eco time, for the eyes to open again. But, he knew one thing: We are living in an era where exiles may hold the same, sacred object, and be vastly alone, with hundreds of miles between them. It's the opposite of two long lines of refugees greying down a dirt road to the horizon. It's why they don't have a big Museum of Protest somewhere, although he'd travel 3000 miles to see it. Can't surrender, can't ever win. Travel in mystery. Only to find his country when he names it. It's the shadow of the sacred object of exiles that serves as compass. Hold the thing in the sun. Search for the ground within it's shadow. There's our country. Some day, his book will arrive in a distant reader's hands, and she'll hold it in the daylight to glimpse the dirt and grass of their homeland.

At night, he practices sleeping in the bosomy hand of God.

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