The art of being Californian, it seems, is to cultivate a loose-limbed insouciance while secretly working away like a frantic ant.

--Richard Fortey The Earth: An Intimate History

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Breathing Through Tomorrow

The vibration of the seven-forty-seven moves
my body like the shaking apart of the tangles
in marionette strings. The film of no time falls over me,
creating a greasy layer of plastic skin. The gray

Pacific's glazed surface below gives no indication
of the International Dateline. I know that tonight,
it will be tomorrow morning. And after I meet you,
stiff unable to embrace properly because 28 hours

of flight has frozen my joints and slimed my limbs,
I will drop dead--pass out cold at eight p.m.. You'll have
to carry me up the spiral staircase, careful not to lean
too hard on the PVC pipe banister or bang my head

against the hard iron, cylindrical center or my foot
against the cinderblock door jamb. I'll wake up
at four thirty the next morning, ready to play
and won't understand for a few moments why

it's so dark when my body says the sun is high
and I have over-slept my morning class. Even
when I am finally able to stay up until midnight
and wake to the island morning, a tiny lump at the base

of my diaphragm, right where it meets the spine,
will remind me that something isn't right. That little
lump will keep me from taking full, deep, purging
breaths of the trade wind tossed tropical air as a wet,

impossibly green banana leaf slicks across my face
while I struggle through the jungle to summit Nimitz Hill,
dripping red blood from a delicate tracery of paper-fine
cuts of saw grass. I'll feel it when I gasp under

the hammering cold of Cetti waterfall and writhe
internally as tiny, pearly pink, freshwater shrimp
climb between my bare toes. It'll still be there when I
simultaneously fall into and fly over the Marianas

Trench while still sweating in the tepid salt water
off Apra Harbor. That lump will remain until three
months, four days, and 28 hours later when I--bound
for San Diego--arrive at LAX, where the smog layer

makes the multicolored pillars of light look like glow sticks
through fake fog at a warehouse party. Then as I breathe
in that unbelievably salty, dry, chilled air, the lump will
finally dissolve and my lungs will expand in satiation.

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