Additional Selections from City Terrace Field Manual
[ The afternoon lifts you up . . . .]
The afternoon lifts you up in its arms and carries you to the couch and drops you into a big sunflower. You fall softly from a bear's arms. It's time to drive down to Baja with a load of clothes to give away, fish in the Sea of Cortez, and pack the ice chests full. Time to make love on a mountainside, with glaciers watching all around the thunderstorms blowing in. Time for a badger to pull the dirty days with jammed freeways and bills with returned checks down into a hole in the ground. Time to stand on the deck buffeted by a Bay breeze, as a white boat takes you to the dock at Angel Island. Time to walk toward the gates of some unknown university with your lover on your arm. You haven't been getting more than five hours of sleep a night, you've been working hard all week, and it's time . . . but everyone leaves you alone because you're asleep at last, a smile swimming like a goldfish inside you as twilight falls on the big window.
[ The cut is burning . . . ]
The cut is burning, pain distanced by shock. Keep it that way, keep it away from me, I sing to myself wordlessly. I hold my hand still, very still, as if that will knit the flesh together and preserve the fingers in working order. Then the blood is pouring out of the glove, the burning racing up my arm. "Get me down! Get me out of here!" Swinging out lazily where I sit, one leg wrapped around the tree trunk. Twenty feet down, the chainsaw sputters in the dirt. It chokes and dies. Manny and his cousin Jesus hear it in my voice and run up from the truck they've been loading with debris. The agony hits and it's all I can do to hold on, press my head into the bark and hiss, "Fuck. Fuck. Fuck." The contractor was paying us a thousand dollars to clear the lot by Monday. Manny yells, "Hold on, just hold on!" He tells Jesus something; it takes effort to open my eyes and glance at them. I close my eyes, not wanting to fall. Jesus runs back down to the truck to get the ladder. I'm 20 feet up, no ladder, no safety belt, a broken limb dangling below me in the breeze. . . . "What happened?" Manny asks at the bottom of the tree. I open my eyes again and look at him. "Chain broke. It whipped back around and tore the saw out of my hand. My hand is all tore up. I can't move." "Don't fall - we'll get you down!" It's only an eight foot ladder, I'm thinking. My hand throbs, the light leather glove full of blood. Manny picks up the chainsaw, the chain dangling, and tosses it down into the excavation. One of us (it doesn't matter who) will say it later: work too long, you don't take a break, and you get too tired. (That means: maybe if we were working slower, I could've seen the chain was worn out.) I don't know, I can't think about it now. This trip to the emergency room is gonna eat up the whole thousand dollars; Manny and Jesus are going to have to finish the job without me. No union, no contract, no disability insurance. They're gonna have to work longer, harder, to get it done in time; and they will - for me. I can count on them. I won't even think about it just now, because my hand still feels like it's being ripped open. Like a sack of beans splitting a seam, all the beans flying out. Jesus slams the aluminum ladder against the tree. "You holding on?" Manny asks. "You're gonna have to help me down," I tell him. "Fuck!" I growl, trying to push away the pain. . . . "I got you," I hear Manny say, coming up the ladder. Like manny tells him to, Jesus grabs the broken branch and rips it down. The end butts my leg, I kick it off, twigs scratch Manny's face as he lifts an arm to ward it off. Another wave of sickening pain hits me. "Fuck!" I growl, rubbing my head into tree bark. The idea comes to me, through a red sea of pain, that this injury's gonna cost me even more than the thousand - I'll be paying for this job in blood and time off. "Almost there, what do you want me to do?" Manny grunts, climbing up under me. "Get above me, so you can grab my shirt and help me down. I'm gonna have to use one hand." I wince. I open my eyes and Manny's coming up alongside me; he's looking at the long black wash of blood down my pants leg. I lift up my hand and turn the edge of the palm so we both can see it. Through the torn glove, we see flaps of skin hanging loose, glistening with yellow fat in the blood. "Oh shit," Manny says. He wraps himself as tight as he can around the tree and grabs me under the arms with both hands. "Let's go," he says. I open my eyes again and look down. Jesus, 16-year-old eyes wide and black, is looking up at me, waiting at the top of the ladder.
[ It's hot in Panama dude. . . . ]
It's hot in Panama dude, deflowering the blackness of Central American princesses under the cabana leaves, it's raining inside the tamarindo and jamaica refresco machine, red and brown juice like girl-sweat stained through leather on a hot day like this, I left my automatic rifle swinging on a hammock by itself and went swimming, I was one of the boys with my big knife, now you get your lemon squeezed with tropical juice over ice at the refresco bar and walk out into some deadly sunlight, kids are bound to run over your new shoes on their bicycles, smog giving you a headache under vacant theater marquees, smudging First Street on your Hollywood shades, no matter how much heavy lifting you did during your workout, you're back here in the world and walk a little storefront street tottering inside yourself, your familiar false-fronted build-ings of the past, a little warm beer in your hand, a little sip in the stunning light.
[ Teacher, you want me to write
about my life. . . . ]
Teacher, you want me to write about my life. OK but is boring. In the projects where I live nothing happens only fighting violence and drugs. Its full of crazy peeple. Ugly winos & you got to watch out they might get you. My mom doesnt let me go out no more cause of everything but it won't do my two brothers any good. Cause my two brothers are already dead. They were in a gang. And another gang from the projects did a drive-by. My uncles are in this other gang and they shot my brothers and some others standing by the building. My family we all sad. That's why my mom doesnt let me go outside. Is boring. There Teacher I'm done.
What's a little riot between friends? So I stabbed you with a screwdriver between pauses in the ammunition going off, popping of metal canisters burning and exploding? How could I be expected to know if the gunshots in your house were mine? This is life in the big city, free market of desire: you'll thank me in the end. Sure, you may need a little radiation therapy for a fiber-optic plug in your brain. Sure, your kids whine for technicolor mercy in some crystal cathedral a lifetime after toking up as they choked. There's nothing wrong with that--nothing wrong with every Chino-Facility-for-Men Day. Besides, footprints on your face give you a wise look, creases beside your mouth distinguished as headlines. I acknowledge your deepest feelings for me, or the most shallow, what sludge! I don't hold it against you that I had to throw you to the ground, kick you repeatedly. So you broke a few bones? My clothes are clean, no bother. Hey, no diminished affection for your loss of skin. I will not light your children on fire with a molotov cocktail today. I appreciate your concern. My best to you and yours. No one is home to take your call. Fuck face. Just leave a message at the beep.
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