Bird of Paradise

The songs of the mariachi in the park

soar over the neighborhood. In the backyard

in the sea air I hear clearly the words

in Spanish which I don’t speak

but I know the song is about a woman

and some man’s heart like any song anywhere

though this one also seems to include

la niña linda and makes me suspect

the world of the mariachis is darker

than this summer night would have us

believing. On any given night along

these streets that lead to the beach

someone sets off firecrackers late

in the quiet. I believe they are members of

some secret club and the man down 4th street

is responsible for last Tuesday. The bang was

crisp and left the air ringing. Tonight

after the trumpets have spit and moaned nearly

two hours I am glad when the train

comes and drowns them in its animal cry.

Later it will come back through my sleep

mourning itself, hurtling north along the coast to

San Francisco. The mariachis are still here,

voices pouring through the open windows

of our rented cottage, making it harder to hear

the murder I’m watching on TV. I started to

watch a show where a mother talked about

the ghost in her child. She knew its name.

Who would believe the things people believe.

It’s a while before I notice the music has left

only the breeze and the neighbor’s wind chimes.

I never see her and he talks on the phone a lot.

On the other side, behind the high fence

the woman keeps calling the tall bird of paradise

a banana tree and it is scary how much

I want to launch myself over the fence and

correct the bitch. Which makes me suspect

my world is much darker than it appears.

Ay ay ay. The moon tonight is in its perigee,

whole and platinum, disfigured by its dark birthmark.

We stood on the front lawn for a good look.

I knew then summer was tucking itself into memory,

leaving us in the air. This was our greatness.

Time would go on without us and we

could not even hold on to each other.

Then a pop like a gunshot from the next street,

loud enough to feel in your breastbone.

Then another. God

bless the assholes of the night

who keep us in the world which finally

grows still, the marine mist softening the houses

erasing the hedge in front of the one that belongs

to the couple with a hundred screaming children

all of whom may have ghosts in them. The murder

I watched was about a woman and a man’s

blackened heart. He dumped her body in the sea.

There is a song in this, una canción

en el mar . We want

to love forever like we want to answer

the long low wail of the train at night

with the hurt in our chest. Come back,

come back, little world. A teen-aged ghost boy rides

his skateboard sideways through the slow mist

into nothingness at the end of the block,

leaving us the séance of this street, its houses

hovering uncertainties, and the silvery

breath of the sea, and the sentience of the quiet

that comes at the end of music. Love

and ask no questions.

 

 

 

 

Beckian Fritz Goldberg received her M.F.A. in 1985 from Vermont College and is the author of seven volumes of poetry, Body Betrayer (Cleveland State University Press, 1991,) In the Badlands of Desire (Cleveland State University, 1993,) Never Be the Horse, winner of the University of Akron Poetry Prize (University of Akron Press, 1999), Twentieth Century Children, a limited edition chapbook, winner of the Indiana Review chapbook prize (Graphic Design Press, Indiana University, l999), Lie Awake Lake, winner of the 2004 Field Poetry Prize (Oberlin College Press, 2005, ) The Book of Accident (University of Akron Press, 2006,) Reliquary Fever: New and Selected Poems (New Issues Press, 2010) and Egypt From Space (Oberlin, 2013.) Goldberg has been awarded the Theodore Roethke Poetry Prize from Poetry Northwest, The Gettysburg Review Annual Poetry Prize, two Arizona Commission on the Arts Poetry Fellowships (1993, 2001) and two Pushcart Prizes. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies such as New American Poets of the 90’s, Best American Poetry 1995, American Alphabets:25 Contemporary Poets, Best American Poetry 2011,Best American Poetry 2013 and in journals, including The American Poetry Review, Field, The Gettysburg Review, Harper’s, The Iowa Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Gulf Coast, and many others. She currently lives in Arizona.

Issue #56 March 2016
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