Brigadista in Retirement
Every nation teaches itself the myths
of its survival. Fantasy, harnessed,
feeds the impulse to die for la patria,
and then the war is over. In the after-
glow of dizzying celebration, a purpling
sky at dusk, or the soft glow of low-
powered street lights, the product
of communal sharing is a kind of comfort.
But the body will not wait. It will
grow and swell, and the babies
will come howling into the world.
So, on days when the mundane weighs
her down, Alicia, former bodyguard
of the Commander of the Eastern March,
silences her home, ties her red scarf
around her head, and watches the rally
of warriors chanting into the sky—
it is enough to be transported
to the sensual elation of triumph
by the chants. She is silent, it is
true, while the baby on her lap
gurgles, fingers her lips and cheeks.
But look into her eyes and see the glow
of desire. It never leaves the body,
never disappears from the soldier’s heart.
A man called Walter Benjamin said in 1936
that these are the true storytellers: the farmer
seeding the earth with myths of belonging,
and the seafaring, port-hopping whoremonger
trading in tales from dull lands demanding
the exoticism of storytellers to other dull lands.
Ah, poor man, he did not know the pathology
of storytelling is the intoxication of lies;
the helixes in our cells will always imagine
beginnings and invent futures. This is
the art of stories. Or better put, they are
about our hunger to be loved, a hunger
we assuage by creating the myths
of necessary presence—I stand here
with a mouthful of tales which
I will share like slivers of succulent
fruit until they turn to dreams
of me deep in the night. All beauty will
be marked by the first and last meals—
the fruit of knowledge and the bread
and assuaging wine of betrayal.
We forget this sometimes to survive,
but it stays under our skins; it stains
everything. This is the envelope I mail
out each day—it is full of the sweet lies
of my deepest, most alarming truths;
and they will be read each day. They will
stay inside our cells, in the way
that only contagions can stay, like the farmer’s
seed of belonging, like the exotic
futures of the old seafarer.