Dark Portraits of Me

Dark Portraits of Me

by Sara Aranda

Trailer court trailers
by the river
Leonard or Leonardo
drunkenly embodied sound
spoken-word sounds,
rhymed love for rocks
and the river—
how the rocks fall
each an ever-deepening drum beat
watch out for the water babies
he said
how they like to have fun.
He bowed and shook my hand gently
his eyes dark
black maybe
wrinkles like wiry hands
wrapping purply mouth—
he is the ghost of his ancestors
this Ahwahneechee land
the way they must have moved their fingers
as he did
like an artist painting
from the blood of music.

Brother Gabriel
thick rimmed glasses
purple bandana tied around the forehead
thick hair as dark as his brother’s eyes.
He is a Park retiree turned landscaper.
I help the old ladies
he said
cut their grass
and now that I’m popular
I have to start paying taxes—
he waddles
but a man must know his limits
as in, a break from drinking
if only for a few hours,
roasted fingertips
roasted lips
roasted cast-iron pork
and rogue dog licking plates.

Luke chuckles and you feel
good-natured in hearing it.
Austin and Julia are leaving for the coast,
he tall and her round.
This trailer is fake wooden walls
and a door that leads nowhere,
that means we like you
they said
if we tell you which one
is really the bathroom.
Eddie—round glasses
and feathery beard
and broken collarbone—
he’ll pee on the couch
if he drinks enough,
not say anything
as a matter of forgetting.
Ian is the mop of more dark hair
thin mustache
surrendered eyes in the armchair
speaking with smiles and citrus smoke.
My first kiss was in a wave pool—
Tim spoke in small-town conversation.
Laughter then silence. Because what else?
One of my first nights
in this Park Service town
and these are the people
no tourist cares to know

If I don’t see you in the future
I’ll see you in the pasture
because maybe death is a field.

Kels prefers to pee in the woods
over the fence by the river
instead of twenty yards to the hotel.
She smokes cigarettes
like the kisses she remembers.
Fence lights border this patio,
beer tequila
decades of age
same flushed cheeks
glassy eyes that roll when we laugh
no star night
through thin trees.

Chula means something similar to awesome
the shadow of Renee’s glasses
paints her cheeks as she speaks.
Prelude to dissolution.
We cheer
warm our souls
one sip at a time
clank, chain smoking women
and old man melody

cherry in my whiskey
pee in the bushes
the rain starts to mist our hands
and the river roars river wisdom—
Why do we like to go to the river?
Renee asks.
For tangible messages?
The river is all you need, Michael says,
and it brings the dinosaurs—
eyes of a watchful guardian.
The blue herons?
Long legs and feathers
and our own water babies
surely, now that everything
is breeze through reedy bones
toxic blue eyes
dehydrated lips
cobwebs on the lanterns—

Just wait, be patient,
like you’re stalking prey.
His advice for Kels’s aching heart.

Fine diners line the restaurant windows
silent wine glasses
warmth and full fish bellies
gazing out at us four,
money spilling from their pockets;
we are raining intimacies—
no bullshit, right?
Bonds on black garden iron seats
brick feet to dance with,
with all our walls saturated
and soil-like enough to punch through,
defy even our own manifestos—
I can be the loud introvert
when I am drunk!

Men pay our bar tabs
from the edges of barstools.
Kels finally sits on the toilet
didn’t bother to close the door
boss woman, I think out loud.
Our car ride has her with her red embers
between her fingers
air mixing smoke
aura of eternal night
and lazy eyelids
responsible passengers
she laughs with her pupils
drowns aspects to the self
with every draft—
rather, life outside of the self—
but this is only one night, Sara.
I’m sorry you have to see me like this,
she says, but I’m the one with restaurant mints
cutting into my tongue.
I’m not dead
nor alive,
I’m the wallflower observer
blasting Davie Bowie inside my head.
Kels stumbles up the stairs
laughs at herself
because she is one of the most
real women I know.

Everything is amazing
when there’s no care for the world
I pen away but maybe I meant
for the self
since the world is still rolling somewhere
and I was busy
dancing with Renee
to stave off the spins
in the living room.

Water is life
but so is transience
and altered states of mind.
I haven’t let myself come to this place
in a long time
well, because
chest pressure and palpitations
and though I sit here and paint portraits
of the dark faces to ghosts
they are bright teeth in the night
and as loving as the Red Bud
that bloom in the spring.

But I am the one who is painted
for I am the one with the pen.

Pre-dawn moon
fuller than my own heart,
it gives me what I cannot feel—
gray light and dim portraits
not my own.
I follow them,
grim boughs and turbulent rain,
press chest against the gaff of light,
let it swing me whole
into another vessel
of day never before born
until I’ve given everything
to the action of letting go.

The moon leans anew
waxing breath for morning—
it is a face to remember
a face to have acquired
as a friend, me to myself.
Its newness may sting my lips,
wiser depth may burn cold
into the tips of my fingers,
but it is the will to let these faces die
like a fish in someone else’s belly,
to let all things fail
look ugly
and drunken
in reflection of the self
when it is human to weep
and human to parade mirrors
of purpling hearts.
Never exposing the strings
or the blades of water.


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