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 a 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 even his purply mouth –
he is the leathery skin of his ancestors
the way they subtly moved their fingers
as he did
like an artist painting
from the blood of music.

Brother Gabriel
thick rimmed glasses
purple bandana tied around his forehead
all thick hair as dark as his brother’s eyes,
is a 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 –
but a man must know his limits
he waddles
talking about 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,
he tall and her round.
This place is fake wooden walls
and a door that leads you nowhere,
that means we like you
they said
if we tell you which one
is really the bathroom.
Eddie – round glasses
and feathery beard
broken collarbone –
he’ll pee on your couch
if he drinks enough,
not say anything
as a matter of forgetting.
Ian is the mop of more dark hair
thin mustache
surrendering to the armchair
saying nothing but smiles.
My first kiss was in a wave pool –
Tim is small town conversation
laughter then silence.
One of my first nights
in this Park Service town
and these are the people
no one hears about.

If I don’t see you in the future
I’ll see you in the pasture.
Kels prefers to pee in the woods
over the fence by the river
instead of 20 yards to the hotel.
She smokes cigarettes
like the kisses she remembers.
Fence lights border this patio,
beer tequila
we’re decades of age
same flushed cheeks
glassy eyes that roll when we laugh.
No star night
through thin trees
and wrought-iron furniture.
Chula means something similar to awesome.
The shadow of Renee’s glasses
crosses her cheeks as she speaks.
Michael is 61 years old.
We cheer
warm our souls
one sip at a time
clank, chain smoking women
old man as sharp as we
cherry in my whiskey
more pee in the bushes.
The rain starts to mist our hands
river roar
river wisdom –
Why do we like to go to the river?
Tangible messages?
The river is all you need, he says,
and it brings the dinosaurs –
eyes of a watchful guardian.
The blue herons?
Long legs and feathers
everything is cold wind
breeze through bones
toxic blue eyes
dehydrated lips
cobwebs on the lanterns –
Just wait to 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
with all our walls saturated
and soil-like, so we punch through
with confident fists –
I am the loud introvert
when I am drunk.

Back to the edge of the barstool
men pay our bar tabs.
She sat on the toilet
didn’t bother to close the door
boss woman
no fucking cares.
Our car ride has Kels with red embers
between her fingers
air and smoke
aura of eternal night air
lazy eyelids
responsible passengers
she laughs with her pupils
drowns aspects to the self
maybe life outside of self –
this is one night, Sara.
I’m sorry you have to see me like this,
she says
but I have 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 write to myself.
Renee and I dance in our liquor
stave off the spins
in the living room.
Water is life
but so is transience
altered states of mind
albeit brief,
I haven’t let myself come to this place
in a long while
chest pressure and palpitations
and while I sit here and paint portraits
of the dark faces of men and women
they are bright teeth
and as loving as the Red Bud
when they bloom in Spring.
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 –
grey 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, now pale, leans anew –
waxing breath of morning
it is a face to remember
a face to have acquired
as a friend, me to myself.
Newness may sting my lips,
wiser depth may burn cold into my fingers,
but it is the will to let them die,
let all things fail
let all things look ugly
and drunken
when it is human to weep
and human to parade
only your happiest self.


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