Arriving back in Los Angeles when the orange trees were in flowery bloom, their fragrance nearly knocked me over, flooding me with childhood memories. The poet Mahmoud Darwish said that, “cities are smells.” Well, I can tell you, Los Angeles is the perfume of orange blossoms, jasmine, and the salty sea.
We’re filming on the verandah of the Golden Age Movie Ranch in Los Angeles County. 3 AM is my sister. She’s the third attempt in the Audrey-Marilyn series. They call me 7 MH, the seventh in the Monroe-Hepburn series. We’re different configurations of genetically modified and cloned fragments of DNA of the famed actresses. We don’t know what happened to our predecessors.
a perhaps Hand (which comes // out of nowhere), arranging / her young face, // a window into which people look / (but don’t see— // arranging changing placing // a paper in her hand, / a strange / thing Can you (and a known thing) // read this here and / changing everything carefully // —she can’t believe.
She’s there on one of those red-herring March afternoons that make you think spring’s arrived, when everyone pours outdoors gasping, like they’re emerging from underwater. Her parents’ house is the worst on the block, squat and ranch-style, and she’s on a sunny ledge, a small plane on her roof that’s eye-level out your window, where you’re sitting in the stuffy green chair trying to read a Lincoln biography.
There is a man in India who is every morning attacked by crows. I heard this on the radio not long ago. This man, he once rescued a crow that had become disoriented in his garden. And since then when the man emerges from his house, crows descend from the trees nearby to swoop at him and to peck. The birds have been attacking him for three years.
Brigitte watches her mother swat at a mosquito sending ashes from her cigarette into her coarse gray hair. She’s smoked it past the filter, an orange nub in her fingers the size of a peanut. She’s always been this way, siphoning the last dab of nicotine out of every inch of a cigarette. Brigitte has never understood this.
Someday I’ll stand speechless / on a grand, forgotten tree of life. // The ornate order of existence / will be my partner, and my partner / will be my shadow // My shadow will be preaching, will be endowed with / all I cannot carry / in this life, // overcome with questions, The tree of life is / not but // total / illumination.
Sometimes being best can be the worst. The prized antlers the wapiti so lovingly drapes with velvet and nourishes with aspen shoots can turn their caretakers into rumpus room decor, even though deerstalkers know perfectly well they could just wait for the elk to finish bugling its mates before picking up the discarded instruments for a song.
When Toni and Lola have a good run with the oilmen, we all get to go up to Dallas for steaks and Neiman Marcus and drink thirty dollar cocktails made with real gold. Tina finished paying her forty-eight blowjobs for the red mustang convertible and it's hers now, fair and square, and Tina and Lola in front and Toni and me in back and there's no need for a hotel because we're not ever going to sleep again. Sleeping is for people who haven't been paid.
Mother and the children had never killed before. That was Father’s work. All month long the rain came down, and gray-faced Father coughed in his bed, shrinking into a yellowed quilt. Mother and the children waded in the garden leaves and plucked off the heads of squash and tomatoes, ripped hairy potatoes out of the dark. But there was no meat on the table.
When she is young, the name “Mary” is very common. If Social Security records for the ranked popularity of baby names in any given year went back to the first century, “Mary” would be number one on the list for hundreds of years. Sometimes, when she is meeting a person for the first time, they ask her if she likes her name. Sure, she replies. It turns out they usually have an aunt or a great-aunt, a teacher or a boss, named Mary of whom they are not very fond.