The first of many short stories/outlines/essays: Episode I
| You know I have been thinking on days for what to write you. If you think, it screws it up. You have to let it go. Prophet told me all it took to write well was getting a hold on that manic, crazy speech that bleeds through when you just let it go. I always told him he was wrong. You’ve got to let the lightening out. It’s a simple case. Just learn to ride it.
I’ve been turning you over in my mind for the last few hours between work and sleep. My time. Our time. Curling down to sleep with a notepad and pen seems as intimate as looking into you. And yet you continue to roll, over and over in my mind. I can’t seem to put you down. Or turn the music anything but Up. How do I explain this? How do I tell you what this means? What we do. What we see. It’s like explaining ceiling tiles; it just doesn’t work. Yet I feel I can be more open to you, in other ways—in ways only seen between those seldom hours between work and sleep. Ways I need you to understand.
Circumstance dictates everything. And to that extent, we are all slaves to the ‘time being,’ and whatever arbitrary devices she chooses to employ. So, I cannot say such-and-such, explain this-or-that. I am but a quiet participant in this large, ever-evolving Monster we call Army. Combat. Maneuver. Whatever nonsense you want to call it. So much so that even in our most impromptu conversation, I can never really tell you everything that is on my mind. Yet she is the only thing I want to share with you. She seems to me to be the most endearing partner. And I do not want impediments. I want these barriers who restrict my speech to drop. And, like the floors during levitation dissolve, so I can make this distance between us exactly what it is. Nothing. And pass these images rolling over my eyes like Helos as clear as Desert Nights. To that proposition, I hope to weave a transparent veil that clothes those dark areas of my profession into something concrete and transform it, and make it, indeed, into something workable – something coherent and real. From here, I believe we can begin, and you will understand the travels, trials, and trifles in this mad, beautiful, strange world. After all, even if I can’t tell you what we do, it doesn’t mean you can’t know the whole story.
Sep 2005 -Heart of Palm-
…We watched live feed from the bird tonight – a steady feed relayed from the tower and to our box-string building with a plywood desk – the plasma screen secured with sandbags. The mission kicked off in Haditha, a stronghold for several months now. On the shore of the Euphrates, three men lazy inside a small boat. Their landmark, a blown out bridge along the river. One smokes. The others talk - their white heads blur in the pixilation.
In shades of age and distance the valley of the Euphrates is lush with palm trees. Their long tentacled limbs obscuring the simplest motion on the ground. “She is the richest country in palms,” the seller tells me. “Beneath the palms you might find the heart of what makes this country so mysterious.” The Black raspberry trees that merchants sell on the street are in season for one month. The berries are tiny – the size of a thimble – and the merchants lay sheets and rugs under the trees and shakes them. Many will weave grape leaves into cups and sell them on the streets filled with the dark berries. You can hear them at 5 in the morning before prayer saying in their tongue, “Berries for sale! Berries for sale!” Then there are the small apples – the size of a human thumb. And the white raspberries, the red, or the dry plumbs that feed the children of the city. All of them sweet and luscious. All of them spring and fade in thirty days.
One man steps his foot out of the boat, and walks in the grainy black and white night technology. The second man throws him a bag – a heavy sachel. He disappears, muddied under the limbs of palm.
“The heart of the matter, the seller tells me, “is in its delicacy.” The heart of the palm tree is highly prized for its unique taste. Landlords pay their lumberjacks extra when removing the palms. The cutters will take the husks, where the limbs meet the body, and chop away the appendage into wooden kindling, and remove the heart of the tree. The stem is a thick serrated wood that he has to chop and whack away with a machete. The heart, when removed, is a hard white cake – the shape of a funnel and size of a handbag. It is used in salads and as filling in kabobs. It is the consistency of carrot but with the sweetness of a coconut. On the street, merchants sell them in slices the size of your palm, and charge a dollar a slice – better than a full day’s wage for those who live in the streets these days. They say that Iraq is the heart of palm, that she has more palm trees than any other country – most of them leaning in masses in the fertile valley that lines the Euphrates River from Hadithah to Baghdad.
In the night, he slips into the trees, across the berm, and into the ice desert. He crosses into the heart of Hadithah, and the rushing waters like liquid wind into the heart of Baghdad, where cars are used as explosives and people blow themselves up for a cause they cannot even articulate…
10 Jul 05
…Mosul lights at night lend themselves to introspection…
She is dark, mysterious. Her sky pinpricks. Street light thunders. Nocturn & a quarter moon, the waters like a fermament cloth the city in modern light, and she rises from out the desert. She is 300 miles from Baghdad – 12,000 from South Carolina. Her sky has no ceiling. Her streets are 1,000 watt bulbs. Life in the desert under her night sky is like a biblical passage. Mosul lights at night and she is a side-step through pages in history history – with names you understand but sound unfamiliar – Ishma’il, As’Skandar, Ibra’him. And whoever said Abraham – pronounced foreign in her terse vernacular – wasn’t originally an Arab, looked out upon such a desert scene, and changed our course for millenia. The Mosul lights at night, and I forget how narrow a mind can be.
‘No.’ Embrace. She has become my mystery of mysteries. The gateway. The manifold secret. An endless fountain of light that pours over the Tigris and sweeps us under her navigational current.
I am still learning to ride.
The 50–Eyes of the city rotate 360 – tracing beneath bridges, over windows, the wired bebree along Tampa, and pot holes who creep slowly beneath a casualty of HMMWVs. Mosul Lights at night crack thunder.
They will return…