Originally appeared in Unit Circle #5
In the airport, in a city like New Orleans (Was that where we had
the campout with the marshmallow roast that night on the red carpet
which burned with the smell of hyacinth incense?), Bowie frightens the
passengers boarding a doomed airliner. His pink tutu contrasts--
stunningly--with his kneehigh buckskin leggings, and the blade, wicked
twelve inches of hardened steel that it is, flashes brilliant in the
sunlight streaming through the tall windows of the departure lounge.
Out on the taxiway the Mexican army practices close-order drill
before storming the building. Their bayonets shine flickering like
bloodred stars. Their scaling ladders lie forlorn and abandoned next
to an ice cream truck; the tinkling of its bell is drowned out
periodically by the jet engines whining off to distant cities:
Nairobi, Cleveland, Tulsa. The ice cream man sells a fruit bar to
Santa Ana, Mexican Generalissimo and President. The general smiles
that winning presidential smile and says "Keep the change, mon ami."
The ice cream man is confused, but keeps the money anyway; he speaks
only Esperanto and Swahili, not French or English or ancient Sumerian.
The general beams.
(And in the Spring for my birthday you gave me underwear of soft
brown leather like Bowie's moccasins, and you called me "The Young
Lion," the name the frontiersmen gave to Bowie, the man with the
wicked blade. And I was hip, slick, and cool--tragically, you said.)
In the airport, now, Bowie orders a drink at the small bar which
fronts on the South concourse: "Red-eye, by the bucketfulls," he says
in a firm but calm voice, and he smiles.
The bartender, not knowing the reputation or the temperament of
the man or the folly of facetiousness, says facetiously (but also with
a hint of sarcasm), "Don't you mean bucketsfull, sir?" The long knife
flashes silver like the strike of a silvery snake. "I believe you've
split my hair, sir," the bartender says. His purple hair is parted to
the skin from crown to forehead; a single purple wisp floats ominously
to the polished walnut bar.
"Serves you right," says Bowie, and he grins his famous, much-
imitated Alamo grin. The customers stand and applaud. "Encore,
encore," they say.
Out on the concourse, the hyacinth girl sells her wares from a
brown wicker basket. "Fresh hyacinths," she says.
Two nuns on roller skates stop to admire the freshcut flowers, and
they pat the little naked girl on the head with hands that are strong
and sad. "You need shoes, my child," one says.
Bowie raises the golden bucket of red-eye to his lips and drains
it in one long gulp, and his Adam's apple bounces up and down. He
draws the back of his hand across his mouth and rises. "To destiny,"
he tells the assembled customers.
They raise their margarita glasses to him in salute. "To your
destiny," they say.
(On that final night you came to me where I lay asleep on the round
bed which rotated, following the path of the sun and moon, and we named
planets we saw through the windows of the much-windowed bedroom. You
wore your best lace nightgown over the pink wetsuit and flippers I
bought for you one year when you were interested in water sports. And
in the morning I was left with memories and an empty rubber suit; I lay
on a bed which rotated mechanically following the sun and the moon and
Bowie stands his ground on the runway as the Mexicans mass for the
attack, their scaling ladders and bayonets ready. The long knife
flashes once more--finality is such a depressing word--and then the man
in the tutu is consumed in red uniforms and powder smoke. Inside at
the windows, the customers cheer his defeat.
The ice cream vendor starts his truck and drives slowly through
the crowds of victorious soldiers: "Fruit bars, mes amis," he says,
as they hand over their hard-earned pesos.
Unit Circle Poetry