Lodestar Quarterly

Lodestar Quarterly
Figure reaching for a star Issue 5 • Spring 2003 • Poetry

Desert Island Ghost Story

Lisa Asagi

1. Move me through this world.

I want to tell you how you move me.

Everything flies.

Maybe I am driving.

Thirty-three through a desert leftover between bombing ranges and suburbs.

You are not someone I would call, but here you are because the sky looks like a map now. How a plane can leave behind one strange line on a windless day.

No one will know what formed around you in me. At this moment I feel there is a woman in a boat, drifting. The sails are wrapped tight. She is trying to fix a hole in the hull. The water sounds like wings flapping.

I think maybe if I keep the air conditioning off the car will make it through in this heat.

It is almost daylight and still it is hard to breathe.

2. An ocean of light and heat.

Once there was nothing but miles of water.

They would come here to film scenes of Mars, of the moon.

Pull trailers and flatbeds across miles of roadless cracking basin. One day it rained so hard hundreds of small sightless frogs emerged. Before a cameraman could load a roll of film they disappeared. So the crew dug for hours and were able to capture one. The gaffer put it in a jar filled with vodka and carried it around with him until the last day of the shoot. On that night, in a bar, he sat down at a table. Three kings, two aces, thirty-nine years later and it is sitting there. Top shelf. A short and clear mason, tucked in a row of thin necked bottles. A sparkplug of tissue. Stretched up and frozen. Tiny translucent fingers extending to the metal cover taped tight. Its webs are gone. That it continues to revolve slowly has made it a topic of conversation. Has become a small strange appendage to a game. Has become the only place this story can find a way to begin.

You are asking me if I can feel your hands on my ankles. Your hands stay there and wait. Until I think it is the first time I have felt something so deeply warm.

From my mouth comes only one question. I don't know how long I have been here. You tell me it's been three days since the accident. For the first time in my life I don't know where I am. Like the room might be afloat. A feeling begins to move across. As if somewhere there is a decision. A motion of fluctuation. Open or close. You look at me. You tell me not to think.

3. It could be past midnight when I open my eyes again.

Outside of my sister's house. I feel like a ghost.

It is so late. The planes have stopped flying overhead. Inside everyone is dreaming.

I light a cigarette. Upon a lagoon of cement. In the middle of a subdivision. Unfolded like a boardgame. Over an old sugercane field. At the edge of a naval base. Biting the hip of an island. The wind moves only what it can.

4. When I open my eyes you are gone and the room is blue.

It is so cold I feel like I am drowning. As my hands draw up rawness erupts. The smell of blood and medicine. Strangers walk in. One puts a hand on my forehead and leans me down.

They have left. Left the door open. Yellow light pours into a solid wedge. A holograph.

It is not here. My flashlight. It is in the car. I cannot taste anything. Only a trace. I am waiting.

We would row out in boats at night. Across tipping fields of melted glass. Smell of oil. Kerosene and fish. Bouncing upright. We are segments of families sitting bouyant, in foam and fiberglass. Motoring to a wristing crest of sand near the mouth of the harbor. To houses on stilts, strands of grass. Here hoops of wire draping string nets would be lowered, echoes in the water. They would drink. We would chase each other around and around. Push, scream, then grab hands before almost falling, being swallowed by the shiny black water edge. Running small soft feet in the cold wet moonlit sand. Until it was so late. Until the boats would float off again, counter back, streaming nets into the lanai kitchen, full of crabs. Fat and gesturing. Hosed down and dropped into pots. Lifted steaming onto tables spread with newspaper held down with bowls of melted butter and cans full of beer.

5. I light a cigarette.

It is so hot I turn on the radio. There is nothing. Talk. I keep turning and somehow there is that song.

Hanging in all this air. As if taped to a wall in a house that you said was not yours. The time you took me to see how it was breaking down. Slowly all summer with the windows open and sunlight leaking even into the hallways. And the one room you kept for yourself.

The way we could not figure out how a needle could also transmit sound.

This place is not what it seems.

And millions of years have led to this room of air and colors. And I remember how it happens.

We are driving down the highway.
Tomorrow we would both be in the air.

You in your direction and me in mine.

We say in three Saturdays we will be having dinner in the backyard of your grandfather's falling-down house. Surrounded by the music of empty bottles hanging on the trees. You turn off the radio and we listen to the air move through the car.

6. It could be an extraordinary misunderstanding how I have been waiting so long.

It could be hours, years. I am sitting in a wet room. Thousands of pink ceramic tiles and a glass door streaming with steam. A small gland in a city slowly breaking down into night. Restlessness. I come here to run. On a machine who will say how quickly my heart moves in these increments of time. As if only through this body will I know what farther means. As the air fills again with water. As other women one by one begin to come in.

Slide your body between cold eyelids of granite. Below a legion of vineyards winding down slopes of valleys. Beneath metric tons it is not so hard to breathe, holding a thin cylinder of light onto a cavern ceiling stained with spirals of horses. Breath blown with mouths full of oxide, through hollow bird bone, how they must have crouched into this height, steadied by their human ladders. Shapes of a horse that once lived in a desert thousands of miles east. The ones that were said to endure anything but time. Would sweat blood. Whose bones are never found scattered. Upright. As if careening straight into earth.

Maybe it is my first night back. I cannot sleep. Always this happens. The air is so thick it alters the volume of my blood. As the days go on, I will stand here night after night after every one is asleep. And I will feel more and more as if somehow there is a story where I have come back alive.

Lisa Asagi is the author of two foldout chapbooks Physics and Twelve Scenes From 12 A.M. designed by artist Gaye Chan and published by Tinfish Press. Throughout the month of March 2003, a project of reworked and remodeled found books created in collaboration with fellow writers Justin Chin and R. Zamora Linmark called Book2, commissioned by the Potrero Nuevo Fund, will be on exhibit at the Youth Speaks Library & Reading Room in San Francisco.

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