The Demon-Casters of Asilomar, in the great lodge room, huddle before fire, Ess-word mutterings float, "...sssalvation..., ...sssatan..., ...ssssin...", potent, frequent "...Jesssusss...". Bowed backs as shields, Stares as needles, knitting, White thin lips as prophet, knowing, But no blue eyes on the lurking heathens (who suck your soul), No flirtation, temptation, touching the unwashed. This is a joyless, serious pursuit, Saving the world.
I worked nights in Brazil, photographing stars. Coming home one morning, I found the neighbor kids gathered around the curb. All year, a trickle of water ran beside it, starting from a neighbor’s farm and moving down through the prosperous community below, eventually draining into the Rio Potengi.
“What’s up?”, I asked.
“Fish!” they answered.
They were on their knees, giggling, hands in mud and water. I walked over, expecting floating toys of sticks and leaves, but saw little flashes of color. A child’s cupped hands held a small, brightly hued fish darting in a bit of water.
I knelt beside the rivulet and saw hundreds of tiny finned creatures slipping through fingers of little people delighted by their beauty.
I lived a few degrees from the Equator. These were tropical fish, the real thing. They weren’t in an aquarium in a doctor’s office. They lived free in their home, my gutter.
A ripple spreads from a Kansas tornado, and the wings of an Australian butterfly skip a beat.
That would also be chaos.
The image is the Australian Amnesty Butterfly — click on the link to learn more.
Living in Natal, Brazil, was time travel. Evenings, we strolled and conversed lazily, danced at the social clubs, visited the dying in front rooms, surrounded by friends, and went to the barber for a shave — hot towels, straight razor, funny jokes and a rubdown, all for a dime, like an old movie.
Once, I was having a haircut. A man with no legs came in, selling lottery tickets. He maneuvered on a roller board, head about knee high. Everyone knew him. A few bought tickets, and he moved past the line of chairs where he waited. Why was he still there?
The barber to my right finished a guest and turned to the lottery agent. “Same as ever, José?”, who nodded. In a fluid motion the barber lifted him from board to chair. Question answered — a customer, like everyone else, and a frequent one.
A sheet billowed out and was pinned behind his neck, steaming cloth applied, and the conversation continued without break. A few minutes later, towels removed and face skillfully shaved smooth and clean, followed by a brisk massage. Second puzzle — the barber was in no hurry and the next patron seemed happy where he was. Gossip, sports, politics, weather flowed as ever in that global mens’ club. José smiled and chatted, a member in full standing.
I was done. My barber spun me about to face the grand mirror on the wall of every barbershop. “What do you think?”, “Looks great!”, universal query and response. My eyes strayed to the salesman’s reflection, head level with mine, great sheet before him down to floor. Puzzle solved. José sold them lottery tickets and a chance at riches. They sold him a shave — and added legs for a few minutes every day.
On cold winter mornings in Santiago, I wanted a typewriter — I looked at the machines in the repairman's window each day as I walked to work — There was winter prose, trapped in the keys, waiting liberation — I always passed by, never entering once — All that English still languishes cold in Chilean solitary.
Waiting is gray and cold even in summer — Jorge waits in line two hours a day — And Norman says when he's in line he's doing something wrong — Queue shortening, fruit ripening, tank filling, baby entering world, life ending, most tedious of all — Always in the future, unfulfilled anxiety.