Seal Beach, CA, 2016
Behold: elderly white men gunning golf carts
to the clubhouse to have coffee & pastries
with other solo men—those whose wives
are dead. As much as it makes me grin to see
these motorized thingamajigs, something is dismal
about this place: overall vibes of easy containment.
How palpably we eventually acquiesce. Abutting
the Pacific, cookie cutter vistas & ranch-style
homes appear suspect: healthy desert lawns,
shriveled sunflower palms, cliques of garden
gnomes in clandestine banter & the occasional
wind chime tinkling birdsong. An axis seems
permanently off—but maybe, I’m not old enough
yet. Recall: The Truman Show, the Jim Carrey movie
about a fictionalized world within a fictionalized
world—utopian dystopia unbeknownst to the lone
protagonist—flint of the apocalypse on the tip
of everyone’s tongue as empty planes bawl overhead.
Synchronized wails of gulls & alkaline gusts strike
walls the hue of seashells. Outside: strip malls
& naval exoskeletons seize the terrain. We’re born
into some form of wreckage. Each turnover:
a burial. This, the one spectacular flaw of human
existence. So haven’t they earned permission to fade
in a bubble where everything is a stone’s throw
away: basic amenities deemed elaborate luxuries
as if granted membership into some secret society,
even though they’ve never taken a vacation.
Arthritic & near dissolution—savoring freedom paid
in blood, sweat & tears—their version of the good
ole American Dream: this is all I’ve ever wanted.
Alchemy at the indecent hour, nothing is what it seems. By the by, matchbooks from nameless dives emerge as diminutive epiphanies. Catcalls: customary in a city that never sleeps. Desire braids fury. Each flint is a key to a would-be flame. Flourish of smoke escapes like ribbons pirouetting. Gilded by vanities of youth when sleep seems vulgar, ego flirts with inevitability—the underbelly. Horror a carnival mirror: marbled human distortions.
Instead, imbibe the medicine that we are divine beings worthy of serendipity—peace, at the very least. Jesus, Buddha, Allah, Shiva, Gaia, magical bloom, et cetera—we pray to the same source—the cosmic undertow. Knowing, they say, is half the battle, but when will we practice what we preach? Leave it to us to fashion diurnal disasters.
Matter of fact: nothing here is solid. Not our rickety bones, nor our mortgaged homes. Oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon— we are the stuff of magma—starseeds. Perhaps in sleep, we can render ourselves sacred. Quell the notion that some are destined to suffer while others revel in riches. Remember, abundance is found within.
Some call it a kind of verisimilitude to subsist without pleasure—simple pat on the shoulder or a half-hearted embrace when the body rings electric. To know the depths of loneliness, rub two sticks together at the bottom of a murky basin for a spark that may never happen. Unearth the map of storied constellations. Vibe the unknown. Wager that fear is not our common dialect. Xenophobic tendencies only yield calamity. Yellow, black, brown, indigo, crystal, rainbow: such majestic frequencies. Zoom further out to commune with the moon before heralding our extinction.
From Bodega by Su Hwang (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2019). Copyright © 2019 by Su Hwang. Reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions. milkweed.org