Universal Atlas | A Survey Of Our Wares

Sestina One

We found a slimy piece of the godhead in an oyster shell,

Others kicked destinies into dust on the pavement,

Some tool-belt ace from Klamath Falls verily haunted

The Central Avenue 5 and dimes, the statues in the fountains,

The public restrooms down by the bus station, and the dirty

Water hot-dog cart out along the no-tell motel strip on the highway.

 

Never once did we see an off-ramp that beckoned us from the highway,

Though we spent a handful of frigid dusks parked behind the Shell

Waiting for any transmission to cut through the static, jagged and dirty.

Dirty and jagged: fingernails, the glass pipe, the stretch of pavement

Where our bedrolls stretched out in the city park before the fountains.

Waiting for anything, any transmission. A destiny. Waiting. Haunted.

 

I left their company, my thoughts icy, and when I found you I was haunted

Still. It’s the repetition of spectres that wears you down, a highway

Ghoul can only spook you so many times. Finally found a penny fountain

& I took up all those wishes in my hand, took from the pool, from Europa’s shell.

I took them up, a couple hundred of them, laid them out across the pavement.

Almost a thousand wishes now, placed in a shape – a star, brilliant and dirty.

 

I invite her to dance within my design, as her shadowy take on our dirty

Doings are broadcast from her smile into the frosty and somewhat haunted

Air. She spins and spits in the ritual twists, a giant moth upon the pavement

Fluttering in and around the flood lights bringing shape to the highway

Reststop. She and I then. Singing some cartoon theme song into a conch shell.

Vibrating hollow and flat like a broken kazoo. Trumpeting into broken water fountains.

 

They used to seek their holy orders on table-top jukeboxes, in soda fountains,

And down by the pond where the runoff smelled of somebody’s idea of dirty

Progress. We invite you here now, hand-wringing and shocked from shell,

Your shell – pulled from depth, forced to land by the thundering sea, haunted

by gulls and sandpipers, and into the bargain bin at the tourist trap off the highway.

And you now risen! Part gull/part waste – excrement shed toward the pavement.

 

I invite you to tour the splendid mosaics spewed upon our pavement,

“Anyone could do that,” knee-jerk scripture etched upon our fountains,

When really, what we could use is a flip-shined lacquered ebony highway

Stretching out from the place where we stand, restless and broke and dirty.

A blacktop two-way instruction manual that says “Go!”, and leaves us haunted.

Leaves us standing bare and anxious, hands holding only air and a totem shell.

 

So hold your ear to a shell, excavate the silent pavement,

For it is noble to stay haunted, haunting the plazas and public fountains

Sleeping out, broke and open, free and dirty, shucking oysters by the highway.

-Laurence Wilhelm Lillvik & Jeffrey Enright

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