Sunday, October 11, 2009

Punting the Calçada

Herta’s father was a muleteer. He drove his oxcart behind the mule wagon, cart and wagon tied together at the axel. Abalone crept alongside the oxcart sniffing at everything that came in contact with its snout, a goatskin tether keeping him at bay. “…both forgetfulness and recollection are creative.”[1] mumbled her father, ‘so off with your caps!’ ‘and be swift!’ added his daughter, ‘....I owe God a death.’ The day before the man in the hat found a nickel coin in the folds of his jacket, left there, he surmised, by a muleteer or his daughter. ‘sad sac muleteer’ he mumbled to himself. Alberto Noētikos tends a small plot of land where he grows peas and ivy, the ivy for sale in the market, the peas sold to tyrants and busybodies. (He grows Pretoria wildflowers and Gauteng nosegays, daisies and mums, the moons of his fingernails ivied with dirt).

‘its getting so a man can’t stand up for falling down’ said the legless man facing the ivied transom over the butcher’s door. ‘man’s got to stand, lest he get mistaken for his shadow’. That morning after his lavatory the legless man set out into the world, his pushcart punting the calçada. Usually he punted the sideways, his paddles striking whoever got in his way, but today was a different matter: the sideways was littered with late-night revelers, many returning from the Feast of the Redeemer, others returning home from a night of pandering and whoring, the stink rising off their clothes like sewer gas.

When he was a boy his da fed him wheat crackers and jam hoping that’d make him grow big and strong. His da couldn’t stand to look at his son, the bile rising in the pit of his stomach, his heart pounding, his son laying facedown on the dirt floor gibbering and drooling like a circus idiot. His da wore denim coveralls and flannel shirts with snap buttons. Sundays he wore seersucker and pressed gray slacks, his ma bullying him ‘lace those damn boots or you can stay home with the rest of the heathens’. Usually he wore his Fall jacket when the weather got colder, trussing it round the waist with baling twine.

[1] Jorge Luis Borges, (1998). The other duel. In: A. Hurley (Trans.) Collected fictions. New York: Penguin Books, p. 386

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"Poetry is the short-circuiting of meaning between words, the impetuous regeneration of primordial myth". Bruno Schulz

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