Brian Michael Barbeito

Th Politics of Language - Ten Songs from the World

Brian Michael Barbeito

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He has become a success. We walk through his store. A series of stores in fact. I tell him, Hey, do you believe in these people that talk about spirits, about good and bad intentions, and about curses? He doesn’t answer at first, and is in the habit of pausing, looking upwards, as if the answer is in the industrial rafters. Long moments. Dusk particles playing themselves air-bound. They want to be diamonds, and somehow always are. Yes and no, he comes with, No, not in the sense your chakra mamas speak about it. They are spun. He fixes a box, - facing they call it in some industries. Everything sure, curt, sturdy, standing-attention, looking outwards at the world, - never really inwards. Then what? I am listening. He turns around and looks at me. Short. Big ring on his smallest finger. Gold. Gauche. Overdone. Clothing pressed and proving always its quality. Quality in ‘their’ world. He has a syndrome. Small man’s syndrome. Always trying to prove his worth. A superiority complex. Well, of course it’s true. Look, it’s like this. What if someone I know, from far away, comes here to visit. And what if he is poor. He sees what I got. Look what I got. He is jealous. He looking at it can cause trouble. There is something to that. I am careful of those things. Then I look out the window. For all the newness and modernity, I notice that he has, intentionally or unintentionally, not cleaned the them.


She looks down at the dog. With love. Grace. She is ‘salten,’ salt of the earth. She has brown eyes and dimples, is an electric light queen, a woman with natural beauty, quiet rhythmic walk, and born under the sign of the Virgin. Just. Right. Earthen. The dog is warm blooded, she says, She is so warm blooded. Unfortunately, the empiricist is present, thinking he was sent to bless the world with erudition and scholarship. In fact, he is a nuisance. Rude. Arrogant. Non-wise. That, he begins his proclamation with (and I cringe), is not true. She is not any more warm blooded than the next. If I took their temperature they would all be the same. Unless one had a fever that day. The woman looks at him. Only briefly. She would rather look at the dog. And who wouldn’t? She will give the empiricist a crumb but he will not understand. He is against understanding though he would claim it is his thing. She curls up to me, near my leg. Especially in the night. I love her. She is my dear. She keeps me warm. It is because she curls to me- she is…warm blooded. He looks at her. Eyes full of condescension. The dog looks at him and lets out a bark. Instinctive, guttural, cold-blooded bark.


She was enlightened, and had much wisdom, but little book learning. Read she could and did, from time to time. The lives of the saints. Grocery store flyers. The obituaries. Her friends were dying. We fall off the orb, flaxen leaves dried and un-dazzled. We will find out about the transmigration of souls, or not. It’s a win-win, as if it’s a ‘not,’ there will be no we to know about the not. She crocheted and waited for something. Follow your heart, was her one idea, Follow your heart. One of the others thought, Your heart is a pump for pumping blood to the rest of your body. She recited decades from the rosary. The world was in a sin it didn’t think it was in. That was the rub. The biggest rub of all. The world said, and with constancy, We are right and just. We have worked for our things. They are our things. We love the things of the world. What’s mine is mine, and is not yours. There is nothing incongruous here. Look at you. What have you got? We are the king, the prince, the queen. We are the aristocrats of modernity. Behold our secularism. And she did not say anything, because what can you say to people of such an ilk? She prayed to Jesus, Mary, and the holy family. To all the saints and angels. She kept for you the things you would have thrown out. These things included objects and memories. She talked to the rain and the bird through the window. She was enlightened, which really means, endowed with light.


It was a machine shop. Lathes. Aisles. Lathe, Aisle and Logos, I used to say, - but I never really found the logos, - only imagined such would show up. We were down by the presses and beside us was a wall of shelving. The calendar girls had been there for ages- true, dedicated- their bathing suits somewhat outdated, and on top, no material at all. There were hoppers, but it was rare that anyone was called to empty them. We save things, he said. He was a middle aged man, welding all day, and studying all manner and form of scripture at night. I admired him. To live a just life, you have to follow God. And here, what we doing here (he would always leave out the ‘are’), is that we makin’ sumtin’ out of nuttin’, yeeeeeees.- We makin’ it, and we makin’ it true, strong, with bearings, steel, welding torch, paint, and such-like. We makin’ it careful like God make a new soul! And that was it for him. There was no doubt about it. He was on the right side- creating. Some of his books were on the shelving. Not far from Miss July full of nipples, lips, and eyes so wanton- sexually Gnostic- rightly sinful. She was a soft blonde- brown eyes and blonde hair. It stayed July forever. What does God and his perfect creation really care for months anyhow? It was a machine shop. Always dark, caged in, kept apart, but not w/out its own brand of peculiar and true light. We makin’ sumtin’ out of nuttin’.


Far and far, to the south. We were in a store. The Atlantic boasted small white-caps not far off. On the other side- the inter-coastal- calm, affluent, - a quiet manta-ray going under there. The electric bridges opening up, pining for each vessel that went through. Somehow- will it come back? Will it come back? He said, - You were nervous the other day. I saw you were nervous. I thought he must be mistaken, and had misread me. I was anything but nervous. I had just wanted to get out of there. Maybe a bit dissatisfied, but not actually nervous. I had wanted to see the coast, the old fishermen with blood and guts in buckets. The sleepy cargo ships walking slowly across the horizon line. Small shops w/scents. Tans layers deep- strong lawns and palm leaves getting teased over and up, being danced by the breezes. And God, - the dusk. Bougainville drive. Annette. The abandoned gazebo by the vacant Catholic church. One thousand things besides. Nervous? No, I told him. Yup. I saw. You were nervous. And he looked at me. Jesus Christ, I told him, forget about it. And it was later. By dive shops. By stucco walls with small lizards. By the sound of traffic. I realized he only had one word to denote any type of discomfort. He was right. I had been nervous. Nervous for to be, as he might have said, in the outer world. And it would have not made sense but made some kind of perfect sense at once.


He was at an outdoor market. Looking languid, but with the death pallor. Out from a pea coat black, crusted and ashen hands. Black and brown spots on the fingers. His head moved slowly, minutely, like a joking clock’s hand. Tick and silence, then tock, and silence. Who was he? He could have been a phantom, a grim reaper, an agent of death. He watched there, in an easy silence- already in some definite but unnamed way, dispersed. Bones. Bones with skin tacked or slowly wrapped on. People did not avoid him like in stories and films. No. He was not noticed. But I saw him there. He stayed for hours. I named him Tick And Tock. Eyes with a film of white over them. Ashen eye-balls. But still, they, like the head, would go back and forth, roaming slowly,- tick, and then tock. There are no verdant shrubberies in the summer’s background. Only hard asphalt ways. Who was he? Not a man of eons ago, not timeless. Not a demon, - and not a saint. Tick And Tock was just what you call a very old man sitting at an outdoor market while the dusk learned how to become night.


She. Surrounded. Framed. Couched. By her family. Prayers. Vigil in the cold autumnal house. Turn on the heat, will you? Some astral fairy comes to pray alongside the already bereft. How can we know what to do? God is perfunctory and won’t come right in. Where are the angels and guides? Perhaps present but unseen. How to know? What to do? Quiet are the voices. One day, we will all be estranged. Then, the leaves race around. Old frames fogged. Stacks of something. What was it? She. She as dying. She the matriarch. Our matriarch is leaving. The others don’t have as much fire as I thought. They could not maintain the verve, gusto, the day to day. They did not know how to do the most important thing. They did not know how to love. She. On the bed of the last days by the walls of the weary and the kitchens of the famished. She. With the solace of prayer beads and the deeds finally done. She. Where the fallow comes in and out of the door, a door soon to be shut. Condolences? Yes. Anything else? Not so much. She. A perimeter of blood-lines that will end.  What can be done is done.


They are gone, but they are alive. How? In spirit? Do you mean memory? Is that real? – its real enough, - why differentiate- why split hairs? They could not carry the torch. But, what is it that remains? Oh, they are with you, always. But literally? Yes. Yes? Yes. Its in the imprint of things, is what must be meant. I shall drink up both,- like a metaphysical and physical concoction, an exoteric and esoteric libation- once and for all. They are gone, so how is it that they are alive? You must mean something else. Me, I just deal with the facts. I would rather be factual than wishful. But don’t you wish upon a star? Nope. I wish upon my action. In fact, I don’t wish upon anything at all. Well, it is for you to grieve in your own way and them in theirs. Each in accord with his or her…manner and characteristic. We are prescient of nothing and doubtful of everything.


The lines in your hand feel complicated, intricate, labyrinthine, folded in on themselves. You are a complex person. Yes, this is your fortune line, and if it reaches up to the top of the middle, you will have a good, well; it is not correct language, but, good money, if you know what I mean. And here are your relationships, the major ones anyhow. Other things, many and varied. But, - that is not my gig and I don’t do that anymore. That is not my trick, and by trick I do not mean trick. Trick designates nothing like trickery at all, but is something that means forte, niche, graceful gift, - and can transfer to anything done with wit, skill, competence, acuity, prowess. Do you understand? The most important thing is that everyone I met there was unhappy or greedy. Greedy for what they wanted, obviously, and therefore unhappy in the mean time as they say. And many old people, whose only concern was that their middle aged children were trying to get money. Listen, you don’t need the lines. I won’t say fuck the lines, but forget the lines for now. Some people can read your feet, your brow, your so on and so forth- there are such people, surely. Right? But I was burned out. I asked for my money and got outta there. I never found my thing. I have no trick, no aptitude. But, - those lines look wildly maze-like. I don’t have your solution, but you can’t be accused of being mediocre, simple. There and there and there. Okay?


Sometimes she could be loquacious. It was important to listen. Something might be said that was of value. Look between at the spaces and at the sounds. Innocent enough, just lots of talk, but, sometimes there was something to make one pause. She said, That boy is not right. I see the devil in his eyes. Ouch. He was just a kid. Unruly to be sure, but the devil? In his eyes. And listening then, because of some non-daunting aura about her, - it was gotten that, right or wrong, she did not mean mischief or even ‘badness’ in his eyes. She did not mean devilish thoughts or evil temperaments. She meant the devil was actually in him. Now, was she right or wrong? Could such a thing happen? It must be said…what must be said? The Christian mystic set I knew, would say it to mean somewhere in-between mischief and the devil. They would say and mean, The spirit of the devil is in his eyes, and mean the same or similar to the spirit of greed, hatred, et cetera. That is one thing. But that is a compromise. She was saying he was sometimes the devil. Well, he grew up to be all right. Better than many. So maybe the old one was wrong. Or maybe the devil was then in his eyes and it got taken out. How to know? Sometimes she could be loquacious. Since then, I have seen something that gave me pause. I saw a person who had the devil in the eyes. And it wasn’t a projection. You should have seen it. Then you would know that I ‘tell ya true,’ maybe not the same as, but much like, the old one, long gone now, like you and I and the apple tree, will one day be. 

Brian Michael Barbeito

Brian Michael Barbeito resides in Ontario, Canada. His work appears at various electronic venues and has been featured in print publications in Spain, the United States, Canada, Australia, and the UK. He is the author of a book of short fictions called Chalk Lines, Fowlpox Press, 2013 (cover art and design by Virgil Kay).