n. infantile pattern of suckle-swallow movement in which the tongue is placed between incisor teeth or between alveolar ridges during initial stage of swallowing (if persistent can lead to various dental abnormalities) v. [content removed due to Bush campaign to clean up the internet] n. act of nyah-nyah v. pursuing with relentless abandon the need to masticate and thrust the world into every bodily incarnation in order to transform it, via the act of salivation, into nutritive agency

Monday, April 24, 2006


Hey there folks and darlins'. Sorry I've been such an absentee blogger lately but, you know, it's them final weeks of school and honestly and truthfully, things have been good but quiet and mellow. Busy. I've been working on stuff most of the time, whenever I'm not procrastinating. So, here's a little bit of insertion material for one of Tahina's sections of Swallow, which seems to be growing. Remember, this is the raw guts (rough draft).

Gaudi buildingI already love this city, the ecstatic energy with which it moves, how the sidewalks themselves seem to run. Downtown, an outdoor market is packed with stalls. People bump and jostle for food or craft or maybe just for the sake of motion. Everyone bargains and the storetenders frown whenever a shopper gets too sly. I watch a young boy pocket an apple and he catches my eye as he walks away. A wink from a ten-year old. I am in place here, nothing more than another body moving through space. The smells line up in rows and then a short breeze catches the lines and blurs them. The sharp pinch of meat cooking, the roundness of melons sliced open and gleaming in the light that juts through the stall’s aluminum roofs.

All around us, a welter of buildings, a conglomerate skeleton of theory. Gothic arches writhe with swirling decoration and their ornate shadows create more than half the building’s heft. With the rotation of sun from the hills to the sea, time itself lengthens certain curves in the architecture and goes about condensing the rest. Every so often, I stumble upon another Gaudi, Barcelona’s biggest maker of fantasy. The bright immensity of his buildings makes eyes squint. People walk past these strange structures like starving creatures tumbling in from an arid plain. They gorge themselves on the fatty excess of his vision.

I have been in Barcelona twice before, back when our father, Taro, was still invested in our animation. How many places did he take us? I mark the scenery in my mind like it still exists somewhere, lost in the slate of moving bodies. Dad, I said, this is it. This is where I start. He didn’t even ask if I was sure, he was so excited to have a child who didn’t want to watch television. Yes, he said, you should go wherever you want. Was I only fifteen when I caught the plane from Barcelona to Tenerife? Yes, I was fifteen. After leaving Neecie crying and Fish looking blank, I flew away from Barcelona. I traveled by boat to Las Palmas and eventually found myself irrigating bananas up in the middle of mountains so steep that the farmers carved tiers out of the incline and balanced their houses on the brink of avalanche. I stayed there for four months until Taro wired the money for my flight back.

When I came back, Neecie, who was eleven at the time, had a homemade tattoo on her left shoulder, and Fish was collecting garbage from alleyways and gluing the pieces together into castles with runways. Taro had moved them into a squatter’s house, and most of the punk kids who lived there looked at my family like they couldn’t understand why someone would make their life so difficult. A German hippie, one of my father’s lovers, had taken an interest in Neecie and was showing her how to build a Mayan temple in the backyard with the stones that had fallen out of the building’s old kitchen.

“And if you position the left cornerstone in alignment with the hemispheric magnetism,” she said, “You get a sacred space that resonates with…”

I suggested to Taro that it was time to send us back to Muebla.

“Sure, kid,” he said, “I think your mom and the babies must miss you.”

“Don’t forget Cedra,” was all I could think to say to the look of windswept relief that hitched its way across his face. He had the look of a man already riding his bike down the slopes of some other nation.

The German hippie woman continued to sunbathe nude in the crumbling rubble of our temporary home. Every day, she shook out a bright red towel and settled herself on its coarse grains. Her white breasts caught the passing light of the city, and the blond bush of hair that sprouted between her legs seemed to grow and writhe as the time passed. I dragged Neecie and Fish to the top of the old building and we would look out across the vast rooftops, the jarring ropes of telephone wire, the sea off in the distance and the hills bellied up to our backs. We spooned into that geometric harbor, watched as the heat hit the decks of a million Spanish armadas. The light of that city, natural pastels: pinks and yellow, the sultry lure of pollution.

Fish would watch it with me, his hand in mine, and as time passed, he would settle down with his head in my lap and I’d roll my fingers through his matted hair. Never was much of a talker, that boy. Even less so now. Behind us, around us, every direction of motion, Neecie drew her ideas along the adobe cement of our rooftop. Every so often, she’d put down her chalk and go look off the edges down to the woman with her writhing blond fur. She’d sit there and stare at her, put her hand to her mouth and lean in.

“Do you think she has ever shaved her armpits?” she asked me.

“No,” I said. “It would probably mess with the star alignments.”

Neecie’s sharp snap of a head, her squinting eyes.

“Don’t be a jerk just ‘cause you don’t agree. You don’t know everything.”

“I know enough to see that she’s another person whacked out on her own possibilities.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Neecie,” I said. “We grew up in this crap. Look around you. Look at Fish’s clothes, for god’s sake. Nothing’s been washed for ages and Taro barely remembers to snap us up a few eggs for dinner. You have a goddamn ugly tattoo on your arm. How can that possibly resonate with fucking Universal harmonies?”

Neecie just sat down with a pinch on her face, the squint tighter and tighter down to her lips. Already she was getting chubby then, the only one in our family to pack on our grandmother’s weight. Her belly hung out of a semi-washed tanktop and there was a little duck waddle to her legs. She wasn’t traditional; Neecie was never traditional, but she remains to this day the most beautiful creature I’ve seen. Something coy and cunning about her smile, a wide-eyed fake innocence with lashes. She looked at me with that look of hers that means she will always disagree. Then she lay down on the concrete. After a few seconds she sat back up, took off her tanktop, exposing the white rolls of her near-breasts.

“I’m gonna be just like her,” she said. “She isn’t our momma. She doesn’t have kids, and if she wants to help me build forts in the backyard then I say she’s alright.”

Fish looked up at me from his place in my lap, and smiled. Such a pretty little smile it made me want to kiss him. For a few seconds he reminded me of Gustafo, our oldest brother, who had hit the tracks as soon as he turned sixteen.

Later that afternoon we all went over to the side of our rooftop and watched as the German hippie startled herself out of her cooling slumber. She picked herself up off her bleeding towel. I swear I could smell her, the scent of crotch and armpit sweat blurring along the skin. She pulled a loose shirt over her puckered skin and sat down on the temple she was creating with Neecie. Then she took a hand-rolled cigarette out of her shoe, lit it and took a long drag. She held the smoke in and then blew it out with a long exhalation followed by a few coughing rasps. The scent of pot came up quickly and I looked over at Neecie. She was looking at that German hippie girl like Jesus had been pried from the cross.

“Why do you like her so much?” I asked.

“She’s free.”

“She’s just naked and smoking pot, Neecie.”

“No, it’s more than that.” Neecie looked over at me. “You just don’t know because you weren’t here.”

The last half of her words landed like a conviction, and I knew something different at that moment: we are never free. Freedom is simply shorthand for owning up to responsibility. It was true, I had left them. I would leave them again. And every act of disappearance would be a betrayal. I looked down and Fish was watching me, and something so stark and tender fled across his face and then hid behind his little old man freckles. I held back from touching his cheek, and then we watched as the decks of all the city buildings floated in the pink haze like sailboats tethered tightly together.


I want to go look at that old building before I leave here. I promised Neecie I’d pick up a resonant rock for her. But I am not ready for this. I am ready for my morning and evening walks only, and the days sliding by as I look out the window. There’s not enough chalk in the world to keep the parts from sliding over each other. Everything flicks by in fragments, and I am scared, scared because it peaks out from the corners, glares down at me from the multiple eyes of my spider. Even the doorknob has a nose, the cobwebs a path to trace, and the squeaky springs of the bed a voice. I try to focus on my room, my breathing. I try to sift through and find only the place where I stand.
Yay, your still alive. I wondered if your books and studies swallowed you whole. Good luck on your last weeks of school!
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