CURRENT ISSUE (#50)
"Provisions” and “Explanation"
by Josh Kalscheur
Weno Island, Federated States of Micronesia
Always this grinding out another afternoon near the abandoned
Japanese rail ties, waiting for the boys to gather, always this
leaving Iras at three from the meetinghouse with our backs to the road,
steeplechasing the flatbed through the monsoon-grooved pot hole lakes
still shin-deep after a month without rain, the wheeled ripple of oil-slicked silt
splashing up to the doors, the cadre of kids plodding the mangrove
edge with machetes and slingshots, chickens tied to ropes like pets,
ribbed mutts sulking, the dirge-slow cruise into Nepukos, always like this
on a payday in April, at TTC, Shigeto’s in Assa, where everything comes
in cases or sacks, in the lowly-lit aisled zorri chaos, where on Friday the State’s
Compact funds trickle down, the late-day waiting with five fifty-pound bags
of Guam Rose, three stacks of Triple Three Mackerel with oil, the soft bones
like fried noodles, the Yamasa soy sauce in the two-liter handled jugs,
the square tins of Argentina corned beef off the ship from Darwin,
the locked gelatinous settling of lard, Aji-No-Moto in the bulk bags
they don’t sell anywhere but the stateside oriental joints. Here we are
sweating it out in the loadup with flats of Chinese colas, Black Label
luncheon slabbed into side supports, with the pwi pwis, the mwasamwas weight
of a dozen cartons of the super-pasteurized, the sweetened condensed
Carnation glaze, the sun beating a syrupy film into the rubber-patched
steering wheel, the sniffing gas men stalking shade and the bent benches,
the blackened women selling rotten ropes of tapioca tin-wrapped
for whites, warmer than anything in our bodies, everything not fresh
from China, or Japan with the pirated yellowfins, sold back headless,
in cuts of Amerikana fillet, mashed to a puck sized pulp, the turkey tail
not considered fit for food in the states, the fat gristling down,
the FDA reject giblets scraped from the Perdue live-kill rooms,
twenty-five quartered California thighs and legs, Iowa pig bile
thawed to a mucus, fresh from the docks with corners rat-pocked
from the float over, Korean Kimchee in the glass bottles,
as fancy as you get this equatorial, this far nowhere, these festering
Pacific pimples, detritus specks of mistakes with our diabetic feet
and boil-scarred calves, with the spray-painted governmental signs,
the sputtering hope in the monthly Mobil ship, these ram-shackle
ghetto remnants of Honolulu, the eroded aid of the Trust Territory era,
ten-year-old vendors of single cigarettes, stacking the Filipino pancit
up past the window, squares like blocks of C-rations, blind spots
moving with the sloped border of the jungle, the derelict dust rising
for the first time since the bowels of the Chief Mailo, ratcheting
the stick into any gear that’ll move this much weight,
and we’re not the only ones with cases of Red Horse and fifths
of Gem Clear, the prim single travelers of Fleishman’s for the road,
bags of puu and lime to cut the cheeks, the stinging nic-hit of Salem
in the lips, drive it back to where it started and pound down another
for whoever goes stoning the pickups with the tinted windows
and wailer lights black-marketed from Hilo, always like this,
families of land plotted out like this, on the roadside the same muted
emptiness sitting on the Dirty Curve before Sapuk, nothing left
in the flickering end of gas in the compound generator, and never anything
lighting this place but the trash fires, or stirred fluorescence in the tin-lid
cut shores, going bright in only the heavy slaps of tide, fighting to get the light
out, sparking a copra husk in the used oil barrel rusted to a sieve,
cranking the wick up the kerosene lamps, searching the mountain grass
going clear in the first hour of moonlight, always like this, how it grows
articulately in the cloudless night, blade to blade a blend of them
trading angles in the wind, it’s all enough to lie down
and strain for, to sit rigidly waiting in the vine-thick air.
What happened on the straight shot by Chee-Young’s Family Store?
The cousins say the boy with the bleeding calves cornered a girl
under the unfinished outhouse. This is the word everywhere.
The liquor stand boy said it started when rocks flew from a breadfruit
branch, when it was still windy, but the girls parsing their hair for lice
say no way, there were two of them, and their pants were down,
same as always. The blanket was clean on one side. The one dog
whose vagina always hangs loose and bleeds barked the whole time.
The goiter dog might be dead. That’s what the kids say who were playing
with the brake pads of a broken car. The uncles drank yeast
and Asahi, and sang those songs about home. Their sons
agreed and dented an oil barrel with rebar and pig bones.
The rusted satellite dish echoed the sound. The boy who speaks
good English says a gun is buried by the cookhouse,
next to where the thighs bleed out. The one who works
the Dirty Curve told a man bullets are only for slingshots.
That explains it. The mothers say no one screams like that.
It was more of a muffle. The volleyball net was tangled
and ripped open. The man with scars and big ears
insists the house with the warrior masks shook.
The painted names on the Japanese tank bled, but the high titles
won’t look to the cliff. They speak the old language and spit. The rain
factors in somehow, and the green clouds hanging over Mabuchi Hill.
The gas-sniffer shakes his head at the cage hut where four men play pool.
Follow the bleached rat-tail says the unmarried woman. If he holds
anything in his hands, don’t look at the fat of his face. Forget
what she says and follow the trail of batteries to the rail ties
says the boy who the boys call a fag. Maybe they took the two A.M.
to Guam. The aunties wonder what will happen in the taro patch.
It could be worse with the gas can or the vines. The order of things
makes a difference. The girl with the burned face says so, she wants
this piece by piece. She says the men will come when the hibiscus
ropes dry, and when they point and pick it all up, the prayers are done.
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