SHROUDING CEREMONY BY TALA ABU RAHMEH 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 15
I love you when there is no noise, when the roof on top of us doesn’t matter, when we don’t need stars that haven’t shone in thirteen days, to taste the beauty of the sky.
You look so beautiful now that you’re no longer in pain. The veins in your face have settled down and the ash of bombs no longer bothers you. Your toes and legs no longer itch for air, and your frown has let itself go.
I love you when I’m no longer scared of you dying, when I no longer have to get close to you at night to make sure you are still breathing, when I know the fight, I never wanted to fight, is over.
Outside the dead are on the streets and I’m concerned with nothing but shrouding you with the whitest sheet.
Like kings of old Egypt you deserve nothing short of a wrapping ceremony. I want to wash every ounce of your skin with lavender and warm your eyes and fingers with hot oil.
Outside a baby is dying under his mother who is dying under the bed holding debris and the weight of poor construction (we blame everything on the occupation). I don’t want their shouting to disrupt your cold slumber.
You loved me because we hated the same things, slimy okra (that looks and tastes the same), the smell of red meat being cooked, and people who can’t make up their mind. I loved you because you swung your eyes open like a child surprised with laughter.
I sleep next to your dead body with the smell of trash that was burned next to the right side of your face, the charcoal of our bedding. I play with your hand, open and close fingers then hold on, we are in this together.
FROM HERE TO LA BY SCOTT LAUDATI 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 15
We drove from here to LA
in total silence because Ace Enders said we should.
Of course he talked for hours,
actually he screamed and he did it for hours,
into a cell phone as he paced around the trailer
in the parking lot of every gas station
from here to LA
He wrote his best songs at his worst,
after the phone calls with his soul mate.
The woman never understood the artist
but if she didn’t tear him apart
he never would’ve written those songs
and I wouldn’t have fallen asleep each night
listening to him finger the guitar strings
and singing about the love he would see
when we finally sold enough merch to fly her
from here to LA
His hair grew long
(he was the converse wearing allstar)
he grew out his beard
(mad whiskers on a mad dog)
and somewhere between Wind Gap and Winnemucca
we became a tribe and Ace wore the feathered headdress.
It was never spoken of, never decided,
but he was the man for that place and time,
and the other bands knew it too.
We weren’t the headliners and we didn’t draw the biggest crowds,
but the other bands hushed when Ace walked into the room,
we all knew we were treading with a real songwriter.
But HE DIDN’T KNOW IT, would never accept it,
and I watched him go mad trying to write The Book of Love,
and recite it every night
to the girl on the cell phone
in every parking lot
every gas station
from here to LA
Half the band watched the Karate Kid on repeat,
the rest of us read road novels and listened to Wilco,
but not Ace!
He just stared
and occasionally would jump up and scream
until his face got hot and red and then he’d start staring again.
In Portland, Ace and I jockeyed across the city
to find a post office.
The mental institution had just run out of funds
and all the crazies were living on the streets,
one grabbed Ace’s shirt
and like a zoo animal does when you catch it staring at you,
looked right into Ace’s soul and said, “I know what you did.
that he knew
whatever it was,
no matter how nuts the bum was,
that he really kn
what Ace had done
even if I didn’t know Ace had ever done anything.
Ace asked me if I though the bum knew what he did.
I didn’t ask what he had done, but said that the bum probably did,
but Ace liked attention, and asked everyone this question
from there to LA
They called him a mad genius
they called him a crazy artist
they called him a possessed songwriter.
I’m not really sure of any of those things
because it took a woman to make him crazy
and a country to drive him insane,
but on Monday most people still have to get up and
go to work.
I do know that all it takes to make a beautiful brain crumble
is a woman pushing the IGNORE button on the cell phone
and it can happen in less time than it takes
to drive from here to LA