Various Atmospheres
by Alex Caldiero

2.


Searching for food had become the other side …
[p.22]

Searching for food had become the other side of hunger in
the same way as night is the other side of day. At sundown
the meal was served on tables with no chairs. The mouths
had to feel for the plates as if they were hands. And this
was not the food after which you never hunger. Oh, Jesus,
it was the food after which you were hungrier than ever
before.


Under the desk there is another room …
[p.23]

Under the desk there is another room. The door you shut
is a chair. You close it, and no one will think of seeing you
there. It is most private and homey. It’s a nice place to go
to when you want to get away without going away. My
friend in the next room tells me he is going to decorate
under his desk. I will leave mine bare, because, after all,
if I’m going in, I dont want any distractions.


TO HARPO MARX, IN HEAVEN
[p.24]

You no longer play the harp
(nor the piano for that matter)
And you speak every chance
you get.

But this can’t be right.
This can’t be true.
In Heaven no one has to talk
And every word is pure music.
Where did I get that idea?

Why do I have such an idea?
Heaven? I don’t know anything about
the place. I don’t even know
if it is a place—for all I
know it’s a vegetable.

Yet I say it with conviction:
I wanna go to heaven
I pray to go to heaven.

‘Cause
Heaven is good
Heaven is peace
Heaven is light.

Where the hell do I get these ideas? I
don’t know anything about heaven but
what I’ve seen in paintings & read in books.
Yet I know it ain’t made up. It’s real. Heaven
is real. Heaven is there. Heaven is waiting to
house the righteous.

[p.25] I weep for Heaven.
Come take me, angels
of God, come take me
up to heaven.

I say up to heaven,
not down. I even
know the way.
That’s how
sure I am of it.

Take me up, oh sweet
angels, take me up to
Heaven where I can
play any instrument, and
if Harpo wont play the
harp I will
gladly
I’ll keep silent & not say
a word, if Harpo won’t.

‘Cause
I yearn for Heaven
I call for Heaven
I weep for Heaven.

Oh, sweet angels,
take me
to Heaven!

A man kneeling can be [p.27]

A man kneeling can be
struck down in many ways
especially if his eyes are closed
& he feels real close to his god,
who can protect him
when he kneels & turns all attention
inward
he is helpless—

He prays for deliverance
yet he gives himself up,
he prays for foresight
yet he renders himself blind,
he prays for strength
& yet there, kneeling,
he is weakest & most vulnerable—

Still it may be a good spirit
that inspires him,
a benevolent creature
who whispers into his ear
and calls him to prayer,
to seek something higher
that could view him as he is
more than himself could see
from the slits called eyes—

Tho now, on his feet,
doubt returns to roost
between his shoulders—
He can touch its wings,
one wing in each hand—
and still he hopes.


The gorilla dressed as a bellhop
[p.28]

The gorilla dressed as a bellhop
is ready to take your baggage
to your room.

You follow close behind reading
the numbers on the doors.

When you get to your room
you notice a corpse in the bathroom
propped up on the bowl.

You try to act natural by
tipping the bellhop a fruit.

You want to make conversation,
but he leaves you alone
much too soon.

now come at me,
I say to my self, and be as expectant
as rain in dry season


ALIEN
[p.29]

The alien counted his fingers and counted but ten.
Where was the eleventh?
He counted again & again.

There was no doubt about it—he had only ten,
five on each hand.
In time he began to think this was normal.

He counted other people’s fingers and they all had ten,
five on each hand.
In time he would almost forget about the eleventh.

If the subject came up, it was usually in jest:
The eleventh finger was between his legs—

But after the laughter
he always felt alone—
After the laughter
he would feel something gone—

He could not remember which hand it had been on—

The left?—The right?
Or was there a third hand?
Was there a third arm?
And were shoulders really placed triangularly?—

He had known how to play
impossible instruments—
He had known how to caress
with impossible tenderness—

[p.30]The alien looked at himself in the mirror
And he knew something was wrong—
Two arms? Ten fingers?
The eleventh finger was between his legs?
He laughed to himself.

But after the laughter
he would feel like weeping—
After the laughter
there was always the dreaming he had come home

And his beloved embraced him
with an impossible embrace
And she wiped the tears
from each of his eyes
One—two—three?

The alien wakes up and finds himself standing
on his bed
His two arms reaching out
at the empty air
holding his heart with
his other hand,
the one nobody can see
the one he keeps missing
when he counts,
the hand
with the eleventh finger—
the one that is like no other.


SCHOOLING THE SPIRIT
[p.31]

Put out your hand,
she said.
Hold out your hand,
she said.
Put your hand out,
she said
Hold your hand out,
she said.
And swung
down on the knuckles wi’ the edge
of her ruler—
& it must have been with all
her might
because it felt like a knife
cut
it must have been with all
her might
because the knuckles got
numb
& the pain was not
real.
Hold your hand out, she said
Hold out your hand,
she said
Hold it out, she said
and swung
down again wi’ the edge of
the ruler
& it must have been more
than the second time & it
must have been no more
than the lOOth time and it
[p.32]must have been painful
because I didnt know where
I was nor could I see thru
the tears
& it must have been
unbearable because I cried
and it must have been cruel
because my forehead &
eyebrows began to form a
frown which didnt help the
situation any because she
said stop frowning & hold
out your hand,
she said
stop frowning & keep your hand out,she said
stop frowning, she said
stop your frowning
& I would have stopped even my
breathing
& I would have stopped even
crying
& I would have certainly stopped
frowning, only
I didn’t understand what frowning was
but that I should stop & I would
have certainly stopped if it wasn’t
for the fact that
I didn’t speak
English very well &, well,
the word “frowning” was not yet in my
vocabulary otherwise
I certainly would have stopped
because she said
[p.33]to stop frowning & hold out my hands
& keep them out
& she swung down with the edge of the
ruler
until I thought I saw blood
but it was
nt blood,
it was just the color of pain
& then
she stopped
after what must have
been a lifetime—
she stopped, becauseI guess I
stopped frowning—
she stopped—
and I stopped
thinking
& feeling
& now
I remember
&
frown

Every week I read my horoscope … [p.35]

Every week I read my horoscope, and every time it is
absolutely correct. Every thing comes out. Even my fortune
cookie always holds some pertinent message.
Have I become so predictable?


I ran from my death
[p.36]

I ran from my death—
I built walls
between me & my death—
I went thru doors,
bolted them behind me,
I wanted to put distancebetween me & my death—
I barred one door
after another—
I went down corridors
turning—dashing
into one room
& then another—
And when I had
locked the final door
behind me,
And when I had
entered the last room,
And when I stopped
running,
There was my death
waiting for me all
the while sitting on
an easy-chair—
It looked at me
and said,
“Just testing.
Just testing.”


I enjoy reading the biographies of suicides
[p.37]

I enjoy reading the biographies of suicides. I start at the
last page and read back to before the thought ever came
up; back to the child with the big eyes who can’t tell the
difference between the cloud and his own head.

No one knew exactly how … [p.38]

No one knew exactly how the custom of throwing teeth on
the roof got started. But the roof of the old house had
become a graveyard, with teeth lodged in between the tiles.
The woman who lived in the house was named Christmas,
because she had been born on Christmas Day. She never
got married, and when she died she was buried dressed in
white.

She died on Christmas Day. And tho she was the oldest
woman in town, she still had all her teeth.”


“I don’t ever want to die …”
[p.39]

“I don’t ever want to die, for fear of losing my breath,” said
the little girl to her mother.

“Such talk from such a little girl!” her mother exclaimed.
“You’ve got a whole life ahead of you.”

The little girl is now an old woman, and still she says
“I don’t ever want to die, for fear of losing my breath.”


I want to ask my mother for a sign …
[p.40]

I want to ask my mother for a sign that I may know if after
death she can recall my name her name the names of her
mother & father relatives and friends; if she can see hear
taste smell speak listen look about and describe the
landscape the sky (if any) the sun the moon the stars the
food the water the wind the trees the birds & any animals
there abouts; I want to ask her to let me know if after
death words still sound if sounds still mean & songs still
sing & hands hold hands the way children do when they
walk thru the woods and listen as if everything could
speak.

I want to ask for an unmistakable sign. But it’s awkward.


If I were powerful
[p.41]

If I were powerful
The way I feel
The human caricature
Would be demolished

But I’m not—

We’re safe
Because god
Isnt one of us