Something has fallen wordlesslyand holds still on the black driveway.You find it, like a jewel,among the empty bottles and canswhere the dogs toppled the garbage.You pick it up, not sureif it is stone or woodor some new plastic madeto replace them both.When you raise your sunglassesto see exactly what you haveyou see it is only a shadowthat has darkened your fingers,a black ink or oil,and your hand suddenly smellsof c1assrooms when the rainpounded the windows and youshuddered thinking of the coldand the walk back to an empty house.You smell all of your childhood,the damp bed you struggled fromto dress in half-light and go outinto a world that never tired.Later, your hand thickened and flatslid out of a rubber glove,as you stood, your mask raised,to light a cigarette and restwhile the acid tanks that wereyours to dean went on bathingthe arteries of broken sinks.Remember, you were afraidof the great hissing jugs.There were stories of burnings,of flesh shredded to lace.On other nights men spokeof rats as big as dogs.Women spoke of menwho trapped them in corners.Always there was grease that hidthe faces of worn faucets, greasethat had to be eaten onefinger-print at a time,there was oil, paint, blood,your own blood sliding acrossyour nose and running overyour lips with that bright, certaintaste that was neither earthor air, and there was air,the darkest element of all,falling all nightinto the bruised riveryou slept beside, fallinginto the glass of wateryou filled two times for breakfastand the eyes you turned upwardto see what time it was.Air that stained everythingwith its millions of small deaths,that turned all five fingersto grease or black ink or ashes.
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