Ten Miles an Hour

by Tim Seibles

The weird thing about the place was the speed of light—
eight, nine miles an hour, tops. Isweartagod!
It was beautiful, though, the way it felt slowing over you
like a balmy breeze—light slow enough to catch in a,
in a cup, light you could smear on a slice of bread

like jam, light you could rub into your hair like Sulphur 8.

And there were other things. For example,
just about everybody but little kids could outrun it—
something we never consider here with the photons
doin’ 186,000 miles a second. So, say you saw
some skinhead mothafucka with a swastika on his cheek.
You could holla, Hey, you pea-brained, goose-steppin’,
kitty-litter suckin’, sick-ass Nazi, then take off.
Once you hit ten miles per hour you would disappear
till you broke back to a trot. That’s the beauty
of slow light—no muss, no fuss:
now you see a brother—now you don’t.

Anyway, this is how it really went. First,
I should say there were no cars for obvious reasons,
and getting to this spot is a long haul on foot:
down this long alley, over three rocky hills,
gotta wade through this one muddy river,
and there’s a forest somewhere, dark and spooky—
made me feel like Red Riding Hood.
So, when I arrive I’m tired and my sneaks are soggy—
like I’m wearing wet biscuits on my feet. Everything
looks blurry—like, like when you move a camera
just as you snap the shot.

Pretty soon, though, I notice that nobody’s poor nobody,
and I come to this park and there’s a sister
straddlin’ this Hawaiian dude who’s sitting on a bench.
Her skirt’s hiked up, she got them big legs shinin’
and I mean they’re gettin’ it, gettin’ it good
to the last drop right there. And it wasn’t about
showin’ off. They coulda been hid way away somewhere,
two good people takin’ care of business, you know—
T-C’in’ on the B like it wasn’t no helluva big thing.

And there was this bunch of reddish-gold birds—
looked like pigeons—and all these kinky-haired kids
chasing them across the grass with painted leaves,
and together they made a noise like someone someone
munching Cracker Jacks near a microphone.

So, I just start dancin’—no music but that—I just
take off my clothes and start wavin’ my arms and hoppin’.
I’m steady shakin’ my yams, my jammy’s jingle-jumpin’,
and pretty soon it’s me and two other brothers then,
these Turkish cats fall in on congas and this
Jewish honey and her extremely fine friend from Laos—
Isweartagod! And then this Ethiopian mamasita, a real
killer-diller, busts in the circle wit’ this Mexican,
Mississippi Masala–lookin’ girl, and I turn
to this Eastern Bloc brother named Gustav and holla,
Oh no, say it ain’t so—don’ NObody need to have
no BODY like that! So we grab our gear, get dressed,
and follow them to this place called Logan’s: black tables,
big sofas, soft single chairs covered in lazuli blue.

Somebody hits the dimmers. I ride the light over slow, like,
like a loose clump of new weather, and open my mouth
to the first words that gang up inside my teeth: Excuse me,
ladies, but my blood’s all tied in a knot, and I
was wondering if you might help me get it undone.
Ethiopia nudges Mexico and asks me if the knot in question
might require both of them. No lie!
But I don’t wanna fade on Gustav; I nod his way. Like smoke,
his smile floats over. So, she closes her eyes and I see
that her friend’s hand has wandered under her dress,
lingering there with small, graceful undulations. I’m
diggin’ it, but I’m not sure what it means. So,
I shrug and get ready to step back when Mexico says,
Taste this, holding up two wet fingers.

Well, what would you have done? Been scared
and said, Um, no thanks—I’m driving. Man,
I could spend my life tryin’ to name that flavor.
Anyway, Alandra (that’s her name), gets up with them legs
that go all the way down, and I can feel some story
starting to untell, my body calling open-says-a-me
to all its magic doors. Next thing I know,
we’re dancing to this oldie slow jam:

I’m an ever-rolling wheel
without a destination real
I’m an ever-spinning top
going around till I drop

You know that moment when two bodies find out
how they fit together, as though one torso
is hinged to the other, as though you’re both
perfectly matched pieces in some sweet, nobody-ever-
told-you-about-it, sho-nuff forever and always jigsaw—
me and Alandra are falling into place.

You got me going in circles

Later, we step outside. It’s sundown.
You could see the last puddles of sunlight
drying up, going dark, and the streetlamps
slowly throwing their lazy glow like Rapunzel
rolling down her three stories of hair.

I mean, up until just now, I thought I might still have been
standing somewhere in America, but the night held no threat,
and across the road, I remember, two men resting in each
other’s arms.

And her kiss, the taste of her mouth opening like a sleepy
into mine, and Gustav and Genet against the magnolia,
like dancing, like doing some delicious naked salsa,

my lungs squeezing more and more oxygen into my blood,
my brain
bright orange like a tropical fish, Alandra bringing me
into her skin, holding on, taking me up like some kind of
origami bird she could balance on her lips.

And the not-out moon, the sharp whelming of what
is never seen and the voice coming all undone,
but for the one long syllable, and Isweartagod!

There is a place not all that far from here
where glad drums whistle
all the answers to the riddles of bone.

Say whatchuwanna, but inside my hand
there is a sound and inside that sound
there is a city and inside that city
it is early—with you already awake,

your hand like mine, like a rooster,
throwing itself open, loud, each finger
a street vendor crowing the first light
free—along with all the big, blue-apple muffins,
the crowded carts of cantaloupe, and the T-shirts

and the clear castle of air,
and everything else everything

Last updated September 09, 2022