Before it started raining bodies, my friend and I
had just emerged from a coffeeshop and a long
conversation about the rise of hate, the decline
of civil society. We were startled by a thunk,
as the first one crashed onto the roof of a red sedan
halfway across the parking lot. Before we could say,
“My god—,” another and another fell to earth, smacking
against pavement, slamming on top of parked cars,
windshields shattering, alarms going off. One thudded
on the awning above us. I yanked my friend back
as the body of a brown-skinned woman in a long coat
tumbled to the sidewalk at our feet, her skin yet soft
and pliant. They fell without a sound until the awful
whump of impact, one after another, becoming
a steady pattering. Screams of the living were everywhere,
blending into a useless white noise all around us.
But surely, I thought, there is something we can do.
The bodies were old and young, black, white and brown.
An aproned baker, a businessman, his red tie flaring
above him like a broken parachute, a politician, fat as sin,
a tattooed worker, a nurse, a child with her sky-blue
backpack. We looked around for shelter, and I wondered
if we could make it to the car, and if we did,
where we might go, and if this rain was everywhere,
and would it stop? and who were they? and when would we
be rain ourselves, descending silently, to horrify
whatever was left of humanity on the ground.
She would slap her way down the wooden basement stair
in flip-flops with long bare princess legs and golden
princess skin, her long loose tee shirt concealing
triangle princess panties. From my room, I would hear
the opening strains of “Love and Marriage,” her carefree
laugh consuming base American humor, American culture,
such as it is. Her evening ritual disrupting mine, be it reading
or prayer, behind thin walls.
Once, on New Year’s Eve,
I invited her into my room for a drink she declined.
I sensed her hunger for carnal knowledge, tried
to convince her that a virgin might experience
many kinds of pleasure, yet keep herself intact
for marital inspection. She declined with an amused smile,
as if I were Al Bundy, one hand inside my pants,
the other holding a beer. I saw her as less
than Indian royalty, more than I deserved.
I was wrong on both counts. Today I learned
she shares her name with a Hindu Goddess,
a warrior of great beauty, fierce as a tiger.
I admired her commitment to the ideals
of her culture, while allowing herself the pleasure
of late-night reruns. Mostly, it’s her laugh I miss.
The way I could rely upon her nightly descent.
Her scent that lingered in the adjacent room.
Two worlds never quite touching,
brushing the mystery of each other’s curious edges.
I’ve been around the sun fifty-seven times
but the ride seems dull and rusty. I used to marvel
at a billion stars, and stretch as if to reach,
but night sky now seems flimsy backdrop
for a seedy sideshow. For a while, I’d kept urging,
“Faster, faster!” as if the ride were taking me
somewhere I desperately needed to be.
The man at the bottom, unshaven, shrugged,
leaned back and lit a smoke.
There’s no slowing it either. I can’t seem to stop
my nieces from having kids, then grandkids.
Each generation has to ride for itself, I suppose.
If there were a lever to reverse this thing,
I’d ease back into early knowing moments
when the angle of the sun fell just right
on my bare shoulders, and the beach
opened onto what looked, for all the world,
like an eternity of sea.
Alfred Fournier is a writer and community volunteer living in Phoenix, Arizona. His poetry and prose have appeared in Plainsongs, The Main Street Rag, Lunch Ticket, Welter, Third Wednesday, Ocotillo Review and elsewhere. New work is forthcoming at Amethyst Review and Gyroscope Review.