In Panama the ceiling fan stirs up a pandemonia of feeding, fleeing, breeding things Señor was sent there to ignore. Enlisted in the corps, Señor wore camouflage as a way to show the world the threat they were to him and his comrades: moths of dark matter, helicons whose markings were toxic or the red of lips of women when they said no: either leave me alone or I’m so alone, Señor.
Señor guarded the treaty and he guarded the rain. He guarded a tree called the strangler fig and a tree called sweet mahogany. He guarded the cut. First grace in the form of a fig, then theft, sex, then a boiling life that wanted guards. He guarded the light, the turbulence, two oceans, a din of insects. He never fired a shot. He guarded a snake called an eyelash viper.
A dispatch sent from HQ to the source was intercepted by Señor in dream: Fill it, Fill it in, it said. [It’s real because it’s redundant, thought Señor and Yes, Sir. With Milk? With skill? With silk? With child sun? With bird noise? With new? With memory of what I did, what I did, redundantly, before? Yes, fill it with before, fill it in with before. Then what? Await further…]
If you guard you have in your head borders, orders, and clouds [not in that order]. Guard means jitters, prison, zazen, bank broken within the mind marks the perimeter poking his gun into being. Anything can be permitted to enter [with password]: the Panamanian woman in a sarong, Zion, Lester Young, infinities. The borders are porous. Señor held the line, but the line was breeched by ants, butterflies.
Señor was trilingual: military English [dogface, shit on a shingle, SNAFU], Yiddish, and silence. He had no language for pleasure. He had no language for the promise of the world. The world had no promise only power to make him snap to. At table he spoke fluent silence, comic/tragic Yiddish recounting catastrophe or later the streets of Fishtown. And when he sang he sang in silence.
Bruce Smith was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is the author of six books of poems, most recently, Devotions, a finalist for the National Book Awards, the National Book Critics Circle Awards, the LA Times Book Award, and the winner of the William Carlos Williams Prize.2