“Ornithology” by Manuel Paul Lopez



Few trees radiate much fun in the desert, he said. The shopping mall is the villain the hero lunges for when the economy whistles in the wind. I’ve been looking for you. My encyclopedias are without a home now with this technology in our heads. A fountain bursts from the earth and he swears he saw Ornette Coleman playing saxophone at the edge of the horizon. Moonshine on her forehead. The desert never sleeps. It watches, even when the quiet itches, and the sand stirs a migraine in a migrant’s head. I felt the news retreat from as far away as New England, the indigenous vision powdered by the European boot. Come on, friend, let’s just try it. My ears were made for jazz. Abel’s ear lobes are pierced with Milt Jackson’s vibraphone sticks. Last night a commercial pilot shared a story with us about his recent flight from Guadalajara to Los Angeles that didn’t involve the melting snowball constraint practiced by the Oulipo. The story was about an elderly woman who died while in the air. The crew tried to save her. They used compressions, a defibrillator, and a doctor onboard shot her with an epinephrine pen straight through the chest. Her husband, fed tequila by the flight crew, sat heavily in his seat as they worked on his wife at the front cabin where she eventually died and left herself to a blanket draped across the length of her body. When the trip concluded the passengers touched down to a new realization: the difference between arrival and departure is what? Not a snowball, but the whole Sierra melted for a husband that night; mountains of water overflowing the rusty-riveted wooden bucket in his chest. (The mind sees so much water in the desert when thirsty and on the verge of deliverance) My father was a trombone player. His horn wailed like a sad commander perched among the insane asylum’s rafters, which to my father, meant no battle but a war declared by a guilty conscience. Standing armies are catalysts for war-mongering jingoists my history teacher instructed. They’re expensive, and when they’re not actively engaged in plots to unrest a potential enemy to shamelessly plunder its resources, it becomes a drain on the economy and is no longer justifiable. Who would have ever thought! Blessed be the snowball that melts by its own accord. Ah. We are not there. Though somewhere I can feel the wind banging softly against our collective faces, and my heart the amble of a sleepwalker chasing colossal love.


Manuel Paul Lopez’s work has been published in Antique Children, Bilingual Review, Bitter Oleander, Blue Mesa Review, Chiron Review, Hanging Loose, Puerto del Sol, and others. His first poetry collection was entitled Death of a Mexican and other Poems. His newest collection The Yearning Feed is out now.


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