Marcella Durand


from "Traffic & Weather"

The book falls to the floor and is immediately dusty. The dust she swept off the desk onto the floor. The floor absorbs more dust because it is dust. The tiles have been pulled off, leaving only their patterns behind. Try to imagine that—patterns when the original is gone. Much like farms look in the winter. When they are lying fallow. And the soil created over thousands of years "regenerates."

At this point, it could become static. A seascape. Perhaps pointillist. Small colors building up to a view. The waves almost seem to lap, the sails almost billow. And close to the crater, they do. They may lap. And they may carry away crumpled candy wrappers, potato chip bags, and bits of hamburger buns. At the small beach close to the airport, people carrying a giant netted bag filled with clams assured us that the tide was clean here, coming in straight from the ocean. We saw black smoke on the horizon and heard sirens. The bus driver announced that he was skipping all stops. We had misjudged the magnitude of it, initially, and after all, if we couldn’t taste it, it was hard to imagine that it was there. The bridge to this island is often unplowed. The springs and magnetism have a certain effect on cellphones, internet access, and regular phone service. No one explains it, least of all the line workers. The same cable has been down for years at the top of the hill. After the last ice storm, the transformers were fried. Completely destroyed. A black-and-white scene. No color to it at all. Only snow and wires, and giant steel structures crumpled in fascinating patterns.

Which he studied intently. And later depicted. Or rendered. Or translated. Into his own forms. He takes the various lines and redraws them. Not in steel, but charcoal, or pencil. Steel is transformed into powdery aluminum and tree pulp. But is not only that. Metal always becomes more than it is, especially when no longer itself in form.

What could be more amazing, metal or plastic? Metal takes on plastic form, or plastic imitates metal. Glass is another plastic substance, but doesn’t give. Instead, it slowly spills downward. Does the same go for plastic? So many kinds. Some soft and bendable, even fragile, transparent, gossamer, nearly invisible. Plastic softeners enter into you and liquify your interior. Your deep cells and chromosomes. Wherever plastic can enter. Every letter of you. And then other plastic, hard and edged, serrated, stronger than steel, which can tire. Plastic never tires. It harbors everything. And then is reflective. Constructing skyscrapers out of plastic where it shimmers into metal and glass, and one is forced to wonder, which is the most reflective? Does plastic produce a more accurate reflection than glass?

The light is starting to get lighter longer
and with that longer light

things clearer that had been distant
as though on the horizon or in another domain

another locale, another region, a different quarter
keeping all the same name, similar aspect.

Another building rehabbed,
another street resurfaced.

Grinding sheetrock, masked
workers carry ceramic tiles, or I-beams.

A renovation or a gutting.
A demolition.

Each time I think you are
finished, you begin again.

What could be more physical than that? Fill up the space, they said. Make it yours. But I am just a renter. With no "footprint" anywhere. It was sunny, with gorgeous light, and the second time looking out the window, it had turned gray as mice.

A paper bag crushed on the sidewalk, folds and wet footprints on it. The logo is indiscernable. Does decoding a language include decoding language in a new form? Once again the sense of the desk slipping to one side. Books slide off one after the other, into the dust.

As though I were just a renter. With no "footprint." Is it because the pieces of paper are slanted? Slowly advancing to the window. An unsettling sense of—

Locale, region, quarter, domain. Or neighborhood. The good lunch places resemble the bad lunch places.

Which only reveal themselves after a bout of stomach flu. The desk is sagging in the middle. Or you are a perfectionist who can’t spell anything. It’s disturbing. It is disturbing.

et de se croiser des boulevards de crystal habités incontinent
par de jeunes familles pauvres qui s’alimentent chez les fruitiers

A ghost in this city with no ghosts. She put the cup back inside the other cup, and the insulating sleeve over that. It says "uses approximately 45% less material than a second paper cup" but is "intended for single use only." It came in two cups. Habits are hard to break. At the local supermarket, red-faced men bag groceries for pennies. One cannot request "paper." One cannot say "I have my own bag." And then she spilled tea over the stack of magazines and offered to pay but they wouldn’t let her; later she discovered she had left the newspaper she had bought and the reason she had bent over with the tea, to fold the newspaper into a convenient half shape to carry onto the elevator.

Once on the elevator she notices a button for "PH" that had not been there in the previous version of the elevator: the one they ripped out of the shaft only went to "6." She could only go to "6" while using the stairwell for several months while the elevator was being fixed. But if she pressed it, the elevator might halt and dangle in the hoistaway. Even though an elevator is really a hoistaway. See elevator.

They knew her. While she thought she was unrecognizable. Just because you hide behind dark sunglasses doesn’t mean the world is dark. She broke up a fight between a group of men, and then spilled tea on a pile of magazines: Baby Fights! the headlines said. In this city of no ghosts, but a lot of crazies.

Holes carved into the tops. Of very thin planks. Almost outer rings or bark. Splinters noticeable even from this floor. And locked out and entering the adjacent space. From there one can see the side lot ribbon. Halting and thoughtful at the end of each alley. As though each block had to be walked before they accumulated enough to become a city.