book 4: the stumbling and humming holes that store the stars


I decided I would need to wake in the middle of the night to return to the water. If I went to the river I saw at night when I was with the dead, maybe I could discover why I had been called there, who the man was, more about how to read teeth and the name of the great gullies. I crept down the stairs and out of the house. I walked past the smoke tree to the backyard through the forest and toward the spot where the river was.

When I arrived however, there was no water. There was no river. There was nothing but a field. Puzzled, I turned around to walk back toward the house and the smoke tree. But as I approached the spot where they stood, I found nothing as well. There was no tree, no drawer in the floor.

I was alone in a barren field.

The only thing I could see was the stars. A myriad of galaxies confronted me and the further out I looked, the further back in time I drifted as the darkness densified. I looked around and noticed, there was not even color. The grasses were gray by the light of the moon. Was I before the invention of color?

I didn’t know what to do so I sat down where the tree once stood and closed my eyes and asked the tree where it was. I did not hear a reply.  Sound had uninvented.

When I opened my eyes I found myself surrounded by books. I sat up and knocked on their spines and listened for a reply from the other side of the wide walls but heard again, nothing, not even my own knock. There was no other there to share dreams with or talk to. I had only the titles of the books, the spaces, inhalation and exhalation. Everything was untalking, unsinging. Even the dead were empty.

I didn’t know what to do so I hummed and as soon as I did, my paeon pulsed the covers of the books open, one at a time, every fourth syllable, even and lean, they uncurled, fell. The last book was titled We have the mountain and the central mountain is everywhere.

As soon as it fell open everything shifted and drifted, and I ran outside the lines, slid off the page and receded into its boughs.

I found myself in Zawiyet el-Mayyiteen, the place of the dead, planted into the dead’s domes between the fields of the aubergine and cabbage of Egypt. The burial grounds’ infinite miniature mounds disappeared into the haze all around me and tumbled me forward and whispered over and over again we promise to introduce you to the blue blue Nile.

The commodious cemetery wandered around me, the mud-bricked domes inspected me, rotating, round, resilient. The song of marigold birds rang out but each note was quickly absorbed into the white clay, each birth-cry so short. The domes and their crowded holes were each like the inverted night sky, each a chirping universe, the weight of a head, dusty and consistently disintegrating. They were slaves to the stumbling and humming holes of their structures, the holes where stars and stunted songs were stored. Each was a sleep maniac, like me, that goes and sends a picture of the way there. All around me was the smell of wet metal.

As I walked toward the exit an object slid off the top of one of the domes and landed at my feet. It was an umbrella. I picked it up and tucked it under my arm in case I would need it.

I climbed the wall at the limit of the cemetery and walked into the desert. I turned and looked at it as I did, all of those while mounds in the dark night, unblinking eyes if I were the size of words.


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