To the Executive Director of the Actual:

Is this the world, Miss Bliss? Stacks of ingots on the docks where my brother works? Work and things on the threshold of raw and radiated. Bananas gassed in shacks to ripen by the forklifts. Ships of foreign port. Ships of car parts and dyes. The beef-stripping business. Things, Miss Bliss, and work. Flavors translated from Costa Rica, volatile oils, seized cargoes, incensed loads, cracked coal. After a week the exposed skin around his wrists was blue, vein color, the color of the world. Labor, and the union of the senses to deliver us from our geography. Everywhere is here.

When the stevedores break for lunch, one is responsible for the pot-luck of cold meats, the deep dish, leftovers from the wedding, while one is responsible for inviting the office women. These men set the table with the pomp of the late Elizabeth: linen, gilt plates, a taster, and a trumpeted summons. They force the choice bits on each other. They talk about blood and Solomon’s operation. They talk about Lily’s kids and the dead as they come hack to speak to Lonnie in his sleep. And they talk about food they could not eat, the boss, and a dream of playing lead before they switch on the TV with its loud prophecies of soap. They eat deeply in gratitude. The pot scraped with a spoon, that sound. The world’s a word, and a lever.

The ghosts at the banquet want something, Miss Bliss. From one world I come to you with two blue wrists, my brother’s rage against the living the world owes, and everything I do that’s duplicate. My cells split. They can’t be true. I smoke. I turn out a little verse. I make a small sacrifice. I throw what cannot be eaten away. I throw it on the ground. Here, some things you can’t eat.

Bruce Smith, “To the Executive Director of the Actual:” from The Other Lover (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000). Copyright © 2000 by Bruce Smith. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
Source: The Other Lover (2000)