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TALES OF AN ORANGEPEELER

an archive of pleasures, wounds, sublimations
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01.25.03, saturday night

The lake glitters under lit lamps, each connected to its neighbors by strings of white bulbed-light that seem to dance under night, a canopy of starry plane-strewn darkness. When I squint, everything becomes still. Quiescent, like Oakland is waiting for fireworks, sirens, the collected sigh of a sleeping populace.

Then I remember the dream I dreamt in Niva's bed this morning: Uchechi the poet was being deported to Nigeria for political dissension.

I hadn't forgotten: she had grown up in a town called Braintree on the East Coast and when I lived with her in a dormitory our first year in college, she used to wear jewelry that made lotta noise, thin people-shaped wood and paste and bronze that danced its own private bright riot on her dark skin.

Now when I spy her, always in-passing, always somewhere where she or her poetry is needed, Uchechi stands head-to-toe in black, her hair clipped short, so similar to images of my grandmothers, b&w photographs mailed par avion across the blue Pacific, the evidence that, yes, they were in mourning for husbands/fathers/grandfathers recently deceased. (And if you knew her poetry, you knew that Uchechi, too, was in mourning. That she will always be in mourning.)

When I woke, I wormed sleep-hot flesh close to the one that slept near mine. Him. My chin searched for the familiar spot that was somewhere between chin and shoulder, and failed. Finding only the soft pale terrain of a 23-year-old woman, I flipped over and curled tight, over white down comforter, the sound-memory of Uchechi's ornaments, college, (myself so young, so unaware of death as unbidden passage), my grandmothers shaven-pated and grim, the only vision I have of them: in their old age, as widows.






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