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The Fabulous Gay Bars of Telephone Road

by John Plueker


The elephant ears by my front porch droop in the afternoon sun. Dad, you raised me on the story of your father building a house in the twenties a few blocks away in the East End. Even the tomatoes die in the dog days. Things we don’t understand, and things we can’t say: both are loud, like hurricanes.

An old imitation reenergizes with new distortions. You say revolutionary language was your thing in the sixties, and my spine quivers. Now language deteriorates through repeated transaction. Then what, you ask? Press one for English.

You say my mother—whiter than you—made you sell your little house in the seventies because of circling helicopters. That was the tree you totaled your car on in the fifties. Or was it the sixties? Oprime el número dos para el español. La imitación se intensifica de manera poco narrable. Y si todavía quieren preguntar, ceniza.

Meanwhile, traffic through. Beauty is not the place to construct this poem.

The house my grandfather built is still there, low-slung and shifting. I have a collection of racist quotes by Sam Houston and no firm idea what to do with all that material. When I think of you, I think of double prepositions at the end of a sentence.

The catfish, eggs, and grits are enough to last me two meals. I took a video of the movie theatre before they demolished it. It’s stuck on a VHS tape I have no way of watching now.

When we cruise the barrio, you roll your eyes at me. I don’t know how to say what’s happening, but the body becomes the final repository. And oh, you feel it.

I used to go to Mary’s just to drink a beer and imagine the sixties. Or was it the fifties? Cavafy me dijó: La ciudad irá en ti siempre. Volverás a las mismas calles. One feel added onto another in layers heavy with irreversible endings. Hollerin and hollerin. Then we’re done. There are ashes in that dirt, under that parking lot.

What you had is lost, you say. Unfindable, like your amputated fingertip. Your house is owned now by another family. One day, alone, you knock on the door and they let you walk around.

Insisto: home is in homelessness. A home without pins or nails. Hay que sembrar temprano para que las cosas sobrevivan la canícula. In sunset we fall into furious attitudes, dead gestures of dolls. You always wanted to learn Spanish, and it’s not too late.

John Pluecker is a writer, translator, interpreter, and artist. He frequently collaborates with artists, organizations and communities; one example is the language justice and literary experimentation collaborative Antena he co-founded with Jen Hofer in 2010.

John Pluecker es escritor, traductor, intérprete y artista. Colabora con frecuencia con artistas, organizaciones y comunidades; un ejemplo es Antena, un colaborativo dedicado a la justicia de lenguaje y experimentación literaria que co-fundó.

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