I face outwards onto a pool, now a viridian green, darkening with infertile pollen. The green that you dye eggs in. Deepwater green. Openwater green.

There is a monster somewhere across from me. I hear him screaming some afternoons. I imagine he finds his mother in the matted clot waiting outside to walk their children home from the bus stop. She’s holding his younger brother,  the one who looks up to him, and fears him. A lot of women here wear jewel-colored robes. I’ve never spoken to them, but I like to sit on the steps and watch them. They walk like tendrils of smoke in a still and breezeless room.

The boy walks home with his mother. She wants to hold his hand but he’s getting too old for that. He shakes her off, dismisses her. Maybe she smiles in secret amusement, tickled by her boy trying to be more of a man. He’s not so old—seven perhaps, or nine. Old enough to command authority in his group. She makes him take his shoes off when they get inside. His father isn’t home, so he doesn’t listen, and kicks them hastily into the cubby. The other brother toes his sandals off and places his shoes down as one would with an injured bird into its nest. He still holds her hand. When she walks around, she smells green, like leaves, like mint.

They have a dog. The younger brother digs a hand into the fur at its back and buries his face in its neck. It smells copper, like dirt, like salt; the acidic yellow in a pineapple. The dog doesn’t push him away. The dog does not leave.
So she moves to hold the older son’s hand, but he shrinks away. Maybe she smiles, but maybe she flinches. Her son is growing. Doesn’t need his mother anymore. He wants blood and scraped knees now.

After their homework is finished but before dinner, she lets them go outside. A group of boys plays soccer near the pool nearly every evening. I can hear the shouting from my window, but I keep it open; noise is good for the plants. Even when it’s been raining they play, everything from the mud to the pool to their shirts weighed down with rain.

I was reading on the history of the house. Hantha is Peruvian term for the edibility of a potato. The Aztecs mashed amaranth with blood for human sacrifice and so terrified the first conquistadores by their perceived cruelty into calling them pigs. Vasco de Gama looted and burned a Muslim ship, carrying men, women, and children. And he called the Aztecs pigs for their inhumanity.

I was reading on the history of the house. The screen door was between me and that slowly turning pool, growing heavier and darker by the day. Outside, nothing but crickets and dry grass. Boys waiting to play soccer, killing time. I would imagine that the amaranth-blood dish would have the consistency of adequately-mashed oatmeal. Dry stalks of baked wheat, soaking up blood into a mush. Maybe it is this sudden bloody thought that caused it all. Maybe it was a moment of violence in the air, a chord struck somewhere behind it all, then left to pass through us.

A boy, screaming loudly in a quick, high-pitched language. Screaming just on the edge of pubescence, an inhumanly different sound. Strained as high as he can go, and angry. Then, in English: “I will whip you! Whip you!”
I haven’t heard from the monster since then, but his mother has; he’s being punished. Or his friends, shocked by his outburst, play without him. Either way he’s been quiet.

I see the younger brother; I saw him last night when I was watering my plants, murmuring sweet nothings to them so they could grow. He was near the pool, crouched down over the pavement. Trucks and small cars littered the ground around him, he like a pint-sized Godzilla hell-bent on destroying the city’s transportation system. And for all the time he was out there, he played alone.

His brother wants nothing to do with him anymore. Even worse than the quiet was the yelling; the screaming, the threat of the punishment that was so constantly held above their heads. Or maybe neither parent can look into their sons’ eyes and beat them. Perhaps this is why the older one craves violence so much, why he kicks other boys in the shins when they play soccer, why he goes to the idea of a whip to scare his friends. A whip collects its fury as it draws back, before it comes down.

The mother who smells like leaves walks with her youngest son, and she holds his hand. There’s a little garden patch that’s overgrown and pale from the winter. They weed together. She tells him which plant is what, passes their names onto him. Her shawl is blood red. Spilt blood in the family. Or simply another rose in the garden. Their little plot of land grows greener with each passing day.

I was walking earlier today, and a couple was parting in front of me. I moved to go around, but they kissed and separated, and I walked right through that dissolving moment. Perpetual motion pushed me through, the residue web-like in its refusal to pass without clinging.

In the distance, thunder.

The pool is getting clearer and clearer. The green is in recession, the color bleeding out into the little garden patch beside it. It’s a milky translucent green now, almost like the kind you see on postcards of tropical islands. I suppose this is the water that separates us all, after all. All of us on our little islands. I wonder if the mother will let her sons swim when it gets warm enough. I wonder if the monster will make another appearance. Something tells me that he will.

Crossing into Albany over the River

It’s only just started to snow past Poughkeepsie. The conductor says take a walk, take a smoke, take ten minutes, but no more. The dining car is closed. Crossing over the Hudson, the Basques take over, and then chemise a la Reine, then the bones of our ancestors. OrlandoEthan Frome. Scraggly woods which promise wolves, past the snowy mists. Splashes of red down in the ditch, like blood, like cell clusters mounting the tributary arteries; wheat follicles line the face of another world.

Deep in the snow, black waters trudge on unimpeded yet slowly, with the viscosity of sludge, carrying winter within it. In that way we are the same. People tend not to consider bears; wolves — the threat of packs and coordinated attack — seem far worse and more eminent than a lumbering, engorged, large-eyed beast. But it can run. It has claws. Weight behind power, instead of agility.

In the white wild, there is the body, there is the big red machine, a warm heart pumping blood in the cold. The tassels of the pines must survive in the wind and snow, a faint plumage to brighten the dead, stripped of all but the internal life preserved in syrup and sap. Pikes find themselves stacked into coherence, shapes we recognize; placed before their dormant brethren, spared in place of uselessness, too thin, too unsubstantiated; too uncontrolled. Always a capacity for ignorance.

If you run your tongue over the roof of your mouth, it feels like waves. Bare trees offer blooded cones; the water churns with river silt and sand, gravid with ice, while upstream a ways the water steams in the cold air. All dormant, a natural gestation until the spring, so you can come back renewed. The big red machine, churning onwards.