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There are no markers at the boundary
The bus just rides
Easy through the desert
Brown hills loom and roll away under
the cool sun
Backdrop to a vanished drama
Pale and wasted
The bus runs smooth in a predictable blur
of soundless noise
This is the region where no one can live
Enjoy the empty moment
It will pass

I never knew when everything changed
Was it the moment we married?
I found out in a distant moment of your
private pleasure
When I began to try
And succeeded
Perhaps you didn't know
Any more than I confessed
But I waited so long for innocence
And all that is left is worship

The Baluchis got off the bus before the
Iranian border
Hauled their sacks from the roof with a smile
Left the Pakistanis and the Iranians and the
American and the Brit to go through the
customary rituals while the driver smoked
and the officers drank tea and counted
their baksheesh
And the bus rolled on
To its appointed featureless stop
Where everyone piled on again
No one knew where the boundary was, but the
Pakistani post was fifteen kilometers away
Why walk?

My father is dead
But we'll never know when
His body wasn't found for a day or so
They say it was quick
He got up in the middle of the night and
never went back to bed
It was a good way to go
At home

My mother died under hospital care
They put an hour on it
But they didn't know when either
Not really
She took her time about it
Slipping slowly
Her body failing so completely they were never
really sure which part gave out and it
hardly mattered
Her mind fading into metaphor

There was a man on a cross in the garden,
beckoning her

She knew
We all knew
It was a process and it's long since over
When it began and ended really doesn't seem
important any more

Two of us spent a week in Zahedan in 1974
One or the other too ill to travel
There's nothing much in Zahedan
A bazaar, a mosque or two, shabby hotels
and buses and the last spur of the old
British-built Indian Railway
In my mind it's like Winnemucca or somewhere
even smaller in the American west, cheap
restaurants and gas stations out on the
periphery, fighting the desert to a
dishonorable draw
A week is too long to look and nowhere near
enough to know
All I remember are the liquor stores
Strung out on the edge of town, the way they
have them right outside the dry counties
of Tennessee
Three, as I recall, all run by Sikhs, the only
Sikhs in a Muslim town
The Ayatollah must have closed them down
but these were the days of the Shah not
the Sharia
Perhaps they delivered in secret, I never spotted
anyone slinking in and never checked
inside, but they operated out in the open
A public service, a victimless crime, a
monument to creative hypocrisy
A week is a long time in Zahedan
And the train only runs once a week
Opium sealed up the guts just fine, the bus
a little softer than a brick-pillowed den,
the side-effect high gentle and long
Eat the evidence
Maybe the law was vaguer in a border town
Maybe it worked better that way

Here inside you
Outside myself
Are we closer than ever
Or drifting apart
Is this me or us
Your body responds
And I believe it's you
You tell me later
It's not

Where does my environment end?
At my skin?
My land?
My atmosphere?
My universe?

I carry an American passport
But everyone knows I'm British
Except sometimes in Britain

The Baluchis carried no passports
The bureaucrats in London or Karachi or Kabul
or Teheran might have their opinions
But the Baluchis knew where Baluchistan was
They were in it and they never left
So these Iranians and Pakistanis and Afghans
earning their crust at the border posts were
simply nuisances to be avoided
The feeling was mutual and easy to sustain
Just get off the bus and walk a while
Not smuggling, trading

Was I any less married before governments knew?
If it ended, do they know when?

From across the room I can feel the ice
Holding you in place
Further than I can imagine
And I remember how close you were
From eight thousand miles away
In the days when the telephones worked

The bus stopped again in Pakistan
You could tell because the road was worse
The roof filled with traders and gunnysacks
The seats with strong, proud men
Laughing at the farce they played

Words make no sense right now
Pain distance closeness love lust self
Words never fit the important things
All we can do is point
See: anger
See: hurt
If words could tell they'd be logical
And then they wouldn't be human

Give me a shin to rub up against
A lap to jump into
A chest to pummel with my blunted claws
But I'm too numb to purr
Let me bark at the absent car
Run to the gate and stare
Howl at the moon
But it's new and I can't find it

Of course I don't need you
We all die alone
And I don't plan on that any time soon
I can buy new stuff
Find a place
Talk with friends
Pleasure myself
I learned to need you
I can learn again
I never chose to spot you in the street and say,
hey, that's the woman I met and doesn't
she look good
I never chose to be more myself because you
were there
I never chose to find another half of me
I chose to phone, that's true
I chose to play the happy games
I chose to work on the dull bureaucratic details
That's true
But I never chose to need you
I need you
Because it is my nature to need
Because it is nature to need
Because need is who we are
To connect with one
To become complete by giving myself away
To partner
Like the animals we are
Not a brood-mate
Not a blood-line
Not a stud-farm
A spouse
The lust is there
It's good, it's good
It's unimportant
It's vital
It's more and less than anyone pretends
If I could see your picture as a stranger might
I wouldn't need you
If I were building a perfect beast
A help-meet by design
I suppose she wouldn't look like you
Think like you
Speak like you
Make love like you
And I wouldn't make love like me
Speak like me
Think like me
Or probably look too much like me
You can't spec a person
Because you can't spec yourself
And the person you need
(For now)
Is part of the person you are
And the person you are
Is partly the person you need
(Deal with it)
I need you
But if you force me to
I'll get over it
But I'll never get over need
Need is hunger
Need is thirst
Need is part of what holds us together
One to two
Two to several
Several to many
Many to all
Tonight you stand for all
And so in turn do I

The sky is brown, the earth is blue
I'm an animal and so are you
Brown pollution, blue from space
How little and badly we use this place
If we're gonna flout Nature's wishes
Let's give the planet back to the fishes

I love you less than words can say when they
try to say how much
They're squirrelly, weaselly, all or nothing things
Broad-brushed, rule-of-thumb, crude estimates
Time will go on after my love
Space will go on beyond my love
The sun will rise when my love is lost and
Love itself will outlast my love
For love is not a thing to count
Love is not a quality to define
Love is not a treasure to guard and store and
polish on the weekend
Love is not a dream you can shovel a glimpse
Love is a process
Love is life
I am touched by life
For now

I do hold this truth to be self-evident, that all are
created equal
But life is not a right
Life comes before rights
Life is, that's all
Liberty is a right, they are words from the same
stock, the same set, the same dictionary,
the same agreements we make with each
other before we are even born
As for pursuing happiness ...
Happiness is not a priority, it's a by-product

When are the Baluchis now?
They used to slip the edges of time
Medieval modern ancient
Meaningless words for grand people
Undocumented workers, permanent aliens,
male chauvinist pigs (the women were
hidden), honorable folk who prayed five
times a day and knifed you if you
disrespected them
Only if you disrespected them
Liars, thieves and robbers no doubt to the civil
servants of the region, but no more than
the head of any corporation and less than
most I suspect
The Baluchis never fit in this world we created
on top of the world we found
They played with it
(Played with rifles, played with bombs, played
with mortars and machine guns, at least
some of the ones up north did)
Or was that only what the traveller wanted
to see?
Bumping on the bus on the beat-up road
to Quetta
Hoping for nothing at best
Finding a small solace in the sense of escape
The illusion of escape
The feeling that the bars of society bent
just a little
Cracked enough to let the sunshine in
For a while

Should I be ashamed I can't see like an eagle?
Should I be ashamed I can't smell like a hound?
Should I be ashamed I can't swim like a fish?
Should I be ashamed I can't run the way
Tommie Smith once could?
Should I be ashamed to be an American or
an alien or a Brit?
Should I be ashamed to be a man?
Should I be ashamed to be an animal?

Should I be proud of any of those?
(Except the one about Tommie Smith, of course)
All of them?

I remember you moaning and reaching again
in greed that I longed to fulfil
I remember when your pleasure came
from the way I responded when
you pleasured me
I remember the curve of your hip as I ran
my hand across
And I knew it was you
And I knew you were me
And that was still true
When it wasn't
Boundaries are the way we impose meaning
on reality
In an effort to prove we exist
Like this table
This chair
This almost-vacuum I sit on and write on
This bundle of water that thinks
This mystery we pretend to understand
The pretending is as much a part of human life
as the mystery
The boundaries are real and important
Trivial and synthetic too
We can't live without making distinctions
We can't live if that's all we do

The desert is a fine place for a border
The grand fools with their maps can pretend
there is nothing there
And so can the dreamer in the bus
As the cold sun and the light brown hills
rattle past
Until the sudden understanding dawns
That something ended
Something else began