Kate Schapira >


Blue Abbey

In the twilight of the chain-link
fence, an undisclosed number of
dedicants—it would be stupid
to imagine one per window—

Make sure by smell, the equivalent
of color. A crumpled comics
page blows by like a broken
pelvis, at the first glance, in poor light.

By the time you walk there it’s
always getting blue, but the first
shades have orange edges; the
brick is a forgotten clay.

Which side we see because it’s
dark: they would try to explain,
termite color, for whom it was
built, the hanging, neglected creases.

The hospital, instrumental corners.
Looming over once-regimented quarters,
pocket gardens covered with plastic, you
think every turn must be the last turn.

Noiseless till sirens, the insect beat
of propellors: functionaries to and fro,
abdomens stiff with the sand they’re
fed; can you blame them? Tell me how.

Superstition rolls in the wind to one
post. Officer material. Workers,
soldiers—biology or a matter of early
training, the end result suspicion.

A warehouse, a clearinghouse. You may
depend upon it passing through
if you have done it in the city, that’s
the idea, even with no car outside.

From up here we can see what’s going
training, observances, rooms and
inner rooms, but you can’t see us, the
shepherd on his monolith. The flock.

Lick a stamp, spit out the glue
aftertaste of sorrows, set in paper
stone your long pilgrimage from the
bus stop, your conjunction with the abbey.

Its people are the people of the
city but nobody promises it, asks for
it, safety towers vacant and divided,
a parking lot on end, improbable.

Over Baker Beach where the younger
brothers of drifters sleep their
saxophone friends, smoke fat
blunts under its very blinds.

Eucalyptus over everything, its
leaves move but proceed nowhere,
one set of uniforms retreats
and gives way to another.

And uniforms are for the couch
sleepers, the hasslers, the buriers
of illicit glass in the sand, uniforms
bring peace of mind to downspouts.

The abbey works the same whether
empty or occupied. Wind blows
eucalyptus away into the fog,
each leaf a sail, softens everything.

Rooms in stacked order, regulation
height trains us to associate, to
look up, rows of windows with their
cataracts of crime and neighborhood.

Thinking back, pilgrims can’t remember
whether or not the abbey was in
use, make the signs of aversion with
wallet and path just in case.

After the lot’s silence, it’s the height,
the leftover brick quality, pulled blinds,
dermis and epidermis of fences and
strips of grass browning between fences.

It drones, almost like a spectre, but
imminent all the time; and sealed,
you don’t want to swing at
it, it might not be deserted.

Most of these wanderers, itinerant on
their ways home, don’t look up at
it or feel overshadowed; silently its
blank windows become a blind spot.

Even remembering the blue abbey
is difficult, mostly the forecourt
skirls of sand, the pest plant invasion,
the demarcations between space and space.

Seven or eight kids arguing about the
moon, carving hunks of bread and plastic-
wrapped chicken sandwiches, feel
its incipience, tent bottles with their knees.

Three travelers, with three different
reasons to worry, passed within the ground
its shadow covers toward the end of
the day, its indifference lengthening.

Masked as impartiality. One said, “That’s
the—” but whatever he said, the wind
took it where things get forgotten.
Meanwhile, in the rest of the city…