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Two Variations on a Paisley Sean Thomas Dougherty

The obvious sentiments must be excluded such as the obligatory girl with long blonde dirty hair, sprawled a bit stoned on the park bench, perhaps in 1967, perhaps it is even revealed later it is my mother, lounging after another demonstration in the warm light of a New York City summer.  Instead, it is something much darker, dark as the near blood purples that paisley is made, the dark woven threads, near aristocratic become gypsy the first one is the bar next to the motel, in a place where the beer was the equivalent of twenty-five cents, in a country that no longer is, you know a country where if you asked a school child they would say, where is that?  You made that up?  Show us on the map, and the lines that divide it from other nations have disappeared.  At best you could claim it is now a part of_______.  That blank space.  Of course, you wouldn't tell the children that a good number of the people who claimed to be from there are now dead, most disappeared in mass graves. A place where for most of the last century those people would tell you in response to where they were from a name which now means nothing.  For many people their own names mean nothing. I have known so many of these men and women in my life, found them in bars where we would talk about little to mention, or sometimes marvelous stories of lost lives, alimony payments, jobs stretching electrical wires across vast veldts and wastelands, the tiredness of our hands.  You find those people in bars at the outskirts, particularly this one I now return to, not as dim as some, actually well lit by electric lamps with yellow shades along the walls, full florescence over the bars, a long line of wooden stools and wooden stalls with red cushioned benches.  Graffiti in Roman and Cyrillic alphabets carved into the tables and banisters, the floor scuffed with a century of boots.  The bar man broad as a gladiator, sure footed and tender, pouring glasses full for ex-patriots, renegades, mercenaries I imagined, or maybe I've romanticized this place in the years that have changed the French cigarettes rising from closed fists into the collar of the girl, her paisley shirt and her Liverpool accent, and her ear-rings, large and gold the way the Gypsy girls wore them, and it was then I believed that jewelry, in that place could become political, what you wore on your ears could get you killed, or the design on your shirt marked you as a foreigner. What passes is what remains, as the rain changes to snow, and the red flowers that no one can tell you what they are rise out of the mounds of the dead.  She drank gin in a bar where Vodka was blood, and she danced alone, in the eye of a man who looked like he knew what a machine gun meant. Her sleeves were long and fell over her raised hands, and what would luck have given you back then? Your camera crouched like a small animal on the bar. He turned to you and said, Where the flies swarm there is no rejoicing.  His eyes were green.  Her eyes were green, and when she put his arm around him and they turned to you, sound vanished.  Foreign speech of peasants, goat herders, mausoleums of the small apartment where you slept, which brings us to the second variation.

The curtains blowing a testimony.  You thought your life would be amusing.  But what cities have shorn the hours of the day.  There is a pretend to climbing alone.  For all you know, there is only left the music.  A bar with its door open, dialect of a second shot.   You never had a paisley shirt.  Not once, not that it matters.  This is about distance, patterns, the designs that emerge from stillness.  The way adolescence or childhood stops mattering, the stories become where you are, not where you have been, until where you have been becomes random, plateaus and mausoleums of what matters, splatters in the taverns you once loved.  Motels, dust on the windowsills where you awoke to watch children kicking a ball in the village square.  The public places of the soon deceased.  And then we grow luminous, milk white, ghost-grieven.  Your whole life an accident you have survived.  An outline you have erased, filled in with random letters.  Named them testimony, as if any of it once was—an asylum that returns, wholly adult and grief-stricken—a corner bar where someone turns toward you—a sudden calligraphy recalled—a number scrawled on a napkin in a country where to say its name means to say the name of something that no longer exists.