Previously on the rewound world: we were on our way across the Nullarbor Plain when one of our number, John Pessoa, unexpectedly became an assortment of birds. The first episode is here.
We came upon a cluster of demountables
(that had been long ago)
where we gathered sandy bolts and feathers—
a tribute to John P.
For a while, we stood around our makeshift monument
in awkwardness and silence, until Deirdre chose to speak.
John P once told me of his Paraguayan life.
He spoke of moonless nights in Asunción,
of the whisper of the air machines
that wove the darkness in sibilant strands,
of hotels and illusions, of his first and unforgotten.
Now all that’s left is a miscellany of birds.
Ada looked at me. I wrote in my notebook,
“Her eyes were dark as a Paraguayan night.”
It’s your turn. You with the blue lips and chewed-up biro.
I couldn’t decide what to say,
so I deflected. Look. Birds.
Curious birds were fluttering all around us.
Some were sparrow-colored, some starling-,
and some were algal red and grassy green,
neither parrots nor rosellas, but judgmental
interlopers, stern and unforgiving.
Paulo saw them too, and shivered.
The ancient angels, they’ll be coming for us.
Ada was persistent. It was time
for me to do my part.
John P, I said, John P was lost, his proper
and proportionate empiricism had been unwound
in Paraguay. His mind was birdified
long before his body was.
In Asunción or the Nullarbor, I blame reality.
What use is it? What good did it do him?
He was turned to birds, inside and out.
Reality is worthless.
Always writing, writing,
how little you know of living.
The purpose of reality
is to intertwine our dreams.
- Índia, originally composed by the Paraguayan musician José Asunción Flores and the poet Manuel Ortiz Guerrero. The Brazilian version was written by José Fortuna. Índia was declared a National Song of Paraguay in 1944 and has been performed by many artists.
- air looms
- the ancient angels