Matisse fired Jesus on the spot: “I cannot work wiss sush a self-important model! Bring your daddy issues somewhere else!” He brightened his dyes with vinegar squeezed from a sponge, special order from the penal colony at Gethsemane, Mississippi. Jesus balked at the host, huffed, hurried down a staircase dust-caked and blurry as a dream.

            [Exit SON OF GOD,
                        Pan camera to—]
            Cats picked pearly pig-bones clean down below; Montmartre morning, color change you
            can believe in: Sun crashes violetly into smooth dust like permafrost; and there are the

Sounds fading: Word falling: Photo falling dusty as blue dream: “Hurry up please it’s time” echoes house to house along the alley out Matisse’s window while a hooker with pearls for eyes nails Jesus in a Rue Rimbaud bordello—
            squeezed bone crashes violetly into the spot—
dust cakes the linoleum like permafrost morning under cold Gethsemane feet, sun through the dyed window brightened special with such self-important bones you can believe in on the spot,

            and there are the cats, all colors, all alright but hardly hearty, all hurry into smooth dust
            house to house to somewhere else.

Amor Flat, Utah

I: Villanelle Dissolute

Our shadows cast across the salt at dusk a barcode squeezed, ripples at knees and with the heat, white blinded at a crawl: the waning crescent sun broke blue beneath the surface at a crawl, squeezed between the sodium peaks on the horizon, and with it went the heat: “I only believe in color,” she gasped into the heat; dense dusk squeezed the last white ghost from out the salt, or we were blinded; color fizzled out at a crawl.

            Utah taut beneath our feet, its distance labyrinthine leaned away: I heard a couple ate each other out here four months back: Walked too far, lopped off one limb for each half-distance they returned like real selflessness.

            I embraced her, my hands’ shadows cast a mile around her miles of ballerina back, straight and light like a barcode painted on the flat. When she breathed heavy her cheeks flushed ruby red; the waning crescent sun broke blue beneath her scalp; the salt crackled cold, dewy smoothing at a dissolute crawl.

II: Veronica Prepares Her Rag

There was a marathon, one of these ultra-runs, once across the salt flat, halfway back, then half-of-halfway back again like what coaches call “suicides.” Veronica was the spotter: the race began at high noon, so the runners had to keep their eyes closed so as not to go blind, and she had to look out for falling bodies, columns chopped off the barcode. From so far away, through her polarized binoculars, the pack ran at a crawl.

            Wasn’t her first rodeo. She knew, what with the kicked-up salt and glare, half the runners’ eyes would be puckered for weeks like deep-cave lizards. The race was full of paradoxes like that.

            Three hours in, she lay in the back seat of her spotter’s Jeep and took a nap. No harm in it, usually: in all her years she’d never seen a faller. She was a formality. For the insurance, savvy? She slept soundly, what with the heat, the pleasant smell of salt, her body squeezed into the tiny back seat, dreams flowing in and out, fore and aft at a labyrinthine crawl.

III: Villanelle turned Villainous

She squeezed my hair between her fingers, flushed ruby red with heat, ran her tongue over my teeth at a warm crawl. I am unforgivable: I kept my eyes open as we kissed, looked into the dusk: our barcode had compressed to a single line, strung straight to the horizon, looked like over the mountains, squeezed between two distant blurry peaks, singular radiating line of heat in the cooled-to-frigid salt. It was all so fast.

IV: Veronica is Too Late

Veronica sprang awake in salty sweat. She’d dreamed of letters: Yodh, he, waw, the last he hemmed her in; she panted, felt like she’d barely squeezed out. The sun was low, a crescent wading in the blue horizon. Not a single shadow on the flat.

            She vaulted the console into the driver’s seat, started the Jeep. It rattled forward a few meters, and she jumped out to check the tires: All flat, like slashed, thin squeezed along the ground like barcode lines warped around the wheels.

            Hunched over the back wheel, frustrated tears welling, a tap on her shoulder:

            He was tall, too tall, his shadow tossed across the flat and into the sky. “Veronica, you’re a gem,” he chuckled and backed away to lean against the driver’s side door. He lit a cigarillo, all this calmly, at a heated crawl.

            “Yes, you can see, they’re all gone. There’s nothing you could have done, naturally.”

            Her throat was dry. She swallowed. It felt like sand.

V: Wherever Three or More Are Gathered

We’d been swimming the night before, squeezed through a fence in western Colorado and inundated a public pool. Her hair still smelled like chlorine. It lay flat with sweat, with salt. I kissed her forehead, brushed it with my parched lips, her heat…

            Our shadow gurgled down into the salt, and there was nothing, nothing at all, but the two of us, who knows how far out, who knows the direction, who knows the day or hour—the two of us, my natrium smile against her chlorine forehead.

VI: Compass Flattened

“We dispensed with a third of them at the edge of the flat. The second third we took halfway back. The last third, naturally, met their ends at the finish line. You see the pattern. Everyone was perfectly blind. Perfectly, perfectly, and we were silent about it. You appreciate, naturally, the symmetry, the maze. What would it have required for one of the runners to escape? A sideways motion, naturally, all too naturally. But these were well-trained folks, hmm? Ran their training miles with blindfolds, hmm, hmm? They could have run sideways just as easily as a shark can swim backwards. Yes, yes, I said maze. For such immaculate athletic specimens as our dearly departed, yes, for such undauntable forward-marchers, the maze is the line. Its center is all places and its endpoints are nowhere. They would have kept running forever: They could not, after all, see the finish line.”

            She gulped another gash of sand. She grimaced, shrugged against the shredding of her throat. The heat had begun to wane. “So what of me?”


VII: Amor Fati; or, Like a Rolling Stone

Sun fallen, fading shadows through gray salt; her ballet-poised gestalt, her fingers feathering my wet flanks, flushed my cheeks with heat. I squeezed her. Three thousand miles ahead of us, I knew, an endless line, nothing but a line, across Interstate 70. “I love the bones of you,” she crooned into my crusted ear. Her nose had begun to run with cold, and she wiped it on my sweat-drenched shoulder. “I love the bones of you. They’re a maze I’ll never escape, so straight and pearly and out of reach.”

            She looked down at the salt and ran her tongue over her teeth. “I love my fate.”