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Spiritual Guidance Las Vegas


before the beginning

Infinity stands in 8 familiar positions

facing the sun and one prayer:

please   find all my oranges.


I last saw them asleep on a sailboat

peeling their skins in the sun.

When I turned to leave they said,

Watch for monsters. You’re safe

in our laps, in the sun. I couldn’t stay.


I followed the milkweed to shore

to the islands. I didn’t want winter

to find me. The milkweed,

they whispered, are dead spider souls

making their way to the sun.


A procession. Lila. Monks

in midday

            arcadic  nodal

postures.     Transgressions


Sins: just missing

the marks. How did we get (anything and)

to this point    We rode here.


Past that field past the field

of right and wrongdoing to this

field. The one with the de-

robed monks. The field

with         two young sisters

Lila   and Jennifer
           a blonde and curly summer winding down


            It’s almost there she said and softly stayed

            a word that spilled and sounded as it should

            We pushed a wooden wheel through fields of hay

and halos      silos      balancing

a mood and unused toboggan in my arms

I like your shoes she said.


But the day did not stop. The sun had

just paused      reminding us to re-assess our accumulation

of life  particularly in the form of 

footwear, hoses (coiled on the porch

serpentine, re-generative Norse

slithering, demon) undergarments. Locks

of hair, un-hemmed threads wrapped around our fingers

(so we didn’t forget) “The hose is expanding!” Jenny cried

“There are tufts of milkweed in my eyes! I can’t find my lifeline!

Did I already die?” No water. We lay in the field and tried to imagine

dead. “There couldn’t be darkness,” Lila said. “There would be no

space for it to exist in. Imagine



Mine is a plastic spool

without the thread.

Someone unwound the thread

and used it to make a trail while

wandering to the ends of the universe.

But since the universe has no ends,

the thread ran out and whoever it was

who’d been looking for the edges

became horribly lost.


   A lighthouse

   in the desert


   Mom naked

   in a bucket


   A tiny spider
   tossed in the ocean


The artifact that isn’t there:

Mom sold her rocking chair and left for the Cayman

Islands two days before Easter Sunday.


          Tumbling! In the Easter grass




She melted our crayons in the sun. A chocolate bu-

unny. “Ice the lamb cake,” she said.


Grab the devil by the horns and ride

            The elusive flutter

of Gabriel’s wings 

            (graspable, too) and imagine!

What makes the more accomplished

life: to have never ridden never fell, or to re-

   rise triumphantly from below (thighs squeezing

             the juice) on the devil’s back,

bloody red horns grasped. A conquistador!

   Michael’s dirty feathers stuck between

your teeth. (He’s in a heap!) To wrest with one

is to wrest with the whole familiar

congregation. You know the posse rides

like that, together like that. Protecting and sinking

each other.


Who else did Daddy kill

on the hills in Fu Bai   How many

women did he rape along the path

to My Lai   Sick with Malaria.

   Malaria. Malaria.   Aiming his gun

at the sun. “I really stepped on my dick 

this time Sarge,” G said. Daddy carried G back

They left his legs behind. “I fear we’ll never find

my oranges now,” G gargled the rain.


“I’m sorry,” I told Jenny when I left that day.

“I have to find the man who stole my thread. You

have to stay with Daddy.”

“I don’t think it was a man,” Jenny said. “I think

Mom took it with her.”


She runs to Grandma and asks to trace the scar.

Grandma lifts her blouse, allows Jen to poke the place

where her breast once rested above the navel.
“Don’t forget the songs your Mother played

on the high keys of the piano.”


The moon fell behind the mountains

and G hugged a stick of butter. “It feels

like being hugged by Jesus,” he said.

“If I make it back to Jackson County,

I’m becoming a crossing guard. Melt the butter

around me before I die, Sarge.”


Lila finds her father in the park, teeing off inside a sandbox.

She drags him back. “This is home,” she says.

He follows her to the kitchen and waits as she stains the bread

yellow with mustard. “You’re old,”

she says. “Disguised by the sun.”

Daddy falls, embraces her legs, embraces her knees.

“Mom ruined my crayons!” Jenny cries.

Daddy spits out wet bread.

“I hope that cunt dies of cancer,” he says.

But Mom doesn’t die. She continues

to melt the primary colors. The chocolate

bunnies. The paper airplanes. Miniature brass

instruments. Felt

clippings. We didn’t know felt melted.


Keep it moving, the crossing guard says.

            He motions with the windmill

in his hand (a whistle in his mouth so we do not pause

to wave at the passengers in the cars.) Keep it moving.


Daddy pulls a toolbox from the garage and heaves it towards the Jeep in the driveway crushing ants into unrecognizable ink.

At the tire’s edge he selects a wrench, changes his mind, removes a hammer

lifts his arms  (the maker of a first great tool!) 

            He tries his courage

against the rubber beast.


Lila pulls Jenny in a wagon through the field

until they come to an orange tree at the edge of the highway.

Dad has promised a dime for every orange truck

they count while Mom is away. They keep a tally

on a piece of cardboard, stuck to the wagon with gum.


8, says Jen, but she writes it on its side.

Infinity, says Lila. That’s at least a million dollars.

This could go on forever if Mom never comes back.


What happens if we’re right about Mom’s permanent flight, and she never comes home again? Then we’re left with two possibilities: 1) We don’t wait, and we get on with our lives, losing nothing more than the original loss (0). Or, 2) We wait, and we’re left waiting under this tree forever, and we rot away into the dirt, waiting, and we become orange tree fertilizer, waiting, then oranges, waiting, then maggots and who knows what else. It keeps going. Outcome: negative infinity.


½ a chance of us not waiting and mom never comes back:

            ½ x 0  = 0 

½ a chance of us waiting forever and mom never comes back:     

            ½ x -∞ = -∞ 

A negative infinity? Jenny tilts her head.

I don’t like it either, Lila says.


Don’t leave my lap.

            We watch the sky

peeling the skins off our oranges

   We set sail on paper boats.

Are we going to the ocean? Jenny asks.

Yes, Lila says. Everything goes to the ocean.

We’re going to probably maybe pass Mom on the way?

Don’t talk about Mom anymore, okay?

Jenny considers this. Sometimes I can’t help it. My head says I hate God.

Don’t worry, Lila tells her. God doesn’t get offended. I can’t sail anymore. I have to do my homework now.

Why do you have to do that?

To stay in 99th percentile.

What’s that?

I don’t really know, but Dad likes it when I’m there.

Jenny pulls a finger-puppet over her index finger. Why aren’t you in the 100th percentile?

It’s impossible, Lila tells her, for anyone to be there.

Jenny scrunches her face and tilts her head But it’s better, the finger puppet says.

The monks tell us this:

It’s hard to play with a zero denominator.

Mathematicians don’t like to do it. “The answer comes so close to zero… and never reaches it!”

     one is infinitely receptive

                                     to nothing
                                                      ││ an absence           

                         a hollow bamboo                                             


 (a hollow bunny breaks

      at its limits too. )



The crossing guard

shuffles. Polypropylene limbs.

       (He thought he was born

       in Bethlehem. He was

       born in Biloxi.) We scattered his ashes

in Tulsa. A regenerative compromise.

The segments might have grown back into

windmills and stop signs if he’d only let us chop

            him up, but

            ashes—no chance.

   He must have been at peace with death, yet still

   so unsure of his timely appearance and

            (earthly placement)


“Oh come on,” he’d said

challenging the gun. “I already exist

in all possible worlds. Shoot me you fucking

gook.” But the gook didn’t shoot.


            G tripped on a line


            and Daddy ciphered the pulp

            out of all natural causes.


We know even nectar


becomes poison

            so we run through the plain

   hugging ourselves

in approximate ellipticals

squishing the soggy grass over the same       

places   over again  until

we drill a hole

   through the center

to the other side where we find


 Ø   a null set.

             A field that

was never there. The whole set:

these phantom stop signs

tufts of hair, chambered

nautical shells, Salerno butter

cookies, the center of the tire where

the oranges have become orange

marmalade now

orange Julius how    terrible this

collection of numbers, this cold-hearted cluster 

of real integers

            all in a set that doesn’t exist.


(our fingers bulge deep pink

except where we poke them jaundice

                             above the threads)




   your hair is so soft

The high keys

are so countable.

Jaclyn Costello

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