excerpted from “The Ending
by Luce Godfrey
{from e-Issue #13}


There is a lusty rottenness to beaches in the fall. Hot summer sea blooms and slicks of other cities’ oils pool, decay, are born again and sink, impure and heavy, into new silt. The smell is dirty and metallic like been-dead ocean floors boiling up and burrowing into the surf, or like a woman’s orgasm at birth. It is smell, but it has a taste or it is a taste that you can smell. It is hard to cleave these parts of desire: to run to or to run from. It is hard to tell the tongue from the skin, the sex from the death, the rot from the want, the having from the taking, the land from the sea.


There is an urgency, a cover-of-night suddenness, in our moving here just before winter. One day we are in the cotton wool of life, inside the noise and gray water of news and supermarket and block party, and the next we are barreling down a freeway through the tunnel of our headlights toward the roil of any ocean. We lean out, palms and soles holding in abeyance some din and matter that seems to not have shape, only reach. The country passes us by in tableau: a cow caught in reverence of a hillside, the morning-lay of a Virginia valley, night plains of parking lots and figures moving in twos across these carscapes like moonscapes.

It is late when we arrive two days later on the island and so I do not notice all of the houses hovering in the air. The next night, we pass by one of the houses lifted into a sea-dark sky by wood pilings that hold it high, as if on the pilings’ palms, as if for an offering. For weeks, I am shaken each time we walk by and look through the front door out through to the moon out back. I tell my husband’s sister, as she sets the table, that the house is being raised. “Razed?” she asks. “Raised,” I tell her, and we repeat this pantomime for the rest of the night, making each other laugh. We pass it back and forth at holidays and weddings; it is greeting and interlude, our own dance, our own private joke that lasts, I think, because these razor-edges of difference and proximity strike us both as true and terrible. “What misunderstandings lay beneath what we raise and what we raze? What do we try and save that we cannot yet even see?” we mime to each other across tables and across time.

Luce Godfrey is an educator, organizer, and writer in a southern Boom Town. Trained by the academy as a political theorist and by people’s movements as an organizer and educator, she has taught in universities, prisons, on day laborer corners, and in makeshift classrooms around the country. She is currently working on a collection of poetry, Swamp Songs, that tries to imagine a formalism wily enough to handle radical democracy.