We are desperate for suspects.
A girl is not in her room, her father’s alarmed,
unless he’s just worried he’ll be late somewhere.
He’s on the phone in his bedroom now,
saying something frantic or grim–it’s dubbed,
so when he moves his mouth, it sounds like
someone’s in the next room mocking him.
He’s ignoring the naked woman who is dressing
one slow stocking at a time, surely not the mother.
I turn the sound way down.
A young woman’s pale body, floating in a canal.
Intercut with shots of cabbages in boxes.
The mother has arrived, they don’t embrace,
she almost faints, they are distraught. A priest
appears suddenly, as if he’s been shadowing
them, then a stern but distracted police chief and
two detectives who look like juvenile delinquents.
They eyeball the mother’s derriere as she leaves
We’re in Venice. It’s 1965.
We are riding in the black boat in the past
or in the future, leaving perhaps or perhaps
returning, going to or from a dock that isn’t
a dock in fog that isn’t fog. If we could
call you back to us, we might hear what you
hear, we might understand what you are
saying just by looking at your eyes.
A neglected garden. A ping-pong game.
A madman. Not looking mad at all, but rather
avuncular, carefully tying someone to a chair,
saying things that must be mad, but mildly,
polite interest on his face, as if he’s asking
where the melon came from this time of year.
These people the police are interrogating–
they are afraid of something, looking at their
faces is like watching rain down a rain chain.
If they knew anything, they would be telling.
If they knew each other, they would be
keeping secrets, there would be betrayal,
there would be a morgue.
Someone we’ve never seen before and will
not see again says “go away, leave me be.”
In English. I read his lips. He’s looking at a
water fountain in a plaza, speaking to no one.
I turn around to see if someone’s there.
The father and the mother, faces mirroring
each other, accidental touches, glances, we
know where this is headed–know the daughter
had to disappear to make this reunion possible.
If they had been together when it happened,
it would have driven them apart. Forever.
An enormous birdcage full of canaries in an
airy modern birdcage of a house, the furniture
a mélange of spartan things no one will ever
love. A vast floor. Not a door in sight.
A hand in a stiff black rubber glove rips out
a phone, opens a door, turns on a fussy
bathtub tap, turns into feet leaving the scene.
As if censored in a dream, what happened here
will never be revealed, but that water will keep
running at the back of the movie’s mind,
even after it’s over, flooding everything.
Miscellaneous shots in miscellaneous weather
of places where no one is going. Things damp,
in disarray, narrow walkways that look imported
from some industrial city where everyone has
died or is dying from some insidious gas or
the nefarious doings of angry vegetation.
A shop window. Monstrous gewgaws.
Suddenly a face on its way to a door. This man
has the absent look of a man whose mind is
always on his stash of porn–why are we not
surprised but still uneasy. He invites the parents
in as if he wants them to go away already.
The father is now shouting. Unperturbed, the
man is serving cocktails. He’s not hiding what
they think he’s hiding, he’s not hiding the girl.
Maybe they are hiding something. Maybe they
are not even talking about the girl.
By the way where is she? Even we have
forgotten her, having seen her only once
early on in a photograph that could belong to
anyone, even the gloved hand or the excessively
jovial man who waves to the parents as they pass by
on their way to somewhere else. He later appears
in a chicken costume, grinning, snapping a whip.
She was wearing her confirmation dress.
A church. A static shot that lasts so long
it starts to mean things.
Cage door open. Birds flying out. Extreme
close-up of an envelope. Maybe that’s a name
on it, or maybe a note, “key inside,” who knows.
Here’s the secretary, no longer the woman in
the bedroom getting dressed. It’s late, she’s
touching up her lipstick at her desk. A man’s
looming shadow, she looks up, then he’s
up next to her with whatever that is in his
hand, the requisite sacrifice of the not-wife
who has no information or has too much.
Someone has hit you, poor thing, you are
washing your face at the fountain. When you
look up, it’s so close it’s hard to tell if it’s
a ship or a house or a flock of goats.
A café as featureless as a hospital corridor.
No one has ever been here but this one person
sitting outside and the one other person now
sauntering out with a smirk and a cup of coffee.
We are desperate for suspects, it’s the only way
we will ever maybe know the nature of the crime.
My sister passes through eating ice cream
out of the carton, wags her spoon at the TV,
I saw that, isn’t it the one with the giant frog
that traps people at a party in a labyrinth and
eats them or something?
The young guy looks like an earlier less young
guy wearing the same glasses. By now it’s possible
they are the same guy, but this one is wearing a
white suit and has the look on his face of someone
amusing himself with his own mind. Or someone
who has gotten away with something and is
pleased with himself. Maybe he’s our guy.
I am thinking where have you gone. I am
thinking how can I live without you.
An empty plaza, a sudden wind, trash tumbling
about, a page of newsprint flashing by that
we apparently are not going to see. The city is
shrinking to a few redundant blocks.
Joyous children running through the streets,
knocking down an old man with a cane. Nearby
people, not helping. Tsk-tsk on their amused
faces, oh to be young again, heedless of
the suffering of others, and the suffering we
cause, and all the other suffering to come.
A crazed woman in a veil.
Take us with you wherever you are
taking your crazy self. These other people–
these other people are scaring us.
A man napping, or dead, on a chaise on a
rooftop. Not much in the way of entertainment
now the birds are gone.
Another naked girl body in the canal, or
maybe the same body from an hour ago, now
being winched up by her feet. Somebody’s child.
Somebody’s jilted girlfriend.
A crowd. Thin coats, everyone in hats,
looking like people waiting for a shop to
open, anticipating perhaps a closer view
of the corpse. Or maybe the corpse will now
speak in the language of the forlorn dead,
words no one would dare dub.
altered image; original image: Xanthorhoe montanata, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Xanthorhoe_montanata.jpg.