Day One

After César Vallejo

I will die in the high desert, trying to write a poem about dying,
on a windy day that sucks moisture from the air.
I will die in the high desert, in a gale that evaporates clouds atop the mesas
and dries ink up in the pen.

It will be early on a Monday, because today, Monday, I hear
judges wheezing into their robes, sneezing in court rooms
among bone dry hills.

It will be early on a Monday, children already waking
and axes flying through brush fires and no one taking time for a breath
because they know the next one could be it.

“Noel Kalenian?” the hometown friend will say. “I been in county three times:
for smashing a bus station window with a policeman’s cock,
bringing a motorcycle gang into a yuppie dog park,
and my long addiction to in vitro chaos and digital worms,
and all that motherfucker could ever do was tell my tale.”

“Noel Kalenian?” the bemused warehouseman will say. “I remember that guy.
He more than pulled his weight, but he shoulda stuck with his job. I mean,
the guy wrote down my story about how I once took a ten pound shit.
What can you do with that?”

“Noel Kalenian?” the elementary schoolmate will say. “Man, that guy had a college degree
and I still made more money than him lifting sheetrock all day,
and that was with all my absences for post-capitalist binge looting treatment.”

“Noel Kalenian? He may be everyone’s favorite Mexican-Armenian-Anglo American
with an urban/rural lineage,
but that shifty guy’s like an Italian speaking Quechua in Palestinian clothing
while he milks his goat in rush hour traffic.
When he talks that mongrel polyglot
I just wanna throw rocks at the Wailing Wall
until he falls into a box and lies still,
so we can finally say exactly what he is.”

“Noel Kalenian? His bad record was expunged after several years
of saluting the flag at sporting events and invoking the rapture at McDonalds,”
the anonymous judges will say, passing judgement in pajamas
as they breakfast with a full docket looming on the day,
squinting at time, laughing at evidence.
“It’s time we took him off the books.”

Noel Kalenian is dead. Who?

As I fall a bum will snarl and sign the alphabet in the air.
A blueblood will whisper encouragement to an immigrant hammering a bent nail.
A coroner will mutter to his watch over this thing in my chest that demands release.
Nobody else’s attention span for my death bed monologue will be greater than a spoonful of mud
eaten in the dark heart of everything said means
nothing all means everything is gone
means I was always born to lose
so I might as well say it all at once
since it’s always been too late
and everything must be said in a rush
before the final moment.

Because I have everything and was never born to do anything.
Because I have nothing and was always born to do everything.

About the Author

Noel Kalenian is a cultural mongrel and polyglot descended from Colorado pioneers, Mexican immigrants and Armenian refugees (by way of Lebanon). He grew up in Grand Junction, Colorado, a high desert town on the Utah border. He has also lived in Denver and San Francisco, where he received an MFA from San Francisco State University. He has been published in Skidrow Penthouse, Fourteen Hills, Sidebrow, South Dakota Review, and other journals.