Recent Work By Patrick Rosal

On October 31, 1984, I hopped into a Datsun
with three other boys and cruised
the neighborhood next to the Country Club
just to see what the rich kids dressed like on Halloween.
No one believed I’d jump out the car window
and press the point of a dull, four-inch blade
against that chubby kid’s belly and tell him
Hand over the bag. I was a good Catholic boy;
I wanted to convert the disbelievers. So my threat to cut
that kid down was quick: I flashed a five-dollar balisong
and my best altar-boy smile. I don’t care
what you say. New Jersey is beautiful at dusk. In winter
I love the insinuation of its cities through snow,
as if the white contours can’t hold all our dangers down;
the stiff chimneys sear into the sky a hole the size
of your hand, the portal, perhaps, through which heaven
snatches up small children or sends down vivid dreams
of butterfly knives and rich boys swinging bags
full of sweets. Come on. People go missing
all the time. No one cries for them. Even if I give you
the neighborhood back, the country club, the rich fat kid
dressed like C3PO. Listen: I’ll give you the whole bloody
New Jersey sky, that night, starless, magnificent. It don’t matter,
because somewhere in the world I still brandish a knife,
though I go by another name, and with three of my friends
I’ve disappeared into the smoke of a banged up
Japanese import. I keep thinking if I just tell the story
again out loud, I could bring us all back to make things right,
but there’s no trace, no knife, no stick-up kid or three boys
shamed into silence.  I’m telling you, I hopped
into the Datsun and threw the bag of candy in the backseat
giggling. My friends said nothing. We were afraid of nothing —
for we were reared by a generation that could make
whole nations simply vanish. And like any good crew,
we kept waiting for an angel to come down through
a hole in heaven the size of a hand made in god’s forsaken
image and shackle us to each other for good. It’s no use.
You can retrace every inch of all the places I’ve ever been.
Trust me. I’ve looked. We’re nowhere to be found.

What is the sky?

Bread for demons.

What was some early indication you’d be an artist?

When I was twelve years old, I played guitar at mass periodically for St. Francis Cathedral. During Communion one Sunday, the hymn ran short, so I filled the silence with the intro to Stairway to Heaven. The younger kid who was playing guitar with me heard me starting the familiar fifth-fret plucking and foamed through his gritted teeth, “Noooo…”

What is the sky?

A running place for upside down gazelles.

If you could learn another language, what would it be?

There are several: Polish (to read all those great poets in the original), Arabic, French (which I can splash my way through, if reading with a dictionary), Chabacano (a sort of Spanish Creole still spoken in the Philippines).

What is the night sky?

A jug to pour blue Kool-Aid into.

What is the horizon?

Trickster bird’s home between sea and sky. Target for singing.

Describe a kitchen scene from your childhood.

It was barely big enough for the five of us to sit around or for my father, my two brothers and me to sit, and my mother to stand at the sink or stove. When she did sit, we sometimes called out “Ipis!” and in one swift move she’d slide a slipper off her foot and bash the roach riding the yellow wall over her shoulder. My father says I talked too much at dinner.

Describe a kitchen scene from your childhood.

My younger brother, Mark, a toddler then, fell backwards in his high chair and smashed his head against the oven handle. I knew blood was trouble. They took him to the ER and stitched him up. His children are geniuses at kissing.

Describe a winter in New Jersey.

I was maybe eight or nine, building a snow fort by the road with a friend, when a bully from Cherry St. came around and started throwing snowballs at us. From nowhere, my brother (five years older), barefoot and wearing only jeans and a t-shirt, charged out of the house (he was on a record-setting relay squad in track) and chased the bully back to his block. My brother returned to our yard, asked if we were alright, and went back into the house, probably shivering his ass off. I don’t think I ever thanked him. Thank you, Anthony.

What about your father?

He is an ex-Catholic priest. He was once rushed out of the rectory by two men who led my dad to a road where the mayor of the capital city of Vigan lay. My dad gave the mayor, right there on the road, last rites, blood flowing freely from the gunshot wound at the back of the city official’s head. The section of the city where the assassination happened was where livestock was killed and butchered, and therefore popularly referred to as “Pagparti-an” or “Slaughterplace.”

And what is the sky?

Someone’s coin.

And what is the sky?

Brushes and snares.

And what is the twilight?

Rum extravaganza.

But tell us the rules.