I have been corresponding with Katia Kelly, the blogger in Brooklyn who uncovered Paul Manafort’s fiddle in Carroll Gardens. Not about that; rather about the fate of a church building at 297–299 Carroll Street.
It begins with a joke. The Yiddish phrase ‘Ikh hob fargessen’—I forgot!—uttered in panic to an immigration official, turns the hapless Isaac Reznikoff into Ichabod Ferguson.
Bindweed in the hedge, / Nasturtium on the leaf pile, / Owl glides on soft wing, / Am I—I ask a stranger— / On the way for The Ostrich?
The rock-hound’s use of the word Indian, rather than Mexican, opens fertile ground. A different idea of territory, of legitimacy, of history, of boundary, of intersecting identities. Who then the interloper? Who the immigrant? The undocumented?
Once in a summer at haying time, / My uncle Dave and the neighbour— / A coarse fellow in bib overalls / Who shat in the barnyard among his beeves / Whenever the urge took him— / Gave me a pitchfork and said to come along.
Nothing is spared and nothing is explained. No motive, no reason. Eventually we will get there but not now, and anyway these are not really very important. What is important is that we are pitched headlong into the story. Propelled by pity and terror.