When I got off the bus, 'I' was back to where I started without going anywhere. My mother wasn't home and Corn Tassel's Aunt Kernel was drinking milk in our living room. Whenever a scorpion stung her, Kernel would stop to drink a glass of milk and then keep working. She worked our land for free, transforming our garden into an ornamental, but also productive, plot of land. Maybe there was lots of fertile soil around, but four walls surrounded our plot. Once a week she picked whatever was ripe and sold it in the marketplace. Even still, since I was inextricably involved with her niece, it didn't feel right having Kernel working our land without us giving anything in return.
The garden was hers to do whatever she wanted, but the chickens were my responsibility. I kept them in the coop and Aunt Kernel let them out in the mornings. Under her watch they ate the insects and pests off the plants, and she said their shit made for good fertilizer, so it was beyond reciprocal. I started with forty chicks but it was hard to keep track
of them since they were often in their hutches and scampering in all different directions. But being gone for a week gave me a fresh perspective. I was sure there were less chickens than before. I asked Kernel about it and she said it was the trademark work of a Coati Mundi.
When Aunt Kernel and I poked our heads in the egg-laying hutches, we discovered detached beaks, feet and feathers lining the insides. I set to work patching holes in the chicken wire, but Kernel said the only way to catch this Coati was for her to spend the night in our garden. 'I' obliged. She had no weapons and I had nothing to give her, except a shovel and a bar of soap. She said she didn't need one. This was a job she could do with her bare hands.
I didn't sleep well that night knowing Corn Tassel's aunt was sleeping in our garden. My mother was still nowhere to be found, which made it even more awkward. It crossed my mind to join Kernel out back, but it struck me as inappropriate. Instead, I just listened to the darkness. At daybreak, I heard a rustling, followed by one of the roosters crowing off key. I was just about to get up to see what had transpired, when Aunt Kernel appeared in the doorway of my bedroom swinging a dead Coati by its limp neck. It looked like a cross between a lemur and a raccoon-just a few notches down from us on the evolutionary chain. She threw the Coati Mundi in my bed. "This belongs to you," Kernel said. I held the dead Coati in my lap to cover up my embarrassment. Now that she found out about Corn Tassel and 'I,' there was no going back. •
Carlos M. Luis is an artist and poet currently working on a new book of texts entitled Traptexts. He is organizing two upcoming Visual Poetry exhibitions, one at Nova University (Fort Lauderdale) and another in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He just curated an acclaimed Vispo show at the Durban Segnini Gallery in Miami. He has collaborated previously with Derek White and is also currently working on a new collaboration with Steve Dalachinsky that will be published by Jukka Pekka in Finland.
Derek White has other recent or forthcoming work in Denver Quarterly, Cafè Irreal, Avatar Review, Aught, Word Riot and Diagram. “Coati Mundi” is an excerpt from a pending collaboration with Carlos M. Luis entitled ma(I)ze Tassel Retrazos that is forthcoming from Calamari Press. He edits SleepingFish and lives in NYC.
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