In 1954, Eureka's a one-horse town.
My mother's five years old,
and her sister isn't completely paranoid
from too much bad weed.
The Madison boy seems as straight as an arrow.
Little Lester hasn't committed arson
or accepted a job with the forestry service
Michael teaches in a one-room school house.
He places raisins in the kids' hands,
which make them run to the bathroom after class,
instead of the playground,
where they might kick the living shit
out of one another.
It's 1970, and Eureka's a bit bigger
but no less like an Italian idyll:
waterlogged greenery in the spring and
summers which send sensible folk
to the mountains.There's the usual:
imploding pine cones, kissing bugs,
Sensible folk like Michael:
his daughters are all grown up
and not at all what he expected.
And he's not at all what they expected.
Then they ask the important questions.
Catch him sneering, reciting a brucha.
(Eureka! they say, we've found out,
after all these years, how could you?)
They are like the Others, too:
th U.N., the unsere Leute, the Adele
Ziminskis, Adam Rosenblatts, Steve Sisselmens,
of the Pacific Northwest Coast,
and more specifically, Cape Mendocino,
and more specifically, Eureka.
Michael takes one girl with him to Israel
where he puts on a puppet show.
He sends the other to Stanford,
where her acrid spit can't hit him
directly in the face. She joins a commune.
Marries a surfer.
Meanwhile my mother floats belly up in the Dead Sea,
her grief suspended with a string of gossamer,
which stretches to keep her intact.
In 1999, Eureka's a safe harbor
for silicon valley burnout types and hate mongers.
The Madison boy's murdered in his sleep,
his gay lover, too, the papers read.
Down the road there's a synagogue burning;
someone says "the wiring."
A few weeks later, buildings begin to collapse in Eureka.
First, they only sag, under an ironic weight.
But soon enough, they come apart in awkward clumps.
Mortar, wooden planks from crawl spaces, and
rusticated faux-adobe style yuppie brickwork
dot the highways, parking lots, and run-off drains.
Michael's old school-house
(long since converted into a hair and beauty salon)
"don't exist no more" he says,
ringing his hands until they're level with his
Then the old movie palace falls down,
and this in turn kills a migrant worker
carrying a sack of avocados in one hand
and a cigarette in the other.
Then it's the Holiday Market, Community Pride
Drugstore, and both Woody's and Landau's
funeral homes, all gone, dusty rubble,
by the roadside.
The Starbright Video Store survives,
the only building still standing
after months of quivering, quaking
So Michael takes his senior membership
to town and rents as many films as he
can carry home. Deaf in one ear and practically the other,
he turns up the volume
on his tv set as loud as it'll go.
Which means he doesn't hear the crackling
of floorboards, or the soft shifting sound
of bricks and age-old mortar
on the move.
He writes a letter to his granddaughter,
tells the story of the broken buildings,
and encloses raisins in the envelope
which leave behind a dark, sticky film.