Erick Verran
Notes from My Landlord’s Hammock
you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
—Philip Levine

Kneeling above a weighed-down truck bed, scrapmen blast from the passenger-side window their famous, lolling call for spring mattresses, office chairs, and laundry drums. The gas company has its jingle. A dirt bike climbs our street to a tune of Beethoven, and that equine clop is families threading their textiles, mostly shawls, some ornamental towels, at large slabs of bolted-together yellow wood. The echo from those shops has a soothing connotation, which is the comforting noise of work being done, of labor when it’s useful. Beige tanks squat on the roofs, like ziggurats of water.
Erick Verran
Estate Sale in Jalatlaco
I had noticed the flier online (For the sale of . . . Offerings from . . . ), which included a woodcut's solar eye rayed with lines, and found the door marked by a cutting of red ribbon. The owner, in moccasins and lightly scarfed, entertained a coterie of rich clones in the courtyard. A wall upheld an exuberance of bougainvillea. Her stepson is figuring shit out in Brooklyn, and she's thinking of Paros (no, wasn’t it Mykonos?). How obvious which god these so-called offerings, unaffordable down to the least print or anklet, were meant: gilt mirrors and a hundred rugs, the tidy pile of Ecuadorian slingshots, brown as a dug-up bone, that Last Supper of glazed clay by a sculptor who was kicked to death while leaving a bar in Michoacán. Then the taxidermied monkey in a hula skirt and straw hat, trapped and glued to hold a fraying, mass-produced basket, as though for donations. Here, in the photograph I stole—a tap, a moment's silent registration—and passed among a circle of friends, its irises, a simulacra of colored glass, seem to have witnessed that which does not explain itself. Humiliated by civilization and as empty as a mummy, with the small brain fed to dogs.
Erick Verran
The Axolotl’s Coxcomb
I shall laugh myself to death at this puppy-headed monster.

When the Spanish drained the lakes and canals, the axolotl, larval in its chicken-white integrity, as though stalled between evolutions, just about died. Another of Tenochtitlan's relics, whose mythologists named an amphibian for a canine god. Biomedical labs study its jester hat of liliripes (the feathered gills) surrounding lidless eyes, the equanimity with which that ancient heart, sampled on the altar of a glass slide, will go on regenerating lost tissue. Its wiry smile once graced the fifty-peso note. Having survived to become a collector’s item, Pokémon of the animal kingdom, now even its likeness has slipped out of circulation.
Erick Verran
The Category of Sacredness
By midafternoon in Condesa, striding past hole-in-the-wall cooktops and the juicer cranking halved oranges like a factory’s sour widgets, who could seriously miss halal (what you’d called New York’s falafel mafia); half-silver denominations clink in your watch pocket, that square of riveted-together denim, and your boots have dulled. A shin of humidified pork for dinner or fried meatballs, followed by flan and a late espresso while you finish the LRB article on Kafka. People lift themselves to the cantabile of little birds, who watch the dogs dumped together in Parque España, with their raucous idiocy over a thrown ball or crushable water jug. Last month, downwind of shadeless pyramids, you’d bought one of those octagonal hockey pucks of chocolate and a half liter from the pseudo-exclusive distillery, in spite of its pretensions (the librarial green lamps), as though tasting liquor were a kind of monkish studying. Hot spirals of barbed wire along rooftops. A white Christ sighs woodenly; his Madonna stands, embroidered into her blue wingsuit. In every bar the mezcal glasses—full of candle wax, ordinarily—are stamped with crucifixes.
Erick Verran
An Assistant for the Magician
A hunched, sunburnt man is sharpening the three petal-shaped blades of a disassembled blender using a bicycle chain and wheel. His footwork turns a thick grinding stone; carefully, he leans against its grit like a jeweler faceting a diamond, which is the equilibrium of skill. And his fair-skinned daughter retrieves long kitchen knives from a bush where they’ve been drying, like a family of silver rabbits.