15) This Is England
Clippers snipping, buzzer humming across scalp. Strips of hair snowflaking to the floor. The low whine of machinery on a bare nape. Sideburns rubbed out, a center part vanishing. Sink running in the bathroom, lapping the dull teeth clean. Washing away all the little hairs still clinging to skin. Applause for a new man, beer tabs cracking open, suspender braces snapping against proudly inflated chests. The wind of a night drive, the protesting motor of a battered Volvo. Baseball bats swinging through air, landing against the ribcages of more dark-skinned immigrants.
14) Live-In Maid
The creak of an lacquered porch door. The tap of heeled feet on newly laid tile. Stocking the refrigerator shelves with fresh groceries, every product thumping into its assigned location. The bombilla stirring the floating yerba leaves, tinkling the glass. The absence of señora giving orders, assigning hourly chores. Only the swaying trees, only the telenovelas drifting in from the next room. Sounds to spend your whole life working toward.
13) Rescue Dawn
Bone crunch and skull snap. Fingers bent back to the wrist, snapped from their knuckles. Joints cracking under cuffs. Kneecaps warping under crude metal restraints. Sallow cheeks caving in, hollow bellies grumbling, nightmares invading the subconscious. This is how we'll all break down, skeletally, corporeally, under the scalpel of daily attrition. This is how it all ends out here, a last cartridge from a rifle's lips or our bodies devouring themselves inch by needful inch.
12) No Country For Old Men
Measures of horse gallop kicking up the earth. Scarred dust-trails unstitched under pickup tires. The bay of a lone wolf in the bowels of a red arroyo. A thread of water weaving through the desiccated land. A caravan of unmarked cars barreling through the valley. The clop and slap of human fear. A knife pummeling in and out of cartoid arteries. Laser-guided bullets carving paths in the intestinal tracts of innocents. Centuries of myths being scratched out and rewritten.
11) The Savages
Breath pulled in, held, extended. Whistled across wires, transmitted between lovers, telegraphed on cold nights. The gasp of a two a.m. wakeup call, shrill alarm to a shattered world. The mechanical wheeze of breathing apparatuses and idling tailpipes. The ragged huff and puff of hotel aerobics. The breathlessness of a tremendous joke, until the tragedy of the punchline sinks in. The breathlessness of tremendous tragedy, until you can finally bear to laugh away the pain.
10) The Wind That Shakes The Barley
The squish and snap of flames feasting on rafters. Orange fists smashing every length of tinder to ash. The vicious slap of kerosene, the cackle of colonial warfare. Women wailing prayers into their apron folds, men wailing curses and declarations of vengeance. A ragtag posse of village boys coalescing around the embers. Mere children pledging to give their lives to the cause, and one by one, fulfilling their promise.
Bassline like a heartbeat, dark and irregular. Guitar drones as dim as the London dusk. Drumming that foretells the long, lonely slog that still lies ahead. Recordings that sound phoned in from pitch-dark rooms or hyperbaric chambers. Bottled SOSes from deserted islands. Love songs for the loveless. Cupid's arrow penetrating the aorta, drawing blood. A voice forever trying to part ways with its body, never succeeding.
8) The Diving Bell and The Butterfly
Lid flutter like bee wings. Nurses flipping through charts across the hall. Wheelchair wheels spinning across linoleum. Walkers and canes scraping at the surface. Bedpans filling with piss, weary mattresses commiserating, heart monitors and feeding tubes staging indifferent debates. Outside, through a gold-rimmed window, sparrows and airplanes, the toss of the distant sea, visitors coming up the walkway. Life being lived in its full lushness. Lid flutter frantically, desperately, uselessly, silent as a deafness.
7) Syndromes and a Century
A gong reverberating over the lakeside, in clear and longing peals. A gong reverberating over the lakeside, in weird and muddled meter. The soft shuffle of monk feet assembling to prayer, a grove of their orange robes flapping in the wind. Flags without nations whipping in the wind. Thudding onto knees, palms clasping together, necks bending modestly, a hundred minds deliberating on solving koans without solutions. The sound of invisible doors unlocking.
6) The Host
An earthquake stomp. Emergency sirens wailing like newborns. Buildings trembling, huts and stands splintering, skyscrapers bowing. Ambulances, paratroopers, guardsmen, agents in lab coats rushing toward the damage. Asphalt splaying, a nuclear hailstorm. The plink and sprinkle of bone matter scattering. Speeches quick and furious, curtailing rights, issuing curfews. Radio addresses from black-suited authorities, breathless updates, talking heads squawking. Terror in the wake of terror. Twenty-four-hour alerts on every channel, wholly devoid of information.
Pans of amuse-bouches sizzling cheerfully. Pots bubbling over with the lava of bernaise sauce. Salt shakers rattling quarter notes like maracas. Knives banging out beats on cutting boards, sharp études of herbs and onions. Swinging doors smacking open at both ends. Line cooks dosey-doing between stations, banging skillets over burners. Three languages barking out demands over the nonstop clatter. The full orchestra of a dinner-service kitchen, playing its nightly symphony.
4) The Lives of Others
Tape hiss, button clicks, the static of bedrooms and foyers. Cassette teeth turning and grinding, the mealymouthed shudders of fast-forward and rewind. Voices on the periphery, muffled whispers, mutters buried under microphone feedback. Voices slithering through walls, deadlocked doors, the slivers of windowsills. Voices looping over satellites systems, intercepted calls, wires taped to neighbors' chests. The imperceptible fuzz of crowd noise, every decibel another potential traitor lurking in our midst.
Clampdown in the city. Streets of bootsoles punctuating the fat glide of tanks. The military pulse of feet scaling up stairwells and landings. Apartment hinges giving way, extended families being herded into living rooms. The panicked flush and glug of Western tracts, lipstick, bootleg wine. The ancient plumbing choking on the contraband. Boy soldiers yelling slogans in unison, their accusations echoing under low ceilings. Hijabs yanked down to cover the young girls' faces. Black hoods yanked over the features of disappearing uncles.
2) Eastern Promises
Brim-full shotglasses clinking over lavish spreads. Vodka launched down gullets and promptly refilled. Bottles circulating, spilling their rich contents, slamming down percussively. Dance music erupting from wall-sized speakers, drenched in synthesizer and painfully sunny vocals. Men rising up from their chairs and screaming joyously, trading nicknames, patronyms, backslaps like shiatsu. In a backroom, a woman's tiny yelp, caught in a throat of balled-up rags and chloroform.
1) Killer of Sheep
The choir of weekend noise. Backyard girls giggling over the dramas of three-limbed Barbies. Chipped-painted jalopies gurgling down the avenue. Garbage trucks dragging their heft to make the Saturday rounds. The calls and raises of dollar-ante men slugging corner-store beer, fanning ace high or two jacks. A sleepy jazz standard oozing from the radio of some unseen nook. Lovers moving together, swaying to the trumpets in doorways, sanctifying the melody.