The Body

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Early 1900s snapshot of coffin and casket, Bat Country Books, LLC flickr

Early 1900s snapshot of coffin and casket, Bat Country Books, LLC flickr

 

The body is in a bag. The body is on a cart. The body rolls out of the bedroom. The body rolls out of the living room. The body rolls by the family pictures. The body rolls through the kitchen. The body bumps over the threshold to the garage. The body rolls past the family cars. The body rolls past the hedge trimmed just last week. The body rolls by the neighborhood children. The body stops so a child might tie a red balloon to the cart. The body bumps down the sidewalk. A girl showers it with flowers. The body sits next to a homeless man for a while. The man unzips the bag and relieves the body of its wedding band. The body leaves the man behind and zooms through the traffic. The body runs a red light. Cars careen around the body. There is screeching, smashing, crunching, grinding, someone screaming, metal and glass flying.

The body goes to a museum. It rolls past the canvases thick with paint, heavy with fevered dreams. The body visits animals at the zoo. It is shat upon by a monkey who tries to feed it peanuts where a mouth should be. The body rolls past a river where it races a barge filled with coal. At the dock, the body is saluted by a soldier. At the church, it is hurriedly blessed by a Father who sprinkles holy water on the shitty body bag. Downtown, a whore straddles the body and gets off. A dope dealer smuggles his stash under the torso.

At the hospital, nurses shake their heads knowingly as the body rolls through the halls and out the exit. At the bank, the teller willingly gives over all of the money to the body she’s so frightened. The money flies out of the surrendered bag as the body flies down the street. Men and women and children take what they can. The children buy candy. The men and women go to bars, take their spouses out, plan parties.

The body crushes a wife beater. The body rolls over a rapist. The body cuts a politician off at the knees. The body goes to a concert. He rolls through a mosh pit. He helps carry a crowd surfer. The concert goers find the dope and are grateful. The body gets arrested. The body gets put in jail. The body busts out and goes on the lamb.

The body finds a family who needs a body, a family who isn’t upset by a body but who just wants some other body to hang out with somewhere on the outskirts of town where a body can be a somebody and not the nobody which many would have him believe he is.

First appeared at The New Absurdist and later, Bizarro Central, Flash Fiction Fridays

 

 

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Wild Tales: In Defiance of Sense

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east of the sun and west of the moon 2

Image from page 18 of “East of the sun and west of the moon : old tales from the North” (1922) Authors: Asbjørnsen, Peter Christen, 1812-1885 Moe, Jørgen Engebretsen, 1813-1882 Dasent, George Webbe, Sir, 1817-1896 Nielsen, Kay Rasmus, 1886-1957

 

Sometime after the original publication of this blogpost, I was thrilled to be able to use it to participate in a conversation regarding audio books with Tony Huang’s Metacircle. To see some this conversation, including the Chinese translation, and track other exciting endeavors at Metacircle, go here.

 

Divorce, cancer, bipolar, single parenthood, failed dating relationships: All of these mishaps and more have become a part of my midlife experience. Fear for my life, feelings I do not fit into religiously conservative circles, the occasional pain of being “different,” concern for my child, an acknowledgment I may not find the next special someone, a realization my romanticism and sometimes my perfectionism rule out a “modern” relationship in which texts serve for conversation, people can be swiped away by a finger running across a digital screen, and porn has dictated that women look twenty five and behave as objects: I have been touched by all of these things and sometimes they have ruled over my ability, once sharpened by more frequent use, in letting go and forgetting troubles.

On a lonely night the other night, suffering still from a failed relationship – Was it me or was it him? Who knows. What a bother, what a pain. I will never do this again. etc. – I turned to Libri Vox, a recent discovery. I have not been one to turn to this way of imbibing my literature but I have recently discovered the beauty of having a portable narrator spin me a yarn while I lie on my bed. My narrator, I have discovered, is good for a walk with the dog, a car ride across town, the grocery store, a dish cleaning session in the kitchen, and more. If I release myself to the voice, I don’t feel as lonely. In fact, I sometimes find myself to be quite thrilled by it. Here is a volunteer, somewhere from around the world, doing their level best to put the literature of the world out there for listeners to enjoy. The experience feels personal and immediate and sometimes, just the thing.

Recently, I started listening to fairy tales, and the other night when I was suffering I began The Blue Book.

I have always been a person driven to extract meaning from texts or to gravitate toward texts whose purposes are didactic or could be construed as such, somehow, with the right manipulator, you know, someone like me. Yet in listening to what I sense are many of the “untamed” fairy tales – those who have not been given an obvious “lesson” – I am completely charmed. These speak back to someone like me with my heavy hand, my heavy pencil who is just dying to construct an analysis. They speak back to me and tell me to be quiet. They speak back to me and tell me to let them stand on their own. Though fairy tales, at the time of their development, may have used a number of conventions, to my modern ear, these stories seem to insist on their freedom from convention. Like a person who is not bound to convention, bound to explain themselves at every turn, worry about the impression they make, a fairy tale often seems to live in complete freedom.

I like to imagine that I, an ordinary woman, have something to share with the women who, over the centuries, created these stories together as, over time, they told these over fires and in the midst of chores, when they were resting. I like to imagine these stories, begun in the minds of women while they were about their repetitive labor, were told to others and the work of the storytellers’ imagination was supplemented by the imagination of her sisters when they retold the stories to others – their families, other women, their children. Over time, the inventing and sharing created stories smooth as pebbles or rough hewn but originating from the same rock.

I like to imagine these wild tales connect me to those who invented them in that though we now have more luxuries and in many ways, a different worldview, we are in search of the wild beyond the hard work and the worries, the will to survive. We seek rest and invention, re-invention and creativity and beauty. Of course this goes for men as well as women but there is a homespun quality, a stark quality that speaks of a woman’s voice in many of the tales. Some have been recast by male writers who have collected them and written them down. Some have a more embellished voice. Some have been stripped of racier elements, harsher elements. Some have an appended lesson. Some seem overly romantic versions of their grittier sisters. I sense in the realism and absurdism of the wilder tales a woman’s voice of what it means to be a woman in a man’s world and how one must resolve to be resilient, resourceful, wise, cunning, full of spirit.

I like to think I might understand, finally, something about fairy tales because on the eve of my forty eighth birthday I think I finally understand the value of wildness, individuality, a free spirit. It is in the story of Job confronting God in all of his sufferings and God providing no direct answer, no direct reason, only a catalogue of his wonders. God, an unpredictably free spirit and vast, full of love and mystery. It is like that, she said (Me, speaking to you, of God, of suffering, of that which we cannot predict or control, of the wildness of spirit embodied in the most unpredictable of tales, and at last, all of our own divergent tales and voices.) A person who is 48, 49, 60, 35, 18, 70 or whatever age who has encountered a wild wood in their experience, a menacing troll, an embittered stepmother, a greedy lover, a witch, an empty misleading temptation has encountered the tale of their lives. Most of us have encountered quite a few of these and more.

When I was a girl, my family went on “Toad’s Wild Ride” at Disney and from that time on, the memory of it was invoked to describe any particularly wild driving experience or traveling experience or anything unpredictable at all. To me, this is the essence of a fairy tale: A wild ride. We have television shows in the modern world which serve as the evening fires and narrators both but they are dim reflections of the tales of our ancestors who faced life in the teeth. When we can let go of our demand for logical sequences, we can more fully face life as it really is, ripping away the scrim that protects us from realities. When we let go of our demand for logical sequences, we can more fully enter a dream state, we can be taken, captured, enchanted, relieved for a moment of our defenses and need for control.

I felt lonely one night and so I turned to The Blue Book on Libri Vox and I allowed someone I didn’t know to tell me a story. I tried receiving it as a child and thought I did not accomplish this perfectly as my mind drifted back to my worries or I began to “not see the point.” I began to realize I wasn’t “doing it right.” There is a way to relate to that which is wild and unpredictable. It is allow yourself to be unpredictable too. Stop making so much sense. I wonder if there is freedom in that.

 

 

 

lost container

Black and White Portrait of a Friend by Mirko Chessari, flickr

Black and White Portrait of a Friend by Mirko Chessari, flickr

 

My inability is a lost container I cannot find in my house.

My love is a plant in a basket I abandoned in the flower bed. Though the basket rots and I do not water it anymore, the plant lives on, fading in the sun, spreading, blooming.

My uncertainty is a walking stick. I do not know for certain if I will live, or, if living, for how long. A stick is more reliable than a person. People fly away when they want to, even when you might die. A stick can defend while people are shutting their windows, going to bed for the night.

My eyes are what are left after I have seen everything. I see lies coming at me now, aiming for the kill. I avert my gaze, in hopes they miss.

A pen is better than a stick or a sword and frees the weave of my heart. At some point, every friend is an enemy, but even if my life is counted for nothing, a pen is more loyal.

Instructions for the Ascent: A Guide

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walking on water

anna Osu’s “walking on water,” flickr

Shuffle through the silent wood to worship, past loblollies and scrub oak hung with flowering vines, your sick feet, affected by the chemo, the nerve endings numb, barely registering your footfalls. The glittering lake beckons beyond the Bishop’s Walk and the Church of the Incarnation where someone sits at a piano, someone mixes water with wine, someone is blinded by the sun streaming through a window as they think about what they would like for dinner.

Step high over roots, concern yourself not with the sand slipping between your toes, breaking down your best sandals. Enjoy the sand and how it falls out of your shoe in a playful way because you cannot walk because of your numb feet and it is as if you are doing this on purpose, like when you were young and flopped your legs in front of you, flinging sand on your brother, on your sister, and you had more time then, all the time in the world.

It doesn’t matter you are late. You have nothing to contribute. There will always be voices in worship somewhere. There will always be worship. Not even the forest needs you though it will take you. There will always be bodies who, once animate, return to earth and you, no longer a child, see how it begins as you fall off out of time beginning with the feet that can no longer run, the flesh that is no longer thought of or desired by those in time, and you, having once participated in a chorus, live on an edge without recognizable features or breath, where eternity has caught up with you and you had thought yourself not ready and yet here you are, venturing on your own.

Those you thought should join you cannot follow through the divide, they cannot pass. You have tried to carry them but the overwhelming nature of their fears have led you to focus instead on the little white dog who waits for you on the edge of town, the new ferns that must be watered, the meals you will make with the ingredients you just bought at the market, the son who will be home from his father’s next week.

In the twilight worship hour, you must go alone through the loblollies and scrub oak hung with vine, the sparkling lake in the distance, until you reach the lip of it all, where the worshippers’ voices coalesce and become strongest, like a ring of sound around the world. And yet, you only see the glittering eye of the abyss in the distance and it is not in the depths of the earth but suspended and it is not dark but filled with light and fills the skies from the waters it takes from earth and one day you will be taken up from the earth and one day you will return again as rain.

Published in Ginosko Literary Journal #16

May My Father Rest

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Snow Capped B&W

David Adamson’s Snow Capped B & W (flickr)

When they come to capture Father, they do so with ropes and sticks and feed him bear containing a tranquilizing substance. We watch as he devours the flesh, its blood resting in the fur I use to kiss. He had been starving and in mourning for my mother, who had been captured, tagged, and taken away to higher regions. My brother and sister and I do not make it obvious to him we could see his defeat. We eat our grains and cream in silence in cupboard spaces and we do not crowd him or come near.

The men hoist him onto a stretcher, their pipes set in their teeth, the smoke from the bowls drifting down over our father’s limp frame, as if he were powerless, as if he were lazy and never chased deer and wild game, as if he had not laughed at our games in sunshined fields and watched for danger along the shadowed edges.

I touch his paw as his body moves past and it seems as dead and yet it has steadied me while I took my first steps. With it, he has lifted me onto his back where I would ride holding onto his fur, the nape of his neck smelling of burnt wood and leaves.

My brother and sister are calling out for my father, my brother and sister are crying. It is the new people who do not understand, I say, though I know my brother and sister, being young, do not know my meaning. I have no words of comfort for them while the presence of the men lingers heavily in the air. Drink your milk I say and they drink the heavy milk at the bottom of the bowl, the last of the milk my father stole from the farmer further down in the valley.

I am not ready to speak for my mother and father both. I am not ready to guide.

I take them out to play where they can run among the stones of the people who have died. They should not have to watch as their father’s body jars as if lifeless on the open-bed truck while men’s ash falls on his fur.

I tell them these are the stones commemorating all who have returned, though I know they will not believe this in the literal sense I wished it to be understood. And yet it comforts them, children of tombstones and loss, that in some sense, this is true, and that even men with stiff lipped bearded faces have no say in what cannot be contained, or shot, or beaten.

And when the sun is high we take a picnic on the stones and when it rests over the mountain range we lie among the memorials to people who were and wait for the chorus of animals that contains the voice of our mother penetrating the mists of the dreaming dead.

First appeared in Chrome Baby

The Man Who Loved a Grave

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Ambiance

photo: Ambiance by Jacques

Katya ran her finger over the round warm ceramic of the coffee mug. She had to admit to herself it was a comfort to have this portion of her life, her life with Nina, finished. Though just as soon, she was horrified. Her friend had died an awful death – sick from cancer, alone except for Katya with whom she split rent, estranged from wealthy parents, divorced, the mother of one selfish daughter who hardly visited. Katya believed herself to be a terrible person for thinking about her own relief.

In a silly moment, Nina had asked Katya to pour a cup of coffee on her grave at least once a week, maybe more, for as long as she was missed, then Katya was to be free of the routine. They drank bottomless coffee at a diner during mornings they worked in the shops on Park Avenue, during the days Nina was well. Nina also asked Katya to burn a letter that she had written out and placed in her jewelry box. This act of the burning seemed a bit more serious than the coffee ritual, and yet both involved performing an act over her friend’s grave. Nina made Katya swear not to look at the letter before the burial.

One day after work, Katya stopped by Nina’s grave. She pulled Nina’s letter from her purse. It was in an envelope, sealed, and written on several sheets of small square pink papers, the stationary she started to use near the end of her life to make out grocery lists and requests for Katya. It read:

Dear Katya,

You have been my sole confessor in these last few years and on you has fallen a great burden and for that, I’m very sorry. Had I allowed myself to entrust my worries and cares to anyone else, I would have. Maybe it was the illness that stirred up fear in me but in my growing physical weakness, I could not always trust others to be as tender with my heart. People are a bit like animals in this sense, especially when there is a sick person among them. But you, dear Katya, have been more than humane.

I am scared of dying, because of bitterness I have inside, bitterness I fear will keep my spirit wandering. I am scared of my sins. I am scared of the reality of the woman I’ve been, the woman I fear my daughter sees and the woman God has punished with disease. Therefore I have left this one task up to you, to burn this list of the things I have held onto in bitterness along with the sins I have committed. Please leave no corner of these papers intact, but burn them wholly over my grave and let the cinder mix with the soil and be my penance, my last confession. I’m not Orthodox, as you know, I have no priest. Please, dear Katya.

Forever yours,

Nina

It rained the morning Katya intended to burn the papers. She was so surprised by the fervor of the note and the length of the list. She sat out beside her grave longer than she had anticipated. Her coffee grew cold. She fed the grave what was left of her drink, but it was too wet to burn the papers. After work that night she sliced vegetables and brought water up to a boil in their lonely apartment. She ate dinner and watched TV and went to bed but felt in the moments before sleep a presence watching from the corner of my room. Was it Nina?

She was able to burn the list of Nina’s sins the next day and prayed that her soul would be released from the burden of the guilt she felt, from her bitterness. And yet she noticed as she burned the paper, the soil was dry as if from drought, even though it had rained through the night. She bought a watering can and from that time on, watered Nina’s grave every day. To no avail. It drank in every drop of water fed to it and produced nothing. It lay barren as the day she was buried. No grass grew. No flowers that were planted there would thrive. Had she missed some opportunity to make things right for Nina that first morning she sat beside her grave, procrastinating until it rained and it was too wet to burn her letter?

Several years later she met Nina’s daughter. The young woman came to the apartment to find out how things had been for her mother during her illness. Katya revealed the mystery of the gravesite. She was careful with her description of the letter.

“I’m sure my mother was upset I never called or came to visit,” said the young woman.

Katya remained silent.

“I will try to water her grave. Maybe it will work for me.”

The grave did not respond to the daughter’s ministrations.

Again, Katya felt the intensity of a presence in the corner of her room that evening.

She decided to write to Nina’s parents and friends and ask them to visit. Upon their arrival, they knelt beside the grave, tending to the soil, but the plot of land rejected their efforts.

Perhaps there was something perfunctory about how they went about things, Katya considered. Perhaps this was the difficulty. She did not know how to change this since likely there were so few who truly loved tending a grave. And sadly, few truly seemed to love Nina. The cause of this seemed to have nothing to do with Nina herself. It was just her fate. Any grave tending would be perfunctory. Even Katya had not been the friend Nina needed.

One night a man knocked on the door. It was New Year’s Eve. Katya was not going out and had not expected anyone. She did not feel the festive spirit.

The man, she noticed, had skin as white and translucent as parchment. His hair was a soft yellow.

“I have come to pay my respects to Nina.”

When Katya told him the plot number, he watched her with his clear blue eyes, a blue she had rarely seen.

She went back to Nina’s grave before heading to the shop a couple of days later. A profusion of lilies grew there from soil as rich as loam.

The only thing Katya could figure in the weeks following, as flowers continued to bloom there, in the space where an unregenerate woman lay, is that someone loved Nina, someone her friend had not remembered during the torturous months of her illness, or there was someone alive whose love, until then, had remained undeclared.

First appeared in Quail Bell Magazine

my note to the world

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mother and child polaroid 339 - 004_013

I do not mind living for you. You are my note to the world. Foolishly, I have believed, at times, I should write other notes. As it turns out you are the biggest, most important note there is.

If life contained a million lifetimes, I would: hold your hand in each one, run my finger through your hair in every day of each, kiss your forehead whether you are sick or well, take you to a million lifetimes of soccer practices, watch a million lifetimes of your games, drop you off for a million lifetimes of first dates, drive you to a million lifetimes of first days of school, take you to a million lifetimes of movies and buy you buckets and buckets of popcorn.

My role is dwindling now my young one, just in time for me to fully appreciate what I am about, the raison d’etre of my magnum opus to the world. You said you would drive your friends when you get a license, you speak openly of missing the friends who have moved away, you speak appreciatively of the friends you have now. How my tears run silently down my face when I think of what you are.

The majority of my life has passed before me. You are now your own best work. I speak into the air and if you wish to catch a falling leaf of a word of mine, you put your hand out, but you do not need leaves. What usage, leaves, but for the fire?

May God forgive me, but I am proud. May your song never end.

Bless my mother on this, the day of her late son’s birthday.

world’s only box dweller

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Surfing Under The Jetty

Remember that day I gave the man with a face on fire the one dollar bill when he asked for the fare to go home to see his family and he replied “I am probably the world’s only box dweller” and you said not to worry about it, not to think of him anymore even when he also said to me “you’re the reason vets like us come back from the war and shoot people.” We later went down to the beach on that holiday when we would normally have been with other people but here we were thrown together and in a hectic mass of humanity, down by the pier, as if the ocean had belched us onto the shore. People had set up make-shift encampments under the massive structure, deceiving everyone with its capacity as a bulwark against the elements though no one would be able to sleep there as shade was its only offering.

I said I will not take from the pipe even if I’m in a lot of pain and you said that is a lot of senselessness and I said there are a lot of ways people numb themselves. Whatever I said was dictated by my white girl reaction to the drum circle and the beautiful dancers not far away. You just can’t let go, can you, you said. I said so what. I was still upset by the box dweller, murderously unhappy with my dollar but the focus on what I believed I deserved was a relief. The world’s only box dweller had a point. The reason I was no longer a family with someone else was my fault which was the reason I was with you which was the reason I had come into contact with an angry vet who threatened to kill me.

You insisted on the tacos with the two tortillas, a huge dish. You insisted on the appetizer. You always made sure there was an equal division of expenditure. You wanted your pound of flesh though I’d not cheated you out of anything that I knew of but that was just it you had been sent to exact something from me, something I owed in a more universal sense and that close accounting I knew I deserved too. The restaurant on the pier was hot. I could not stop sweating. Below, the surf and bikini contestants were going home. I said do you love me you said yes of course and this kind of question and response had been as regular as the ebb and flow of the tide and so there was something unconvincing in it, of that I had felt since we first used the word love and how did I know that was the last time I would use this word with you and how did I realize there was no shelter.

 

batchata cha cha

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barbie sofa

It was appropriate she lived on the edge, the edge of town, the outer edge along the woods that will sometime be subsumed by buildings but for now she caught a glimpse of what it was like to look into trees, the dark hollows they created by their limbs. She lived in a small house three stories high and each story faced the pines and scrub oak and the hidden homeless, black bears, and garbage people in the town threw out. The woods sometimes yielded odd things she collected and saved, such as a Merengue CD covered in dirt and filth she washed and played in her CD player, the words foreign but the tune and beat so upbeat she had to move her hips a bit while she sashayed across her small living room, the tune spilling out into the inky darkness.

One morning she found a dollhouse exactly like the dollhouse of her girlhood. It was only soiled a bit, but it was the same basic white frame house, three stories, interestingly, she thought to herself, the same structure as her own house though the rooms were distributed differently. She brought it inside and cleaned it. Her suitor, a Norweigan who liked to fix things, patched the tiny broken furniture inside and the tiny shingles on the roof. He painted each room and the exterior as well. The one requirement, she told him, was that he was to leave the kitchen table legs and dining chair legs as they were: White with brownish red tips. When she was a girl, she had nightmares the table and chair legs were really matches and that if you scraped them the wrong way, the house would go up in flames. She didn’t know why she wanted them the same way. She just did.

I started telling the story by saying it was appropriate the woman of our story lived on the edge of town and maybe that is because in her beige little living room where she lies down and stares at nothing sometimes and wonders whether she will make it she is constantly reminded of another edge: The edge of death, of illness. It is an edge, she knows now, that not everyone has to face, at least not in the middle of their life. It is an empty edge, the edge of oblivion. When you stare at that edge, you stare into your own silence. She is glad for the red pillows that dot the beige sofa, ottoman, chairs. They catch her gaze. They ignite her interest. Each is different and she has selected them carefully. She is glad for the dollhouse that reminds her of her girlhood, the table and chairs in the dollhouse whose tips reminded her of matches. She enjoys the memory even though in her younger years, she was frightened, she was frightened the night of that Christmas day when she saw all she wanted – a beautiful house her parents had constructed for her in secret – whose very existence might be threatened by what’s inside. She hopes the woods will never go away. Even if she finds a bear there, if one should meet her on the doorstop as she is fumbling with the lock or if one day, in her foolhardiness, she should wander out into them with a compass and a sandwich, she hopes she will stay in the place she bought, her own death, chosen and full of danger.

cup of canopus 13

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Dreaming in Black and White

He got into her every pore, he filled her up, he penetrated her. He sought to become her conqueror, her possessor. Should she struggle, he tightened the noose, the jaws of the trap shut tighter, the barbed wire around her skin tore her flesh. She was no longer free.

How had she chosen this? Was it his fault she had chosen him as her captor? She loved him, yet he had come close several times to poisoning her or keeping her from life-saving medicine. He didn’t intend it so it seems or so he claims. Skywriting, her love her passion, was drying up while she brought him beverages to slake his thirst. It would kill her to comfort him yet she would do it perfectly, passionately, just to have him say he loved her, to see him smile at her, to watch his eyes, pleased.

Where came this need of hers that ruled her, that overrode every other desire? It was created by the hole left when she was marked for dying and there was no one. She had not known how to sustain others’ interest in her while she was ill. Even her own deserted her and said they were not responsible.

Had she kept her plane for skywriting and the corvus oil she coud have penned an alarm but as it was, she sold these things to purchase her beauty and secure his love for a few more months of her life.

good bye my love

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#41 Black & White

Now that I have said good bye, I dream of you more and more. And is it the you you really are or the idealized you of our childhood and early romance? I think the latter, for in the saying of our good byes and in the living with our good byes, don’t our dreams come back to soothe us, tattered coats to stay the chill? In my new house already old with all I’ve brought with me from past lives, all I’ve received from you to add to what’s gone, the walls, the ceilings, the fixtures shed their grief like soft downy snow, the dust of our flesh, what has been but what is no longer, this dust it falls in outlines on the floor, marking faint impressions of our bodies.

Your eyes are what I remember, their soft brown, the memory of what they were to me in my girlhood and how they looked at me when I was a woman and what I saw there and wanted to see, and the face as well that has seen struggle and loss and hardship, and the hands, known to me since you were young, the fingers, beautiful and long, now worn from work in sun and rain and cold.

I love you and will always no matter what the reason for this impassable divide. I never thought, as a girl, as a young woman anything could divide romantic love, sever it neatly. That was when oceanic feelings still engulfed me and I and my lover were inseparable and he thought what I thought and he loved as I loved, in equal measure, with identical expression, with obedience to the same rules.

I became a child again with you. I indulged the little child once more and that innocence and belief revealed themselves this final time before I turned to walk the road alone in my flat shoes on the path that is soil, that which I will one day become.

The moment I said goodbye, I lay down, exhausted, and slept. I dreamed you were opening a front door for me. I dreamed we were going into someone’s home, maybe our own home, to eat ice cream and pie. We laughed because we were going to eat butter pecan ice cream with our pecan pie. So many pecans we said. The door was heavy, wooden, carved, the foyer a dark, carved wood. I write this and know it would have been the very thing you would have loved, that foyer, that wood, that carving. I write this because isn’t it the sweetest torture there is to be released from someone while at the same time loving them most deeply in their best self, mourning what was, before there was dust. I write this remembering how many times, in our flesh, we spoke of ice cream.

My Mother is a Wolf

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my mother is a wolf

My mother is a wolf. She is with me at the campsite. There is a sign that specifically says do not keep food accessible to wild animals. She sits at the table and has tea with me. She is sitting on her haunches.

My mother is crying. She says there are things she never taught me: how to sew from a pattern, how to manage my accounts, how to plan for a week’s worth of shopping. Her paw is on my hand. It is warm from scrambling over the sun-kissed rock, from a blood that has become different from the way my blood runs, which is almost reptilian by comparison.

I have no feeling any more, mother, I say, no regrets. I am serving the cinnamon tea. I am serving it in delicate white china.

In the sun, my mother is beautiful. In the sun, the blue of her eyes like the sky penetrate my defenses.

I did not raise you to take the hardships of your life this way, she says. I never told you it would always be the same. There are things you must do now to become who you must become.

The smoke of the fire curls up into the air. I wonder if my mother will return that evening with the other wolves, to threaten me for my meager fare — a bird shot in midflight, a rabbit caught in a snare. I wonder if she will return for me.

She had come to see me during the day at other times, and not for tea, and not for any reason. I have felt the presence of the others hovering about the trees. So far, it has not resulted in anything, only a mild abrasion on the cheek when we kissed, an unintentional scraping, drawing a faint line of blood.

I am disappointing her, I feel, and yet I cannot move on. My old life is behind me, in ruins. I mourn it as for an ancient city, burning. My beginning has no map. My mother is not the woman in the yellow dress cooking dinner for my father and my brother and sister. All histories have melted away and these old regrets live on top of the mountain. And yet, except for a few tears, my mother runs in packs at night. I know she protects me, for in the morning, there is a drop of blood in the corner of her mouth or in the web of her paws that she does not explain but wipes away on a napkin.

And yet I continue to straighten the napkins and check the egg timer for steeping.

Published in Apocrypha and Abstractions, February 20, 2014

Midway upon the journey of our life

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Inferno, Canto 1 Dante in the savage wood

Inferno, Canto 1: Dante in the savage wood

 

Midway upon the journey of our life

I found myself within a forest dark,

For the straight-forward pathway had been lost.

Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say

What was this forest savage, rough, and stern,

Which in the very thought renews the fear.