Breathless

6 Sep 2013 dwnld 2 010 mod scp bw

I cannot recall exactly when it was or where, whether in some public place or private, that I looked at you, perhaps across a table, perhaps across a room, perhaps up close, even in some intimate skin-to-skin moment that in retrospect would not really be intimate at all, or perhaps in one of those sightings I had of you in various places around town where I’d not expect you to be–I wasn’t noticing that anomalies reiterated cease to be anomalies–but wherever it was, I looked at your face and it was like looking at a face with a closed door behind it, and I knew you were already gone, gone not just into your thoughts and silences, or the silences I took for thought, but into some other place, knew that you were living your life elsewhere, knew, without exactly thinking of it this way, that you had constructed another life and moved into it, that there was no more being with you when I was with you, and when I thought of our life together, where I still was but you weren’t, I could almost hear the hammer and drill of demolition, and see the workmen smoking and joking around on their break. After that, there was always sawdust in your touch, and I was someone who was not me with someone who was not you, though I always thought of you as substantial somehow, while I was a ghost haunting the place that had once been my life.

I felt all the time as if the breath had been knocked out of me, and in that way in which the mind pulls up the only memories that somehow correspond with a present that makes no sense, in one of my desolate reveries, I suddenly remembered, as if waking up in it, a time when I was probably ten or eleven years old and Mother and I went to visit the preacher’s family, the daughter was about my age–Mother was probably hoping I’d find a friend, so little did she understand the real conditions of my life, the ones that had started, of course, with her–and she was inside having coffee and chatting or whatever it was that adults who didn’t know each other did, and I was outside with the girl and her brother, and out of nowhere, he knocked me down and began to jump on my chest—and he was a big chubby guy, there was no way I could get up, and there was no air in me, I think I may even have blacked out for a bit. I guess his sister got him to stop, or like all bullies he had an instinct for when he’d done enough damage and could put the innocent face back on, and it was one of those don’t tell or I’ll kill you kind of things.

But he didn’t even need to tell me not to tell—there on the ground with the wind knocked out of me, whatever I was pulled back into that little space inside where I had my life, like the closet one tries to hide in in dreams of being stalked or chased: I already knew that there was nothing that could be done to stop it, that nobody was going to help me. It was a moment of absolute clarity and absolute solitude, and although it was really only part of a history of encounters with malicious children that started when I was three or so and went to what was called kindergarten then—it was really a kind of corral in which children did as they pleased under vague supervision—it was one of the events that I had put furthest from my mind until the memory of it suddenly cropped up. When he knocked the breath from me and in a very determined way made it impossible for me to breathe, I was shocked—physically—and I was taken by surprise, but in the long view of things, I wasn’t surprised that someone was hurting me, that it felt like some kind of annihilation, that it made no sense. That was what being in my world was as a child, no one was looking out for me, so harm and helplessness was always a nearby possibility. I wasn’t a cringer or a hider, but I had a habit of kind of spacing out, which I now realize was a kind of defense that probably only made things worse by making it easier for mean kids to catch me off guard, to inflict a kind of chaos on me, and then move on to the next thing as if, for them, nothing had happened.

Of course, it wasn’t as if you were beating me or as if you had some kind of malicious plan, just that you had casually hurt me and now you were done with it, and done with me. Like all betrayers, you acted as if you really had nothing to do with what had happened, and like all betrayals, an essential element was that you made me party to my own undoing by letting me think things were what they weren’t, for quite a long time as it turned out, though I would never know precisely how long. All the years of my life that I had spent with you, over half of my life then, were suddenly obliterated—when I thought of the past, I knew it wasn’t what I thought it was at the time, it had just been emptied out, like my present had been emptied out when I wasn’t looking. It was just suddenly as if there was nothing left, nothing left of me, nothing left of you, not even in my dreams, which were now populated with people I did not know in places where I’d never been.

Next

His first mistake, one that couldn’t be considered anything but a major mistake no matter how far away from it your mind was, ended up being precisely what he thought he was doing right at the outset when he enlisted the aid of a couple of sociopaths. They were eager to do, and relished doing, the thing he asked, though they were a bit sloppy about it—like cats, they liked to play with their prey. He winced when he thought of how often she must have thought she could get away, and how often they let her think that.

He just hadn’t thought much past getting them to do it. Didn’t think ahead, like, to the part where they would still be around and he might have to try to reason with them about various things, like would they leave and go back to wherever they had come from. They were in the kitchen now, fucking things up, which was what they generally did when they weren’t aimed in the direction of the miscellaneous criminal activity they enjoyed. There was just not going to be any clean transaction here.

They were wearing Melanie’s clothes, well, not exactly wearing, more like decorating themselves with Melanie’s clothes and jewelry. It bothered him a lot that they seemed to think of Melanie’s accoutrements–and his house–as part of their take for what they did to her, as if the money hadn’t been enough. The fact of it was that they didn’t really care about money, they didn’t understand money, and to his way of thinking people who didn’t understand money were people to be afraid of.

John-John—the other one was Jerry-Jo, Jesus, did they all have names like that—sauntered through with a pair of Melanie’s panties on his head, sauntered past him as if he wasn’t there, but he didn’t think about that right then. Oddly—since he didn’t think he noticed such things—he remembered Melanie wearing those panties when she undressed in a hotel room in Chania just last summer. How cool and dark and still it was in the room, the sun outside so bright and relentless it was like some kind of shout whenever you stepped out into it. But inside, her cool skin, the way she always smelled like warm rain, how he had loved her then.

When John-John and Jerry-Jo had moved in, he’d started going to church—any service, any day, any time, even the AA meetings Wednesday nights and the NA meetings Saturday mornings and those coffeecake meetings or doughnut meetings or whatever the hell they were. It wasn’t that he expected to come to Jesus and call down some kind of divine intervention to take care of his John-John-Jerry-Jo problem. He just thought that church was probably the only place he could be where they wouldn’t expect him to be.

But more than that, he figured church would be a good place to find a certain kind of psycho—an upright uptight finicky sort of psycho who wouldn’t move into your house and wear your wife’s panties on his head—a psycho who might be happy to take care of the other two and take a handsome sum of money and be done with it. Otherwise—and he couldn’t shake this feeling—he was next.

Movie TV Jesus

ghent lamb cu mod - comique 2 - mod 2

In ten parts:    1. Jesus is on our TV!     2. Up close     3. After intermission, joyous horns     4. And tweeting!     5. The Pilate Show     6. Whereas, Jesus.     7. Gathering     8. Here comes Judas.     9. Even in this trumped-up Jesusland     10. If this is love

1. Jesus is on our TV!

A sleek, slow-moving, gliding movie Jesus looking now like an El Greco Jesus, then–declaiming atop a spaceship-shaped boulder—a rather Rio de Janeiro Jesus, then the Byzantine icon look, and otherwise other things. In other words, just about every possible Jesus. Except the Jesus in the bible your mother gave me, the one your pothead friend tried to tear a page out of when he ran out of rolling papers.

Movie-TV Jesus has followers who, well, are always following him, an excessive kind of following, like you worry if he suddenly stops they’re gonna Continue reading

Zelda Forgives You and Understands

noaa tornado 1 mod 1 bw

I forgive you for asking me to drive your car to the shop to have the brakes adjusted and neglecting to tell me that the brakes were like gone and that shifting into second gear would put the car into reverse.

I forgive you for trashing my turntable and my easel and my guitar and miscellaneous other gear that offended you for no other reason than that it was mine.

I forgive you for what I discovered the night the ice storm downed power lines and trees and unleashed a torrent of pigs from a farm down the road who rooted up every bulb I’d ever planted, something I could perhaps have curtailed if I could have seen them with a flashlight instead of only hearing them. It wasn’t just that the batteries in the flashlights were dead but that even when I located the good batteries I couldn’t find a good battery.

Here’s some friendly information for your new life with your new wife: putting dead batteries back in with the good batteries will not recharge them no matter how many dead batteries you try it with.

I forgive you for pissing in the cat box when you were drunk–I understand you just needed to mark your territory.

I forgive you for not even calling me when I was in the hospital, and I understand that you probably thought Continue reading

Bottom Baboon

single hatpin bw mod 6

One had to wash up after meetings just to feel human again.

The unit boss was a stodgy little thing with a closet full of personae. There was the prissy schoolmarm persona concocted for most of the email she sent us, though “sent” doesn’t convey the way she issued it forth, sometimes in wave after wave, as if she’d been saving it up. That little persona sometimes held hands with another one, a coquette who wore fancy hats and longed to be admired, and there was another one she seemed to imagine as a Victorian woman of letters with a long, slow hatpin and a lot of time on her hands. Her missives seemed to assume that we were pets of a sort–often bad pets–with no lives of our own, and thus always interested in hers.

My Dears,
Autumn is upon us, and I have yet to take my cozy winter shawls out and my somewhat trendy though purposeful rainboots still sit in the back of my closet, a bit dusty they are, though everything else in my tiny closet is neat as a pin awaiting the munificent and beguiling change in weather, which seems to be arriving sooner than I’d anticipated this year unlike last year when it arrived with the Perseids, those glistening ladies who swarmed in last November’s sky. I watched them from my sturdy balcony, drinking the special tea that an adoring friend sends me from China, accompanied by my faithful Esmerelda who could not see the magical fireworks of nature in the velvety dark sky because her eyesight, alas, is failing although she still greets me with excited little leaps and yips of joy whenever I return home from work, which, as you know, is often late in the evening because my duties as your leader are so numerous and so time-consuming . . .

You had to scroll through lots of that kind of thing to parse out or get to whatever it was that you needed to get to in addition to admiring her person and enjoying the glimpses she set forth of her fascinating life.

. . . Just as season follows upon season, monthly reports are due on the last workday of each month—that’s the last workday, NOT the last day of each month. Unlike the season, which seems to be arriving unseasonably sooner than even I had anticipated, your monthly reports are sometimes arriving at the last minute or, unfortunately–dare I say it?–late. Some of you have of late–no pun intended, tee hee–been forgetting that when paperwork is not tendered forth at its appointed time, all is not right with the world even if the seasons go on, wistfully, perhaps, in their fleeting and inimitable if somewhat relentless and casual way without our notice. If you cannot submit required paperwork when it is due, I shall have to take the unfortunate and regrettable step of docking your otherwise generous pay, and I shall have to go out of my way to do so, or rather, I shall have to ask the Dean to go out of his way to do so. Nothing could make me less happy than taking such drastic action, and I’m sure you do not want to make your ever faithful and humble leader, me, unhappy.
Cheers!!!

She may have actually thought that we were grateful for her personal ruminations and thought them charming and witty. And some—perhaps many– of us may have. But I always felt as if I’d been pinned down and slapped around. After the first year of it, just seeing it waiting there to be opened made my lesser self run all around in my mind slamming doors and kicking children.

Of course that may have been because by then I had gotten to know the constant behind her miscellaneous personae, that unpredictable and snake-mean little person who was endlessly busy not so much being the boss as showing us that she was the boss and nobody was the boss of her. When she lobbed email at us or corralled us into the protracted performances she called meetings, the several fancy fussy little beings boiling away inside her couldn’t quite agree on why we needed to be bothered but all agreed that we should be bothered often. And at length. Some of us more than others.

Tatting away at her computer expanded opportunities to circulate and bestow her queenliness. The missives constructed for mass consumption (unlike those aimed at individuals and sent by regular mail and sometimes even registered mail to contaminate your home) always started with “dears” or “my dears” or “dear ones” and ended with “cheers,” words that began to look unsavory or even threatening when one paused to reflect, as I often did, on the contempt in that familiarity, or paused to reflect, as I often did, on the fact that she enjoyed having everyone in thrall and that she really could, and did, punish anyone who didn’t enact the appropriate excitement upon seeing her perambulations through the cubicles or seeing her planted firmly and troll-like in the nearest possible exit.

She had an unerring instinct for primitive–and very effective–forms of intimidation. At some point even before I was singled out for special treatment, I realized that she didn’t really smile: she bared her teeth. She wasn’t quite as good at the subtleties of impression management as she probably imagined herself to be. Everyone pretended not to notice, though no one should be faulted for that. If she thought you saw it, you yourself would be in for the kind of relentless micromanaging that makes it difficult to get any work done, the kind that had nothing really to do with your work and everything to do with her compulsion to tell you over and over that she could do anything she wanted to you and there was nothing you could do to stop it.

The fiefdom she maintained needed helpers of course, and she was a tireless recruiter. She’d beckon someone into her office or catch them off guard in the supply closet and in a flimsy approximation of casual chitchat she’d bring someone’s name up and slide it around in some faint praise before tarring it into place with some drummed up flaw or offense, and if you refused to participate in this, well, there were punishments. One must admit that she had a talent–though perhaps it was just a lot of practice–for turning innocuous or even good things into bad things. By the time she was advanced to a sort of permanent overlord position, she had turned a group of amiable and otherwise intelligent people, some of whom might even have been thought of as one’s friends, into a mob.

It’s hard to sit in a roomful of colleagues most of whom will no longer even look you in the eye and to know your part is to be the baboon at the bottom and to know that part of their part is not to be the baboon at the bottom by helping her make you the baboon at the bottom. But what’s even harder, perhaps, is to catch sight of your own face over the sink in the women’s room—one had to wash up after meetings just to feel human again—to catch sight of your own face and to know that if you didn’t know what it was like to be the bottom baboon, you yourself might be one of them, sitting in the smug seat of the sycophant, enjoying the high end of the pay scale.

Mind the Blanks 2

. . . a story to play with–the story emerges from what the reader’s mind does with the blanks when the reader is reading. No rules–it’s playtime.

Preface to the First Edition

Some ________ are more _______ than others. Take, for instance, the ________. Seldom ________ in more ________climes, various species of ________—the ________, the ________, the ________ among them—thrive from ________to ________.

One day ________ brought ________up in a most unusual context. We were discussing ________ when ________ suddenly began wondering aloud if ________ still _______ on the ________ river. I said, “Well, of course,” but ________ drolly said, “Don’t be too sure.” and then explained that ________ often ________ when ________.

________ told me that in the past ten years, ________, several ________ had ________ in ________. The situation had become so ________ that the government of ________ had mandated that ________. Notwithstanding a few ________, the local populace responded with ________, going so far as to ________ lesser-known ________ in both summer and winter. The effect this had on the ________ population was ________, and ________ were hastily called in to ________.

While ________ was telling me this, I had been ________. I started to ________ but thought better of it. “Surely you don’t mean that ________ ________,” I said. “Oh yes,” ________ said; “They even ________ ________ .”

When ________ left ________that day, I felt ________, but I shrugged it off as my usual ________. But that night I dreamed I was in ________, surrounded by ________ and pleading with ________ to ________ while ________ ________. I awoke so ________ and ________ that I couldn’t ________, and I spent the rest of the night ________.

The next morning I began to ________, and by the following week I had gone to ________ where I was greeted with ________ and began the ________ journey, a record of which now ________ before you.

Chapter 12: My First Friend

12

My First Friend

When I entered the public life of public school, I noticeably became a loner—that kid at the edge of the playground studying her shoes or walking back and forth on the periphery as if in some invisible cage. The first friend I ever made on my own was Ouida St. John.  We were in the same mathematics class and shared the distinction of being the only students in the class who had only a rudimentary clue about the subject matter no matter how hard we worked on our homework.  Somehow we migrated—perhaps the teacher migrated us—to the back of the room, and as long as we were quiet there, the teacher, who had openly given up on us, let us do as we pleased.  So we passed notes—Ouida’s were almost impossible to decipher—or, when other students were engaged in noisy math games, we chatted without fear of getting black marks for conduct.

Ouida was the most fascinating person I had ever seen.  She had red hair that was so thick that it was often matted—now that I think about it, she looked like an uncoifed and otherwise unkempt Little Orphan Annie.  She had large eyes that were the color green that you sometimes see in opals.  She lived on the Gold Coast, an isolated and impoverished area of town near the river—when we had to drive through the Gold Coast, Matu always made us check to see if our doors were locked.  And if that wasn’t enough to make her an impressive character, for I thought of her as living a kind of frontier life, I learned also that her mother did not make her bathe every day and brushed her hair for exactly two minutes and then stopped whether it was tangled or lopsided or not.  But what made her most impressive was that her father had once seen the devil in the family bathroom.

Ouida was rather blasé about the devil, but she was afraid of all domestic animals, especially dogs, and thus extremely impressed that I had a dog named Wolf.  I could have told her that Wolf was so extremely gentle and good-natured and smart that he had practically been my nanny, and since he was very old in dog years by then, he didn’t even get around very well anymore.  However, I was desirous of impressing Ouida, and in my first foray into outright lying, I told her that Wolf had killed my parents when I was a baby and had raised me in the woods until I was five years old and a band of gypsies found me and took me to Matu to raise.

I didn’t want to let on that her father’s sighting of the devil was extremely thrillingly scary to me, so I stretched out my questions about the event, nonchalantly asking how tall the devil was (about three feet), what color he was (the color of cooked crab), and how he behaved (he just stood there and shimmied).  I suppose that she was doing the same thing, for her questions about my life with Wolf always cropped up a bit too casually. At any rate, I wanted to keep close to Ouida in case the devil showed up again and had something to say this time.  After pestering Matu about it for weeks, I was allowed—probably because Matu was distracted–to invite Ouida home with me after school.

As we gangled up the walkway to the house, Matu stepped out to greet us and looked as if she had been slapped.  But Matu could regain her composure more quickly than most and smiled at Ouida and welcomed her. Quida was careless and managed to knock several things over within a few minutes of entering the house.  She took one look at Wolf and screamed bloody murder, which sent Wolf up to my room where I later found him under the bed.  When Matu gave us a snack at the kitchen table, Ouida chewed with her mouth open, smacked her food, and wiped her mouth with her forearm.  Later she reared back and let out a long, multifaceted belch followed by a sigh of satisfaction.  These things—which only added to her mystique and my admiration—must have driven Matu wild.  I noticed that when Matu was leaving us to our “tea” she raised her hands head high, palms inward and slightly shook them.  I had no idea what that might signify, though I was to learn what it signified thoroughly and at length later that evening.

When we drove Ouida home, I could probably have heard Matu grinding her teeth if I had not been sitting in the backseat so thoroughly engaged in a discussion with Ouida about the offspring of humans who had mated with bears and foxes and the recent abduction by aliens of one of her neighbors.  (Ouida was a regular font of things such as these).  As we drove up a narrow muddy potholed road to her house, her mother stepped out onto the sagging porch, and while I saw a glamorous exotic woman, Matu, I’m sure, saw a disheveled painted whore.  Ouida got out of the car with her heavy book bag and her mother shouted, “Where the fuck have you been you little bitch?!”  I was so unaccustomed to hearing such language that I leaned up toward Matu and asked, “Is she talking in French?”  But even as the question left my lips, I didn’t need to know the words to understand their attitude and intent, and I was gripped with fear that Ouida’s mother might hit her or knock her down.  She didn’t (although, Ouida reported to me, she did both several times later).  Instead she walked up to the car, grinning with a big fuchsia-pink mouth and gray teeth and said to Matu, “Why, Miz Ridley, I didn’t know my girl’s with you.  I worry so when she’s not home to do her chores.”  Matu muttered something—I thought perhaps she was speaking in French—and the woman nodded and headed back to where Ouida was waving from the porch, and we slowly pulled away.  When we got onto the main road, Matu began to drive much faster than I had ever seen her drive before.  She was also in a rare state for her: speechlessness.  I wondered how, if Ouida in fact had not told her mother where she would be, her mother knew Matu’s name.

Matu and I had several rounds about whether I could go to Ouida’s house or Ouida could return to mine.  Nothing she could say about Ouida’s parents or where Ouida lived could impeach the character of my friend in my eyes.  And Matu didn’t have the high moral ground on this one either.  She was caught between her notions of social hierarchy and propriety and “breeding”– after all, the laudatory phrase “well bred” carries with it the notion that the only excuse for bad manners and bad thoughts is congenital defect–and her ostensible belief in the things we were taught about social equality in church, where we were told that Jesus loves the little children of the world red and yellow black and white, and in school, where we learned that all men are created equal.  Matu couldn’t quite find a way to reconcile these things to my satisfaction, and I was as stubborn as she was, thought not as practiced at it.

What could Matu do?  If she thwarted our friendship, she would have to defend her actions in ways that directly conflicted with the moral standards she proclaimed to adhere to.  If she allowed our friendship to develop in its own way, Ouida and I might tire of each other as we grew and changed, but Matu would have thought that improbable.  She knew that my affections were true and strong and all the stronger for being seldom bestowed.  No, she would have thought it most probable that Ouida would be more and more in our lives—birthdays, holidays, perhaps even vacations—and that it would then become her duty to teach Ouida proper manners and so forth and thus, in effect, by letting me be friends with Ouida, she would have yet another child to raise.

Ultimately, it didn’t matter in this case, although conflicts of this nature would repeatedly rise up as the years passed.  Matu was freed from whatever quandary she was caught in when Ouida’s mother was found stabbed in a motel and Ouida was whisked off by a distant relative to live in another state.  We corresponded a few times, and I treasured every belabored and smudged letter.  But my fascination with Quida could not withstand distance—particularly distance from the site of the sighting of Satan—and I never knew what became of her, nor she me.

ooo

 

 

© 2021

 

Tend

flagstaff protected night sky nasa fin tend 2 cmpr

Nothing much has changed since you’ve been gone.

We’ve still been unable to locate the source of that relentless banging and drilling noise. Current theories in the Moonlight Bar, the place from whence all theories emanate, are that it’s a collective hallucination or a broadcast from some ubiquitous and invisible truck or car from out of town or outer space.

As usual the move from one speculation to another causes some kind of spooky resonance that makes all prior speculation seem true so by the time speculation begins to look like explanation what prompted the speculation in the first place is so far removed as to be unrecognizable.

Tourists still come ashore and shuffle glumly to the mounds where they think the temples were. They complain about the heat as if we created it and they want to chastise us for poor climate design, or, more like, for living in a place where they think it’s too hot for better sorts of persons such as themselves to live.

Still, sometimes some one of them will flourish in our climate and will stay behind, belonging here as we do because they don’t belong anywhere else–like you did when you loved us, if you ever really loved us. If you did.

Shortly after you left, the factory shut down, the company’s buildings and our fields were still smoldering as they sailed away. Perhaps they feared we’d somehow fashion ourselves into rivals with the sticks and broken rakes they left behind. Now we tend weeds and water stones, so even though the baas is gone, the baas is still here.

Last week the bishop manifested in our little town to tell us that we bring our troubles on ourselves, that our current sad state is some kind of delayed aftermath of original sin and a multitude of subsequent transgressions and maybe even more recent transgressions yet to be brought to light.

Late at night when everyone’s asleep so deep you cannot even see them in their beds, I wander the beach. Out there alone, I am my own continent, I lie down on the sand and look up, and imagine I am some amorphous massless creature wandering forever through cold space, yearning for another lonely creature, maybe a mate.

We looked for you everywhere, how could you leave us everyone said, surely you’d never leave us, you must have drowned in the sea, you must have been snatched up and carried away by some fearsome beast from the forest, you must have been abducted by the aliens. I’m the only one who knows you took your clothes and my cash.

Don’t think even for a minute that I can’t sleep without you or that I still wonder where you are or that I wonder if wherever you are you look up at night and see the same stars I see.

I don’t.

_________________________
image: small detail from Astronomy Photo of the Day 06 April 2008: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080416.html.

The Secret Animal

bamboo rad crop - mod 3 cmcRichard Devroe became fascinated with little things when he was four years old and his parents died.  His Aunt Rebecca told him to sit quietly in the entryway of the house before the memorial service, and all he knew was that his mother and father had gone up into the air in an airplane and disappeared.  Sitting in a hard, dark chair, he vaguely construed the scene as one of waiting for his parents’ return despite what his aunt had told him.  She had said that they were “never coming back,” but waiting here alone like this, Richard began to take that as meaning that they were somehow invisible now, that they would come back but he might not know it.

He tried to recall his parents’ faces and hands.  He could almost conjure up the feeling of being spoken to and touched in a comforting way, not like now with Aunt Becca, whose perfunctory affection only momentarily reeled him in from wherever he was drifting.  His parents’ presence had always put him solidly in place in the world.  Now there was nothing but this chair drifting in a narrow room, and the experience of his own yearning to be elsewhere, where they were.  While the clock on the wall behind him clicked off an eternity of seconds, he stared at a shaft of sunlight that came in through the window in the door and made a small golden pool of light on the floor near him.  If his parents were invisible, they must be even smaller than the dancing motes of dust in that shaft of light.  Then Richard Devroe tried to wish himself as small as things would be if they were never coming back but nonetheless returned.

Though Aunt Rebecca was not cruel, she was extremely high-strung and self-involved and could thus be brutally dismissive, and she considered child-rearing a process of enforcing quiet, polite behavior.  Thus, in the months that followed Richard’s moment of enlightenment, he had plenty of time to meditate solemnly on modes of existence unavailable to the untrained eye.  Continue reading

Stand

This is the part where someone doesn’t stand up for someone. Or doesn’t stand up to someone. But that’s not the kind of standing up this part needs.

Maybe someone simply stands up, to go to another room, to go into the bar, to walk to a corner store, turns back as if compelled to say something that gets forgotten right there on the spot.

After he’s been gone for months, maybe for years, she’s still driving herself crazy with it: what was he going to say? She’s got this feeling there’s something she should’ve known even if he didn’t say it, or just that there was something she didn’t know, that he was going to tell her something she needed to know. Life becomes impossible, there’s something she doesn’t know that she needs to know, for what, to avoid danger, to pursue delight.

Sometimes it’s like something she’s circling, sometimes it’s like something circling her, getting tighter in, making it hard to breathe. Sometimes it’s as if she’s living there where it is whatever it is, that that is where she has her life, or where her life has gone, but she has no access to it. This life she’s in now, the one she does have access to, this life feels like an approximation of something. She’s not looking for something in this life. She’s looking for it in whatever life she might have had if he had said whatever it was he was going to say.

Mind You Don’t

zinnia htmp 1

“Mind you don’t trip on Mina,” she said but I would never not see Mina the cat, if she was a cat as big as me she would hold me on her furry lap and hug me and I would hug her back not like all those people I can’t touch who won’t touch me. Ever won’t touch, or hug. No, I would not mind Mina. Mina is in my mind whenever I see her or sometimes just feel her on her way to me, and we have the same stomach, always wanting more but our paws swatted down until we try to be in the mind of those others: please give us more, more, more. “Now, Lucy, don’t get agitated,” she will say or he will say or someone and I wrap my skin up tight like a bandage around me and my head is big and round and hot and burns inside like my hand on the stove. “I told you not! I told you not!” everyone all my life has been saying: not, not, not. Not, not, not. Not, not, not, not, not. No. But I love the work that makes us sit together like stringing and snapping beans they just keep coming into the bowl as soon as they leave until they are all gone. “Don’t eat too many of those, Lucy,” she says and I want to tell her that I am not eating them they are just suddenly in my mouth. But like always my words won’t come out except the first ones that huff with spit all around them: “I . . . I . . . I . . .” is all even though the others are lined up behind my mouth pushing and shoving to get to the front to say what I forgot. Sometimes one perfect one comes out yesterday or forever ago the zinnias in the garden so stiff and stemmed like okra hard to cut but then in the evening in the dark vase like the picture so happy, so “pretty,” I say and “yes they are” she says but I don’t know if she is my mother or my brother’s wife but she smiles and I would hug but not, not, not, you hug too hard. Now that she is sick there is always water rushing through my chest like a spring flood and when I see my brother’s face or hers or my mirror face my head is full of thunder so much can’t they hear? I want to roar at night tears knife my face I step back inside my body to get away from my eyes but they won’t stop I put the pillow over my head. Not, not, not, not, not. I try to help I burn things on the stove and cut my fingers. “It’s all right,” she says and her cool hand rises and falls on the quilt. “Just sit still here with me,” she says, “and everything will be fine. I just need to rest.” Maybe she is my sister, all her words are soft and she sleeps and I watch and that is what I do best to watch and make it safe to sleep so there won’t be any more not knowing what to do but I can’t watch all the time. Mina comes with me come here Mina and we sit on the side porch where shade is at noon and afternoon and there are old books there I saw her reading one time what are those she told me “food for thought” and when I see them I feel the sharp bellyache of the raw beans that got in my mouth so I had to eat them but it’s worse than that now there’s something like death in those books I am glad I can’t read I don’t know what they might do. Others have died and smelled like lilies or like ice milk and people bring flowers that already smell like the dead and close them up forever but these books smell like ashes. She will not die I will not let her and not to let her while she sleeps I sit here penning blue ink in every O in all these books so the words behind them can’t get out and they will make a fence around us so we stay inside until we can sit together with big bowls on our laps full of things to do and listen for him coming back from the fields or the mill. “Oh, oh, oh,” I heard her say once and bent to see the cutworms in the ear of corn and it is bad and they are endless but as long as I am doing death is not happening. As I fill them in they are black and I am blue and sometimes I wash up onto the lip of them like hot water in a pan I carry from the sink to the stove or carried or will carry the water swinging from one side to the other it just has to stop. But it is cool now and almost so dark I cannot see. I can feel Mina’s sleep in her head and now it’s in mine I can’t stop it drifting in from the sick room the fever of sleep she will not I will not let her. And dark washes up to the lip of the world and pours over everything I have done all the mouths I have closed and their ears through which they would suck our breath out if we spoke to them but we won’t say anything now we’ll just wait and see.

This story was published in The Altar Collective Volume V: Lullaby, Aug. 2014: 12-14.

Stella Ridley Twelve

12

My First Friend

When I entered public school, I became a public loner—that kid at the edge of the playground studying her shoes or walking back and forth on the periphery as if in some invisible cage. The first friend I ever made on my own was Ouida St. John. We were in the same mathematics class and shared the distinction of being the only students in the class who had barely a rudimentary clue about the subject matter no matter how hard we worked on our homework. Somehow we migrated—perhaps the teacher migrated us—to the back of the room, and as long as we were quiet there, the teacher, who had openly given up on us, let us do as we pleased. So we passed notes—Ouida’s were almost impossible to decipher—or, when other students were engaged in noisy math games, we chatted without fear of getting black marks for conduct. Continue reading