Saying Not Saying

onfim 8 b mod 1

This is how you make it stay still.

This is the part where you pick up a piece of paper and inspect it to see if there’s writing on it. This is a thing you do, it’s part of the part.

You want to know what everything says, that’s what you’d say if someone asked you, but no one will ever ask you, no one ever asks you anything, no one even listens now when you talk, so you’ve given up on saying.

But if someone did ask you something and then actually listened, you would say this, you would say I want to know what everything says, and so the one thing you would say that someone might listen to would be untrue because you don’t want to know what everything says–everything is too much saying and not enough said, there is entirely too much saying, nothing ever gets finished because there’s so much saying saying saying, uncontained promiscuous saying, it snakes into your house from work, it snakes out of everybody’s house out into the street, it’s wrapped around everybody’s head, the air so thick with saying you can hardly breathe, such a glut of saying that no word means more than any other word anymore, and anyone is someone-everyone-no-one.

This is how you make it stay still. This is how you look for saying that says.

This is how you got to the part where you’ve picked up this piece of paper, something lost or discarded on which someone might have written something, like all the other things you pick up, something public that has now become forever private by virtue of never arriving anywhere, except where you are picking it up, reading it in the expansive dead letter office you’ve become.

Grocery lists, phone numbers scribbled on the backs of flimsy receipts, take out menus with every fifth word heavily underlined or circled, crumpled and mauled looking high school exams with vines and flowers heavily inscribed in the margins, pages from coloring books, a photograph of a lost cat on a flyer, some yahoo has scrawled a penis shape over its face, a drawing of a doll, or a girl, with crosses over its eyes, a story underneath something that could be a hat or a pot: thn the spicemens kam from arisona en thir spiceshp an flewd al ovr up n hir.

One time a piece of notebook paper on which someone had written damn over and over, slanted left, right, straight up, even upside down exactly one hundred and thirty-two times, nothing good can come from all the counting you do, all the counting you can’t not do.

A letter, nobody writes letters anymore just rafts of email and barges of twaddle, probably then some ancient artifact: I hope you really didn’t see me at Bob’s the other night and that you weren’t just acting like you didn’t see me, though I don’t recall your vision being that bad. What is wrong? What? Why don’t you call me back? When we were down at the lake I thought we were happy. I thought you said you–the rest was a rip, a ragged edge, you keep expecting that missing strip to turn up somewhere.

Lost, tossed, looking all lonely, things that aren’t going anywhere. A notebook page covered with drawings of piles of cannonballs and knives and what appeared to be guinea pigs on their backs with their feet in the air, at the bottom of the page, the curlicued legend I conker all. A notecard on which someone had written in an old-fashioned fancy hand they shot him, they shot him.

The one you are now unfolding, written on stationery from Gramma’s Quainte Inne, written with a crawling sort of hand, someone has been needing to say something, someone has given up saying anything, someone has no one to say anything to: When I die, I want to be cremated by the King Tut society to. I will make arrangements for my body my bodily remnants remains my remains to be Arrangements have been made or will be made soon for the will be having have been made by for King Tut society to cremate me my body after I die pursuant to my death don’t scatter me over water don’t say anything. When I die I want

These orphan messages—once you read them bad luck to keep them, bad luck to throw them away, you’ve been stashing them in the crevice of a tree in the park down the street from your apartment, let the tree undo them, let the bugs chew them into lace, let the rain wear them down, let the world grind them down like everything else gets ground down till you can’t tell one thing from another.

There will be other pieces of paper you’ll pick up and read. One day one of them will be for you. There is a room inside you waiting for it, waiting for its saying, waiting for its numinous words.

_______________________
Altered image. Original image from: “The Art of Onfim: Medieval Novgorod Through the Eyes of a Child.” http://www.goldschp.net/SIG/onfim/onfim.html

Face

We hope this friendliness will guarantee a future without details.

This is the part where we become not exactly friends, but friendly, or, rather, we enact friendliness. This enacting is some way of having a face for each other that is not the face we have for each other. That face doesn’t know what to do. Or, rather, that face knows things to do but those things are too unseemly or unruly to be done.

This face—the face of our friendliness–knows what to do because it knows nothing. It’s rather like the face one of us had when one of us found out, the open face with a door closing behind it, or the face that pulls some sort of amnesia along behind it, keeping its luggage with it at all times and not agreeing to carry something in it for a perfect stranger.

In retrospect, it’s astonishing how alike those faces are—the face of the one finding out, the face of the one being found out. Though, of course, the one being found out had been wearing that face for some time, a rather long time in fact.

This friendliness itself is a tacit agreement, a step-down, a pact without details. We hope this friendliness will guarantee a future without details.

If one of us thinks this friendliness is a truce, one of us doesn’t understand. If one of us thinks it’s like let’s do lunch, one of us doesn’t understand. If one of us in the future thinks help me move my furniture, one of us doesn’t understand. If one of us in the future thinks take care of the cat while I’m in the hospital, one of us doesn’t understand.

If one of us keeps mementos of a past us and the other one of us discovers the thumbed box, the thumbed photos, the thumbed postcard from twenty years ago, the lock of hair, that one, the discovering one, will be alarmed.

If one of us just happens to be passing by some trash receptacle in which the other of us has deposited, say, something that had formerly been valued—apparently valued—as a shared object—that perfectly good painting, for example–that one of us just passing by and just noticing might also be alarmed. This is why friendliness must be enacted in public where it will bear no resemblance to evisceration.

Violations of this friendliness will require the invocation of busy-ness and absence, so friendliness establishes busy-ness and absence in advance, a general kind of busy-ness and absence, a future state of things already beyond one’s control that insures the stateless state of the present.

The face of this friendliness is like a mirror that doesn’t reflect anything. It is something that cannot be studied or searched for anything other than its general look of interest or goodwill. It is the face from behind which one can say things like you poor thing how terrible! or that’s great news! that’s really wonderful!

It’s a face one thought oneself incapable of, there’s always so much cheerful sweeping up behind it.

Nail the Tale

Seven Parts: I. How About a Smaller Weapon; II. That Intermittent Rewards Thing; III. The Badness of the Aftermath of Badness; IV. How About Some Women in a Cave; V. A Spy from the Man Tribe; VI. How About some Men in a Boat; VII. Evil Men-Like Creatures in Caves.
Seven characters in search of a story: Art, Bert, Cris, Dave, Eddie, Frankie, Greta. Plus one guy who texts through Part I and departs in Part II, and one totally absent character: Mikey, who may or may not be bringing lunch.
Around a table. Talking. Cross-talking. Talking over. They’ve been at this awhile. They’re getting hungry.

Part I: How About a Smaller Weapon?

Art: We can’t have a kid killing his mother with a machine gun.

Bert: OK. How about a smaller weapon?

Cris: I don’t think the weapon is what’s bothering him.

Bert: What? The mother part bugs you?

Dave: How about somebody else’s mother?

Eddie: Or an evil step-parent?

Frankie: An evil supernatural step-parent.

Eddie: Or maybe another relative? An evil supernatural cousin.

Frankie: Or an evil supernatural twin.

Greta: Or an accident?

Bert: Accidental killing. Dogs him around, makes him do things. Drinking, smoking, compensating.

Art: Nothing involving a machine gun is accidental.

Cris: Increasingly desperate and fucked-up compensating.

Eddie: Oooh. Same flashbacks over and over.

Greta: And over… What? I didn’t really say anything, I’m just writing down whatever you guys say.

Dave: What if flashbacks changed in slightly different ways until they became the story and the present ceased to exist because it was in the future?

Greta: Are you high? Continue reading

Anywhere Anyway

 

way home sky crp

just you, just passing by which you are always only doing anyway

Looking out over the bay, black water and shimmy of lights on the freeway, the hills on one side, the city on the other, like some impossible place, I was struck with a thought the certainty of which was so intense that it was exhilarating: you could be unhappy anywhere. I said it aloud and laughed. I might not be happy anywhere, but I could be unhappy anywhere. I didn’t owe it to a place or a person to try to be happy, and all that trying always only means that happy is always not happening.

But if you could be unhappy anywhere, anywhere would do, any series of anywheres would do, no need to confine oneself to the imaginary places of cities or tick-tock suburbs or the don’t-imagine place of trailer parks, although perhaps some indefinitely prolonged tenure in one of those pull-in-here- we-got-a-pool places where tired dads finally give up the wheel and there’s a lounge of some kind nearby with those knobby teardrop candle holders the ones waitresses light by holding the safe end of a match between two fingers, lucky if it lights the first time you’re always going to burn a finger now you’ve done it.

Some guy shows up, you thought he was already dead, and there’s this faraway low bank of godforsaken hills like denuded things, something about them that you really shouldn’t be seeing like that time you saw your boss in an unlikely place actually sitting no shit at the feet of her boss with the mooney look of worship on her mean face, don’t look now but then you can’t undo seeing, and the lowlands stretching out to the horizon like a, like a I-don’t-know-what, and you’re alone in the pool at night, floating in a sky where you can’t land on anything. There might be something to that, or nothing.

Or you could just be on a plank road headed down into something hard to get out of or in a boat stitching into little ports along the southern coast of some island, some world. Or a little sticky place above some small-town shop the walls the color of old newspapers out in the sun, always smelling like newspaper, too, or cold toast, the window up there open, the sound of the typewriter reaching across the road up there, no one else awake, just you, just passing by which you are always only doing anyway, just wondering what someone is typing on a manual typewriter, maybe someone just a tad mad or just some forlorn someone wording and rewording something for someone who will never love them, the words barely holding off knowledge of the kind that cuts a lonely space around you that will never go away or that you always carry with you like something you can’t put down, you can’t let go, the thing you arrive at the party or the port with and no one anywhere knows where to put it, not even you, jackrabbit.

Anywhere, at least not some place where it’s winter almost all the time, but somewhat textured weather, maybe even occasional hail and a tornado or two, but mostly warm now that all the sexy parts of you have melted not that anybody anyway, nobody phoning up for you or mailing you a letter, like you care, but you don’t, you know, what a relief that finally you really don’t anyway. In some anywhere where you could be unhappy all that could just be over with, then maybe you or someone could say come over to my place, don’t have to be happy unhappy, don’t have to do anything say anything, don’t have to anything, just be.

Mind-the-Blanks 1

. . . 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.

The Couple

Two people, time, places, words, police . . .

Even before they were seated at __________, they started __________. They __________ about __________, but they both knew that what they were really __________ about was __________.

As usual, __________ claimed that __________, was __________. Then __________ claimed that that claim was totally __________ because __________ had actually __________.

“Don’t start,” __________ said and added, as usual, “Why do you always __________.”

And __________, as usual, responded by pointing out that __________ was the one who always __________. (And __________ never could resist adding that __________ was also __________.)

As usual, they were getting __________, and people nearby were __________. But what did they care? As far as they were concerned, they were __________, and other people were just __________. They never thought of themselves separately or together as __________ which, of course, was part of the problem whenever they __________.

The year before __________ had been in __________ for __________. During that time, __________ had __________, and __________ had never forgiven __________ for __________. In fact, __________ thought that __________ could not be __________ enough for __________ and started __________ every time they __________.

“Don’t think you can go on __________,” __________ said almost daily.

And __________ usually responded by saying, “I wish I were still __________ so you would just __________ about this and let me __________.”

And then __________ usually, sometimes rather too __________, said, “__________   __________.”

And so they had reached a kind of __________ when __________ found out that __________ had __________. The thought of this was so __________ that __________ could not __________ and instead of __________ proceeded to __________ at every opportunity, and such opportunities abounded because __________ simply refused to __________.

At night, __________ often dreamed that __________ and awoke to discover that __________. Of course, __________ thought that __________ was responsible for __________. But what bothered __________ the most was __________ failure to __________ when the opportunity arose.

For months, early (too early) every morning, __________ sat in the __________ looking at __________ and thinking __________had really __________ things up this time.

And so it was that things got so __________ that __________ began to devise __________ plans to __________ with __________ even though, as any sensible person would know, __________ would never __________ and any attempt to __________ would only __________ the __________.

Later on (but probably not later enough), when __________ was being __________ by the police in a rather __________ manner, __________ would put on a __________ face and assert that __________ was in fact __________ and had been attempting to __________ the __________ when it __________. Of course, __________ didn’t believe that __________ had __________, but played along with __________ hoping for __________ that was never __________.

And never would be.

Still

iphne gulf shores oct 2013 114 RAIN RSZD

Down on the coast, the smell of the rain arrives before the rain does, its shadow moves under the water, it’s the dark with a fluorescent light inside it, an x-ray of the part of you that’s like the Milky Way.

Where were you when I was there? One day like another, drowsy, hot, the mind off somewhere with a sand bucket, unsupervised. Floating in the ocean stretches you out till you are bodiless. You forget it’s the same place you saw stingrays gliding up inside a tall wave before it broke.

I sat inside my life like it was mine. I was only waiting for your arrival until waiting became not knowing where you were. After that, waiting became knowing that your not coming meant you were staying away. Then there was all kinds of knowing things I didn’t want to know.

When we used to write letters, there was something of yourself you gathered up to send, it wasn’t even in the words sometimes, it was like opening up the thing that’s solitary about someone when they are thinking, you could enter in to it, you could fold it up and carry it around, open it up and marvel at the little creatures inside. That was what treasuring some absent someone felt like. That was what the past felt like till I knew better.

Driving into town, seeing somebody’s boat up in the front yard where the last hurricane left it, everything about the place askew. Thinking it could be that someone just finally gave up on it and left. Then thinking that even that wreckage could be a sanctuary for someone’s tenderness, someone could be in there asleep in someone’s arms, the smell of his skin like a balm.

I remember one day taking clothes down off the line before a storm and having to chase down a shirt of yours the wind got hold of–it made me laugh, all the world was alive. If someone had told me then that that would be my happiness in life, or that my happiness was already over but I didn’t know it yet, I wouldn’t have known what that meant, it still would have been just another day like all the days I loved you, that it might not be still wouldn’t cross my mind.

Where It Is

Early on the dog seemed more like home—no animal ever had black spinning things behind a face, that relentless hum in every room of things that weren’t words that everyone’s mind was always shouting, things I never could unhear. Even now in every grinding place without an exit, I play here-there with things I’ve turned to empty objects in my mind. Down every hallway some dark engine rushed toward me or behind me, every house was a cabinet with a mirrored front. Always alone in days or evenings that didn’t begin and didn’t end until the mind just packed off to the side, but by then I’d already seen too much of everything.

After a while, you didn’t have to keep moving all the time, you were already unrecognizable in how you managed it, a border with a life on one side open to any vantage point, on the other side the one that always smelled of paint and turpentine. The one saving discovery: that you could show invisible things with a pencil or brush on paper, paper that you could go into like a house no one could see. Later on, every time I stretched a canvas, I was building a house behind it, a place I could breathe in behind the scrim of everything else.

There was just entirely too much seeing, seeing that would not stop, one Continue reading

Haunt

They make you think you are dead. When you enter a room, nothing is happening, you speak and suddenly everyone lives in a world without sound. It’s almost corny like those movies in which ghosts don’t know they’re dead, daily life goes on, but people see right through you, you can holler or stamp your feet or try to flag somebody down, it doesn’t matter. Nothing can compensate for that, not even walking through walls, not such a neat trick when there’s nobody who will see you do it.

Other things seem smaller but take so much more doing—rattling things, opening cabinets, moving stuff around, all to no avail. Who’d have thought a tomb could be made from someone’s disregard. It somehow binds you to a spot—you’re not there, but you belong to the place, you don’t exist, but there you are, and there’s no place else for you.

You make a little chaos, but by now you’re frantic and pissed off—maybe you don’t, in fact, exist—and a little chaos isn’t as fulfilling as bringing the house down would be. You think. You will never be like the wind, known by its effects, though you could possibly be mistaken for the wind when you blow through a room. Someone can stand on top of you, but all you do is make them cold. Something you’d never expect in life, this shunning, this banishment, this invisibility.

On the other side of things, perhaps it’s hard to do, to pretend someone else doesn’t exist until you believe it or feel justified in believing it. But pretend absence inscribes a presence, the ghost you make goes with you wherever you go, even if you are always turning the petrified side of your heart toward it, it drains something of your life away. Thus this shunning becomes a kind of deathly binding.

You seek places where you won’t have to feel invisible—what a relief finally to occupy places where no one lingers: under beds, in closets, cupboards, attics. Living this underside kind of life does have its peaceful appeal. Still, it’s probably not as tricky as that implacable hostility that can deny what it is simply by making you disappear. All that spectral tapping while you are screaming I am here I’m alive I’m alive.

 

The After

warbeth 1903 crp smoke 6

This is the part where you’ve climbed as high as you can go and you can see the city, what’s left of it, spread out below like some enormous outcropping of otherworldly rock, its tarnished spires and black-hole monoliths, clouds above it moving so slowly they don’t seem to be moving, just hanging there like comic book clouds, like objects pasted onto the sky.

Somebody made that place, you say. And unmade it.

A lot of somebodies, he says.

If there are somebodies down there, you can’t see them from here, though you doubt there are any somebodies left alive there and you haven’t seen any somebodies apart from your somebody in all these days you’ve been trudging along looking for higher ground, carrying with you that hasty survival kit composed of sundry canned foods that could exist only in a world that never imagined an apocalypse–you finally ate the pink peppercorns in brine last night, unable to envision what sort of dish they might have been a condiment for.  Why you grabbed and haven’t yet ditched your costume jewelry and a bag of miscellaneous nails and furniture tacks and S-hooks, or why out of all the tools you could’ve grabbed from the toolbox you selected the hex wrenches and a miniscule Phillips head screwdriver, well, you’ll never know.  A few days out he said, Useless. You always save the most useless junk.

Here you stand, mesmerized, a condition humans cannot tolerate for very long unless they themselves have chemically induced it, so both of you have followed your minds down into the city. One of you imagines the fires are out and the animals have moved on, leaving behind a grimy sort of urban emptiness, the kind represented in movies by empty streets through which newspapers or grocery bags fly about and little dust devils pass through, no humans in sight. The other of you imagines a long ago time when you wandered that place together, slept in a bed at night, sat on grass in the sun. We don’t know who imagines what, though in truth there’s little imagining involved–the world as you knew it has ended, and you don’t even have any personal memories of it, all that’s left in your mind are filmic tropes.

I’m going back, he says.

You say, What do you mean you’re going back?

He says, I mean I’m going back.

You say, Are you serious? We’ve been walking for over a month to get up here and survey the territory, as you say, and now you want to go back?

I’m going back, he says.

You say, Why? There’s nothing left there but coyotes and trash and broken things, there aren’t even people down there.

He says, we don’t know that.

But we do know that, you say. We searched on our way out. Every damn building and park. We even searched that damn artificial cave at the zoo. I can’t believe I let you talk me into that. Going back to what? It’s just one big grave. Fires. No water.

The city’s big, he says, we didn’t look everywhere.

Like most conversations of this sort, this goes on too long, punctuated too often by silences that don’t seem like silences any more. With only minor variations in its subject matter, it’s like almost every conversation longer than three minutes that you’ve had with him for the past twenty years. Even now you’re talking without looking at each other, gazing out at a scene of desolation to which he wants to return. You are the peacemaker between how you imagine him and how you imagine he imagines you, so you elicit from him a promise that he will sleep on it.  You make camp, which amounts to lying down in the blankets and quilts you wear during the day and drinking a little water, down to strict rationing now, and sharing a can of julienned beets, you’ve only three cans left but you keep forgetting what they are, though that’s in addition to the two tins of Spam, which you’ve agreed to save for last, whenever last comes.

Lying here looking up at a sky weirdly clear and full of stars, you are thinking that in a couple of days you’ll see the ocean, not that there’s much of a plan there, it’s just the next destination fixed in your mind, first the lake on the outskirts of town, then the nearest hill, then a hill here and there after that, that stand of trees, that thing that looked like a stream but turned out to be a flock of black garbage bags, this promontory where you are now.

You don’t know when in this journey through no place toward no place in particular you started thinking only in terms of place, having abandoned thoughts of food, of warmth, of the company of other people, indulging in the thought that at least you are together, and now the thing that you’ve been repeating to yourself without really being aware of it is rolling through your mind like a tank: at least we have each other.

Superimposed on the sky now: scrolling images of people interviewed after tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, explosions, inner city warfare—Thank god we still have each other, they say, at least we have each other, we’re just happy that we have each other. What does it mean to have each other, what does that mean, is it just some mutual way of saying we’re glad we’re not alone?  You dream you are a shiny silver aircraft of some kind, unmanned, dropping plasma bombs.

In the morning, he’s gone. He’s left you a liter of water and a can of okra and tomatoes. Heights make you dizzy, so you get down on your belly in the dirt and wiggle over to the edge of the cliff to look down to see if you can see him, but the morning haze has set in and you can’t really see anything except this little piece of earth you’re on. You just lie there awhile even though you know you need to pack up and start looking for some shade.

You’re thinking he never said why he wanted to go back, and you’re thinking that he had a plan but you weren’t in it, he didn’t say let’s go back, come with me, I’m going back, but you dodge that thought by wondering idly, as if you are thinking about some fictive character, precisely how long he had been thinking it over, when he made up his mind, whether he was thinking about it even before the first EMP, why he decided to tell you at that particular moment. What was he thinking, you think. That there are all kinds of somebodies left he’d rather be with, that there’s some tribe of sturdy survivors with attractive stores of food the looters hadn’t gotten to and loose women just waiting for him to arrive? That he’d rather be alone in a dangerous place than nowhere with you? That anywhere is better than here wherever here is?

A bit less idly, you start thinking about why even now you are wasting time thinking about what he may be thinking, reflecting that whenever you’ve actually known what he was thinking it was usually something that didn’t make any sense or something you didn’t really want to know, some thinking, usually of an elaborate and repetitious kind, merely being a way of not knowing.

You wish you had a door to slam. You wish you had a wall and something breakable to throw at it. You wish you wished those things in a more heartfelt way. But you don’t.

Before you pack up, you take out the things you’ve kept so well hidden you’ve almost forgotten about them and lay them out on the ground—a rather too complex Swiss army knife, a roll of cash, a fistful of silver dollars that you’d been hanging onto as some kind of novelty, some gold jewelry your auntie left you, a flashlight, a sizeable stash of batteries of various types, several yards of nylon clothesline, silk underwear, useful if it ever got cold again, a water purification kit, a bottle of heavy-duty sunscreen, salt tablets, a small but nonetheless substantial first aid kit, a sewing kit you’d snagged for no reason from a hotel in the distant past, some glow sticks, but the kid’s party kind, not the emergency kind, strike anywhere matches in a waterproof box, a bottle of aspirin, several packets of some kind of vitamin and mineral thing to mix in water, you’d be needing a source of water in a couple of days, a snack-sized baggie containing some weed and rolling papers, a couple of space blankets, three tiny bottles of tequila, pens and paper, a compass, a rosary, a camera.

You take a photograph of this stuff, these riches. You’re laughing now. You’re thinking that you crossed some kind of line when the two of you could have used things from this stash but you kept it to yourself, like several nights ago when the last of the batteries you were using for his flashlight gave out, or on one of the first days of this trek when he cut his hand wrestling with a can of fancy beans and could have used some things from your first aid kit. You’re thinking that you had really crossed the line before that when you packed these things and then forgot about them, forgot about them so long that you couldn’t imagine the circumstances in which you could have produced them without feeling guilty. It’s like some other part of you has been looking out for you. You don’t doubt for a second that if he’d known about your stash he would have helped himself before sneaking away that morning without even saying goodbye, good luck, fuck you.

By the time you’ve packed up, the haze has started to dissipate, you can see a bit of the city, you’re feeling kind of exhilarated to be looking at it for the last time, to be on your own without feeling bad about feeling alone. Before turning around and heading out for wherever it is you’re going, you say it out loud: Not even. Not even if you were the last man on earth.

Second Life

We knew we would die and we didn’t care. When we discovered we were already dead, we reckoned we’d been conscripted.

For several millennia we walked the outer wall, which was not the same wall if one thought of it as, say, an inner wall, which is not to say that we ever knew where we were or who we were, if we were us or if we even knew each other.

At first–in a remnant of maybe someone’s old neighborhood or maybe some coastal sort of place where we were maybe born–there was only one landmark: an iridescent oil slick, left behind, someone claimed, by a factory of former ones plying furtive somethings in remote and desperate locales. Well, hell, someone said, is quite remote, but others disagreed, saying hell was usually located rather close to where one lived and thus, given that we were dead and all, probably was not the remote we were in.

Rumors reached us that our pets were pacing morosely about near some
Continue reading

Wet

Ito mer compr

A woman washes up on a lonely stretch of beach. The sun is barely up. Three men are passing by on their way to do some surf casting. She asks them what town they’re in, they look at her and quickly look away, she asks them for a drink of water and, of all things, a cigarette, they’ve got no time for female foolishness, they ignore her and walk on, their minds have gone on ahead to where they’re going.

Although the don’t-look-and-it-won’t-exist method of managing reality does sometimes work, in general, it’s just not good not to assist drowned women regardless of where they are or what they ask you for. If no kindness meets them on land, they are stuck there for years and years living again as ordinary women. More or less.

Give them wine, give them something to dry off with, be a friend, and they can go back to the water and you can go back to your life. But some men see a shitload of trouble when a woman suddenly rises up out of the sea. They don’t know what trouble is. Continue reading

Conjure

This is the part in which you are strolling with the conjure woman in a garden filled with inexplicably scary or scarily inexplicable prehistoric looking plants, gigantic things, dwarfing, one supposes, the mere humans in the middle distance and reminding us of the, oh, the ephemerality of it all. Of course, the reason you’re with the conjure woman is that you thought she could do something about the ephemerality of things, specific things–fading, fleeting, gone already, in the kind of past that really is over. She is saying to you or maybe to me “I tol’ you and tol’ you so” or, perhaps, “I tol’ you so-and-so” or perhaps she is just nodding her head in that tired you-wouldn’t-listen way.

No matter. What she told you before that you wouldn’t listen to is this: if you have to make a charm for someone to love you, you have to take whatever kind of love you get from it, but you also have to take whatever kind of love it makes you give. Or, rather, you have to take the person you become when what you want to have for love is something that the person you want it from really doesn’t want to give you. In other words, in the scene from the past that may be appearing in a thought bubble in your vicinity, you asked for a mojo hand to make something happen that wouldn’t happen otherwise, and she warned you.

She warned you then in that other part that you are now remembering in this part—by the way, she’s not wearing a head-rag or a voluminous colonial skirt, she looks rather like a successful businesswoman, like really successful, like the clothes are understated and exquisite, and if you keep thinking about this you are going to get a fair idea of exactly how much business she does, even though it’s of basically three types: get and re-get and un-get. At any rate, she warned you that the outcome of the thing she could make for you and the let’s-bake-a-weird cake things you’ll have to do with it that these things are unpredictable–maybe help, maybe harm, that’s what she said. And then she gave you what you wanted, which has amounted to simultaneously giving you what you want and punishing you for thinking it was something you could have.

Which is why you’re here now after begging her to meet you. And now instead of asking her to undo it, you are asking her to do more to it, and you know it’s like that time you agreed to cut your girlfriend’s hair and your attempts to correct your mistakes and then to correct your corrections ended up with her having a more or less skinned head. And, of course, how do you think Miss Conjure got those fine clothes that you could never in a million years afford, if not by giving people what they deserve when they think they deserve something else?

She’s answering her phone now and giving you the cellphone finger. You wander down the path like a kid headed home after being shut out of a game. Or maybe you’re just starting to give in to the next outrageous thing that’s going to come out of your mouth. You realize now that you’re in the arboretum not some mystical garden though there is in fact a kind of mystical slant of late afternoon light coming in from somewhere, big stripes of it across the path full of what looks like extremely fine gold dust and you could just crawl up under that tree where shade has given things clear edges.

And then she’s saying she won’t do what you want, and you shouldn’t want it done [three-beat pause], but she knows someone who will. Suddenly she’s gone and you are standing there looking at the back of one of her business cards on which she’s written a phone number and a name. But you won’t pause to consider whether you should explore possibilities other than calling Madame Virginie and taking that taxi that’s going to miraculously appear when you get out to the street. Or at least you’re going to think of it as miraculously appearing, along with other things you’ll interpret as presaging in a happy sort of way the world you’re going to be living in when you are defined by the love that you are thinking of yourself as merely nudging along.

Listen: cicadas, that sound that winds around everything until there’s nothing else.

Tol’ you so.