when a body dies is it then the verb rotting?, the adj. hauntingly?, or in a slang universe — “grounded” — or in the industrial present indicative, a literal dirtbag, a fleshy encasing of diluted organ, flat tissue parallel with the entrance to heaven. my father wrote me, “the dog has died. we buried her on the path to a future tense,” “where no single thing can be erased, but built,” my brother said, and the dog, from underneath, beat the feet of all of us, because he smelled the can of tuna in my lunchbox.
reworking some things for Hobart and Tin House.
the older i get, the more questions i have. that’s what i’ve noticed. i have questions about how to sew and unsew the binding of a book so that i can have one solid copy of all of my thoughts, make addendums when needed. uncomplicate and complicate my life in the way a synagogue can move its walls to accommodate the growing masses when forgiveness is to be celebrated. i also want to know why my dill plant died. i did everything the woman at the market said. i don’t want to believe it was because the plant, somehow, represented my insides, keeled over in the sun, and just called it quits. i believe it, but i don’t want to, which i also have questions about, but i know not a single person who can offer an unbiased perspective about that kind of thing. my soul, or something like that. i don’t know anyone who knows anything worth mentioning about my soul.
Your skin like dawn
Mine like musk
One paints the beginning
of a certain end.
The other, the end of a
Hey would you like some wine and eggs
I once had faith that good things would happen.
i wanted to write something about a man who clenches a piece of the earth in his hand and turns it to red, but the only place i know of with clay dark enough to bleed is the panhandle of texas, prairie gold and empty the way a place should be. i have staggered memories of time when it existed in that yellow, long drives straight through a sunset. come out the other side a mystic, or a god, or a man with a gun. my mother was mannered then, spanish fortress alone against a brown hue backdrop of sorrow and infinite flat, the vast undoing on every side of her still too far to untangle with her own hands which were always too full of liquor as it were. but i remember her back. always her back. statue of a valley too deep to uncover.
your muscles never tire from soaking up blood and your heart never ceases to pump it.
we started arguing about money and dinner and the whole purpose of a coexistence. all i wanted to do was cover my ears and scream. i said, “sometimes i need you to think a little more about the things i have to think about because i just can’t do it all the time.” which is an example of awful, stress-induced phrasing. but i kissed him anyway, and we ate dinner near the bus stop, arms full of groceries we could hardly afford this week.
yesterday we took a bus that would drop us off closer to the bank so we could pay rent and brian grabbed my hand and pulled me into the half pint for a drink. when you’re that angry at nothing and too sad to move any further past the snow banks, the warmth of a janky townie bar is a tolerable future. we talk about baby-proofing the house a lot. where the bookshelves will go. what about the heavy tube amp, about your straight razor, we need to get those plastic outlet plugs. we talk about thanksgiving. if both families will come visit, whether they’ll fight if there’s a small child in the house and how your father won’t leave a mark on him like he did you.
a week ago my mother’s sister got in contact with me. i’ve spent 15 minutes every morning before work looking through her pictures. honey hair, red cheeks, the height of the woman who raised me. i wanted to say something to someone about it, something like, “hey look at my mother’s hair, it’s the same as mine, i’m her daughter can you tell?” instead i’m sort of still silenced by the disconnect i feel, how little anyone else knows or cares about this great undoing in my life. this precipitable void i can’t catch and release.
i’ve never been a fundamentally sad person. something about my charm, how easy it is to make others laugh. but i haven’t come to terms with the cold yet. everything aches. my knuckles bleed. i’m here out of circumstance. for another two years. we’re here to build worth and value, to create and uphold a standard of life. to provide space for long-distance family. to be family. but here there’s the added bonus of worry, of being disliked and spoken down to by people who have a deeper history here than i ever care to. of manipulative exes, crevices in your past where the light never shone.
i keep not moving. finding myself in nets in my own head, talking to myself about discourse and rhetoric and what i would have said that night at the bar if i were as terrible a person as she is. and i’m so sick of circles. i have a story due soon about a canyon and a man at a stop sign thinking about what he left behind. it’s destroying me. as if i’m not just calculating what i’ve been through, creating paragraphs about it and making it about someone else so that i’m free to express it without feeling guilty that i’m feeling at all. are there words for that? some untranslatable, native-tongue expression about wanting to be empty so i have nothing to claim?
last week a deaf man followed me to the bus every morning after waiting at the foot of my front steps. 5:38 am, every day. i was scared. and i didn’t say anything to anyone for too long because i wanted him to give me a reason to leave this state. to start over. to be hurt by someone else’s hands instead of my own. now i stand at the corner alone, afraid of the wind and the howling it makes, or the howling i make, or the echo of nothing in the wake of it all.
so i count to ten and i’m still there. i wake up quietly and alone on the weekends, make three french presses of espresso, and dictate to a page the intricate complexion of a man’s face. i fill a notebook with diagrams of plot and color. these things commune without struggle or much effort, for which i am thankful.
i woke up at 2am this morning, sat on the couch while he slept and tried to make sense of what’s under my skin. i listened to Aletta 23 times and figured maybe i could write about the relevance of it lately, the nets in my head, the thick bones in my hand that freeze up with the outside.
i didn’t sleep much after i turned off my computer and got back in bed. pictured my mother at my age, holding her breath while i cried in another room. reconfigured an idea about your father ice fishing with luke diack. refilled the bottle of water twice before your first alarm.
shortly after you left i was a scene, standing in the backyard in the hour before dawn, thick boots and pajamas and the ridiculous hat you bought me for our first christmas. the slow inhale of a cigarette with a weird after-taste. a light flipped on in the house behind ours. through a set of dirty blinds i watched a woman wash her face and brush her teeth. when she seemed settled with herself, the light went out and i laughed, thinking how strange it was that everyone stares out into space in the same way, their morning routines so awash with metaphor that it’s no wonder we all motion for the same happy deaths day after day.
something tells me it’s all worth it.
the latin second declension. to be tugged, to be dragged, to be hauled. to be, in some rooftop-lined vista of our time together, a ligature slurred into a singular kern, a full-body shadow in our daylight-bulb margarine glim. of my hands, of the clench-soft pleural cavity of your misaligned ribs. “belief in the casual nexus is superstition.” you: edulcorate mass. heaven bestowed me a scratch universe.