prosetry

The F Word

“What are you afraid of?” she asks, pen poised over the page of her notebook that is otherwise blank apart from my name and date of birth written at the top.

“Nothing,” I say, “I am fearless.”

“Come on now, everyone’s scared of something…”

I roll my eyes.

“Well, the thing that I was most scared of has happened. And it can’t happen again. So it’s all good,” I say, sticking both thumbs up.

“And that was…?”

“My dad dying.”

She says nothing, just stares at me. She wants me to elaborate but I don’t think she deserves to hear about my father. She has done nothing to earn it. She writes DAD DEAD in capital letters under my name and draws a circle around it twice.

“How has your mood been lately?”

“As it’s always been: oscillating wildly between extremes with no warning or explanation, no pattern or logic, no control or constraint,”

“So would you say that you ‘blow hot and cold’?”

“Yes. Hot and cold. The people around me would definitely agree with that. Cot and hold,”

As soon as it’s left my mouth, her lips curve upwards and £ signs appear in her eyes. Having been perched nervously on the edge of her chair, she now settles back into the cushion behind her, making herself comfortable.

“I meant ‘hot and cold’,” I say quickly, panicked, “not ‘cot and hold.'”

“Why do you think you said ‘cot and hold’ instead of ‘hot and cold’?” she asks wryly.

“Because I’m tired? Because I’m still drunk from last night? Because it’s an easy mistake to make?”

“I think there’s more to it than that, don’t you?”

“What, you think that my unconscious mind has sneakily revealed, without my permission, my innate longing for a better childhood, has hinted at problems since birth, has invited you to ask me about my mother and whether I was loved as a child?”

Were you loved as a child?”

“I made a mistake,” I say, firmly.

“Do you think that you were a mistake?”

“Jesus Christ, it was a simple slip of the tongue!”

“A Freudian slip,”

“Yes. No! No. I don’t know,”

“‘Cot’ and ‘hold’ evoke, in me anyway, images of babies, or those first few years of life,” she says, “do you agree with my interpretation?”

“I guess so, yeah, to some extent…”

She waits.

I am annoyed that she would waste a perfectly good page of a notebook by writing only 4 words and 6 numbers on it. There is more to me than my birthday and my dead dad.

“I didn’t have a cot when I was a baby. I slept in a fruit bowl,” I tell her, now annoyed at myself for entertaining her psychoanalyst nonsense.

“And do you remember your parents holding you? As a little girl?”

I am suddenly struck by the realisation that I have not one single memory of my mother holding me, or hugging me, or kissing me, or playing with me, or letting me sit on her lap. None at all.

“My dad held me,” I said, “there are photos. In all of the photos of me as a baby, it’s dad holding me, looking down at my squidgy face, beaming with pride and love and joy.”

“And your mother?”

I don’t say anything.

“Did your mother hold you when you were a baby?”

I look out of the window at the dying daffodils.

“Are there any photos of her holding you?”

With tears in my eyes, I shake my head.

Through gritted teeth I tell her, “I meant to say ‘hot and cold’ not ‘cot and hold.'”

She nods, places the pen on the arm of her chair, and twitsts the ring on her middle finger while staring at me with a searching look on her face.

We see out the final 17 minutes of the court-ordered appointment in silence.

On my way out of her office, I hover at the door. With my back turned to her, I tell her that I am scared of things. That I’m not fearless. That I’m scared, I’m frightened all of the time. That fear is eating me alive. The being alive terrifies me. She asks me again what it is that I’m afraid of. I tell her:

spilt milk
The Blue Meanies / policemen
tomato seeds
voices crackling through walkie-talkies
my brain
the inevitable death of Sir David Attenborough
being sectioned
my mother.

Then I close the door and walk over to the bored receptionist, a shabbily dressed guy who informs me, in perfect monotone as if reading from a script, that I’ve now completed my mandatory 5 hours of therapy and that I am free to go.

A silver thought flits through the dark behind my eyes: could it be that I don’t just need help but I actually want help, too? I think about making another appointment with the same lady, a voluntary appointment, one that I would actually engage in, one that might help me, might save me…

The guy stamps a sheet of paper, an official document declaring me to be sufficiently therapied and henceforth released from the care of the clinic, hands it to me and says, “Go on then. Bugger off!”

I take the paper from him and walk across the waiting room, thinking about his words. “You’re free to go.” I’m free to go. Free. To go. “Free.” After hearing the buzz of the security lock being opened, I push through the heavy double-doors. I’m not free. Not at all. Not in the slightest. “Fuck fear,” I say to myself, “I may not be free, but I am fucking fearless.” I drop my bag to the ground and run straight into the path of a speeding car. My final thought? “Free at last.”

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prosetry

The One Flatterer Of This Base Despair

Tears in the morning at the slightest provocation—the inconveniences of sensitivity, the troubles of necessity, and the opportunities to oppose it. The rain falls or it doesn’t, and coarse tabloid judgments are hurled at everything in between. I grow weary of trying to be definitive so I set the glass on the windowsill and avert my eyes from screens, doing my best impersonation of choosing stillness.

Miłosz observed the inescapable influence of historical context at a time when that context was quite literally governed by historical context’s inescapability, suggesting that acceptance, meaning, and possibility are dependent upon the extent to which our expressions of them reflect the zeitgeist with “scientific exactness.” Today, limits on time and attention breed anxious “musts” which branch out in all directions and frequently send us headlong into tranquil, violent, and utterly mundane abysses of pure diversion. Are they one and the same? Chaos and authority? Meaning and meaninglessness? Escape and captivity?

In the twentieth century, it was the dialectician, with his towering rationalisms and tunneled threads of theoretical consistency, who controlled the rhetorical landscape. Now, it’s the petty carnival ringmaster megaphone-spouting from every angle of every corner but I keep talking in code for lack of anything expressly geometrical to say, at once both caught and cozy in little brick and A-frame languages of home and shelter. To you I simply said part of what I felt, more or less knowing it would stack up and you’d understand. It could’ve been this way but it was that, or is, or however.

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prosetry

And We Return To The Earlier Discord

When was the last time I just watched rain fall without feeling the need to be understood on others’ terms? In youth I learned to notice and, like you, I learned silence from the talkative, flipping back and forth between metaphors and delusion leaving snowdrifts of sawdust in my head because nothing is traceless. Nothing is traceless—I say it twice for double meaning, leaving less to the imagination, sickened as I am by our constant struggles over goodness, as ridiculous as the time I traipsed through NYC in flip-flops feeling perfectly alien and all in.

Not wishing ill but feeling it, Styron feared feeding the evil person within and therefore starved himself by swallowing his perceived failures and eschewing the sustenance of his success at touching people, for better or worse. There’s such a thing as writing to prove your sanity, I confess. I was the one who killed them, he and she, the two of us, perhaps, but it was only a dream and in the dream I stood hesitating in a small room of a three-steps-down-from-the-street garden flat with my finger on the trigger of a gun that belonged to someone, a gun which had just a moment before put a bullet in her. I pointed the gun at him as if to say here please take this before there is no going back to prove anything, counterfactualizing the past before it happened and that loathsome duality was rendered single, killing me.

We left the bodies in the bathtub and I left by the back door, plunging into the dark, blue-green water of the small harbor there, alone. Submerged, I opened my eyes to navigate the subaqueous opacity, white boat hulls floating above, a forest of black dock pilings all around, and green seaweed rising from below slowing the going as I swam through the underwater labyrinth of my final moments of freedom without coming up for air or needing to. Now, I wondered with resigned disillusion, how to negotiate the terms of my latest armistice: wonderment, fear, and awe, all in the same held breath—that’s the future, gray, my second favorite color, though more so from familiarity than appeal. Gray is cover and blend, possibility and lack, the native hue of indecision and liberation. Give me blue or absence, all in or all out, I thought, kicking my foot flippers to keep from sinking deeper into darkness and pulling myself forward with cupped hands, anything but this in between, clutching both and going nowhere, on the run from the ghosts of us.

This, here beneath, is both my refuge and my pulpit, where I float and drift through embryonic muteness, where my voice bubbles and rises to the surface, giving me away, a blessing and a curse. Soon, my body will follow, ill-made as it is for such environs, and I will rise while there’s still time, still time, time still to believe in the strange virtues of freedom and evasion within the context of an undetermined certainty that our days are toe-tagged and body-bagged and on those tags are the names of our teachers and the volume of our ingratitude, right down to the last gasp of asking why we can’t stay.

It’s windy tonight, and fateful. The trees sound glad. If they were more consistent, they’d sound like the sea, I think, and I feel it: be happy, choose to be, choose rare, true, and free.

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poetry, prosetry

Pinned Like A Note On A Hospital Gown

Wednesday at 8pm on the back of a plain white business card, the address below. 4256 N Ravenswood, the ominous Brothers Grimm-ness of which is not lost on me though any sense of numerology very much quite most certainly is.

That’s today’s first certainly is, and it’s after 7:00. The next two are that the street is split by train tracks, and it’s the west side I want, southbound, quite certainly, because south is down and west is away from my shadow. Dial intercom 242. 2-4-2 on the intercom upon arrival, that is, more properly. Meet 3rd floor, less so.

Well at this rate I’ll be there by 7:50 and the sun will still be up over this the great shared world and isn’t it just beautiful and don’t you just want to smile? You better, because each and every single last fucking one of us is hurled nightly into a sleeping world all our own though I bet you didn’t know I just stole from S. Ocampo to say it so who’s to say whose is whose.

In transit, I consider language and liberation, considering that language may in fact be liberation and yet all I can seem to think to scribble are stories of how we’re living and obscure directions to other destinations.

That’s the problem with seeming to think. Better to just go on and do it, and leave all that seeming to the wanting, particularly the wanting each and every thing to be the thing, because we only get one shot before the next transmogrification.

So, taking mine, I push the envelope into another envelope and insist this time I will be delivered, now that I know the address. The sun has been fierce today and I wipe the fear from my brow with a no less fearful forearm, an act which merely smears the beads into streaks of misfortune.

How absurd it is to try so hard to be so tame when every single very last pore pronounces total freedom.

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prosetry

Achieropoieta

The sun was low and melting through the palms and garish columns when we arrived after flight and frightful drive along winding shoreline lanes in a bus too large for such turns and twists.

We approached the front desk in the open-air lobby and I heard the ocean, fancying it was music, or heard music and fancied it was ocean, and for a moment I attempted in vain to consider the virtues of solitary companionship, nevertheless wondering why I hadn’t come alone.

Days later, I would walk out into the sea through the waves till they became eye-level swells and my feet no longer touched the soft sand beneath; I held my breath and sank in the ease of dissolution.

I should just keep going, I thought as I lost all touch and all taste for judging, suspended in merciful indifference, the undulations of the blue-green water washing away any remaining fear of what I’d learned and who I’d been and what I might become in the great vastness of the permeable and possible.

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poetry

Mercy

Standing on the cliff edge,
two feet away from certain death,
I hurled the contents of the velvet box
into the Atlantic;

piece by piece,
broken-promise ring
by failed-engagement ring,
years of of tears and diamonds and memories
flew down into the sea;

now all that silver sparkling pain
is at the mercy of something bigger
and angrier than me.

(But why I don’t I feel as free
as I thought I would be?)

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