Friday, March 30, 2012

gumdrops


and now here it is again

that deep, dark well

where you drop your water down inside

and you can pour your water down inside forever

but it will never reach the bottom

Friday, March 23, 2012

Spring is a Liar

Every spring I am seduced.  I say I loathe spring -I do! -and yet I am seduced.

When winter turns to spring, I feel that familiar resentment over the change that I hardly feel anything again until autumn -which I love so much, when all thoughts turn to death and the dying...

But I always think it unfair, this horror of death, when in autumn and winter things do bloom and do grow -and don't we human beings continue?  Don't we go on?  Even the hibernating bear in winter will wake again.

It is the Spring that is the liar.  But so am I, who thinks I don't love you, but here I am again -seduced.  You inveigle with promises I've heard before but not realized I'd missed.  You give me a different way to see and different ways to feel, so when you touch my skin, all my protests fly out the window.

But even as I give in, I know this will end.  And this is why Spring is a liar.  In autumn and in winter, one has nothing but secrets and truths -and always the hidden beginning of things.  But in the spring and then in the summer, when you are busy having wine with a friend at a sidewalk café, when the sun warm on your skin you think everything is going to last forever -the world is in fact falling apart beneath your feet.

But this is the lie that we always want, for the truths are hard to take.  

In the winter, when you feel the cold sun will never shine again, and the planet is laid bare to you, you just close your eyes and pray for the soft green lie that spring will bring.  

So you have given into its warm embrace, like the maiden in the burning coffin.  And I do too.  So many times.

And you thought you were friends, and you thought you were lovers, but you couldn't survive the winter, when the nights stretched out and the darkness fell and you discovered harsh truths about this life that you thought was so fresh.

But you kept chewing on it, and it only made you sick, but you’ve already given too much of your self-worth and dignity to stop gnawing on something that at worst may only kill you.

But I am a liar too.  and today, as I walking in the spring sun, too warm by far to be honest, there was something about the day that I liked.  Something about those colors.  And, abruptly, I realized that I am a liar too.

And it doesn't feel good, and yet it does.


and you thought that I loved you

every time I looked in your eyes

and said

I love you

and you thought that I meant it

that I really loved you

and I did

I really did

but only in the spring

and maybe even as long the summer

but

you are a liar too

so

what does it mean when you say it too

I love you

her basket of secrets

anyone watching from afar would have seen a ghostly figure, shrouded all in black, moving about the night meadow with surefooted ease, plucking what looked to be little fireflies from the night air and dropping them into a covered basket -in much the same way one might surreptitiously yet with little guilt pluck a rose from a neighbor’s bush.

the mystery figure made almost no sound at all, and to watch the entire scene was like watching a dream with the edges so crisp and so sharp, it simply had to be real.

suddenly, a twig snapped in the night air and -with that -the mystery figure abruptly disappeared.

Friday, March 16, 2012

digging in the dirt

he’d said “I love you” multiple times in the night, clutching her -wet with sex, wet with alcohol, wet with sleep.  she was sure he meant it, at least in that moment, but how many other times and other girls (certainly not women -not woman like her) had he clutched just like her and said just those same words, hazed with sleep and sex and alcohol?

she rolled her eyes upward toward the shovel above her.  all of them, she thought, not even ruefully.  

he was burying her alive.

though none touched her through the glass cover, she gasped when the first dirt hit.  With a thud, it dumped from his shovel and scattered above her.  through the dark brown and black spatter, she could see him.  he was focused on his task, but every so often, he would look down upon her, his marvelous, long-lashed eyes wide open directly into hers.

she had always had trouble holding his gaze, and so she blinked, and in that moment, more dirt heaved down upon her sarcophagus.  this was terrible -the claustrophobia alone would undo her.  already her breaths were coming in short and quick and desperate gasps.  she moved her head from side to side, trying to see more of where she’d come to, but there wasn’t much to see inside the small glass box that he’d given her.

she felt naked and warm and moist, like the soil around her.

she opened her mouth to stop him, for surely he would do anything she asked him to, but abruptly she closed her mouth and did not protest.  

soon, all she could see of the sky was a bright, disruptive gash in the black that was her grave.  Rather than growing smaller, the gash seemed to be growing further.  she reached out to him, but he was so far away now, still looking down at her, but not seeing her.  and, anyway, her fingers could only reach as far as the glass lid of the coffin.  she pressed her palms flat against the glass cover, leaving hand-prints misted by her foggy breath.

she closed her eyes and now everything was black.  she could feel herself falling asleep, the way that she could sometimes.  the other night, she’d felt the sleep coming in her brain, like the bicycle in her dream, and she’d jerked anxiously awake before the bicycle could crash into her.  this time, though, the sleep came heavier.  it pressed down upon her chest, almost mouth to mouth, stealing her breath from her lungs without the satisfying suction of a deep French kiss; it oozed around her naked flesh, like a rapist with bad intentions.

rather than warm, she felt suddenly cold.

ever so slowly, she could feel herself freaking out, but there was nothing she could do about it.  she couldn’t even scream, not with the sleep deep in her mouth.  desperate, she pressed against the glass that was now heavy with dirt.  she pressed up against it like a lover, trying to convince it to move for her; to give way for her; hoping that her body would be compelling and persuasive... but the glass was an unwilling lover, and it was unmoved by her.

and then -suddenly -she was dead.

Friday, March 9, 2012

this is the man's world

International Women’s Day had been yesterday.  The day always annoyed him, as did Black History Month, and any other month or day devoted to some arbitrary segment of the population -like they needed constant praise and approbation.  Didn’t he go to work every day?  Didn’t he put food on the table, in his home, every day of every month of the year?  Where was his praise?  Where was his adulation and his glory and his special day of the special month of the-

“Did you shave?”

These were her first words when he walked through the door.  He had just spent all day at work.  He was exhausted.  He just wanted five minutes to himself before she started to list the ailments of her day, most of which started with him and something he’d done wrong.

“No, I didn’t have time this morning-”

“ugh,” she groaned, “The one thing I asked you to do today.  I don’t suppose you stopped at the store either?  We’re out of milk, you know.  I reminded you of this repeatedly.”

He sucked in his breath as an answer to her.

She threw up her hands in response.

“Ooh, great,” she took a deep breath, “no milk either.  Fantastic.  Well, hurry up.  We’re already late.”

“Late-” but he remembered before the rest of the sentence was out of his mouth.  Shit.  The parent-teacher conference was tonight, and he’d already missed it twice.  This was the third reschedule.  If they missed it again, their children would be placed “on the bubble,” along with the other kids whose fathers didn’t care.  But, he did care.

The second time he’d missed and she’d had to call the school, she had muttered under her breath -clearly, so that he could hear her -that she’d switch her status to “single” if she had to, in order to avoid embarrassing “shit like this.”  That had cut him.  He already felt marginal in their children’s lives as it was.

He’d hear her sometimes in the evenings, on the phone with her friends who had more caring husbands, seriously discussing a change in her civil status; going on and on about how little he did for her.  He could almost hear her friends nodding their heads on the other end of the line in solemn agreement, silently whispering their thanks to god that their husbands weren’t total wastes of space like he was.  

She was spending more time with her single friends too, he’d noted.  Maybe she didn’t think he noticed stuff like that, but he did.

“Where have you been?” he’d ask.

“Out,” she’d answer without making eye contact, already busy packing the kids’ lunches for the next day.  He may as well as have been wallpaper.

“I fixed the leaky faucet.”

“Wonderful.”  She was already in the master bathroom, with the door closed.  Their daughter knocked on the door.  It opened, but just enough so that she could enter.  He could hear them through the door, whispering and giggling on the other side.

Resigned to life in the enemy encampment that had become his home, he trudged downstairs, ostensibly to watch TV, but really in search of allies.  First, he ventured into the living room, but it was empty.  Then he peeked out the back door, but no one was in the backyard either.  Finally, in the room that was supposed to be his den but had instead become the family library, he found his son hiding behind a book.

He reached over and ruffled his hair.  The affection was deep in his heart when he looked down upon his son.  “Your mother doesn’t pay you much mind, does she?”

“We’re out of milk.”

The words were like a sword, stabbing him in the heart.  “Ah,” he groaned softly, “so you’re on her side too?”

His son blinked up at him.  “Is there milk?”

He sighed.  “No.  I had a long day; I forgot.”

“You didn’t shave either,” his son noted matter-of-factly, “Mother said she’d file for ‘single’ status if you forgot again.”  His eyes went back to his book.  Well, that explained his son’s defection.  If she was openly declaring her intention to leave him, all the better for her son to be on the winning side -hers.

With renewed motivation, he pulled out his shaving kit, determined to be the one done shaving in the guest bathroom before she reemerged from the master bathroom.  

From the living room came the sound of the television, tuned to the Presidential Address.  He groaned.  No wonder she was over-the-border pissed.  Having to reschedule for the third time meant that everyone -including her and their children’s teachers, as well as some of the school’s support staff -would be missing the President’s Address tonight too.  How had he missed that?

He managed to be ready before her, standing in the living room, watching the Presidential Address while he waited.

“Did you DVR it?” she asked.

“No-”

“Yes,” their son answered, piping in over him.

“Aw, thank you, sweetie.”  She ruffled the hair at the top of his head, her affection for him perhaps tempered ever so slightly because he was a boy.  As he watched his wife, he wondered sometimes if he imagined it, this preference of hers for their daughter.  

“Let’s go!”  she chimed abruptly, her voice filled with false cheer.  He could have sworn both his children glared at him for having to leave too.  They wouldn’t be able to watch the Presidential Address as it aired live and by the time they were home from the parent-teacher conference, all of the highlights would already be out and thoroughly discussed by their friends via every social media outlet.

In the car, his daughter and son sat inert in the back seat, the light of their phones glowing back up on their faces.  He knew they were watching the livestream while txting back and forth with their friends.

“Did you see what she was wearing?” he asked his wife, trying to make conversation.

“No,” she sighed, her eyes fixed on the road, “I’m waiting to watch when we get home.”

Later, as they stood over her suitcases, a child attached to her by each hand, all the words had gone dry in his mouth.  He had never imagined this moment would happen to him.  He had plenty of friends whose wives had left them, but now here he was -and it was nothing how they’d described to him over their beers.  It was infinitely worse.

“It’s really quite simple,” she was saying, as if from faraway through a thick fog.  He barely heard her as she went on.  “The attorney assures me that you’ll keep the house and your salary; I’ll keep the stipend, of course.  In the meantime, I’m going to stay at the Women’s House until my mother arrives -and the children will come to visit with you every other weekend, as their schedule permits.”

“May I see you?” he asked, feeling as though he was choking.

She tilted her head to one side, impatient with the knowledge that the cab was waiting on the curb outside.  “Well,” she sighed, feeling just cruel enough to take the time and answer, “you’ve already served your purpose now, haven’t you?”

He blinked and looked down at his son, whose small hand gripped hers.  There were tears in his eyes when he looked up at his father, but he was fighting them back.  His son was going to be lost to him -growing up in a Women’s House, surrounded by the mistresses of society, the gatekeepers of success.  He was going to grow up as he had already grown up -feeling like a second-class citizen in his own home, where the women made and kept both the known and the unspoken rules, in a country where a woman was the President but a man would never be.  At the very least, in this world of silent and all-powerful female privilege, his son should have his father.

“Our son should stay with me.”

“Nonsense.”  And with that, she turned and scooted her children out the door.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

No More "I Love You"s

There’s no more photos to be taken.  They were all gone; used up.  She held up her camera, confused, and then she let it drop back down with her hands -hovering, hesitant for just a moment.

Was there really nothing left to see?  Her eyes blinked a few times.  The world was still there each time she opened her eyes, but what was she seeing?  If all the photos were gone, had life gone too?

Ahead of her on the sidewalk a figure moved off into the distance, vanishing gradually over the tip of the hill along with the two parallel points at the end of the sidewalk.  Life was going on, she thought with relief -but then she realized that life went on regardless of what people did.  

Life was as essential as the rocks at her feet.  She looked down at one of the stones that crouched on the edge of the sidewalk between the concrete and the grass.  One could argue that the rock was living.  If the rock could talk, it would speak of its millennium of moving earth to make mountains -and about how it was now a humble, overlooked rock by the side of the road.  

Humble though it was, the life of the little stone would go on.  Life would go on.  Then why were there no more pictures?  Her palms felt a little sweaty, and the camera was slick in her hands.  Fumbling a little, she put it away before she dropped it.

She was reminded suddenly of the story of the painter whose beloved wife had died suddenly and far too young.  He’d kept her alive by painting picture after picture of her -in their garden; in their kitchen; in their bed.  She’d always thought the story was a silly myth; just a fun thing to know and to share -but certainly not to believe.  But, now...

What if he’d not been able to paint her or, worse, not paint anymore at all?

Then he would have done nothing.  

And then not only her life -his wife’s life -would have ended, but his life would have ended too.

She felt anxious.  A shadow passed overhead, causing her to draw in a sharp breath.  She looked up, but it was only the sun moving behind a cloud.  She shook her head.  Actually, it was a cloud passing over the sun.  She shook her head again.  It was just a cloud and it was just the sun.  She felt as though her brain were folding over and over again in on itself, collapsing like a piece of folded paper into an impossible origami.

The weight of her picture-less camera very much on her mind, she stuck her hands in her coat pockets and trudged up the sidewalk, eventually disappearing over the crest of the hill, where the parallel lines of the sidewalk disappeared too.