March 1, 2014
I saw a robin yesterday. A perfect cliché, but there it was, hopping along the flowerbeds in front of the College of Fine Arts in the afternoon sunlight on the last day of February.
February 22, 2014
Sitting on the ledge outside my window, dangling my feet over the sidewalk four stories below. A crocheted blanket wrapped around my shoulders.
Twice, tears wet my eyes but do not fall. A trapezoid. That’s what the shape of the ledge is called.
A girl is running down the shadowy sidewalk. She does not appear to be wearing running clothes. A police car pulls up across the street. The officer walks toward a house with a slow, slightly uneven stride and disappears inside. A guy (boy? man?) in a red hoodie rides up on a bicycle. He eases it over the ramp of filthy snow covering the curb and chains it to a parking meter.
I miss L———. I want to gently remove every vertebrae of her deformed spine and give her my own instead. I want to pull her pain out of her body and bring it here instead, far away from her.
I am too far away.
I can see some stars tonight. The night sky here is nothing like at home, but tonight the haze of light pollution, city-lit clouds is thinner than usual, a deep blue with just a touch of milkiness instead of an opaque purple-orange fog (My mother tells me that when we first moved to the country when I was four, I watched the sky in wonder and eventually confided that I hadn’t known that the stars were up there every night instead of only on especially lucky days). Fourteen years later, I can see the Big Dipper from my Boston rooftop, and it is making me sad. I wrap my blanket more tightly around myself.
The person in the red hoodie returns with a jangle of metal. He unlocks his bike, straddles it, and pedals off. The cop emerges from the house alone, folds his body back into his vehicle, and slowly drives away.
I am afraid of being left alone.
At the intersection of Bay State and Silber, people cross the street in twos and threes, silhouetted against the wide-washing beams spreading out from waiting cars’ headlights. Shadows of branches march steadily across the fronts of the buildings, like those rotating night-lights made to soothe children into sleep.
No one below can see me. I am invisible. I am invincible—observing without being observed. I am lonely.
Why can’t I save anyone? I think about choirs. To be touched. By music, by people. Deeply blessed and infinitely, eternally wounded.
It has been forty minutes. It is cold. I step back across the wafer-thin surfacing of the roof and pull my body through the warm square of windowlight.
I lie flat on my stomach on my bed. Coat still on, blanket still draped over my shoulders. I leave the window open. I don’t know why.
I am a vessel, I tell myself. A boat pushing towards a distant shoreline, a container to be filled. I picture myself as a drifting raft, as the silence of a jar of water.
I visit K——-. You smell like outside, she says. I return to my own room, cold now, with papers scattered by the breeze, and shut the window.
I have been more scared than this.
Empty out the damage.
Waterstained ceilings, radiator noises like crickets.
The wires have all gone cold. Paper snow, a wallpaper ghost,
Newsprint and perfume.
The mathematics of stacks of dishes.
Watermarked photographs, the sunlight diffused
Into cold stillness, dust motes floating
Silently above a pale wood floor. Miles and miles
Of empty space between our atoms.
Glass frosts like lace, fractal needlework
Sprawling across the thin-stretched panes and pulling
Apart at the vertices, sliding down and dissolving
Over the salt-whitened highway.
Residue: darkened body lotion, fermented orange juice.
Waterlogged furniture, bloated cushions, frames rotting
And sagging like cardboard. Empty
Out the damage and drain the glass from the windows.
Strike a match like an apology to fusty velvet.
Chase the dawn train, offer the ashes skyward.
February 14, 2014
The trough into which I have fallen is shallower this time. Isn’t that what I’ve been telling myself?
What happened? This morning was gentle and full of promise, even the missed bus, the splashing through the slush and waterlogged sand of Kenmore Square for no reason.
My camera battery was dead, so I lay down with a book while I waited for it to charge. Housekeeping. When the thick layers of Marilynne Robinson’s prose forced me to pause, overwhelmed not by the difficulty of the density but by the immersive power of it, I lay curled on my right side and felt—for no reason I could identify—a piercing physical sadness, localized in my chest. I wondered why but I could not tell; I could see only snippets like staticky flashes projected onto a screen. Professor Prince: “You don’t have to jump…” J—-, C—-, L———, K—-: Silence. K——-’s drunkenness,the dark berries of hickies on her neck, her scarcely concealed pride in her Bad Decisions. Juxtaposed against the real trauma of her past, the pale fool it makes out of my self-constructed “damage.”
This sourceless and unnamed thing flooded over me in waves. I draped my left arm protectively over my face and contracted around the vacuum between my lungs.
At one point I became aware that I was almost dreaming and pulled back into sharp consciousness. If dreams occur only in REM sleep, the final deep of slumber, then what are the strange and vivid images that float unbidden through my head as I enter the borderland, the hazy, half-realized threshold between sleep and waking? I wondered this briefly and inventoried my body: the sharp spear-point of pain like light had not diffused. I drifted off again.
When I awoke, the light from the window was dull and ambiguous, and I knew neither what day it was nor what time. I assumed it to be morning, but I was unsure of whether it was Friday or Saturday. M——, my roommate, stood in the far corner of the room with her coat on. This worried me. She had been asleep still when I awoke and dressed on Friday morning, and I was afraid that I had fallen asleep again and lost the morning. She had turned the overhead light on; I expect that was what woke me up. Gradually, my sense of time returned. I looked at the clock. It was 5:00 exactly. I sat up and looked out the window and did not speak.
Somewhere inside of me, like a particle stranded in the vast empty spaces of an atom, the urge to cry trembles like a seed about to germinate, to burst within the soft close dark and uncurl its small pale tenderness. But this need is trapped inside an airtight container, the secure confines of a padded room, clinical and white. Safe there.
I think I am going to heat water for tea. The sweet dustiness of chamomile and then what?
None of this startles me as it once did.
Lift the curtain from your eyes, Little One.
Shed the scales. You’ve already lost things: eyelashes, toenails, teeth.
Outside, they were playing tag with guns while we were sleeping.
We were both sleeping, both asleep.
There is something sacred about space, about the cube of warm air
Between our walls.
Soft curls of steam, the scent of vanilla.
Your soap and my coffee, the days blinking and diffuse.
We can’t stay here.
They’re playing tag on the train tracks now. They’re playing tag with cars.
We’re breathing the same air now, see, it’s stitching us together.
The train was late. That space was too big to hold us.
You sigh in your sleep.
We play hide and seek with our dreams.
It’s time to grow up now; the spaces widen even as they shrink.
This place is too big for you, Little One.
Little One, check the mailbox.
Do you want me to hold your hand? Don’t tell me
You’ve forgotten your key again.
They’re playing cops and robbers outside except it isn’t a game anymore.
They’re playing tag but they aren’t getting up again.
Stay here. In this space we’ve made, it’s always afternoon,
Buttery and warm. Pull the curtain back down over your eyes.
Paste the scales back in place, the angels can wait.
The Lord will understand. What does he expect anyway?
The glue is too runny and the train is nowhere in sight.
Don’t leave me. It’s getting colder and this space
Is too big without you. Who needs whom here, Little One?
Who needs us? Not the cops, not the robbers.
They’re playing games too big for us now. Let’s pretend
This space of ours is a pillow fort.
You’re not listening.
You’re opening the windows and letting
All our air out into the cold.
It isn’t safe out there.
Sidewalk cracks swallow you whole, the wild carousels of the world
Catapulting you into their crazy games:
They’re playing house now, they’re playing market, they’re playing war.
It isn’t safe.
You’ve got to grow up but there’s no time now.
The stage is set and the hot lights
Are striking you like bullets.
You’ll say what you are going to say.
The curtain is rising.
i. I read poetry so as to break on my own terms.
ii. I’m living in the in-between between cognizance and blind emotion. I have to pull back and recognize myself as existing within a larger context. I can’t be a child anymore.
iii. Another cycle ends.
"We are here on earth to do good to others. What the others are here for, I don’t know."
W.H. Auden (via journalofanobody)
A child’s voice inside an adult body. Dance positions, an almost haughty stance. Uncomfortable with my own apparent competence.
Anxiety climbs my throat like a frantic animal clawing its way up the curtains. I miss one of you but not the other. I leave a trail of unfinished work in my wake.
My hands like chunks of solid marble. I take back what I said; this would be an awful way to die. But there is small warmth in speaking—tiny gestures help to rub out just a bit of the ache.
"I’m saying your name
in the grocery store, I’m saying your name on
the bridge at dawn.
Here is my hand, my heart,
my throat, my wrist. Here are the illuminated
cities at the center of me, and here is the center
of me, which is a lake, which is a well that we
can drink from, but I can’t go through with it.
I just don’t want to die anymore."
Richard Siken, Saying Your Names
Dark slab of river ice. The bathroom had been too white. Sirens’ song, invisible footprints. The screams reduced to static. Like the river, I seal myself over and avoid the truth.
The difference between sadness and unhappiness is that sometimes sadness smells like lemon and vanilla. I promise I’m only isolating myself because I’m lonely.