I jump in without taking a breath, without thinking. The thrashing bodies in front of me were daunting at first glance. But as I watch, as I observe the way the torsos sway and swell together, the way the arms and legs flail about, it all becomes strangely inviting. The man above us screams and wails, his throat hoarse, forehead drenched in sweat, we bathe in the shower that comes down as his head hammers the beats. Slight pains form on my skin from other bruised bodies that whack! against my own. I whack back and I feel things coming out, departing my body, from the bruises that form. Sweat, shouts, adrenaline, anger. I laugh.
Suddenly my body is thrown forward and two masses converge upon the hand I have extended to catch myself. I hear a snap. Looking down, my wrist looks twisted in the red lights.
The doctors ask how it happen and roll their eyes. Kids these days… My sweat covered body shivers when they tell me I will need surgery. I’m going to have a metal plate in my wrist. I smile. Metal in my wrist, how appropriate. The doctors place my arm in the cast, squeezing my shattered bones back into place. “Was it worth it?” they ask.
“Hell yeah, it was.”
This poem was published and recorded in the album/zine Progressions, created by The Horn RVA and Amendment Literary Journal. Link to recording here.
I watched all those family films, with the mother, father, two children, dog, and was always struck by the scene where they record the children’s growth on the wall usually on the door jam in notches and blue ballpoint pen with the age Sally 10 years Sally 12 years Matt 6 years Matt 9 years and they lived in that house for so long that they changed in it and everything inside got smaller but stayed the same and years later when the kids come back they see the wall notches and remember something and I remember when I measured my sister on the wall of our newest apartment and filled it in with pencil and mom told us to erase it because we rented and the landlord would charge us and it didn’t matter much anyway because we moved a year later and then again two years after that and so I never had notched walls.
A quick relief from the biting cold
I stand under the hotel awning
Smell the warmth of the heating lamps
The cigarette smoke from the woman clad
In fur and the bright red lipstick that covers
Her wrinkled lips and stain her teeth
And then I hear the doorman’s whistle
Hailing a cab and I remember
I need to keep walking to stay warm.
I sit in my living room and wait for two minutes. My legs are curled up on the leather couch and it chills my skin. I stare at the seemingly innocuous item on my coffee table. I take another sip of the water I chugged a few minutes ago. I think about my mother.
She wanted to become a movie director. She wanted to be the next Woody Allen. She wanted to go to Greece. She wanted to see the bleach-white houses along the cliffs.
She graduated from a university in Virginia with a Bachelor’s in Theater. She met a boy at that college and they fell in love. She moved to Brooklyn, and when the boy asked if he could come with her, she said yes. She was there only a year before she sat in the same position I am in. Perhaps she also curled her legs up on the couch. Maybe it felt cold against her skin as well. I don’t know.
She was 24 when she got pregnant. I wonder if she had second thoughts. If she thought about the white houses and how she wanted to live there. If she thought about the coolness of the camera’s viewfinder against her eye. If she thought about going to the clinic. If a protestor had shoved a sign in her face and she turned around. Was she scarred enough to keep me or brave enough to keep me? I don’t know.
I graduated from the same university in Virginia with a Bachelor’s degree in English. I met a boy at that college and we fell in love. I moved to Brooklyn, and when the boy asked if he could go with me, I said yes. I am 24 and I have never wanted kids.
I have three younger siblings. I helped my mother when she was a nanny. I volunteered at a day care and I had baby dolls as a child. I even pretended to breastfeed my doll once. But I never wanted kids. When they asked the students in my class what they wanted to be when they grew up, I always changed my answer. Archeologist. Writer. Actress. Dancer. Movie Director. I never realized when the other girls said their answers, they meant Mother.
So in the two minutes I sit in my living room, I think about how I never want kids. I think about the boy my mother moved to Brooklyn with. I think about how he became my father. I think about the boy I am in Brooklyn with. I think about my mother being brave. I think about the white houses on the cliffs. I think about Woody Allen.
The timer on my phone goes off and I reach for the pregnancy stick that is sitting on my coffee table. As I reach, I think about how I am like my mother. I think about how I need to be brave enough to not be her.
*This creative essay was published in Minetta Review in 2016.
I am drawn back to bed by the sheets
that hold your sillage and I press
My nose to their faded white inhale
tobacco and sweat I linger and ignore
The mental calculations: wash the sheets
how long until my train comes when will
You come back to bed
He dreamt that he would go out into the hues
Terra cotta orange desert purple wet green
Of a cactus he would disappear
Into the sand and swatches
The hills of rolling erosion turn
Twist under the hands of the wind
It conducts a symphony from the movement
Of grains it hums moans whispers
His skin takes on the consistency
Of a lizard’s skin turns burnt yellow
Black Mojave bead eyes in his skull
He watches his body crack crumble
Become a part of the dunes he sings
With the specks he hums with the hills
He moans with the mounds he shifts under
The wind’s finger and then he awakens
Her eyes are dark brown at night
but when the light hits them just so
they have the consistency of sand
the grains of iris shift
like dunes when the pupils dilate
and dance with changing light fixtures
When she was born the hospital maternity ward was full
they brought her mother to an operating room
cold and cave-like smooth stainless steel
her father held her while they tried to sew
her mother up they were too slow even though
her father later said that they moved frantically
sliding over her mother’s body like snakes
leaving the smallest of impressions
Her brother would stare at the radio and murmur
back to the voices he said he heard
when she was younger she would listen too
and pretend that she could hear them as well
she stopped playing when she got older he did not
he stopped looking at her and made
small frantic whispers to responses only he could hear
when her brother begged for her to kill him
her sandy eyes wept like turbulent beaches
Her father was too busy staring at a blood stained coast
in the Pacific where he had cut a man’s head off
during the battle at Guadalcanal
he would wake up screaming that the head
was sitting at the foot of his bed it was smiling
after a while she stopped getting up to check on him
when he killed himself in the bathtub
her eyes became the Sahara
I grew up in a town of worn wood and uneven
Brick houses with panels stained from cigarette burns
The house two doors down was abandoned and stood
Empty and possibly haunted but we lived
In our own haunted home so we didn’t notice
The backyard of the abandoned house had grown
Daffodils whether wild or planted by a ghost our mother
Never had much of a green thumb but she loved
The yellow petals so she hoisted my sister and I
Over the frayed fence and we picked the daffodils and dug
Up the bulbs with our bare hands dirt under our nails
We clambered back over the fence and mother
Put them in a vase on our china cabinet the flowers died
In a few weeks and the bulbs she planted in our small yard
The Mormon boys wear white shirts walking across the park in the afternoon light
A soulful shine radiates off of those shirts starched pressed and ironed free of every wrinkle
This gold unearthly glow around the edges like the light of a projector through soft celluloid
They scatter slowly pass out their cards of salvation promising
The elderly woman with bent fingers that grasps their hands so tightly
While the young man with a smirk on his face asks why there is suffering in the world
And the little girl runs up to them but is quickly ushered away by her mother
Perhaps these people need help or maybe they are just drawn in by that light
The ethereal shine of their immaculate shirts
I walk by with a sudden urge to shake my pagan hips before them so I can turn
Their heads and tempt them like Offred or the Magdalene I want to see if they will stare
To see if there is red blood beneath all the white will they blush or maybe bulge
But instead I stride by tall no expression my face looks forward
Rather than above they offer me nothing they must not know their audience
I have never been to church in my life
Watching them from afar I can see that the glow is rather a sole-ful one
Not from within it comes from the sun an object I would much rather worship