Longing

I saw a post by a friend I knew from my youth in Venezuela, someone I always associate with the color yellow- yellow hair, yellow shorts, softly mellow in countenance. The post was about a helicopter crash, small and not tragic, atop Auyán Tepui in Venezuela. It was about a foreign service agent and a writer. I started to read the post and was flattened with longing for this country we knew. 

I’ve had years of longing for Venezuela before, but not like this. I know at once the scorch of the air. I can feel the humus of red clay under my feet. I can see and heft the rocks bejeweled in mica, gold and silver everywhere. There is the scratch of Monte against my face, my bare arms. There are the mountains, slippery purple and rooted in scrub. There is the tang of mangos, and flies upon the rotting pulp. All the insects are powerful, all the beaches soft. The colors shout in vivid splendor, colors that are only occasional in other places I’ve been. This is because the saturation is never interrupted. And there I am in this wild and certain place, young and naive, in my t-shirt and shorts, trusting life so completely.

I wonder if what I long for, truly, is to trust in life again, to revel in the breath that binds us together. I wonder if it’s something different, something crass, like a desire for arrogant privilege. I don’t think it’s a yearning to return to my youth. I never want to relive those follies. But maybe it is neither. Maybe it is a longing not to be afraid of death and the death that is piling up around us. Maybe it is a yearning for certainty and hope amidst the crack of rigid minds. 

For now, I will try to stand on my head so things will make sense.

7:36

My first clue that time had stopped was when I noticed the analogue clock in my son’s room said 7:36. I had already been awake for hours, long enough to make three breakfasts, one for each of us. Long enough for Betty the dog to be given a long, long walk, a task I delegated to my other child whose room does not have an analogue clock. Betty had three poos I’m told. She just now had another. This means I have to get a different dog food that requires I go to a store I hate because it is owned by a ridiculous man who is just so ridiculous that the words to describe him are ridiculously absent. There are many like him. Wait. I forgot. I have time. I will make my own dog food.

It is still 7:36, day or night, so I will be late for work either way. I don’t care a whole lot, not terribly much.

This day I also took a bath because I couldn’t remember how many days it had been since my last one. I said a rosary because that is one thing I can do. Last night I prayed, too, for my sister who has been feverish for days despite testing negative for Covid19 with the American made test. I prayed for my children, which is really just praying for myself, because they were melting down like wax on a light bulb. They were hitting out, kicking up their feet and flailing their arms like three year olds. The difference here is that teenage bodies engaging in such tornadic behavior causes plaster to fall from the ceiling. At any rate, I asked, “what am I supposed to do?” The answer was, “Nothing.” This is a hard lesson for me. As of 7:36, the storm seems to have passed.

I’ve noticed that with the gears of time jammed up as they are, the weather is quite bizarre. We had three mini blizzards complete with darkened, wind whipped skies. These blizzards were divided up by three trumpets of intense sunshine. It is still 7:36 and the weather appears to be calm. No, not calm. It is still, like a cat ready to pounce.

At 7:36, a feral kitten-cat slunk past the back porch. Finally the troops have arrived! The mice inside the house are out of hand. I asked St Francis to see about this when they began construction on an apartment building inside the oven. I don’t want to do poison because of the chain, you know the one, how every action affects every other action and lives will be lost. Of course, I think about Betty and how, despite her magnificent dog wisdom, cannot discern between what is good to ingest and what is not.

Well, it’s still 7:36, a little early to get up since we’ve already had breakfast, too early to go to sleep for the night, and nowhere near the time to go to work. It is, however, the perfect time for a nap.

A Singular Body

Humanity is a body singular.
See how
When pressured to
When ordered to
When prevented from
leaning in, touching, breathing
each other in,
Even the quietest, most distant, and fearful among us
recognizes this unnaturalness, knows the desire and the lack. 

To be separated, caged
in a cage
or in our own homes
rips a hurricane through our chests.

Just this once, we tell ourselves,
No one will know
about that clandestine hug.
No one will know about that nip taken
at the glass-block corner bar.
No one will see how broken
were the rules,
how that is not separate from this:

I watched my neighbor through the window
contained in his snow-edged yard.
He wore a t-shirt and carried a yellow bucket that swung too high
to contain anything.
Why an empty bucket?
Why the t-shirt? Though spring, it is still winter.
And why winter?

Last night through my window
The trees became my eyes.
My eyes became a lace of branches
visible only in winter,
visible only in the naked tree
against a moon sky. The stars stranded themselves
in that lace, a pattern and beauty impossible
for any human to replicate
because our body in the body is not whole,
is not distinct
from your body and mine.

It makes me sick
that some men, sallow and sour, and
the stupid women who suck their
cheeks in to be gorgeous
are part of the body too.

Let them be welcome.

But not as the steady hand or eager heart,
and certainly not the brain.
A toenail, maybe, where malignancy won’t take hold.

And when this long winter sorrow ends,
we will wash our hair
we will trim our nails
we will step outside and kiss the air
and we will embrace our singular humanity.

Three Things

Malice is in higher offices.
Evil, rather.
Perhaps they will use correctly deceitful language.
“I was faithfully performing the job entrusted to me.”
There, I say, you have your god. They might live
and gnash forever.

Concrete Mary is near me. She lost
Her hands
before I pulled her from the trash.
It used to be St Francis stood next to her,
two cripples, it would seem,
She, without body beyond her wrists,
And he in a termite hollowed tunic, chipped bird on his hand.
I brought him inside to have a word
With the oven mice. Now he lives behind the broom.

There is a lady
Who dies weeping
Sores on her legs
She wills them to move
Centimeter by centimeter.
Stubbornness. Dislodgement.
She is only 96.

These are three things I think about.

And a fourth that matters most:
My children, Your children, The children.
We will destroy their futures
Or they will save us.

Stolen Goods

I rent. I live in this house with my kids. I don’t cook meth. I don’t have a stash of unsecured guns because I hate guns. And except for occasional loud expletives that escape the mouths of my teenagers, usually in response to a video game, we’re pretty quiet.

Do you notice what I just did? I didn’t write that I have bags under my eyes or that there are cobwebs in some of the corners of the rooms, that this house is messy and there are unpacked boxes in the closet. And I didn’t write that there’s a sparseness to it like its inhabitants are ready to flee at a moment’s notice.

The neighborhood is nice, close to the river and not heavily populated. My landlords are responsive if there’s a problem, which is why a contractor and his small crew came out today to replace a window.

They do their work and just before they are about to leave, a police woman and a city worker show up at the door.

       “Are you the homeowner?

       “Renter” I say.

       “Can we come in?” she asks.

       “Sure.” I say. I’m not very savvy and not a quick thinker.

They come in. A small interrogation happens. Evidently, we have a room full of stolen city property. Road signs. One of the stolen road signs, the STOP sign, was a gift from his aunt and uncle, purchased online and arriving just in time for Christmas a couple years ago. The stolen YIELD sign came from a garage sale in Minneapolis a few years ago. I’m not sure who would take the rap for that. And the stolen street signs were given to Pook in July by the city worker who was replacing them. I remember thinking at the time what a waste of resources it was to replace perfectly good, slightly used, street signs with new ones, the only difference being that the names on the old ones were all in capital letters. 

Luckily, Pook is home and I call to him, telling him the police are here, but that he isn’t in trouble. Pook has been listening to the whole exchange so far and comes into the room.

       “It was July 19th about 8am” he says.This is in response to a question asked a minute earlier about when we got the street signs.

       “Ask our neighbor,” I say, “He was there.”

The police woman asks for my ID, my phone number, and tells us to get the signs. The STOP sign has a bar code on the back and a sticker identifying the store it came from, so that’s one less stolen item. The city worker looks at the YIELD sign and says, “That’s not mine,” though I don’t know how he can tell. About the street signs, he says, “These are mine.”

       “Take ‘em”, I say. I don’t want them in this house. What had once represented a sweet memory of Pook as he joyfully and awkwardly carried the signs home has become tainted.

As they are leaving, my landlord calls. After they’ve gone, I call him back and assure him that it’s all sorted out.

  A couple hours pass. Pook vacillates between fury and sorrow. I am not calm so I text my landlord.

I’m just thinking about what happened this morning and I’m bothered that one of the people who came into the house to replace a window took it upon themselves to call the police about a street sign in the bedroom. It was given to my son by a worker from the city when they were being replaced. At any rate, it feels like aviolation.

Was that what happened? The pd said it was visible from the road. If so we will fix it w the window guys

Ha. Lying comes too easily for too many people these days.

Oh man that’s not ok and not the story I got. We will take care of it

It was against the inside wall of the west bedroom.

My landlord does take care of it. Late in the afternoon the city worker shows up at the door with some road signs for Pook. After he leaves, Pook says, “What would’ve happened if we were black?”

And the road signs are still in the living room. I’m guessing they’ll end up in the garage.