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.

Act One

Is it the flaw in me, the inability to see out the top of my head, and the lack of dexterity, the rubber of limbs that bend in the way of tree branches, that leaves me so open to anger and sorrow and fear?

And worse, I’ve been hating. I hate the frackers and the drillers. I hate the uniformed ones who wear their belts dark and heavy around their guts. I hate the youth who sport iron crosses and fly confederate flags.  And guns, I hate guns, the buyers and the sellers. I hate the liars. I hate the thieves. I hate everyone who makes a profit and a joke off the backs of children. 

I don’t want to be a hater. I tell myself that I must find a different place to stand, a different way of seeing. I tell myself to take a walk.

I get breezes of fresh, fragrant air, the way air is supposed to be. The Magnolias are blooming, throwing their blossoms across streets and alleys, having a regular old perfume party. I breathe it in and I think everything will be okay. But seconds later, the air is laced with the stench of Glyphosate. The moment is wrecked. I pull my shirt collar over my nose. There’s poison everywhere and so much noise of people striving. It is not the soft whistle of hope. It’s the rattling buzz of desperation. How does a person look in the face of evil and not begin to hate, not become its opposite equivalent?

What I’ll do, I decide, is focus in on the small things.

Now, I gather my hair in my fist. Now I fan my neck. It is hot, hotter than normal.

Now, the Arctic is melting. So much water and no really clean water except maybe in the Pingualuit crater.

Now, I wash strawberries, organic strawberries, the kind without the witches brew of pesticides that migrant workers breathe. Now I cut them. I put them in bowls and hand them, glisteningly sweet, to my children. 

Children in cages don’t get strawberries handed to them like that, especially since their mothers and fathers have been torn away from them. Especially since prisons and make-shift prisons used to house people who have committed imaginary crimes, are making a ton of money.

Now, I drive my car. It is not covered in ash. It has never been submerged in water up to its windows. I have never suffered from thirst or suffocation while in my car.

Now I walk into the grocery store. It is called Festival Foods. Compared with supermarkets in Venezuela, this is a festival. I used to live in Venezuela. I used to want to live in Venezuela forever. Then a goat became president and, after that, an ass. First, everything shiny began to disappear. People protested. Then people started to disappear and the morgues were filled to capacity. Men with guns and men on motorcycles with guns took over the streets. Little by little the comforts of civil society disappeared. No hay pan. No hay medicina. People with enough money got on airplanes and left, though some brave ones stayed. Those who were poor to begin with, who suffered more, began to walk across borders. This is one of the ways migration happens. 

Now I drive near the apartments where Dick and Audrey live and I say a prayer for their wellbeing. And for Louise and the other Louise and Lois and Ed, may they rest in peace. And MomDadGrandmaGrandpaHelenBlancheJoeSharonPatGrandpaGrandmaPatMaryAliceLarry and Norma. I stop now. How can I ever reach an end? I have to believe that when I pray for one, by thread and reach, I am praying for everyone. One prayer is every prayer. One act is every act. You take the pictures. You cook the food. You write the story. You donate money. You march in the street. You invent. You discover.You make the decision to be kind to everyone. Me, I’ll unclog the toilet with a broken plunger for the old lady with the weak arms.

Now, I bring the groceries to my kitchen. Now, I put away the bread. Now I think of wheat and chaff, sheep and goats. In this country, there is a goat for a president and chaff in congress. I never wanted to live in the United States, yet here I am. This shows how privileged I’ve been. It is nothing I earned. 

Every loving act is a force. Please, act in any way you can.

Snowflakes

blue-snowflake-99

Snowflakes, in all their diverse beauty, fell liberally across the land. In some places, they fell with blizzard fury and made the news. In other places they fell so softly it seemed a soundless leisure. And sometimes they fell in places snowflakes had never fallen before.

Some said it was due to the effect of climate change. Others considered it a freakish event without cause. Still others, especially those who could not surmount the inconvenience of evolution, cursed the sky from where the snowflakes fell.

It was a long winter. Some called it endless. Many were exhausted by it.

People searched for alternative reasons to explain the constant snowfall. They babbled and babbled and many harsh and useless words were thrown around. Most didn’t notice how the snow had accumulated under their feet.

Then it happened. Spring came like it always does.

The millions and millions of snowflakes melted.

The oceans rose.

The rivers swelled.

The floods came.

And no amount of bagging could stop them.

They coursed through towns. They knocked down the doors of houses, sweeping out all the secrets kept there in the corners.

It was shocking. It was devastating. And after the floods, it was quiet for many days.

Then one person salvaged some wood and set it in the sun to dry out. Another person scavenged for nails. And another found some paper and a pencil and set out to record all that had happened, just like before.