Archive for September, 2014

Houses, Homes #2: The Basement

Our house was a camouflage and plaid, flannel, cotton, polyester forest we’d hide in, get wrapped up in with one big smoky embrace.

Our basement was the fun cave—Mom only ventured down there to dust on Saturday mornings, but otherwise, it was my and Dad’s hangout spot, our unperceived sanctuary where I’d sit on the yellow plastic saucer chair, and he’d enjoy rocking on the creaky plaid recliner he picked up from some rich person’s garbage in Camp Hill.

We watched football games together, mostly Penn State versus some inferior team, and we would take bets on who was gonna win. One dollar. He’d give me one dollar even when I lost the bet. That was my kind of gambling.

Dad would doze on and off during the game, but I was wide-wide-wired on the unlimited bottomless 2-liter bottles of Pepsi I was allowed to drink, and when the rocking of the plaid recliner slowed to a stop, I’d stare at the faux velvet mural that hung on our faux-wood wall. Some deer in the snowy forest. A buck in the foreground staring straight at me, the way deer always stare when they sense their predators in their space, those damn stares bore so hard into my skull that I know that’s the only weapon they have at a chance for survival. And I’d stare back and tell them they’re not going to get shot but look into the wall hanging anyway for a hunter in camouflage, a miniature version of Dad on the first day of the season, but I was never meant to find him, was I?

Just when, maybe, I thought I could spot the hunter behind a tree, something would stir. The buck still stared as Dad got up to fix the stove. The creak of the chair. The creak of the woodstove door. The clang of the poker. The thump of the clean-cut logs hitting the tiny red coals, and what I imagined was the cock and release of the rifle somewhere, and the deer going limp on the ground, turning the snow a cherry red, just like that.

Camouflage and plaid were what Dad wore the day before he died. It’s what I wished he’d worn in the casket and into the fire at the crematorium, just like we used to live, always, wrapped up in one big smoky embrace.

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Houses, Homes #1

Six years old, and I wanted to buy a house. I didn’t know about square feet at the time, but if I had known, I’d say approximately three square feet would be perfectly palatial. Seven bedrooms, three bathrooms, three-storey with a basement and a big dining room, enough for my not-yet-acquired family of five and their two dogs and one cat. I wanted a wooden house with a medium-dark gloss finish, and shingles too. And a fence. And I’d do the landscaping—maybe cut a small square or rectangle from Mammy’s fake-grass rug on her porch. The family would love it, especially the identical twin girls who always knew what each other was thinking. The mom makes delicious cookies everyday, and the whole family sits down to eat at five o’clock when the dad gets home from work, no exceptions, except for maybe party night, which is Friday night, and the family eats pizza in front the tv while watching a movie (this is a time when “age-appropriate” was not a concept in our parents’ heads), maybe a scary one or one where they show boobs.

I wanted this house so bad, but I couldn’t afford it, and I never could get such a family anyway.

Instead, I had once ceramic blue loveseat that Mammy had given me from her vast knickknack collection, and two Glamour Gals dolls who sat on it, talking about their families who were never home but would be soon. And at least they had each other, best friends.

I know how times have changed me. No way do I want such a big house, even if I could afford it—too many places to hide or get lost. My family of five and no dogs (except for the downstairs tenants’ dogs) and two cats and 34 snails and some houseplants—we love our kitchen where our dining table is snug in the corner facing the window overlooking the alley. I’m happy I never got that dollhouse cause there’s no room for it in our house now anyway.

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Corpse Pose, at Callanish

During Shavasana, I usually have an eye pillow to black out the whiteness of the skylight. Today, I lie in light. My mind wanders, as expected, so I think, I can still see with my eyes closed. I still see the lightness, and if some crows were to collect on the skylight, I would see shadows hopping on my eyelids. I fly with the light, eyelids and lashes like butterfly wings. The point is, I can still see. When Dad was lying unmoving on the hospital bed, eyelids hanging like blinds three-quarter closed, I wondered if he saw lightness, darkness, or any of the shades in between when Mom, Sis, or I walked over, stood over him to wipe his forehead, dab his lips with the moistened pink foam lollipop, or whisper love into his ear. If he saw light, did it change to black when he died, or did it become so much brighter so that he kept flying higher, the morphine still making its way through the slowing flow and eventual stillness of the blood in his veins. I just want to know what he saw so I can try to see it too, so I can tell myself that whatever it was, lightness or darkness, it wasn’t nothing. Lightness and darkness, nothing is something. I open my eyes and quickly shut them again. I see a constellation of artifacts, moving circles, crawling worms, and my flying through light becomes a mysterious collage. I watch light and dark dance across my horizon, never out of sight.

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I believe in connecting the dots,
and this belief began when I was a little girl,
and my mammy gave me connect-the-dots activity books
to keep me busy, and I did them so fast, starting at 1
and finding 2 as quick as I can, then 3, making fast lines,
never any gaps, all the way to the highest number, the peak,
the last point, maybe 47 or 53
but never above 60, ever, I think too many dots for the drawer
to put in between the lines, then onto the next page I go
until I do the whole book so I can
surprise Mammy by how fast I am connecting the dots.

Now wait, I’m thinking, back here at age 38,
why would the artist think there would be too many
dots if the number is beyond 60?
Of course, I didn’t know at age 5 that
a line has (or can have) an infinite amount of dots,
or that if I wanted to, I could have made
curves, squigglies, curlicues between dots,
and I’d still get the picture but it’d be more
interesting. I also didn’t know back then,

but yes, I’m realizing now,
is that even if there are gaps,
or if the lines aren’t straight, or if you happen
to miss a dot or go to the wrong dot,
you can still get the picture and it will still
mostly make sense (sometimes it won’t, not completely
or right away, but it will eventually), so yes,
there’s still a picture you can see.

I believe in Connect-the-Dots like other people believe
in Heaven and Hell (both are taught at a young age, yes?).
I’m serious.
But I’m not so fast about it anymore.
Connecting the dots takes time, and sometimes
I redraw the lines over and over until there are holes in the paper,
until I can understand Why. And I still end up with a picture
I can see, a picture I can show.

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The earlier I wake, the deeper
I feel my unconsciousness works its way
into the predawn darkness,
the time between or the slash dividing,
connecting night and morning,
leading into the too long too short day.
Coffee, tea—allowed in this in-between,
alcohol—no, unless the night is still on from a few hours ago
and the push to prolong the inevitable is the mission of a lonely heart.
My mission: to claim the silence for myself.
This in-between is my territory now, fleeting and fickle as it always is.

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