I’m fault-finding, and fact-checking August and September. The “End of summer” is a grandstand brag! The sweat at the base of my neck, and the damp curls residing there say there is no ‘end.’ I admit to liking one initial burn on my flesh like any other vacation fool might, but enough is enough already.
I’m spitting. I’m ingesting triple digits every stinking day. I’ve lost my cool, (I’ve missed my appointment with the air-conditioning man), I’ve lost my mind, and any sordid count of these sweltering days.
1-2-3, cuss, 1-2-3, cuss. That’s what heat will do to you. Flatten and fry you. Start a fire in you, — or in the old bowling alley, or in the canyon hills. I’ve seen it go down. I’ve seen it go up (in flames). It’s enough to make me want to scratch my fingernails though the taped box top of August tanks and crops. Come on, September, let’s be chill. Can’t we curl up under the covers?
it’s my apple heart
shriveling in on itself
— august burnt tattoo
I’m always walking with you, -ignoring needed chiropractic adjustments. Never mind that, because all at once the meadow starts ruminating over the fires still smoldering past camel hill. Audaciously, you shoot your finger to the moon as if you’ve discovered a curious thing. I’m taken by the brighter star. Dear God, when will our necks ever align? Still, – every day we’re more honest with ourselves. We tie our tongues, and lace our shoes.
here, inside of us
the whole sky and galaxy, –
two divining lights
The space we shared was ideal. The building was on campus and clean, and I knew the boys next door. There was a rooftop balcony big enough for two people to soak up the faithful Pasadena sun, which I did. But not with you.
I was twenty-something doing cartwheels down the hall, and you were forty-something lubing your hands up every night and sleeping in gloves. You had a way of not taking my phone messages and erasing the recordings. You had a way with your tiny grocery cart on wheels and umbrella in hand on perfectly bright warm days. You had a way with your drawer full of vitamins and fish oils. You had a way with doing light morning stretches in your lycra in front of the double door living room mirrors. Oh Helen, you had a way of brushing your dark hair repeatedly at night in silence. Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh.
It seemed to me you made grad school your permanent home, while I plowed through as quickly as I could. I tried to tolerate you teaching me to “pass a cloth over it.” Your suggestion for my lackadaisical bathroom cleaning duty. And on one occasion, your meek response to my explosive words stopped me short.
Finally, when you gave me a rose at my baccalaureate it pierced me like a sword! Oh beautiful and strong Helen of Puerto Rico, what ever became of you?
Dag burn! That sheep-shit grin on your face tells me you’re in for a heap of trouble! You went and done it, didn’t you? Can’t hear nothing but that woman. Now I gotta put your head on straight? Jackson? Jack-son!!
Brothers Grimm “The Old Woman In the Wood” illustrated by Arthur Rackham
I’ve come to love the silence. In the dalliance of the day I hear the sturdy mesquite grow more knob-kneed with each fire I set by waltzing by. I am unaware that the trees — being trees– are jealous for my essence, my mouth forming words beyond a guttural clacka clack. Jealous for lithe limbs, breast buds which suffer not through winter.
A handsome tree begs of me, “Do what you please! Throw off your grosgrain, loose the heavy corded ribbon from your hair. Loose desire as I cannot! Let the wind cool your warm flesh, lift your ferociously folded hem.”
Talisman trees cast dulcet tones over a grove of enchantment I neither understand nor fear. With its twig grip over me I am cooperatively inarticulate, caught up in the wooooo, wooooo. My lips curl at the edges like a small leaf and I am myself bursting through blushing wood, whirling and twirling as devil from dust beautiful and mute before impossibly returning to impossibility.
It was red. The chronic angers of the house, the heat on the back of dad’s neck, the paint splattered on the driveway when she fell. I was twelve and thought it was blood and that mom would certainly die, but she was stronger than the house. She was stronger than us all. I can’t say what color best describes her. Maybe black, because she was through and through solid. Impermeable really.
Mom: 220 N.E. 4th Street. She occupied every inch of wood and beveled glass, every thing that had life and breath. The tread over each of the twenty-one wooden steps going up and going down was mom. The vertical floral wallpaper and wainscoting was mom. The framed black horse tied up by the blacksmith’s shop in our living room was mom. The bobby pin stuck underneath the drawer where she kept foam hair rollers and a pink Avon brush was mom. The house painted red– mom.
It used to bother me. Foreign fingers, hairy flesh. Paunchy guts ramming into me. I used to scrub and scratch in the piss of a flea-bitten shower for at least an hour, but now I just pull my skin back on.
Beauty moves in curves, in imprecise shapes of things like this wrinkly soft face I look deep into. I turn it left and right, and press my thumb into its well. My thumb likes this art of recalling mother’s smooth soft knee, Ed’s crushed leather couch, pink rose petal creases, and that day we spent sitting on Hearst’s warm sandy beach. I stroke this simple satchel and begin to decipher the paper-worn map buried inside, but I’m side-tracked by a feeling. A balding Wilson tennis ball I batted at my brother; neither young nor old, neither here nor there. My hand in my hand. It really is nice. I study it a while longer because I like this linger, this remember.