Atlas and Alice - issue 6

Page 11

Atlas & Alice | Issue 6, Spring 2016

What You Do With Death 1. When death suddenly appears in your house, grabbing the comfortable chair, underfoot like a big, stupid dog, you endlessly describe it to friends: Death is an exotic creature whose movements mesmerize, whose ragged mouth opens without provocation, whose name contains sounds humans cannot reproduce. Death is the walnut table with family pictures, growing heavier, denser, collapsing. A black hole in the living room. Bizarre permutations of time. Undependable physics. Death occupies your house like something you couldn’t pass up at a rummage sale, a free sample, a circular addressed to ‘resident,’ offering cheap garden hoses. A thing you have no use for, a thing you can’t part with because you might. 2. Your friends describe death: A huge, dark stickiness, clinging to windows. A shining silver ball whizzing past your ear. Death rattles Momma’s china. It builds a piano in your heart and plays only black keys. It pulls books from the shelves and writes marginalia. Death weeps in the corner, saying it’s life’s unwanted baby. First, it wants a blanket, then grabs the whole bed. Death absorbs a room’s light and sends it back, crackling along optic nerves. If you touch it, death wiggles and squirms and slides away. No, it nuzzles close, making sad harmonica sounds. 11