the coldest parts are when my mind registers the void the empty i can’t explain i knew something mattered to me but i can’t place it, long-term amnesia in a short-term span and there’s no way home mother i want to go home. but i can’t go home so i look for that yellow rug that repeats itself in dreams, carpets every memory from my grandparents’ house on butler ave (the windows, something red, lanterns, books) to my first apartment (s. baton rouge), and your house, emptied for demolition (the sage walls, something still glints in the closet where we carved our names into the molding) these places. dead. somewhere to hide, crumbling by the minute, forgetting, non-existence.
i told her she was agoraphobic, once, i mentioned it to her, she got very upset, she didn’t want to hear it. it is strange, to me, who always thought you were indivisible why you’d remember me in all of your travels in and out of reality, how you’d let me, out of everyone, visit you when i wasn’t there. i looked for you there, where i’d expected you’d be. i never thought i was that important to anyone, but when you hold her hand, when you just talk to her, she likes that. sometimes she doesn’t know who i am; she asked me the other day how my mother was (you’re my mother.)
i watched you sleep, tirelessly, and almost forgot your voice, even though its glow hid under each automated breath (quartz movement) and when you spoke new words, i didn’t understand them at first because they weren’t the same few syllables that i clung to. you drew for me, once, two arrows facing each other like this this is like that, or what i’ve understood it to be. i keep looking at my hands and the space between the words; the space that’s between everything so that nothing’s really ever touching at all.
you noticed that i bit my nails i could eat nothing but peas, one at a time, and even then the salt made me choke (jagged moon slivers, dead bone, scarred wood.) the work of hundreds of pairs of tap shoes and nervous habits. the man in the brown suit arrived (new orleans) at your bedside you looked outside and noticed that there aren’t even windows anymore, just gray panes where nothing happens. he saw it in your eyes and he told you ‘you’re dirty, and we’ll need to clean you up from the walls.’
the classroom windows. it registers that there is an orange glow, a small silent sun arcing up and out into the horizon rocks and the purple/gray. then noise, a low rattling upon impact (quick crescendo) i try to keep my footing but the ceiling is falling, things are falling. where my footing was is falling and there are holes where the gray pokes through. instinctively, i hold my breath. movement- so unlike ukiyo-e. hokusai never prepared us for this, there are no flat lines or high-angled view points. even metal, even intaglio, flat and powerless against the current. i donâ€™t have time to consider this at the time; by the time i realize i am underwater i am breathing again on the bathroom floor. shock, gagging, bare feet against the rug
we kill someone who is following us and you climb the stairs of the plane, trying to drag me up with you but you can’t find me, can’t see my face and here, you aren’t in my dreams either; instead, you are the absent presence, an emptiness that wakes me up, a void that tells me that life has some meaning, some undefined shape i clutch at, out of reach. underwater radio static, suspended in blue and you (suspended) complex cites burned down abandoned, no one lives here anymore. clothing left bleached, on the line. starched with rain, yellowing. closer with every labored sigh “to be held accountable.” i don’t know who took you or where, deliberate loneliness emanating from some distance, speaking to me in echos when they aren’t looking sometimes i can pick you up secretly through the car radio on long drives.
i had already forgotten how cold it gets in winter. days that are nothing but setting sun. days. i havenâ€™t slept in at least 6 days, i think, but if there was somebody awake iâ€™d have been taken long ago. eyes open for weeks on the couch in the white walled waiting room (sterile) days compacted crushed cars. i watch the iv machines beep as alarms go off in your plane come home i say softly, come home. the machine answers for you with forced air release. i read books to you, i yell when the nurse changes the channel on the tv or puts the cooling blanket on high heat instead. i yell at the doctors who need to read the instructions to set up the breathing machine. i am quiet when they tell me the formula for calculating mortality.
you are on the plane to japan. you are wondering if you will pass over antarctica, you want to turn to look out the window except you can’t move your neck. you are certain there must be a window, even though there is no light, and you’d like to look outside. the person next to you is talking loudly, but the voice flickers in and out like soundwaves, but you make out the stewardess talking to him and then a laugh track. you can’t see her, but while she’s there, you figure you should ask for a drink, but the stewardess responds with garbled speech (no vowels) you are not sure if you will get your drink. the plane may be landing, but you can’t tell. everyone is screaming for you to move but you can’t. you are paralyzed you cannot move and the stewardess and the man next to you are screaming and refusing to help. you can’t see your hands.
i slept. i kicked and fought at first, like i’d told you i would, (audible frustration, neighborhoods away) but i gave in and slept. i slept fourteen hours. i went to bed sick and i woke up sick and that morning, i gave birth through my mouth, my teeth to push. hands to receive fever dreamsthe over-turned fishtank, the constant struggle for ‘reverse’ in every sense of the word, strangled empty-eyed blonde twins, buried under a willow tree, (dirt under nails) tin-can telephone wrapped around my ankles, trailing over the golden rug and stretched 1000 miles out the window. deep breathing. like we mean it. but all the same we throw up.
i’m in two places at once, and i’m not leaving or jumping the train and exiting before the fees; i walked the 4 miles back without ceremony to a place i’ll never call home. spectrum lines slowly blinder each year to the things that went on without you, slightly out of reach, corner of your eye, corner of your mind filed away in its appropriate place on the shelf, but this is no longer your world the carpets have since been lifted (tacks and glue atop weathered wood) and trains no longer circumnavigate the downstairs i find you on the grass or on the bed, some place recognizable only by the the smell of pipe tobacco and sunlight on hair (‘clean well lighted place’) i’ve always wondered: were you lying when you told me (the unintentional curse) they put a gun to your head? already, i know (occhi e contorno occhi) i will pick up where you left off.
acknowledgements i want to express my gratitude to the following people: dr. jennifer courtney for her support in every way imaginable throughout the creation of this project. she dedicated so much time and energy to helping me, and her enthusiasm, and encouragement made this work possible. dr. bill wolff. i cannot possibly thank him enough for everything he has done for me. he went above and beyond the duties of a second reader to ensure that this project was exactly what i had envisioned it to be. without his guidance and support, i would never have accomplished work of this caliber. dr. jody shipka for her advice and kindly lending me a vintage polaroid. professor keith adams for allowing me to use rowan universityâ€™s darkroom, chemicals, and equipment. colourworks in wilmington, delaware, for doing the most amazing job enlarging and mounting my work under glass. my fiancĂŠ, leland, for loving me and patiently supporting me, despite the fact that I was a stressed out mess. my parents and my future mother in law for being interested in what I was doing, but not asking too many questions. dr. cindy king for reading my poems and for her friendship.