Nothing is my everything: One Button

I just want one
love.
And for that one love to teem
with a bit of every thing I
need,
and to come from the one.
To give my many body
members one look as if I were one,
like a smooth round button
made for just one cuff,
yet unthreaded.
Find me that magic button
with more faces than Janus
and far more fits than one,

rather than a drawer full of
buttons gathered all in one place,
just in case, every color and shape,
that have outlived their matches
or simply been replaced
by a shade and shape
of a near cousin.
I just want one
button,
left safe in its plastic –
just in case.

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Nothing is my everything (continued)

Have you ever noticed that most
people, when you talk to them,
only half listen, if that?
Eyes loose cannons shot toward
an unspecified target – as long as
it’s around. Shot from an empty shell.
And you are there only to remind
them that they are the same
person that met you at this cafe
last Thursday.

Arms and Hands

Kyle said it was his hand that had pulled the trigger.

I held my boy on my lap, my arms embracing his. “Junior was this close to being hit,” I said, failing to gesture with my hands.

“You should have seen the blood guzzle out of his head, like crude oil overflowing from a cracked pipe.”

I covered Junior’s ears. This wasn’t supposed to be about Kyle’s daddy.

“You know, the sensation that part of your body is not your own? There are people who swear by that feeling all their lives.”

Yes, I remembered such a feeling – only once or twice – before realizing that it had just been a dream. That one time when I grabbed one hand with the other and threw it across the bed. It felt like I was grabbing someone else’s hand that at the same time was my hand, so that when I woke up I was surprised to find both hands still there.

I squinted at the walls of our living room, each one equally white and bright. The slits of daylight shining through the vertical blinds added nothing to the uninterrupted glare of the barren walls.

I wanted to escape the memories of Kyle’s past, or the memories of his memories in my mind. He would blurt them out at odd times, generating uninvited images in my head. They did violence to me, so that I could feel the terror of a scream imploding, with no one else to hear, where even shutting my eyes felt unsafe.

“We really ought to hang some pictures up,” I said softly, now rocking Junior with a loosened grip. I thought of family photos, with their eternal grins.

“Maybe you’re right.” Kyle grazed the top of my head with his hand as he passed towards the opposite wall, softly skimming its surface with his fingers. “But when I touch the naked wall like this, it feels so cool.” Not like his daddy’s fury. Daddy used to shout, stop making my blood boil.

I lifted Junior from under his arms, gently placing him on the floor. He held one arm out towards his daddy, stretched out straight, but limp at the wrist. Kyle failed to take his hand, just as he had failed that very morning. “He’s still just a baby,” I whispered, recalling the horror of the screeching tires and my body gripped in terror, as the car just missed him by inches. I thought that Kyle had him by the hand as they crossed the busy street intersection, while I trailed behind. But when I raised my eyes up, Kyle had his arms folded while Junior wobbled ahead.

Kyle stared at Junior’s wrist, gripping his own tightly behind his back. “Wrists can be bent backwards or forward.” He had told me in the past that when his daddy wasn’t around, he would practice, to see how far he could bend them, to get them stronger and ready, for the next time.

“An arm can take on a life of its own.”

And that’s what he had told the court.

I watched Kyle as he stared at Junior arching his shoulders, swinging his arms freely.

He pushed back the black-rimmed glasses from his sweating nose, which failed to keep back the flames that seemed to flash from his eyes.

This was after all, about his daddy. Ignoring the sensation of panic rising within me, I asked. I had to be sure. “I know you’ve told me the story of that awful night before. But when your Aunt testified in detail about what she saw your daddy do that night, was she right? Was it really that bad?” I asked, instantly recognizing the answer in the way Kyle senior stood several feet away from Kyle Junior, stepping back further as Junior reached for him with his fingertips. I couldn’t remember the last time he had picked up or held his son.

Together, we watched Junior lean forward, swinging his arms around in circles. And in that moment of unrestrained freedom I couldn’t help but remember my own version of that violent night.

A young boy yanked off the bunk bed. Yanked by one arm and slammed into the floor.

One arm yanked. Body slammed against the floor.

Yanked by the arm. Body slammed.

Maybe the little boy saw his arm fly across the room after his face smashed against the hard wood floor. The arm was no longer his.

The movement of Junior’s arms appeared random, prodding him clumsily forward. Kyle grabbed under one arm, and then the other as my boy’s feet shuffled off the floor. I cried out – from fright or relief – I’m still not sure.

Strawberry Shortcake (Excerpt from “Nothing is my everything”)

I knew strawberry Shortcake before the taste.
The overwhelming smell of strawberries
that sticks till today.
Oversized bonnet.
Striped socks.
The Peculiar Purple Pieman of Porcupine Peak –
Yah-tah-tah-tah, tah-tah-tah-tah-Cha!
Choose one or the other – can’t have both!
Purple had been my favorite color.
Then red.
But little girls can’t have man dolls.
And Strawberry Shortcake is pretty.
And small. So I could stand her on
my hand and next to my cheek.
And sniff her strawberry hair.
Kiss her cheek beneath the sheet.

Strawberry Shortcake sits in a shut
wooden box, without light,
with her faded scent
and the encased photo of my mother
before she was dead.
And each of my prized figurines.

Writing by hand feels

real. And permanent. Because when you write by hand, in pencil, you are allowed to erase. But you don’t want the erase marks to smear the lovely paper. My friend gave me a seemingly simple gift – a fragile ‘Wallpaper Notebook” with a lined and graph template useful for placing beneath a sheet of paper in order to keep your writing straight. I started writing just now in this delicate journal, by hand, in pencil, a new work I’m calling “Nothing is my everything.” I won’t be revising much because I don’t like the appearance of erasures. I’ll need to trust my creative intuition and movement and watch the pages unfold. I’d like more of these lovely journals, and perhaps call them my “instinct” journals.

Condensed Addendum (Slumber Citizens):Revised

2. Slumber Citizen 013654 Works as a Private Tutor for Deviant Citizen/The Flavor of a Dream

Several years passed of the incarceration of Deviant Citizen 166601 in the Institution, and this with only mild success. His parents, who could no longer afford the trauma brought on to the family, nor the expense, hired Citizen 013654 for her services as a private tutor. By this time, she was seeking early retirement; consistent self-discipline and adherence to a stringent schedule had begun to take its toll. However, she found the case of Deviant Citizen to be pitiable and at the same time intriguing; therefore, she took up the office of his tutorship.

Our son suffers from what we believe to be nightmares. He is soothed, his parents insisted, by intimate conversation and literature. His instructors at the Institution – while well trained in the area of discipline – are not of the literary kind (they read only fairy tales to him, inducing tantrums because the characters – as he insisted – are interchangeable and therefore disposable). Somehow exposure to various fictional yet unique individuals makes our son more tolerable. Perhaps these literary characters become so real to his imagination that he can no longer distinguish between their personages and himself, at least for the duration of the novel or story. We have exhausted our literary knowledge and awareness. Whatever it takes, they begged. Just don’t include anything to do with deviants or demons. Other than that, the world of literature is yours.

Entrusted with Deviant’s care, Citizen 013654, well versed and well read in various genres of literature, began with her favorite author – Jorge Luis Borges.

The challenge with Borges is that he is an author of ideas more so than an author of character. Yet, characters are ultimately ideas, and so Citizen went with her instincts. She started by tackling Borges’ take on “Nightmares.”

She didn’t confess this to his parents, for they would have wondered, why begin with a nonfiction essay that is not about people but ideas? Yet, her choice turned out clever in that Deviant’s real issue (as a child) was that he could not really distinguish between waking and dream. This fact may explain why his treatment in the Institution failed. They attempted to stimulate pleasant dreams, hoping these would produce more tolerable selves. But while awake he often believed he was dreaming. Often these delusions of dreaming were for him nightmarish. Once when he found himself behaving like a gentleman with delicate manners and etiquette, it felt so fake and freakish and different from his core self that he had to pinch himself to wake from the nightmare – which was really a waking reality.

Of course, the opposite would happen too. His nightmares would often feel so much like waking that when he really woke up, it would feel like he hadn’t slept at all. He would, like most children, arrive at the day’s duties with lethargy and the desire to return to sleep.

It would seem that such an effect – particularly in Deviant’s case – would be ideal – a sleepy, therefore docile self. Not so. After just a few hours (sometimes minutes), he would be (like most children) re-energized more than ever to terrorize.

And so, (based on a loose interpretation and reading of Borges), Citizen came up with a unique concoction to approach Deviant’s nightmares (whether waking or sleeping). She approached each one (whether remembered or not) as a flavor.

What does this one taste like?

A burp.

And do you like this taste?

Yes.

(When he liked it, she presumed it would become recurring, as children tend to hold on to likeable nightmares and dreams.)

And last night’s?

Like mildew and vanilla crème.

Do you like this taste?

No and yes.

(With a mixed response such as this, its recurrence would be uncertain and therefore any further exploration set aside for the time being).

And yet this other?

Blah. Bleh.

(Immediate negative responses of this nature would incur immediate resistance and thus an unlikely incarnation).

This was her initial approach. It came upon her to take it a step further; she would insist he explore the taste of such repulsive flavors further and deeper. Try it again, she’d recommend after having him wash it down with one of his favorite drinks (usually water sprinkled with lime). This secondary approach often led to a watered down version of the taste – less dominating and verging on appealing.

Now at this point, it appears Citizen had very much strayed from the original wishes of Deviant’s parents to treat and cure him of his nightmares. He became more or less an experiment in psychology. Should she have taught Deviant about the true character of Borges himself – both his private and public persona, overall likeable – rather than his nearly blasphemous interpretation of dreams? Whatever the case, the results of this aspect of her tutorship were quite impressive.

Treating each nightmare (whether imagined or lived) as a flavor turned it into some kind of a game. Deviant felt free to taste a variety of nightmare flavors as he would various flavors of food, and the end result was at times – equal to giving even the most repulsive of tastes a chance – the exploration of nightmares as approachable as dreams. In turn, releasing him from the fear of nightmares resulted in the promotion of selves that were not to be feared. And this, after all, was the goal of his parents, and for that matter, the Institution. Explore your various selves – any other than your deviant self.

But it must be added that (as with any other child’s game) Deviant grew bored and tired of this flavor game and more often that not, reverted to his core, troubled self.

Light of the Careened (Revised)

I.

Moving object in the sideline

of my vision

Weight

Slam foot on brake

They say you see

bright lights

White

If that don’t kill ya’

somethin’ else will

make light

Don’t make light

of the chance meet

of gravity time

and speed

Scream

Rag-doll my body

Weight makes light

so that your heavy

pressing wrests

wakeful whispers

from my chest

and ever light steps

II.

Don’t go there she said

Where

…and if, if

I could never, ever again live with myself. I can barely as it is.

– or –

You’re thinking that you are cursed and that a dark cloud always follows you. The day was cloudless and sky.

– or –

You know how hard it is for a car to careen sideways?
Across the highway?
At 9 o’clock in the morning?

III.

I don’t have nightmares

About a car careening

Across the highway

Sideways

Rather I dreamed

Of a lion

In the form of a roaring tiger

Behind the glass patio door

Cracked slightly open

Hungry only for me

The plugs stuffed in my ears

Factory failed and

Let the tiger in

You have nightmares

I don’t

I step nightly

In the light