The Brush

I remember screaming. We were in the kitchen and I was about five or six.

“You witch! You witch!”

If I had known any worse words I would have used them. And this wasn’t even a spanking.

She was brushing my hair. Jerking her brush through the tangles. She was in a hurry and had to get it done as quickly as possible. But she was always in a hurry- no matter what. She was never going to be done with- whatever it happened to be.

My hair hung down my back, not quite to my waist.

I am, now, what in other parts of the earth would be considered an adult. An old maid. During short lived middle ages, I would be on the express train of old age headed for the broken bridge of death.

All of my mother’s children are still children- even the ones long out of high school. Living in their bedrooms in her house. Washing dishes to put themselves ahead in the competition for her favor. Baby sitting for people in the richer side of town as their ‘jobs’.

Their lives are passing.

She’s tired of them. She’s told me she feels guilty. Well of course. She had told them the purpose of their existence was to have children and also that it was sinful to be attracted to anyone or to pursue a relationship. They were supposed to wait for someone to buy them out of the store window.

Her store window was in the middle of a field and never did any advertising.

She never tells them she was wrong. She never even hints that they should pursue lives of their own.

They’re still waiting.

My baby sister is only eight. My grown up sisters are semi-raising mommy’s youngest children for her.

Now I’m not remembering. Now it’s a party. A family who is friends with our family (because Mom/’s family only interacts with other mom/’s families- not other people) is there and- in the middle of the party- my sister is brushing my sister’s hair.

Because we’re in too much of a hurry to stop for parties.

I’ve watched Mom brushing baby sister’s hair. She has trained baby sister to stomp her foot when it hurts- to grit her teeth and growl if it’s too much.

Because mommy can’t slow down long enough to NOT hurt her children. Ever.

She would rather be somewhere else, but she refuses to go. She would rather her children were somewhere else but she will not give them permission to leave. Even when she’s started to hate them.

Now my sister is ripping though baby sister’s hair with a brush.

I swim through the mass of people. A load of fake smiles plastered over skulls. God.

I get to them.

“I can do it.”

Sister’s body shifts to shoulder me out and she says something. She doesn’t want me to. Little sister keeps her face impassive. Her fists clenching and relaxing. At the age of eight, she could be a spy.

She’s asked them to cut her hair.  They wont do it.

A figure lurching behind me. Long hair hanging almost down to her waist. Long skirt. A voice made of artificial sweetener.

“Practicing to be a mommy?”

More of her teeth show. This question is the breakfast cereal of champions- the question asked of five year-old female children who can’t possibly not be five year-olds until they get taller and start earning their salvation through childbearing.

Bile rising. Sour in the back of my throat. I smear a fake smile across my skull, say words, and slide back into the crowd. Out of the room. Out of the house. I stand in the dark and breath.

You smiling fucking bitches. I’m not practicing for anything. I’m trying to keep my sister from being hurt.

Now.

Now.

Now.

Enter Title Here or Escape While You Can Still Get Out

This is the moment. This is my knuckles getting white on the wheel.  This is one of the bad (good?) spells. The reason I never bothered with drugs. Never felt the need of them. This so much more incredibly unimportant than the fluid tide of meaning drowning my brain would make it out to be. This is geese halting traffic as they cross the street, looking this way and that and honking like confused tourists.

They are tourists, of course.  Tourists and time travelers. They winged their way here from a different age of the earth, where light was yellower and more primal and the jewel eyes of inhabitants mirrored the sun without shattering it into names.  Or perhaps they aren’t tourists so much as refugees.  A white smear of nameless spread across the namelessness and then- then they found themselves running through time and space and evolution, desperately fighting for their lives. They donned disguises that the dead would be envious of- feathered and masked. Not saurians anymore but nobles, still.

There was no asphalt in the world they came from, that world that perished.  No rocks that purred and moved and stopped seemingly at will.  The chemical perfumes may be familiar, the trace stenches of a death wider than the sea, but other than that, they aren’t sure where they are now.

Their finery is ridiculous here. Mask doesn’t conceal in the fronds and cool wet voices of the swamps that were their hidden path to the new land. They are in the new land. Their capes of wings are folded around them.

The two on the road- a couple- have the sound of squabble in their voices. They call to the two waddling parallel in the grass and those two call back. The four of them moving together, gawking at the sights and gabbling like any of mildly frustrated party of four.

I don’t know their language. It might as well be geese Hebrew. I am too young and ignorant by far to understand this band of survivors.

I stare in awe, excused and forgiven by the living rocks behind mine. Ensconced in silence, bobbing in mirrors, perhaps they feel this awe too.  Pity masquerading as scorn and scorn dressed in urgency’s clothes are both drowned in the sea of our mutual alienation.

Behind me, alien, do they feel something moving in them? Do they name the sun the way I do? Do they call it love? But all it is is the sun, isn’t it?

Woven, flowing, in a thousand channels of blood and of the mind’s nervous fires.

The time travelers are moving.  The ground has shifted under their feet and worlds have bloomed and died in time lapse films that they paddle through and it’s still shifting.

I don’t know. I don’t know how they do it.  Will I and mine walk with them?  Will we be companions in the up and coming world? Strangers together in the place called strange-to-us?  Or will they leave us behind- squabbling as they waddle into the portal of the future- as we look, wracked with coughing, after them- maybe even possessed of the presence of mind to wave goodbye. Lonely now forever and still silent to each other in the land of the past- that country of stone and darkness that isn’t night.

I and mine.  Riddled with words like worms in the world’s only fermenting apple.  The words build themselves around us, through us, structures flooding out from the entrances to our skins, shaping the world around us at our desire. Wizard power. Made of less than seafoam, less than starlight, less than apple blossoms.

Less than the pipe that the arrow in the picture doesn’t point to.

Is the weightless name of the sun too heavy for swimmer to carry?

These swimmers paddled through namelessness to nameless.  The water rolling in beads off their feathers.  It couldn’t get in.

Must a wet creature such as me see the future from the crest of my own wave- before the burden that made the wave drags me down to drown in a seafloor death.

But the two make their way onto grass. The purr beneath my feet rolls me motionless forward. I move between the double couple. One spreads his cape of feathers in a challenge that greets me. The melodramatic swirl of the air.

They seem to open something for me.  Or- a puppet of the powers that animated me in the first place- perhaps I charm, unseeing, the opening into being.

A circle woven of the curling airs they have supplied me.

Perhaps the sun is, always, and is no more than that.  Or if all this is is the sun, running in a thousand veins, perhaps not.  Perhaps the sun is delighted by her mirror.

Perhaps she will go on polishing. Till, one day, even she can see her image.

The Great Whale

We haven’t been talking much. Something keeps us.

The religion of perfect peace in this house, perhaps. It creates an atmosphere too heavy to disturb.

I admit I’m gone a lot. Mostly I’m at work. When I’m home I’m on the internet often, swimming in the blessed invention of the laptop private pool of otherness. Or playing with the little kids. In games you don’t have to say the what is and isn’t.

She’s gone, she’s at home canning bushels of pears, she’s at church in the woods with the four or five families that still come. The only people who are her people. All others are untrustworthy- the sea in which The Remnant must stay afloat- preferably without wetting the hems of their robe. She chooses the Remnant. She has no one else.

My sister.

What would happen if we talked? What would we say?

The headlines. A boy, twelve years old, was out playing in a park. Imaginary monsters swimming through his eyes, he brandished his defense against them- an imaginary weapon. Whatever fear crawled closer to him- in the air of a world where death drives the streets slowly and buys coffee while it sizes up the passersby- he would defeat. And the air would pull back and happy and proud he could breath. He had won. He can beat the monsters. His teeth flash like black Peter Pan; the Child Whom Pirates Cannot Kill.

In the air of a world where fear takes the shapes of those it consumes and uses them to its own ends, a shape not quite gone picked up a phone. In the twilight of security, what was left of a voice cautioned, “It’s probably a fake.”

Fear wants to know what’s real but fear can’t ask a child. Can’t be led by a child. Can’t lead even a child to safety. Fear is too unsafe.

Fear asks the Authorities. Can you check? Can you tell me?

Death set down its coffee.

When Death arrived on the scene, two seconds went by. Then Death’s shape was revealed.

Without justice, said the long dead father, what is a nation but a great robber band?

The Child lay dying and Death stood over him, watching him die.

The Pirate whom Time Forgot.

Or was it us?

If one of these little ones causes you to sin, tie a millstone around their neck and drop them into the heart of the sea. Then stand and watch them drown. Jesus didn’t actually say that last part, but we can infer from our knowledge of biblical principles.

One of the last times we talked about anything more other than pears or changing clouds her voice was lacing itself with anger.

“I think pointing out race IS racism! You are making the problem by talking about it!”

When she had still just learned to walk and talk they poured cold water over her head. She had been sitting under the table crying at the top of her lungs. Her wail had cut off as she gasped, unable to breath.

In God there are no shifting shadows. If you see such things, your eyes are wrong. If your eye is wrong, put it out. The only tears allowed are blood.

As I float in my pool of hurt and strange, escaping from the perfect light and peace in which, for other reasons, I do not exist, my brother plays on the floor.

A Child of the Remnant. A child in what we are sure, this time, finally, are the Last Days. They must be. Everyone is against us. Already, he is afraid. His body has begun to grow, stretching him past the legs of his jeans. He weeps and clings to his too small clothing when they throw his holey safety away. He pulls back from new things as if burned, running to people who once hit him daily and call him an idiot, begging to know what’s allowed. His Authorities.

Tell him, tell him, what’s Good and what’s Evil. The Innocent can’t know these things for themselves. Only the Guilty.

He daydreams on the rug as he goes through his arsenal of toys. Orange capped, black, glossy and realistic as possible to protect him from the air he breathes. Imaginary weapons.

They never let him out to play with other children. Though funny and clever and lonely he has no friends.

You know what? Death will probably never stand over him in the streets. He may never feel safe enough to play there. And one day he will stand. Where will it be?

He’s twelve years old.

How could she possibly talk with me?

Who did this?

When I grow up I’m not going to be a pirate. I have no human enemy. Nor will I pursue such creatures. I’m going to be a whaler.

I imagine a harpoon, feel its weight and the grain of its haft made of nothing in my hand.

God, the imaginary monster, no real weapon can kill.

We are the only ones here.

 

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/nov/26/tamir-rice-video-shows-boy-shot-police-cleveland

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/12/02/cleveland-cop-said-he-had-no-choice-but-to-shoot-12-year-old-tamir-rice-father-says/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2854617/Cops-shot-12-year-old-Tamir-Rice-dead-holding-BB-gun-did-not-aid-watched-lie-agony-died-just-hours-later.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/24/tamir-rice-boy-shot-cleveland-police_n_6211064.html

http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2014/12/police_procedure_experts_quest.html

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/dec/03/officer-who-fatally-shot-tamir-rice-had-been-judged-unfit

 

 

The Agency

Trigger Warning: Abuse

Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental. 

 

Are you now a child in your hands?

Do you throw things?

Do you scream at yourself

inside the soundproof walls of the skull where you live?

(they say that people in skull houses shouldn’t throw stones)

Have you ever shaken yourself

when you couldn’t stop yourself from crying?

(you didn’t know how to stop crying, did you?)

Have you ever abandoned yourself for days at a time?

Left nothing but garbage in the cupboards-

When you knew that was the only food you’d be able to find?

Have even you seen yourself as a boat

to carry other people’s dreams?

Your body a cushion for the whims of other bodies?

Have you ever told yourself to  shut the hell up

when you were weeping

begging for at least one person to believe you?

 

Someone left an anonymous tip-

(the voice on the line- could it have been yours?)

We just need you to ask a few questions,

And we’d like you to take a look around the place.

 

 

leaves

Who told you you were naked?

 

No one told you.

In a single strange moment,

the colored moving world welled up

into the colored moving world

And was.

 

trees and clouds

stones and water

creatures flashing

the chatter and songs

and behemoth curiously lifts his head

and you are

and you’re here

and it’s now.

Your eyes turn to the other eyes

and they’re shining too.

It’s both of you, now, here, together,

trembling with this greatness.

In the heat of the day, a little wind runs through.

Only the leaves shiver

and the two of you.

Your eyes meet and

you both laugh again.

It’s so much- all at once.

 

Who told you?

The voice is colder.

The words you would have to invent to say

sink back down your throat

falling back into the heart they almost came from.

The leaves you wove tear and fall and

you have to stand there-

this is naked-

both of you naked

and him waiting.

From deep in the darkening sky

a little wind runs around you all.

It’s cold- so cold.

To be this way.

 

the fall

Do you delight in our weakness, Father?

Does it make you perfect?

Is it what draws your attention

Down, out of the vast and infinite

sorrow where your heart lives-

clouded like a newborn star?

Does it assuage you, for a moment,

to trip us with nothing and trigger

shocked eyes

muddy knees and hands?

Hidden

Hiding in the trees.

Where are you?

calls out One who already knows everything.

Your breath slows, chokes in your throat.

He’s smirking?

Where are you?

He’s enjoying the game.

Enjoying the heartbeat He must know

is knocking against your ribs-

as your terror convulses into purity-

as He comes near.

But then He veers off.

Perfect fear can cast out everything

whether its piss or hope  that holds you back.  And

your newly clean mind understands.

He’ll keep coming closer

circling,

At last He’ll let himself find you and stare down, gloating,

as you crescendo

and then He’ll begin.

 

As if the sky were made of giants

walking

through the deep blue sea-

 

Your limbs move-

soft as ropes of clay-

and you stumble out ot the brambles .

 

The game is over

and He hasn’t won.