Tamara says that I am constantly on edge; she says that for people like me, meditation can help. “Meditate on what?” “On yourself,” she replies. “Look inside yourself.” There’s nothing there, Tamara, nothing to see; everything that crosses my mind lies outside me: Goya’s caprichos, the appalling translation of Bertrand Russell’s essays on epistemology I was reading yesterday, the over-vinegared salad I ate today. Perhaps this is my self, Tamara: nothing worth contemplating.
I sprinted towards them as they battered away. Tried, but could not open the bolted door. I shouted out, called at the top of my voice for those around me to help, but to no avail. And when at last I despaired, and turned my back to come away, my head knocked against the wall of a water tank, greater still, shut fast against me.
Twice winter nearly killed me. Once, the night before the Blizzard of ’77, when Faddie kicked me out the house. I left and went to the gas station, where I worked and where I knew a car was parked in the garage, so there I could spend a night or two. After, you know, breaking in, I turned the ignition, ran a hose from the exhaust out underneath the door, so I could, for the night, have some heat.
She takes off her clothes and covers her chilly, naked body with a heavyweight green gown. She steps into the white plastic slippers and gets up onto the birthing chair. She leans back, gulping hungrily at the air and mumbling a plea for help in the form of the Quranic ayahs she’s been told will ease the pain of her contractions: “When the earth is leveled out, casts out its contents, and becomes empty… casts out its contents and becomes empty… casts out….” Her words are silenced by a new contraction slamming into her from behind, then bursting out from the middle of her back and wrapping its monstrous arms around her, engulfing her, linking its hands under her belly and squeezing, clamping down, pushing down, down, down. She bites her bottom lip and clasps her hands over her chest. She digs the nails of her right hand hard into her left palm, streaming sweat, a tear escaping the corner of her eye.
the break wall, opening
the open sea like a long polished wound,
baffling the wind
with a force mustered from currents
where free is
unfathomable as the drowned book,
barnacled as if born and raised
between Aphrodite and the devil’s thumb
a whale heaves out a whale-tail
flaunting sunken love at the sunned earth