I’m writing to inform you that the chair you dragged across country, the one always on the verge of devouring itself, recently exploded in a threadbare taxonomy. An implosion, its demise, a belly-up, goose-feather-snowing, thread-flanged vaudeville act. Where are you, my love? Your wheels off, hands no longer shaking at the sight of another sunrise?
Your name sprawls out beneath my tongue, a body of loose consonants stretched out like a cat or a coil, urging some wild language to unleash itself, become real. Migratory vowels wrench out of a second syllable as you rake air, peel it with your scrawny arms, and for a minute set out in flight. A swift, you say, never settles on the ground. Is a life spent airborne a denial of gravity even if there is no intention of finding home? No chance of ever landing?
It is only a misstep between you and earth as you practice a new aeronautics, one in which you become an unfixed point, wildly gone, almost unbearable in this new marrowed light, footprints returning from some refracted future. Is this the ancestral pings and pangs we are gifted at birth? Compassion whittled into our ribcage, love, like a thud, fusing us to some beginning we’ve never practiced?
And now it’s been years since your voice hung up on me and sometimes I follow a stranger with a similar gait, or smell your thinning hair in an elevator just emptied. This isn’t your responsibility of course, it’s my desperation getting in the way. Again. A valley of holograms and echoes I’ve stuffed into my mouth to keep myself from talking. Again. You know, it’s mostly preservation that keeps us forgiving, that continues to keep us pouring ourselves into the sea to drench ourselves in its salvation. What else do we have except love’s aperture?
Sometimes a dream is more muscle than memory, hours spalled and scribbled, a messy wood we suspend trying to pinpoint home, its invention of familiar hallways, God in the shadows. Even as the body conjures up another tremolo of love, even as bodies begin to soften and crumble, the bird that is our soul takes the enigma (that is us) and breathes into existence the sturdy air, even as it begins to take our breath away.
There are possibilities, (of course) such as an urge to float under gum-stained water pipes, partially tethered to weeds and willows, the sun like a Dictaphone, taking it all down, recording it the river and all its flickers, erasing nothing.
(Out of daylight’s reach, arches of birds seam & thread high temps, hawks spiral the air in between hot wind and another jammed-up heart. A jolt shocks the limbs into answering from beneath the surface, it speaks in tongues that barely exist, begging to be sung out in a mumble of wants and fog and endless possibility.)
Your mother fills in the spaces, crosses her arms past margins of finite space, crams her own jilted history into the story’s lineation. She takes up space among the molasses and dusty lemon bars, the dry chicken and sermons of diviners looking for a water they can open their palms to, a baptism more holy than this incremental drought has left behind.
We are left without you. If a wave settles over my spine, the cartilage and then magnetic resonance becomes fingerprints of bones? Do I have that right? Or it could be another chase from one unused breath to another. If it isn’t true, is this portion of life, is this everything, humming like radio waves, pleading its case to an unarmed future?
Speak or be silent, you, with your closed arms and disheveled history waiting to be chosen, to be explained plain. I’ve lingered here too long for the chalk, for the blackboard, to show you the map I’ve made of our lives. It’s okay, after all, we are only wolf cubs, blue, blind and deaf, sharpening our teeth on language & its overlap.
And while the nephew paints with water, the tiger the bear the elephant, we aren’t a circus, he yells into an almost empty room, and we are startled to be seen. Is the delineation between water and the various heavens, between the yellow wings of disappearance and the trails of moonlight left behind, real? Do you see me?
Speak the speak, tongues turn at the river of too-little-water, another ongoing emergency as neurologists track the brain’s pathways where wildfires double up and cross creeks, strike flint against steel, drift under branches. Listen as the river heads our way.
Your handwriting jimmies into margins, shrinks with so little space to speak. Sometimes, we are warned a hundred times, and still we split open, bladed, sinking into the deep. You watch from a shore as one boat capsizes, and another boat unleashes its mast. The trick is to let go.
Wet Cement Press editor Michelle Murphy is from San Francisco and now lives next to the beautiful Truckee River in Reno, Nevada with her husband and cat. She is the author of Jackknife & Light, (Avec Books) which was shortlisted for the National Poetry Series as well as the PEN West Literary Award and Synonym for Home (Wet Cement Press). A chapbook of her poems, as a finalist for the Tomaž Šalamun Prize was published by VERSE Magazine.