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02 July 2015 @ 10:23 pm
the weeks before i moved to baltimore i'd go for walks at night. this landscape i knew so well, had known for so long. this path i could walk in the dark. i'd ponder the familiarity of it, make a new riddle between the pathway and the album on my ipod. how two entities, known as the back of my hand, could blend in a way to manifest an experience that was entirely new. how this entirely new experience called up memories seemingly too old to be my own. i walked, i walked, i walked, i walked. i wasn't myself for a while. for a while, i was more myself than i'd ever been.

there was an essence: a space, an atmosphere, a kind of mood that was both more complex than emotion while describing the emotions i was feeling at the same time. that sort of quality that isn't internal or external. it might be described as the first impression you get when you think back over a specific era of your life. biscuit soaked in rosewater. neon jelly bracelets ringed up the arm.

there was an essence like this somewhere in the ancient folds of space ragas and a corner thick with trees near an outed street lamp. i think it was something from my past i’d neglected to observe in a more timely fashion. possibly i’d been living in iowa. there's always that life we could have been living: sometimes i think i'm a little too open to that.

i paused there and thought of nebula, grainy photographs taken at the edge of space: our edge of space, at least. i thought of constellations, of half-century old planetariums, of the tin cans we string together and aim at eternity. i thought of radio signals looping into space, just going and going and going. the glimmer of mystery, suggested in the twitch of a dial hand. i thought of a new year's dragon, looping through galaxies, biting its own tail. the buddha cradling us in his mudra. the gossamer layers of dead stars fading into the crone's dreaming eye.

and i wanted to describe it. maybe if i could describe it, i could go there, could be there, could live there, could create it as a place for others to visit. maybe if i could describe it, i could understand it. if not as i wrote it, maybe as i read it again, some years later, some years after the fact.

my grandmother went there, maybe. my old gray cat. ben’s childhood sweetheart who died from an undiagnosed heart condition her second year of college. all the stories we’ve left unwritten. all the loves we’ve lost.

my mother lost a baby somewhere between my brother and my sister. i don’t think she meant to tell me about it. she came back from the hospital after the roaring screech to the e.r. and needed to spend a few days in bed. i went into her room with my crayons and coloring books and the reader’s digest atlas i used as a working surface. i set the atlas up on my father’s side of the bed and arranged the crayons so she could color too, if she wanted. she watched me, sad. she tucked a strand of my feathered eighties hair behind my ear. finally, i asked what happened. i was going to have a baby, she told me. and now i am not.

i looked at her with some concern, thinking. that can happen, i asked, very alarmed, and she lifted her eyes slightly to the ceiling in confirmation. that’s awful, i said. that’s unfair, i said, but it didn’t change anything. death has nothing to do with the human concept of justice. our grieving is like the inaccessible reaches of deep space. we don’t know what’s there. we’d like to think we do, but we don’t. even when we are deep in the process of grieving, we don’t know what we’ll come upon next. a giant baby in the sea of solaris. the dead wife we resurrected with our thoughts. it’s always weird and it usually makes us think we are probably losing our mind and probably we are. it’s a plummeting standard, a tenuous grasp. we only decide we’d never let it go that far right before we go that much further.

the last time i spoke with my lost second sister was a few weeks into the summer after tenth grade. i’d had a bad few weeks. my best friend moved away. my remaining friends were frustrating and often visiting relatives in other time zones. i cooked ramen noodles at the stove. my lost second sister hadn’t been coming around as much, so her visit was a surprise. well, she told me, i’ll be going now, she said. she could be abrupt like that. i stopped her and asked why. she didn’t have an answer for me. she just smirked and shrugged. you’ll see, she said, and left. i looked down at the boiling noodles and wondered what i’d done to lose my inexplicable companion of the last six years. then i felt sad. everything's days are numbered, turns out, i thought. i washed out into my cold summer of vivid sunsets and cold nights. i dreamt of waterways clouded with galaxies and old keys without locks. i went on with my life.

a few months ago, i spoke on the phone with my sister. her daughter, newly five, played in the background with blocks. she struggles with speech, even as she reveals herself as a storyteller. she saw the scar on my throat during our last visit and touched it, asking with real concern, what happened? her adult teeth started coming in before her baby teeth were even loose. i can relate.

it was bedtime, nearly, and niece realized it was time for her nightly half hour on the kindle. my sister prompted her daughter: say hi to your aunt first, say hi to your aunt first, and niece made an exasperated noise, possibly because my sister had already made her say hi to me a half dozen times in the duration of that single call. i told debbie not to worry about it, i told debbie not to worry about it again, and then i heaved a sigh and said, “debbie, it’s okay, as much as we love each other, i accept there’s no way i can compete with kindle fire,” not realizing she’d put me on speaker.

neice burst with the the most raucous laughter i’d ever heard out of her. it just kept going and going. she pointed at the phone, my sister said, and laughed harder. tears ran down her face.

and in that moment, i saw.

those nights years and years ago when i resented the sun up from the horizon. walking miles in circles not two blocks from my house. because in the end i was hoping that everything i ever needed was right there in my own backyard: that’s a deeper truth for me, right? wasn’t i named for judy garland, wasn’t judy garland best known for a film in which she took herself to the furthest limits of her imagination in discovering her home wasn’t anywhere like that? but it wasn’t. in my own backyard, i mean. whatever i needed to find was certainly was not in my own backyard. a swing set, maybe. a pile of rocks. a maple tree. a plastic turtle sandbox. the ghosts of married willow trees, the healthy one killed in a wind storm years before the other's long-term infestation took it down.

and in the livid green field mowed to playing turf twice a week by forces unknown to me i stood with my fingers outstretched, trying to draw up the energy from the earth. to give me a purpose, a plausible desire, an itch i needed to scratch. it wasn't even five in the morning and out there in the playing turf it was brighter than the living daylights. a car rounded the street that circled the subdivision and all at once i started with the realization that i was standing in the middle of a mown field between a playground and a baseball cage, unkempt, in a stained cure shirt and cut off sweatpants, with no shoes and no bra. waving my hands over the earth. with red eyes and ratty hair. and perhaps this was not appropriate behavior for a children's play area, even for someone not yet eighteen years old, even at not-quite-five in the morning. so i considered my options and i lied down. i can't go back, i thought, there's nothing for me back there.

in the grass the air was pungent, grass prickled at my neck like sweat, grass poked between my hairs and surprised my scalp. i wondered what would happen if i turned up for several mornings in a row, dressed as i was, unconscious in the backyards of assorted grade school friends. maybe even, maybe especially even, the ones who'd moved away. i toyed absurdly with the notion of tapping on their bedroom windows at night. of begging them to let me in, to feed me, to find me a bra, a fresh change of clothes. maybe they could tell me who i was, what i needed. maybe, once they let me into their beds, under their warm, hand-stitched quilts, i could, at last, sleep just one night through.

art is a hunger. an unidentifiable desire. art is a talent to remake yourself from scratch - from livid green grass in a subdivision field - over and over and over again. art is what, is where, is how, the alpha and the omega. it is the last signal the equipment will read. it will be the death of us, as it is also what brought us to life. kali’s milk. maybe that's what makes art so utterly terrifying. the gesture between intention and sound. the fatal strike of an undiagnosed heart.

you may manifest and obliterate yourself as many times as there are stars. as there are new year's day dragons. as there are emotionally brutalized teenagers stumbling back up jansford court at half past six with a strange attitude of proprietary, as if this is an extension of her own home, as if it's just a particularly open sort of hallway. because when you don't belong in the house where you live, how do you belong anywhere? thus my sorrow. thus my madness. thus my endless wandering, never too far from home: like a string wrapping around its hold, orbiting closer, closer, and closer still.
music: celer - engaged touches