Stage of Isolation: Transformation
The Lockdown Last Spring
But extinction doesn’t always mean death,
as the words kept coming and going
like tiny mammals,
to stay close to the ground,
evolving into something stronger.
–> Richard LeDue
The Writing Laid Down Like Steps Of Stone
Mirabel’s mom was not a writer. But in the days weeks months before she died
she couldn’t stop writing. She wrote in the margins of the phone book, in the
gutter of the daily news, on the covers of first editions in tiny nonsensical
cursive, all the words connected. Curious fever. Channel of enlightenment.
Flame reaching beyond fever and fury, and well-meaning fact that always fell
short, or perhaps beyond our understanding. This is what we know of Mirabel’s
mom, whom we never met, but remember from stories 10 years back. Mirabel
making trips to Ohio to check in, visit, as her mother diminished, contracted,
and expanded. This is what we know of Mirabel’s mom who died alone,
as we work backwards. A puzzle. A person. A life threaded by words.
The writing laid down like steps of stone on a path all her own, the path
Mirabel’s mom, not a writer, followed until her last word. That is to say,
her last step, a long and final breath being her only punctuation.
–> Guy Biederman
single piano note disappearing into thin air
and the one uneaten apple on the kitchen shelf.
That click of a lock. The unwinding clock
or that door jam of shuttering expectations,
does not define me. Even though the Mercy ship’s ruthless wake
with its hull cutting the water in white halves,
displaces blessings on either side of the bow.
It’s for me to decide how I might live without
conclusions. There is an emptiness
in the leavings of charity. Something like an echo
rising up from a deep stone well,
the last words I will ever utter
are not written here.
–> Lois Roma-Deeley
In spring I will be a year inside,
except meantime my brain has spilled
its sauce of words tired of being held in,
and splashed them across the canvas
of itself. Who is the president, they asked
me over and over in the ambulance.
In blood across the frontal lobe above
my left eye I wrote, No one is president.
It was supposed to be Christmas, a festival
widely observed in this part of the earth
though it, too, was eclipsed by denial
and betrayal. What year is it, they asked
at the hospital and I had a four-syllable
alliterative poem for them, twenty twenty,
which can be the caliber of a rifle, also
eyesight at eight paces. It’s a cavernoma
lesion, the surgeon explained, this tangle
of thoughts it will take you the rest
of your life to think, so you should start
as soon as you get home. Which is
why I am saying this now. Something
that wanted out spilled into the silence
of this long, lonely year. But soon it will
be March, and I seem better. Ask
me who the president is now.
–> Laurinda Lind
Jabberwocky in the Time of Pandemic
Praise these dazed, befuddled days,
masked avoidance of the jaws that bite,
the claws that catch. Praise obsolescent alphabets,
the struggle for new meaning.
Praise the frumious Bandersnatch,
life going on while we sing our human bruises.
Praise elephant herds down empty highways,
sounders of wild boars, the troops of Jubjub birds.
Praise inner time,
bewilderment that writes the page and sings the song.
Praise the first day out,
an explosion of daffodils and daffy ducks.
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
[Let’s] chortle in our joy,
will ever be the same.
–> Pamela Ahlen
Naina, writes on steamed bathroom mirrors—
Hello… Then wipes it out
To find the proper spot to stick her bindi.
Naina wears her saree properly
And begins her day—
Proper homage to a proper god,
Proper cups of chai and a proper breakfast.
Sometimes in the middle of a bustle
She writes on the wheat-flour powdered granite—
Hello… then wipes it out
To roll another, proper, chappati.
Naina hates her name—she hates the vowels that whine
And stretch her through all the rooms. Nainaaaa
Even the proper “Maa” contorts with each mood.
Sometimes she forgets that she once loved her name
And then she opens her diary to write it-
But all she writes is—Hello… She never crosses them out.
Her diary is full of Hello‘s.
One day… soon—Naina smiles to herself
A proper house will wake up to find her gone.
They will search, but they won’t find her.
All they will be left with
Will be her “Hello”
Written on every nook and cranny
Of this proper house.
–> Feby Joseph
Neptune-charged, a wave surges up
to rewrite a quotidian day.
Sea stars caught in its briny urgency,
it races the wind toward a drifting ship,
pours destruction down the throats of muscled sailors,
revising them as mermen,
but only for a moment.
After, the ship scrawls its directionless path
on the now-parchment-smooth sea,
illegible shapes trying to be words
erased by weak covalent bonding.
Last drunk from by the boatswain’s boy,
(he had high dreams, too,
of treasure, a rescue,
a kiss from the crown),
a bottle rolls across the deck,
tracing a hollow-glass path,
an “I” with a flourish
as it tumbles to the water,
gulping, sinking, tide-drawn
for a season, more, for a deep long time.
It breaks upon a rocky shore,
fragments never to be reunited,
each writing its own destruction,
dragged tide-wise, moon-crooned,
brilliance, sharpness, edges worn away,
left ashore at last, alone,
winking in new sunlight,
its tale only guessed at
by one who reaches to pick it up,
this luminous ember of life.
–> Jennie MacDonald
This Is How I Want To Remember It
Before Carly can write about the centaur, she has to carry out the evening rituals. The rhythms of the day must be preserved.
Morning is for tuning up: breakfast, bathroom, taking Lucy for a walk. Afternoon is for improvising—performing whatever sequence of errands and work she felt like doing that day. But the night is sheet music that has to be followed note for note: one more walk for Lucy, take out the trash, carve some meat off a Costco chicken to lay on top of tomorrow’s dry dog food, crush up some turmeric tablets and joint pills to mix into Lucy’s food, drape tomorrow’s outfit over the office chair, shower, and then park on the couch to journal. The couch is leather, its color malbec wine—Carly found it in the complex’s dumpster, poking out at an angle like an ocean liner sinking into the sea.
For Carly, journaling is an act of optimism—a way of keeping faith with her future self. To record one’s life is to assume that you’ll still be around decades later to read it. It’s also, she’s loath to admit, an act of hubris—to believe that you’ll live a life so interesting some stranger will want to read about it after the fact. She’s always imagined she is writing for both those audiences—Future Carly and her biographer.
The endless drone of her pandemic days, as they all bleed together into a locked groove of routine and isolation, is painful to record. Bad enough living a boring life—recording that tedium for posterity feels like rubbing salt in the wound. She decided a rewrite was in order.
Yesterday, she saw children made out of glass playing soccer in the park across the street.
A few days ago, a javelina named Rodrigo told her a joke so dirty she blushed like an anime girl.
Last week, a gang of pirates sailed down the street on the back of a giant Dimetrodon—the ancient reptile’s massive fin effortlessly slicing through the asphalt.
The grackles outside her window sang the day’s nuclear codes to each other, and Carly carefully notated them in her journal.
Sitting on the couch after a hot shower, Carly turns to a new page. It wasn’t easy putting off writing about the centaur—all day, his chimerical physique was all she could think about.
Tonight she will write about encountering a centaur outside CVS, who begged her to go with him to his sylvan land & fight the Queen of Rot—”She who speaks with a tongue made out of clicking beetles,” he’ll bray. She’ll write about turning him down gently, planting a mask-free kiss on his lips.
When Future Carly (hopefully) looks back on this time she’ll remember the centaur’s doe eyes and blackened mane. She won’t remember crying on the kitchen floor, or the panic attacks because someone sneezed on her at the supermarket. That will all take on the texture of a song whose melody she can’t recall—the fantasy will become the real soundtrack of her lost years.
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”—Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
“I take pleasure in my transformations. I look quiet and consistent, but few know how many women there are in me.”―
What do you want to do now?