Tuesday, April 23, 2019

How the World was Made 4

Two More Prose-Poems from the manuscript
How the World was Made

My Mother's Body, Take 2

The snow outside is sparse, becomes rain. The Enola Gay lifts off the tarmac inside my mother’s body, sails into an elevator shaft that takes my father to a lead-encased office beneath the earth where he helps plan World War III.

My grandmother once told me about the bells ringing for the flu dead in 1917. “The bells never stopped ringing,” she said. She said this again and again. She couldn’t stop herself. Her brother and sister died in the epidemic, leaving her alone with her parents and a dog. Someone saw her walking the dog and wanted to put her in the movies. She is now in a movie taking place inside my mother’s body. “The bells...” she says in the movie, counting the dead by her repetition of the word “bells.”

Rain falls onto wet snow. The grey roofs seen from this window merge with the grey sky. Inside my mother’s body my father draws a mushroom cloud, calculating the circumference of the blast, checking it against population stats for the surrounding Russian countryside, because this is what he has been paid to do, while I search through boxes in the basement that no one has opened in a decade. (When you move every two years or so, there are always boxes that go unopened.) I find vinyl: Ravel, Brubeck, a few singles from the 50’s. On one of the singles a girl sings “catch a falling star and put it in your pocket and save it for a rainy day...” The voice is haunted by a broken child’s idea of romance. Please love me, but don’t touch me. 

The grey puddles on the tar roof will turn to grey ice later tonight and the Enola Gay will take off, once again, inside my mother’s body, circling calculations worked out in lead-encased offices deep beneath the earth inside her, sailing beneath the track of a falling star inside her, waiting on the go-ahead from an old woman who cannot stop repeating the word “bells” inside her, endlessly flying toward Hiroshima. 

I have spent a lifetime keeping just out of reach of my mother’s body.

(Previously appeared in The Bitter Oleander in the US; and in Planet: The Welsh Internationalist in the UK)

Blue Sky Language

There is guilt. I found the drying body of a blue-collared lizard in a cleft of sandstone. I was not the one who killed it. It was already dead when I found it. I stood vigil with the lizard under the sun - lone standing mesas scattered across sage flats, long shadows across sand. The ghost of the lizard followed me home. I am not saying this from inside a dream.

There is joy. Sometimes, the lizard's ghost speaks into my left ear in a language that can only be described as various shades of blue. It is a language of unbearable beauty, of the blue sky itself – the language of the eye, roving from east to west, horizon to horizon. I am not saying this from inside a dream, I whisper those blue words into holes in stone every chance I get. 

There is death. A blue-collared lizard sits on a low stone wall, stares at me. Sun on his back, he wants to transmute stone into skin, skin into stone. I say: "I'm sorry, but I did not kill him." I know this has nothing to do with this moment, this lizard. I am insisting on my innocence for things that I have not done because of all the things I have. I am not saying this from inside a dream; I too, want to transmute stone into skin and skin into stone.

(Previously published in

March Sunday/Leonora Carrington
The first three prose-poems can be found
The next two can be found here.

The 4706th Floor/Leonora Carrington

Another can be found

Temple of the Word/Leonora Carrington
There's a new tab on the banner above called "Interviews." 
Inside, along with two short interviews online (one for my fiction, the other for poetry), there is an edited version of a long interview with Paul B. Roth that previously appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of The Bitter Oleander.