Wednesday, February 21, 2024

21 February 2024

This is because, spiritually, they have only one nostril. Oh Smell Cyclops, too literal to be ordinary, too metaphorical to be strange! The final call will come with flowers in a plain vase at the window of his room.

My father had no window, but he could see things through. He didn’t need memory; people were either present (a cousin’s young daughter walked through his room, known only to him), or they were only absent. Smell triggers memory in those who want it. I bought a jar of Vicks because it brought my childhood back. Sick nostalgia.

Via a friend on email, Laura sends him all of our names. Please say these names to him out loud, she asks. Name as visitation in plain language. Name as our hope for this.

Another poet wants no contact; she’s too busy dying. A name comes to mean less and less, though it fills at least one hole in a day.

The cyclops cannot smell; his one lane tunnel leads to hell fires, we’re told. We smell his breath as a kind of warning.

At the elementary school, firemen line up beside their yellow truck. It’s career day.

The dying poet wants to refuse closure. Our names demand it. We want to have been there in the end. “You can say good-bye,” the nurse said, even though he’s past breathing.

Brenda buys teeshirts of rock stars so she can wear them when they die. Let’s make teeshirts of ourselves and wear them when we go.

But she’s so young, a student says. 82. The marker is in our brains, not on our calendars. He’s 69. My father was 78. I’m 65. Numbers don’t ad up. My son, 24, tells friends that his cat’s ashes are kept more prominently, and in a nicer box, than those of his grandmother. My mother’s grit resides in a plastic bag in my closet. I should put them on the same shelf as my father’s at Arlington, but I put the act off.

It’s been 337 words since I began writing this morning. I brought home a bright button with photo of a woman, a man, and a boy on it. The man flashes a shaka. After picking it up from the grass, I placed it on a ledge yesterday, but no one took it. The button offers no names, no condolences, no hint as to its purpose divorced from context. I could pin it on and wear it to go shopping, but I think I know better.

To call them all back, the ghosts, is to create a flash mob of shadows. A friend nearly fell back when Sean leaned forward on stage and became his father, John. Family resemblance is spooky comfort. Family non-resemblance lets us let go of our names.

My husband turns on the television this morning. Women pregnant in Gaza. Women raped in Gaza. Women raped in Israel. Donald Trump. My husband sounds angry. I go downstairs to write my sadness down. The author of The Cloud of Unknowing cautions me not to confuse metaphor with truth, and for once, I can’t.

Note: quotations from and influence of The Cloud of Unknowing, A.C. Spearing, translator.

No comments: