Bus Accident

Sometimes she carried her sadness like a full water glass, neat and contained, see through but not troubling. Sometimes it was like a heavy plate of sliced watermelon, pulpy and bleeding, pink and garish. And it all was manageable, until she hit an age when it wasn’t. She woke up one morning at thirty in a bedroom painted blue, the shade dusty and soft as talcum powder but the color made her like sandpaper. This wasn’t a stepping stone. Nothing was following. She had signed on the dotted line without ever picking up a pen.

Shame bloomed in her arms and through the long parts of her, billowing like milk poured into a widemouthed cup of tea, petals of milk pealing. She couldn’t grow happiness. She said she wanted to but she was lying. She lied all the time. She didn’t know if she really wanted to be happy or if it was the thing to say. The hinge in her mind swung.

She went to the grocery store and picked out clumps of baby spinach leaves, using plastic tongs when people were around, her hand when they weren’t. She overbought produce. It was something she did. It satisfied her to open the fridge and see bags of lettuces and bowls of cut berries. Cut celery and carrots floating in chilly water. Cucumbers. Jewel colored peppers. Bananas on the counter. Apples. Tomatoes on the windowsill. She cut the fruits and vegetables down sometimes. Into stick and cubes. Sometimes she ate them. Sometimes she let them grow old and take on slime, losing their brightness, and then she tossed them and felt like a jerk.

She was on time for work each morning. Her office was only just across town, but she left a thirty minute window to be safe and also to make tea. Seven extra minutes was the most she’d ever needed, and that was the day when a school bus hit a deer, killing the deer and knocking the students around like pinballs on the loose. She drove past the scene and stopped her car at the corner. She saw the bus, kind of wonky on its side and ready to slip from the roadside. Blood rinsed the street dark and the deer was off to the side, its side split open like a piece of fruit, entrails shining, steaming on the cold morning. Children came from around the side of the bus, stumbling like little drinkers, rubbing their eyes into hot knots with tiny fists. Their shoulders, no bigger than plums, heaved, and snot and tears yellowed their faces and would be crusty in their curls and buzz cuts when they were popped into the bathtub with a grape popsicle that night. It was a special day, everyone safe and sound. Popsicles all around, even in the tub!

But in the morning, parents were still rolling contacts around on their eyeballs and flipping on dishwashers. Driving to work, anxious for coffee or to finish a report or to scope Jeannine’s apple ass. By the time parents were alerted and most were on the scene or sent an ambassador, which would take approximately fourteen minutes in a town this size, all children would be accounted for.

Adults from every office and store emerged before the parents, because this was their street. They flew around the children like birds of prey, fighting one another for the dead things left to stink on the roadside. They pulled any child, but the healthy, sweet ones with shiny hair first, into their arms, and rocked the babies and wiped little noses and sang songs in their throats. The adults felt so needed, such love swollen through them to wrap around babies, some who still slept with binkies, some who still wet their pants. Some who had wet their pants this morning. Every adult wore a crown that morning. She could see the jewels glistening in the chilled morning sun. Parents arrived and took their children, faces wan with worry, eyes warm once arms had been pulled on and knees thumped a little.

When she had seen the children disembarking the bus, she walked to the deer and lay her long coat over him, the best she could, so the children wouldn’t see the felled animal. She cried hard, hot tears of relief when she saw that he was dead. The moments after life has left a creature are that creature’s most beautiful moment, ar least for the onlooker. The deer was still warm and loose with leftover life and she could watch him and take in his eyelashes and the fine muscles on his face. His face was strong but the skin stretched so delicately that his skull could have been built with dandelion stems. She put her hand near the pool of blood, dipped a finger and touched it to her bottom lip.

Seven minutes late to work but no one was there. They were still at the accident scene. She peeled away a filter and put it in the plastic basket so coffee would be ready.

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Because You Stopped for Store Brand Moisturizer

When you are late getting home from work. When you text at 4:36 that you will be home in twenty and then it is 5:23, I slowly but at lightening speed think, “Is this the day that I will lose her?” I seize up like an epileptic, which is something that I’m not. My bones assemble into the steel silhouette of a building that will soon be selling chicken fried rice and pretty cranberry colored but quite itchy sweaters. I sing a little to myself, not at all like a dirge but more like the kind of song I might listen to in the morning while I’m brushing my teeth before work, “So these things happen. Carry on. Pull your muscles out of your pockets.” I will honor your memory and a life beautifully, really, just beautifully lived, and I will make sure sprays of flowers adorn your coffin. I will ask people, please, please don’t speak of her in the past tense. I will push open the screen door into a porch busy with blustery wind, like I am trudging and pushing through a desert- which I am- and I will take glass dishes holding wet piles of chicken and vegetables cut into tiny logs, all mixed up with gelatinous canned soup. I will hold the dishes like sleeping babies and smile graciously. People will ask how I am holding up. I will try not to hand the well wishers a blue lipped smile- you knew my blue lips and they made you worry that I was dead but it is you who is dead- and eyeballs caught up in fine red nets. I will accept hugs from people wearing knee length, loosely belted sweaters. They know how hard this must be. Tears hang off our eyelids like perched skydivers. In the middle of the night, I will vomit into a white toilet bowl. I will leave the lights off because this makes the retching more poignant. The smell of vomit will bloom over the ceramic tiles, and I will think somewhere in my body, look at you. You are grieving. Look at how well you’re doing this. I will crawl across the carpet on my knees, wasted, a snazzy skeleton. I will liken myself to some biblical creature. I will lift myself into our bed like I am a truck bed of cargo, and I will peel away my clothes like shells. I will hear birds in the black trees and I will ride their backs, humping their thin spines to urge them on, away from my frame of bones spread over the sheets that have grown furry without washing since you died three plus weeks ago. By which I mean two months. Four months. We never had it together, but how we turned like one animal in our dirt.

Fall Gardening- Edit

A tree trunk is the wooden bloom of a yellow leaf. You want to eat the leaf, to put it on your tongue and let it dissolve like a tab of acid or the body of Christ. These things are the same really, and in either case, you want to run the color down your throat and through your bowels. This is selfish and you simply can’t do such things.

In winter, squirrels act as suspenders and use their fine toenails to pull up the trees. You don’t believe me because you’re the kind of person who doesn’t believe things. If all squirrels got selfish at once, like we do, and jumped from the trees in a flash mob to grab at nuts rolling in gutters, every single tree would fall at once. I would like to hold a squirrel’s hand, his tiny mitt on the pad of my finger. The trees would crash noiselessly because big things don’t have soundtracks. Anything funereal is strangely quiet, a quiet entirely void of comfort, the quiet of leaving a church on a cold morning lit yellow. You wad a shredded tissue into a hard ball in your damp palm and you do not know where the casket has been taken and the sun is too bright. We are silent soundtracks, preserving wails on mute and snot and tears in amber stones that we finger on dusty summer mornings when the heady smell of cut grass makes our throat ache.

Find something finer than a squirrel’s toenail with its bleeding quick encased in a curved shell. God unfolded me over a map of the Vitruvian man and shot me through with bleeding quicks. I bleed from anywhere and it’s startling.

Another thing to know is that my body is hooked to my bowel, and it’s my ears that keep me standing. Otherwise, well. It would be a noiseless thing. And a ferris wheel, the whole wheel and all the colored carts of it, all of it swings from just one broken lightbulb, its broken quick pinging when the bulb is shaken. It’s the thick black sky that lights up the bulbs that aren’t broken. You think it’s the other way but you’re mistaken. Hang your face in shame, and mean it. This isn’t just for effect. Hole yourself into the dry corner of a library and study things. It’s one line in one book on a plain old blonde haired, blue eyed shelf that keeps the entire library from blowing apart like a flower gone to seed.

Slide your arms into a squeaky raincoat and kneel in your chilly garden while rain turns to snow and back to rain and back to snow. The trees are still held by brown and yellow leaves. It’s that kind of afternoon. Listen to me: your world is full of surprises and you are lucky you can’t see its beauty at once. If you did, your back would split in two and loll in the wet grass, your quick wrinkling like a peach pit. So much is lost on you. You’re not big enough to hold it, and you can certainly not make yourself small enough to protect it. You spend your life scouring your tongue and teeth with sand, rinsing your eyes with bleach, scrubbing out your groin with steel wool. Your fingers are a terribly boring ball in your lap. They are aging into peeling sticks.

Get down in the goddamn garden on your knees. Blink at the icy raindrops shattering across your fat face like birdshot. Your knees are heavy metal saucers. You delight in the cold metal. You could kneel and rock and probably sing Turkish prayers and Icelandic hymns. Turn over wet and heavy clumps of soil with a friendly spade. Lift breaking clods of earth. Dump them. Lift more. Mind the living things. Watch the black earth break into big pieces, like cracked dinner plates. This is how you come to life. [You didn’t forget seeds. Don’t be so ridiculous. You are always so ridiculous, always fretting. No one asked you to plant anything.] It’s already been done. It was done before anyone talked about aspirin in waxy cups at bedtime or fruit cups for train rides. Your naivety makes my fingers flutter, and I could just pinch your round heiney, split like a ripe fruit. You delight me. Etch a locket to say something important, like, for example, You haven’t the foggiest. Wear it. Don’t strangle yourself with it. Just only wear it. It’s meant to make you pretty, not breathlessly dead.

You are so wet inside. Take off your useless raincoat. Toss it to the side. Your quick runs the length of you, and you are longer than you can imagine. You are the Vitruvian man. Lay on your back like an egg. Roll in the snow and make yourself a cold nest. Unfold your legs. Spread your knees. Lift your chin. Open your eyes. The world, the entire wet world, is hanging from your fingertips. You are slick and fine and icy. You are smooth and long and wet. Don’t you dare shake your fingers. You are so wet, and I’ve not ever seen anything so broken open, so fresh and fragrant, so shot through with blood and life.

Notes…
Rework into something separate: God unfolded me over a map of the Vitruvian man and shot me through with bleeding quicks.

Tree trunk, squirrel, ferris wheel, library, gardening

Birth

I pulled at waxy yellow petals with my fingers.
I wiped clean a child’s fat, soft bottom while
She sang a song in a hot car and held a purple
Balloon to her round, sweatered belly.
I came home and cried on a sofa blooming with petals,
Like someone very important, someone wearing
A construction paper crown, had died. Not one
Person died. No one died and everyone is dying every
Day and each person has been dying since they pushed their
Wet crown into a chilly room tiled white.
Here’s what happened, a doctor with a
Face dripping skin, like a raisin rubbed loose between your fingers,
Pulled you out, and smacked your ass red and cheerful.
And the world got down on its knees
And slicked oil over its forehead and across your eyelids.
There has always been room for you here. There
Has always been a place for you.

My Song for You (edit)

I am going to write a song for you that will make you feel weird. It will set your teeth on edge, like trains knocked from tracks.

Your skin will get tight and itchy like you are too much pink meat shoved into too small a casing. You are going to need to start wearing long sleeves in July because you will tear your skin into ugly ribbons with your infernal scratching. You’re going to walk toward the pharmacy for a box of envelopes, say, or a ginger ale, and your skin will slough off you, leaving a fine white powder in your wake. You were that little girl who peed in the pool and ended up bobbing in a floating purple ring. All of the other kids in their brightly flowered bathing suits knew you were the one then. Everyone knows you’re the one now.

You with the skin of your arms like fly strips hung by an open kitchen window will forgo the envelopes so there’s no chance of running into your mother’s neighbor picking up her heart medication. You’re well aware that no one wants to see you looking like this and you yourself are going to need heart medication, not envelopes, when I’m done with you.

You will walk shame-faced into a diner to borrow a little hand broom for your mess on the street. Chilly pies will spin on a carousel. You will think ‘I’m hungry,’ and you will realize you are ravenous enough to eat your hands, both of them and then your toes, so you’ll buy up all the pies, the chocolate ones and the pumpkin ones and the syrupy cherry pies, and even the coconut pies, which you say you don’t like, but watch. You’ll buy those ones, too, along with every other pie in the place. You’ll return to the parking lot and sweep the white dust from the blacktop. You will think about licking it from your palm or rubbing it into the wet screens of your eyes or, if you’re feeling proper like you sometimes do, you’ll think about sifting it into a pound cake batter.

This song I’m writing for you is going to make you put your hand in your pants when you think I’m not looking. I’m always looking. Put your hand in your pants and if you do, I’ll put my hand in mine, and it will be like we are making pies together except that we’ve run out of lard. We stood at the sink and fed it to one other by the spoonful last Tuesday, each heavy dollop nearly big as an egg and run through the sugar bowl. Remember how our greasy teeth flashed at one another, our foreheads glowing like palms of moonlight laid over an evening lake.

So we will make cookies instead, side by side at the kitchen counter, cracking eggs and pulling apart stiff knots of raisins. I will hum it first and then sing this song that I’m going to write you, and it will make your arms and legs and your torso, all of the long parts of you, run loose like running water.

You will sleep fitfully at night while uneasy chains of words take over your head. Words like rotgut and apricot and kettledrum. You will think things like pigeon shit on my fingers and a cold bullet in my brain and gladiolas abloom in my lap. You will lie in the dark wondering why don’t we ever sit on hills and watch fireworks at noon, why don’t we clear away the snow and garden in the frozen ground, when our houses are really in need of something bright. Everything is going to make so much sense, even those things that never make sense. You are use to being coy but you will know what it all means, all of these loose trains of words looping through your head and tying you to the bed. You’ll probably gasp for breath dramatically. I will make you feel so weird, quietly singing this song into your pink ear.

Songs

I am going to write a song for you that will make you feel weird. It will set your teeth on edge, like trains knocked from their tracks. Your skin will get tight and itchy, like you are too much pink meat shoved into a too small casing. You will leave behind a fine powder of skin in your wake You will make such a mess that you’ll need to borrow a little hand broom from that diner that spins chilly pies on a carousel. You will be so ashamed. You will be ravenous enough to eat your hand but instead you’ll buy armloads of chocolate pies and cherry pies and coconut pies which you say you don’t like, but watch. You’ll buy it, along with every other pie in the place on your way out. You’ll sweep up your white dust and you will think about licking it from your palm or rubbing it into the wet screens of your eyes or, if you’re feeling proper like you sometimes do, you’ll opt to sift it into a poundcake batter. This song is going to make you put your hand in your pants when you think I’m not looking. I’m always looking. Put your hand in your pants and if you do, I’ll put my hand in mine, and it will be like we are making cookies together, side by side at the kitchen counter, cracking eggs and measuring out spicy spoonfuls of cinnamon and pulling apart hard knots of raisins. My songs will make uneasy chains of words take over your head, words like rotgut and apricot and kettledrums, and the chains will wake you in the middle of the night, tying you to the bed with your hand buried in your legs. You’ll probably gasp for breath dramatically. I will make you feel so weird if you give me the chance, humming dirty little songs into your pink ear about whining dogs and blue cheese on picnic tables and raspberry poprocks and folding card tables stacked in an uneasy pile on the morning’s spongy, wet grass.