Time Inside a Troubled Room
I was looking for someone who understood, someone who took their time. Instead of bursts of light and noise talking directly to the brain, screeching colors, tasting of chocolate, the odor of lemons, sound of people speaking over one another, the touch of glass, plastic. We are sensory creatures. We need input. Our mistakes are emotional, so we bury them. Whatever is said in America these days evaporates (saved forever on our personal machines).
We’re too busy for: old age; insistent messages; children; rotting weather; verb tenses; sagging relationships; vast landscapes; illness in pieces; and lurking death.
Someone, anyone, can change. The witnesses always seem right. Guns could be gentle, positive. The surface becomes everything. No diagnosis, no cure, no mystery. We invite others in but then they remind us of someone we didn’t like. We see danger pooling around us. Are they trying to take things away? So what else can we do? Our vacancies are collecting inside, growing larger, clamoring. We are becoming empty. Our culture is tiring of us.
Everything sits in a mouth, held there, until it begins leaking, grows a name, a perspective.
Benefits to Being Strangled
We are good at lists of tiny memories,
unarguable mornings, fatigue stuck into a body like a knife, fights rising from potential heartbreak, money made from broken fields or torn buildings or products built from nothing, black and blue wars (inside and outside our country), big cars, hair, food, ideas. We are molded by water, by politicians with their shaky architectures. We create our own families, scarecrows in our clothes.
I am a corporation, I am Persephone, and I am asleep to the world part of the time. Some of this is my own making.
Fragments of Sleep
In grade school, before boys, before the weight of the adult world, my closest friend had her own violent version of sleepwalking. Sometimes when I spent the night at her New York City apartment, which was full of brothers and sisters and clutter and I loved it there, she would punch or hit me in her sleep. Sometimes she pointedly wandered, successfully avoiding hazards. Every once in a while she slapped me or someone else, but I didn’t like her any less.
A Contradictory Heart
I am the opposite seasons combined. One is almost a punishment, and the other is delightful. One is ignored and avoided and the other is welcomed.
Museum of Communications
My husband and I don’t do a lot of things together. Over twenty-seven years of marriage we have different interests and memberships. My husband works occasionally at the Museum of Communications and whispers to me through ancient telephones and lines that he loves me. The equipment there has rotary dials, ringer boxes, handsets, transmitters, and magnets. I tell him I love him too on my own ruined and old equipment, and it is difficult and slow and satisfying.
But there is always someone coming. They are right in back of you, waiting. My first marriage lasted about three years, drugs, gambling, and trust issues didn’t help. I waited. My second marriage is good. We are compelled to achieve without knowing why. Years ago, after I’d trapped one mouse in my Montana house and let it go outside, several more took its place.
We Are Missing Something
I fear invitations to events I don’t want to attend. Days collect, become a life, which doesn’t know what will happen next within this country with its old-fashioned intentions, money, fame, power, whether we want them or not. I thought I wanted to manage my father’s three bridal stores, when I was twenty years old, in college and working for my father one summer. I enjoyed brushing my fingers over the plastic-encased sparkling white sample dresses. My mother and father were getting a divorce and, for the summer, I lived with my mother. I was serious. I imagined that the strength of my future convictions would make the stores profitable and popular. My hands were busy. I cleaned, tagged, restocked, helped sell. Some of the older sales women had been in prison, had scars. Often our customers were already pregnant. My mother repeated her terrible opinions about my father: that he was sleeping with various sales women, that he stole money, that he was stupid. I tried to ignore her. But one day I heard my father upstairs, in his glass office, screaming on the telephone. When he slammed down the receiver, he yelled for me to come upstairs to his office.
“That was your mother on the phone. You’re fired.”
I never went back.
There Isn’t Enough Time
In Seattle, my city, motion burned through the day. The earth was disturbed and green spaces were already slipping away. Water mysteriously surrounded us and sky was dust-colored and filled with rain. I used to like being in the middle of nowhere, but nowhere is harder to find now. I’m growing older and slower, trying to revive myself, hoping for luck and culture. I like to act as if there’s more time, endlessly more, but I don’t want to deplete it.
Because of four pomegranate seeds, I alternate between heaven and hell. An irreconcilable heart waits for me on each side. The moment you take your eyes off of me, I’m gone again.
Children are lingering over their devices. We once had their attention, now children are kept busy, and we are trying to stop their bodies and minds from being shrunken into devices. Once inside them, they can visit anyone, anywhere, so we need to be vigilant about where they’ve been. With our devices we are never alone, almost like another face and body, and yet, as in marriage, we are lonely. We are making more of certain words, pictures, and icons and let them stand in for emotions we used to have but now simply need to project. Our children have stopped believing in anything not verified on a device, especially what’s been said. Predators swirl around us. Soon the children will forget our names.
Edith Hamilton’s Mythology
Every year Demeter lost her only child, Persephone, for four months to the underworld, watching her die again and again. The story is about a mother’s grief and the world plunged into winter, reflecting. While Persephone briefly brought back beauty in her return to her goddess mother, new green leaves, bright flowers and fruit blooming, Persephone was never the same. She had been changed because of where she had been. Persephone became “the maiden whose name may not be spoken.” And, in that way, belonged to no one.
We did everything for our children, the wanting and unwanting, the right to grow. I had once been good-natured. We didn’t say enough to one another. We were learning how to fix things. No one listened to me and I said the wrong things, even when talking to myself. I had been reliable. The world misled us all. In a time of war we would save the children.
We Had Nothing in Common
Heaven and hell occupied the same world, could be different parts of the same country. I wanted to tell my husband everything since he lived in my body. I could often predict what he would do or say. He liked old electronics, music, the clarinet, our synagogue. I liked reading, writing, ballet, cats. Sometimes loneliness moved its ladder from one space to another in our house. We alternately spent time among each other’s interests, jostling one person awake and then the other, a bit like Persephone.
One of Us Was Sleeping
Hades, the king of the underworld and the dead, saw Persephone and wanted her. I had recently divorced my first husband and moved to Seattle when I met my second husband. He wanted a relationship. I wasn’t ready. I was several years older. I wanted to reheat myself without commitments. I wanted to be right day after day. The world can shrink. We can repeat our mistakes, which might also be called fate. It could conclude with something better or be replaced by something worse.
A Country of Avoidance
Button your sweater, and it will still come undone. I laugh at the television. My family has a history of screaming, and arguing with the television’s points of view.
It’s difficult to know what lives inside you until it’s disturbed.
Things should be easier. But sometimes we wander naively into the wrong woods. A wolf appears. There are only a few paths to pursue: run, be eaten, or fight. We could be prepared, chase, fight, or eat a wolf. We would be more than ourselves. We could be the bigger wolf.
Disposable Loneliness Myths
Loneliness is a longing for relatives, or people left behind, and is the worst thing that can happen, except when relatives stay too long.
In Sami Shamanism Horagalles, the thunder god, is depicted as a wooden figure with a nail in his head, holding a hammer ready. That is why he is alone.
In the Eden of Genesis man was lonely and God created animals and then a woman. Man was still lonely.
Anteros was a god of love and passion who punished those who rejected the affection of others with solitude.
A white and yellow chrysanthemum grew side by side in a field. Lady Yellow went with an old gardener who praised her. Lady White cried bitterly. Then Lady White was discovered and brought to the palace where her happy image adorned many objects and lived forever. Lady Yellow ended up in the garbage.
Female fairies swapped their deformed babies for human ones at birth. The “changeling” was only content when misfortune visited the house, with its small creepy footprints.
Narcissus rejected every beautiful maiden who wanted him. A goddess caused him to fall in love with himself instead. When he bent over a pool and saw his reflection, he fell in love. He wouldn’t leave until he died, gazing at himself in the water. He wished he could share his story with the handsome boy in the water.
In Dreamtime a woman isn’t allowed to marry the man she loves so she runs far away from her people. Ancestor spirits lift her into the sky world just before she dies alone. She peers down at her sad, shivering people and creates a fire in the sky for them called the sun.
Huldufolk, elves and trolls, the hidden people, are often in fables warning people not to wander off from their community, putting themselves in someone else’s shoes.
In 2014 a 57 year-old woman, living near Paris, who complained of “severe loneliness” and bad health, locked herself in a freezer. A fireman
later discovered her frozen, curled corpse, her mouth open as though she was talking to other frozen people. (Daily Mail, “Body of French woman suffering from ‘severe loneliness’ is found in her own freezer,” Peter Allen, 12/2/14)
I was forgetting the sequences for breaking things: deadbolts shattered, cracked windows, gangly doorknobs, familiar faces, or the previously glamorous chair. Broken highway lines between empty wild landscapes stitched through space to a wounded, taller familiar city. Everything comes from elsewhere but stays in place. (The wolves have already been here. Some of the wolves live here now.)
When my sister and I were young my mother would shut the door to our bedroom, turn off the light, and tell us not to leave or make any noise. She had a date and told him that she didn’t have any children. When my mother and her date went to her bedroom, my sister and I would tiptoe through darkness into the kitchen, raid the refrigerator, and then tiptoe back to our bedroom.
Demeter, Persephone’s mother, changed the land in her grief (desolate, barren) and again in her rejoicing (thick, rich, and green) depending on where her daughter resided. Both Demeter and Hades loved Persephone and she was inside them both. Both longed for her, in the same way the world makes itself ready.
We were caught up in our own lives, which was what we did to one another in a place where everyone aspired. We did the best we could with all those distractions, snow collecting in street corners like accidents, one of my friends falling into darkness, an impatient wind swirling with information from various devices. I understood traveling from inside a destination, and joy from a lack of frostbite. Where, when, why. One was leading another. I have found something else. I was always changing.
Call my name.
Then leave me behind.
LAURIE BLAUNER is the author of seven books of poetry and four novels. Her most recent novel, The Solace of Monsters, won the Leapfrog Fiction contest, was included in a list of best 2016 Indie books at Bookriot, and was a 2017 Fiction finalist for the Washington State Book Award. Her essays have appeared in PANK, december, Your Impossible Voice, and Cleaver magazine among others. She lives in Seattle. Her web site is www.laurieblauner.com.