Borrowed Fire / You Should Pay Me Back
If you practice writing constantly, you can start to speak in poetry form and so whenever you feel like writing something, all you have to do is immediately write what you’re thinking. John Ashbery says that poetry is like a stream that’s always running and whenever he wants to, he can dip into it and take a little ladleful and have a poem. If I hadn’t devoted my life to poetry, then I’d have to sit down and struggle with the page. That seems torturous to me.
The birds are singing loud now in the morning. Before the first weak light breaks the horizon, I hear them in the yard. I set a dog loose on the long line out there and pause to listen as he disappears into the dark. Birds being loud. Birds waking up. Birds saying their thing to other birds. And maybe to other creatures too. Maybe they speak to me. Birds talking to me.
What’s up, guy?
Chin up, fella.
Listen and learn, cowboy.
Over beyond Elk Creek the familiar darkish blue of the old eastern sky is uncasing itself. The treetops on the hill beyond the rushing stream reveal silhouettes. I hear Malcolm fart out on the lawn. I can’t see him but there is no mistaking it. The line he is attached to clinks a bit when he wanders and I hear that too. He is sniffing. He is breathing this morning in. I wonder what it smells like to him. His nose is so much more advanced than mine. He is informed by scents I never sense, whispered at by whiffs I never whiff. I try to imagine it. I try so hard: with a few deep breaths and a concentrated mind, I try to pick up on the wet musk of the sticky white pine in the middle of the yard.
It doesn’t work. Nothing works really. I cannot ever smell like a dog. Or like any animal. Years of cigarette smoke and dirty cities and power-sanding paint off of old kitchen cabinets has caught up with me. I can’t smell that great anymore. I miss most things. You would have to burn toast bad for me to understand the situation. You might even have to set it on fire outright. So I can grasp the reality.
Upstairs in the house everyone else is asleep. I call for Malcolm and he comes back slowly, uninspired by my presence. I guess he was hoping for a little alone time, but no dice. I’ve got a whole goddamn day to get ready for. Malcolm will just be hauling his ass to a couch or a bed to sleep away the hours when there are no humans around to cramp his style. I look up at the bathroom window and it’s all muted orange from Dollar Store Halloween string lights.
Within me, out of nowhere, I understand I cannot stay forever.
The sun’s first streaks lift up over the tree line, heavy and dramatic, like Nam choppers. I feel no warmth from them as Malcolm sops water from his metal dish. Most of it hits the stones of the rough patio. Most of his drinks end up on the ground. The sun is new. The sun is old. I got six and half hours sleep and I’m still tired as fuck.
I know my life won’t go on and on. I wonder what I’m doing here anyways. What was my point? What purpose is there in all of this/ in all of these birds singing through broken darkness/ in each of these morning stars pulsating above me/ in this giant dog who I’ve never quite understood/ in this grass turning green after another long winter.
Where do I go to ask about my days? Who would be able to tell me anything about how I was perceived and what the truth of me really was?
Inside the house, I know the coffee is ready now. I know it is sitting there in the glass pot waiting for me. I ought to take the whole thing and dump it all over my scalp. Drip hot lava down my neck and chest. Feel the morning burn. Like gym rats. Like meth heads on a ledge. Like tiny strange songbirds who only exist in auras of sound, never to bee seen by natural eyes, because they are not visible. They are merely songs from the Earth warning me not to forget what I mustn’t forget.
Just then, Malcolm throws up water mixed with mucus all over the cold morning stones right by my Vans. I watch him quietly. The day is breaking. There appears to be more to come.
At the school I ring the buzzer and look into the camera. There is the sound of a phone ringing and then the lady in the office comes on. She knows me, says hi. She says that they will bring Violet out in a minute.
Last week at another meeting at the school everyone decided that Violet should have another couple weeks for adjusting to the meds. Taking this stuff can make a kid tired or wound-up or almost anything, I guess. In Violet’s case, they make her sleepy more than active, but they also seem to make her less edgy, less overwhelmed by the thoughts in her head.
For this, I am grateful. It is not easy to watch your own child suffer. I would kill anyone to make it go away. I would place my own head on the railroad tracks and let the next train crush my face if there was a deal you could make that would free the kid from the pain in exchange for my soul. My soul is nothing next to hers.
You know what I’m saying?
Would you cut out your own tongue with a knife if you were certain it would heal your baby?
I think I would. I think I know I would. But then again, what do we know? What do we even know at all about who we are/ what we are made of? Everybody is an expert on everybody else. Yet, when it comes to the deep peer into our own lives, I mean, goddamn. What a shit show. What a clown car of catastrophes we all turned out to be.
Violet comes out and throws her backpack in my backseat. She smiles and checks my eyes to gauge my mood. Eye locking is not her everyday thing, but when she does it she does it because she is moving in for a reading. Autistic kids are more in tune to the world around them than a lot of neurotypicals are. Violet can seize the vibe of a room simply by moving through it briskly/ her hands stimming in the air in front of her.