Don’t Let Me Be Lonely

  • There was a time I could say no one I knew well had died. This is not to suggest no one died. When I was eight my mother became pregnant. She went to the hospital to give birth and returned without the baby. Where’s the baby? we asked. Did she shrug? She was the kind of woman who liked to shrug; deep within her was an everlasting shrug. That didn’t seem like a death. The years went by and people only died on television—if they weren’t Black, they were wearing black or were terminally ill. Then I returned home from school one day and saw my father sitting on the steps of our home. He had a look that was unfamiliar; it was flooded, so leaking. I climbed the steps as far away from him as I could get. He was breaking or broken. Or, to be more precise, he looked to me like someone understanding his aloneness. Loneliness. His mother was dead. I’d never met her. It meant a trip back home for him. When he returned he spoke neither about the airplane nor the funeral.

Am I dead? Though this question at no time explicitly translates into Should I be dead, eventually the suicide hotline is called. You are, as usual, watching television, the eight-o’clock movie, when a number flashes on the screen: I-800-SUICIDE. You dial the number. Do you feel like killing yourself? the man on the other end of the receiver asks. You tell him, I feel like I am already dead. When he makes no response you add, I am in death’s position. He finally says, Don’t believe what you are thinking and feeling. Then he asks, Where do you live?

Fifteen minutes later the doorbell rings. You explain to the ambulance attendant that you had a momentary lapse of happily. The noun, happiness, is a static state of some Platonic ideal you know better than to pursue. Your modifying process had happily or unhappily experienced a momentary pause. This kind of thing happens, perhaps is still happening. He shrugs and in turn explains that you need to come quietly or he will have to restrain you. If he is forced to restrain you, he will have to report that he is forced to restrain you. It is this simple: Resistance will only make matters more difficult. Any resistance will only make matters worse. By law, I will have to restrain you. His tone suggests that you should try to understand the difficulty in which he finds himself. This is further disorienting. I am fine! Can’t you see that! You climb into the ambulance unassisted.

Excerpted from Don’t Let Me Be Lonely by Claudia Rankine

I am in, therefore, a time of mass apprehensions.

Hour in which I consider hydrangea, a salt or sand plant, varietal, the question of varietals, the diet of every mother I know, 5 pounds feels like 20, I have lost … I have lost, yes, a sense of my own possible beauty, grown external, I externalize beauty. Beauty occurs on the surface of plants; the sun darkens the skin of my child, he is so small, he is beautiful (I can see; it is obvious) and everything about him is beautiful. Because he is small the bite of some insect, its venom makes his hand swell. He appears to feel nothing. He smashes his skull against the floor. He screams. I hold him in my lap on the kitchen floor in front of an open freezer, pressing a pack of frozen clay against his forehead. He likes the cold. I see; it is so obvious. Hydrangea. When I move, when I walk pushing my child’s stroller (it is both walking and pushing or hauling, sometimes, also, lifting; it is having another body, an adjunct body composed of errand and weight and tenderness and no small amount of power), I imagine I can feel this small amount of weight, this 5 pounds like 20, interfering with the twitch of every muscle in my body. As an object, a mother is confusing, a middle-aged mother with little spare flesh, I feel every inch of major muscle pulling against gravity and against the weight of my child, now sleeping. This is the hour for thinking hydrangea. Let no man look at me. I stop to brush the drowsy child’s little eye. His face. He barely considers his mother. I am all around him. Why should he consider what is all around him? Perhaps what is missing is a subtle power of differentiation. I am in, therefore, a time of mass apprehensions.

Simone White, Hour in which I consider hydrangea.

Dubbing the Numberstream

You would not know at first glance that the room is actually built of old
teak boards, because the old wood is shellacked to a point approaching
vinyl. The house is built to last. For insurance, there are photos of family
ancestors, kings, and Buddhist saints hung all along one wall as well as
bright-red protective flags hung near every door on which arcane inscriptions of numbers and sacred alphabets are inked into complex matrices
designed to cheat fate.
The brand-new flat-screen here in this Northern Thai house plays over
and over the images from exactly halfway around the world of two planes
crashing into New York City, of explosions, of two tall white buildings
tumbling down and lashing out with giant paws of dust.
Kamnoi, in her sixties with failing eyes, is latched to the set. With her
notebook and pen in hand, she searches the screen through big froggoggle glasses. Her jet-black wig is tilted off-kilter, but she takes no notice. A plane hits; she writes down the time. A building crashes; that gets
jotted down too. The colors of the smoke, the shape of the rubble, and
the numbers estimated to have died, all these are inscribed as quickly as
Kamnoi can perceive them or can receive information from the on-the-fly
Thai translations of live video feed that chime in and out of the foreign
broadcast almost randomly.
Interpretation runs in her family. As a young woman she would attend
the backyard cinema her neighbor would set up on Sundays, where it was
her uncle who served as the voiceover translator and dubber for Hollywood films, although he knew no English. Sitting in the back, throwing
his voice through a pa system, he would ventriloquize whatever he decided
the characters might be saying to each other. A deep voice for men, a high
voice for women. The drama did not suffer, Kamnoi has insisted on several
occasions.
Her notebook is a mess of observations, readings, and numbers. “These
are the raw events,” she explains. “The rawness is the misfortune. But it
leaves a hole in the world. And to that hole of extraordinary misfortune,
fortune is drawn. Then you have to pull out the cooked meaning, and you
get the number.”

Settling on this life as a parasite on its host.

The Sangre de Cristo Mountains mottled as if with oil stains. Configurations of cloud-shadows.

Easy gait of hours: a way through — or into — the dry winds.

Our church is the mountains, says the guide to the tour group, all of whom have been instructed to keep their cameras inside their bags. 
A group crowding the aisles of San Geronimo Chapel.

On the dirt path between adobe structures, bareheaded. Stretching, palms out, as steam from the boiling pot does.

To move along the earth without keeping a ledger.

The horsefly not so incongruous with the sagebrush. Still, reflexive swatting.

We’re good citizens, we serve in the Army, though we’re regarded as second 
class by the US government.

Framed badges and news stories in the house of the retired sheriff. Men in his family who have been policemen, firemen, soldiers. His wife pinching the ears of bear sculptures formed from mica clay.

Thick paste of red soil and the piñon that pierces through it.

To carry on from day to day without exercising the sloppy hand of 
manipulation.

Four dollars for a plate of fry bread in cinnamon butter. The boy at the counter restless, wanting to get back to the electronic dance 
music on pause on his iPhone.

Reading a history backward, the deep strata.

Settling on this life as a parasite on its host.

That man next door who you bought from? He sells jewelry made by an Anglo woman. His wife.

The stray dog asleep on her side, dreams ripped from her open jaw.

Money touched from hand to hand.

Whole lifetimes spent trying to make sense of an appetite.

A town called Tres Orejas. Three ears. Plenty.

ledger by jenny xie

despite the weight of things

M sent me a photograph by Daguerre. It is of the first human being to be photographed. Someone is cleaning the shoes of someone. All descriptions of the photograph claim that the first human being to be photographed is the figure having his shoes cleaned. I see first the figure cleaning the shoes as the photograph’s subject. Secondly, the event of the shoe-cleaning. From this immediately I saw the state of the world.

verso 40.6 dionne brand

we the beat

days like these pleat whatever the hollow year must offer
between the not-yet-dead and those just waking up
it will not be the vanished thing that we remember
it will be what we exchanged close to midnight
like smugglers high-wiring the city, hoarding the thoughts
of ours we interrupted midway to discovering the velocity
of the burning world below
of our language in the lateness of our stuck and reckless love

rest @ https://poets.org/poem/middle-burning