prose

The Piano Room

The day before reading week I went to a party. I dug around my closet but ended up going in the clothes I was already wearing. The Facebook e-vite had read: casual.

It was still early when I arrived and everyone was friendly in a closed-off way, even my own friends. I padded off to the washroom and tried to guess the wifi password. A girl walked in on me washing my hands. We laughed about the situation and she asked me if I would guard the door for her and I said yes but a second later I heard her say, “oh, I found the lock.” I made no effort to start conversations and was no one’s pit-stop. I walked from room to room until it was all one room, where every door was an exit and there was no way out.

In the center was a dark spot, a drain, pulling everyone in its vicinity towards it. It was a grand piano, a YAMAHA. Expensive. I found beer and drank it, standing off to the side.

Eventually someone did go up to the piano. They played random chords until an actual pianist took over. I knew the pianist had been asked to do it, because people used to ask me.

A small crowd gathered around the pianist and I pushed my way out onto the balcony. The glass door slid open and the girl from the washroom asked if she could join me. I lay down on my back and she did too. The night sky was obstructed by the balcony above ours so we stared up at concrete. Soon the balcony was filled with people lying on their backs.

On my way to the station I thought about the girl from the party and was glad I didn’t have wifi. Social media was a gravesite for temporary friendships. It was only eleven when I reached St. George so I put my bag down on the bench, then I gathered my stuff and joined a homeless guy on the ground. He didn’t say anything, just looked at me and lay his damp face on my shoulder. I didn’t see him that next week, or the week after that, but maybe I did and just couldn’t recognize him – maybe he was everywhere.

*

My mother had spent summer bent over her miniature vegetable garden. She planted tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and beans. There was always a bowl of tomatoes on the dining room table; the rabbits ate everything else.

My parents often talked of setting traps. They made plans while crumbling bread on the deck. I watched them from the kitchen, my heart thumping in my chest.

A movement caught my eye while I was storing the lawnmower. Somehow a bunny had trapped itself beneath the cinderblocks leaning against our shed. He was so small I had to kneel to pick him up. I held my breath, I wanted to be soft for him.

I cradled him in my hands and his wild heart beat so fast; my own heart, too. I kept my hands steady until the beating slowed to a gentle insistence. I knew I would eventually have to let him go.

When I finally placed him in the grass he didn’t run. Silly rabbit. He watched me for half a minute before slowly hopping off. My hands stayed like that, cradling air.

*

I came home one night to a rabbit splayed on the lawn, it had a broken neck.

I asked my mother how big rabbits could get in two months and she wasn’t sure.

She brought in four large cucumbers that week.

*

Halloween I stayed in and gave out candy.

Some kid asked me if I was a parent. I said yes dear, when will you be coming home, dinner’s ready.

She had to go and she forgot to take candy so I followed her out onto the street with my bag. She started running, that silly rabbit, and everyone was mad at me and I tried to tell them about my baby boy but they said go home so I did.

My bag was gone. Somewhere on the street there’s my unwanted M&Ms and Snickers.

*

No one’s invited me to anything since that party. Go home they said. Someone forgot to close the windows and I am the wind and I am here, now.

I saw another rabbit. My baby’s still here because I still think of him. Everyone’s here. We’re all lying on our backs, slightly buzzed and smiling at concrete.

We are all together in the room with the piano and I am getting up to play it. There aren’t any sheets so I have to play from memory but all I can remember now are scales. My fingers are stiff and foreign to the keys but I insist. I hammer out C Major and A Major and my left hand can’t keep up with my right hand but I insist. I hit the keys so hard my nail chips and I am sorry. I am sorry I haven’t practiced since you died I’m just so angry I never got a chance to say goodbye. Then the light falls on my back and there are two shadows on the piano and music fills the room.

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10/20/17

And when what I say is met by incomprehension, and most of what I say is, my spirit dies. Over and over again it dies, and I smile and I sigh and I shrug, and when I am on the night bus going home the blue light sinks into my skin and the stench of my own decay stings my eyes. Because there is no one to match my strange. Because you read my diary and you say, “this is a story about magic realism.” Because I get along fine with everyone because I’m a Gemini and we hide the parts of ourselves that are incompatible and we have two heads and one laughs while the other cries. Because I don’t believe in astrology but I slept with an agate under my pillow. And I dreamt a way out but I have forgotten it. I have forgotten what I meant to say when I said:

Fist Full of Rocks

the person I love most in the world stands in front of me and I think to shake their hand and I think this is my only chance and I hold out my hand to the one I love and my hand is full of rocks and I stand there with my arm out and my hand is full of rocks and I think to shake their hand I think my only chance my hands are full of rocks the one I love the most has gone away my hand is full of rocks

Small Classes Are Surreal

Quiet: there is no one here but me.

The professor is commenting on a Bishop poem. He talks about dreams and what it means to enter the spiritual realm. A man transforms into a dolphin – who is already him – his hair smells like the lake. The rain has stopped but it will begin again. Students are graduating in a white tent on the field. A beeping outside: even that, peaceful. I follow The Path and it leads me home. (Still here, in class.) My glasses are half dark. Should I be taking notes? I watch the ceremony from my mind. The graduates walk up a staircase and disappear into the lake.

“It’s weird how easily you can be replaced.”

The whole class makes one cento.

 

—June 15, 2017

Lie #1

I can’t walk bare feet in the junkyard because all the metal will cut me and then I’ll have to worry about infections – it’s never the initial cause that kills you always the infection – at least from what my mom tells me, she’s a doctor.  All I do in the junkyard is kick around so I definitely would get cut if I was bare foot. I stepped on glass once. Or it was my cousin who stepped on glass and I watched as she stood there with her heel lifted, her blood already pooling on the gravel. Stepping on different textures is supposed to stimulate your brain. There is this park with a special path made out of smooth stones just for stepping. I never finished the path because my feet always hurt after a few steps. My mom says my skin is still too soft. Freud says the skin is the bodily ego. They are both doctors. And I think that’s really funny the thing with doctors and skin because I’m in a hospital bed right now surrounded by doctors and none of them are telling me to put on my shoes and I’m beginning to wish they would because my feet are getting cold. My feet are getting so cold.

Nov. 2

The apocalypse comes to mind. In the subway heading to the turnstiles. I can’t move my left arm because it’s wrapped in plastic. New tattoo. Half sleeve. I’m getting up and I’m suddenly conscious about my posture. “How fresh is that?” “Last night.” Everyone is looking / time to bring both fists down / and you don’t keep your word. Is it because you don’t remember or because you don’t care. The joke’s on me because there is no difference. I learned about priorities and how every act is deliberate and now I can see through everything. Including myself. I’m not even here. Someone recalls something I said on the first day of class. A reminder: senses are stored, memory is picked. Does this make you want to puke? (I’m sitting in The Buttery alone waiting to go meet Walton at JHB.) I want to go home (it’s time to bring both fists down) waiting for M to publish my poem waiting for my copies of MS to arrive in the mail waiting to finish my— I’ll know when it’s done/how will I know when it’s done? Waiting for death waiting to escape it [death]. Waiting for my arm to start itching. Do my tattoos complement each other? I don’t get tattoos I grow new skin! Everyone is busy! What does that mean. Busy I’m busy I’m on my phone and I’m so busy. H8 u anyway.

Royal Fowl

The golden eagle swoops down and grabs me by its talons and I am the eagle and I am taking a nose dive but I bounce up, right before impact, I bounce up and I soar higher than I’ve ever gone. And this continues—with so much strength the air is sliced open by my beak—diving/bouncing to infinity, like a heart going into frenzy, forever.