A Courtship Dance with Damnation

Bones. Decapitations. The tip of the knife running down my jugular vein as if de-veining

a shrimp. Bones, my bones, delicate as the spines of feathers, taped to paper, hung in old musty museums. The decapitation of my beloved, his face like that of an elephant gouged of its tusk, my fingers dabbing the blood like fingerpaint. The rock face of memory, its bald cliff so shiny it’s a mirror and in it I see the ghoulish visage of the child I once was, the harrowing, chiseled cheekbones, sickly grey complexion of the complex young woman I couldn’t help but be, whose dreams haunt my dreams like swirl art.

Where did that young woman go, she who mothered the angel of all poverty, whose fox-colored hair cascaded down her back, her tears like shattered jewels, her shadow encasing her, her ratty garments, buttons missing, holes like ghost eyes, her tragic pen, the words scorpions with stinging tails?

Men cloyed to her like flies on sticky paper, coils of which hung like ringlets from her water-stained ceiling. Flies can turn into maggots and the many lewd fingers prodding her here and there did, each a bloodsucker while man after man grew fat on her sweet fat, pricked her heart with one of Sebastian’s deadly arrows.

I see her walking into the sea, head hung low, the sun a lion’s head, clouds on the prowl. She looks down, hunched over, shoulders shaking as she takes off her long blue dress, the one with seams worn, torn, fetal birds folded deep in its pleats. She stays there a long time, in monolithic loneliness, her lips moving as if speaking in Penecostal tongues, but she is stuffing silence down her throat while longing to sink in the empty deep that roils around her.

Hours are time bombs, days rear themselves like Leviathans, years bleed along the bleak horizon, veer into steerage where she is stricken, starving. When she writes and she is always writing, she is in a mud hole, the walls slick as shit, the words being mucked up in the muck. She cries out, but her voice goes up into smoke. She cries again, but no one cares enough to hear her and she chokes on that smoke. It is though she were invisible and all who she knows walks through her as if hers were an existence made only out of absence. She is a doorway in the demise of her sighs, the hinges her shackles, her mouth a keyhole fit for the skeletal key her demons crank all night long.

Mute, beautiful, brilliant, her octopus brains squirm in the crustacean of her skull, each tentacle a liquid muscle greased with slime. Her desk from the junkyard is up on cinderblocks, she wears old sweats, a worn chemise and when she pushes the pen across the page, the ink is glue.

Everything sticks to her with sticky tape—the stinking kisses of the stinking men who toy with her, her body an old shoe or a Chinese junket adrift the River Styx. No one wants her, no one will keep her, even dream ever so remotely that she is anything but worthless. She is destitute debris, tossed asunder, scattered like torched seed into winds so fierce they whip her hair against her face with a slap.

Even her words are slaps, the endless rejection notes her only wallpaper in the dungeon of her rooms. Still she sits at her desk, her back an iron rod, the sentences sweating from her skin and she is entombed in her stories, boxed up in her poems, the blue lines on the yellow paper, bars in a cage.

Outside her window, there’s always heavy weather on the move, the air she breathes is waterlogged, her gaping gasps marble the glass with fog and her pages, her many, many pages do not bear the news that only poetry can, they are gobs of moldy newspaper she wants to form into spitballs, the letters smudged and smeared, illegible, irretrievably lost.

One day on a day I do not remember, I walk out of her, go far away from her, leave her for dead. Why I do this I do not know, but there she remains, a still life at the writing desk, staring at the chained dog next door as she turns in frantic circles, yanks against the cold cuff of her metal collar, digs in dirt. Years go by and I do not even think a wink about her, years that for her are like being in a war camp where her blood slowly, ever so slowly starts to freeze. I forget her entirely till the echoes of her nightmares fully fade.

Such abandonment is a courtship dance with damnation. Her long ago cries fall like curses and I deserve them the way I deserved Mother’s head-on blows, Father’s dirty worm. She is my most terrifying nightmare, my dangerous chimera and to bring her out of hiding, which I must do if I am to survive as a grown woman, as a writer, is something I’m not sure I’m brave enough to do. My bond to her is bondage and yet I call to her as if into a cave out of which the bats out of hell will fly.

Slowly I am coming to know I need her beauty, her brilliance, that she is my true mouthpiece and that even in her Ice Age isolation, she is stronger than I am. Everywhere I go, I stumble into the gauntlet of her shadow which I want to strip off her like mummy rags.

We must teach each other to speak in a big, big voice, we who have been voiceless for decades, violated far too often, but never again and assaulted by pain so gargantuan, its has blown our head off. Even now, I hear it thud down the stairs, decapitated by yet another searing dream. How do I search and rescue someone who is a hole in an empty pocket, whose brainwaves are electric shocks too hot too touch?

I shall lure her with bread and milk, leave it out as if for a scraggly stray, open my wallet, jingle change in my hands, show her my leather writing chair in my room with a view, give her my fountain pen studded with a diamond heart. I will wash her feet with my hair, open my wardrobe, let her fondle my clothes-horse clothes. Then I will gently lay her in my big iron bed, open the dormer windows, let in billowing sea air, light that is always swimming upstream.

She will sleep for days on end, wake only to eat and put down words that are now power plugs. No man will touch her without my permission and just now, I permit no man to do so. No one will ever use her again, break her like a rubber band stretched until it snaps.

I will tell her she is golden and we will walk, arm in arm, by the sea she will no longer long to sink in until someday we finally enter the dawning of my golden years. I will pay her the homage long overdue her because I am destined to do so. I will shower her with accolades, turn my home into her grotto, plait garlands in her hair and if I’m lucky and truly earn it, those curses will turn into blessings one hundredfold.



Filed under: Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose