WASHING THE DISHES Turn the water on too hot. Squeeze in too much soap. Pretend you are drowning. Cloak your wounds in the yellow decay. Fill the sink with plates and knives. Scrub it all away until the past is so sparkling clean your friends smile and eat off it. Not a white tooth in the house when the sun rises on this hung-over fortress of youth, the lazy yellow fire assaulting sweaty lines on foreheads, still almost asleep. These self portraits you plunge beneath sunken history shrivel until they don’t look like you, here with the plates, removing what is left when a meal is done. The future will take shape when the residue is gone. The morning will come to you: esophagus purging the acrid result of honey down a stale ceramic bowl, hiding your face, sick with shame at what your obsession meant, what they knew but couldn’t see. But at this moment you’re here, parting what’s cut from the blade, believing in hidden knives below the dirty water of this stainless sink. You know they can cut you. You believe even you can be washed clean. #YOLO after Steve Roggenbuck One day you will die, like a deer on the side of the high-way, and that’s the only death you get, because YOLO. You can yell at the deer, “YOLO! deer, YOLO!” all you want, but he can’t. He has already YOLOed. He can’t YOLO in Vermont. He can’t YOLO in Disneyland. He can’t YOLO in strobe-lit dance clubs tossing back shot after shot of fireball. He can’t YOLO in the hospital, hours later, wondering where his pants danced off to, remembering very little, regretting nothing. He can’t YOLO a little white stick with a plus sign to change it all, church bells, divorce papers, a life thrown in the trash like a disposable ring. He can’t YOLO whiskey instead of grief. He never was good at grief. He can’t YOLO his own funeral, long chestnut pews collecting holy water for mass, a solemn voice speaking truths that are not him while his own tongue turns to dust, a woman collapsing like an avalanche into the ash-black canals flowing down her face, ferrying her back to when they kissed like a rainstorm, lightning striking between their teeth, and she alone remembers this now, a moment she would have gladly occupied forever. His absence is so much more present now that he has gone. She wants an answer. She wants to know why. The moment lights like a dove in her palm then flies away, carrying with it her impossible, pure grief. It’s really over. She will go home. She will sleep. She will awaken in the morning. One morning, his absence will be only an absence again. She will smile. She will laugh. Small moments will take hold of her. One day she will die. Like a deer on the side of the highway. And this is the only life she gets. DANDELIONS Dandelions are the best flower because they are the only flower made of wishes. Maybe you are a wish. Love is a good wish, a child’s secret carried off by the wind. The child picks these tiny deaths, snaps their stems between his index finger and thumb arranging a bouquet for his mother who looks down at so many of them gathered at once and sees wishes she made when she was his size, before she understood what it meant that she will grow old and die, then he will grow old and die, then his children will grow old and die. And that is how their lives will unfold if we are so lucky. But hey, wishes turn into dandelions when they die, did you know that? They reach up like tiny suns grasping at the sky that is their birthright, then the child transforms them into a symbol for love. Look, magic! One thing turns into another and we don’t know how or why. Like his hands, at first they can only grasp and release, they can only open and close transforming everything they touch. They can only give and take holding up a shoe-box containing the deceased body of the world’s best hamster, the fountain of youth amassing like a militia on his cheeks dripping single file to the ground where dandelions turn from yellow to white in one night’s whisper. But hey, this isn’t about dandelions anymore, is it? This is about how every moment is a tiny death, and I can’t get past that. This is the moment when the child first learns how hands are imperfect instruments unable to hold onto anything they love. They can’t even hold onto that hamster. They can’t catch it when it escapes his grasp. But he sits down and hears a tiny skull crack beneath the chair, an ugly precursor to music too small for the significance it carries, like his hands holding up a shoe-box made heavy by the impermanence, asking his mother to fix it. And when she inevitably can’t he looks up to her and says, “there is no mommy magic, is there?” The child gets bigger every time she looks at him, but he does not mean to. He turns into me. Look, magic! One thing turns into another and we have to believe it’s a good thing. I pick an old dandelion turned wise with age, whisper into its ear a question regarding loss. In response, it lets go of everything it has ever been. Looking at the bare stem I am reminded of the virtue held in an open palm. Somewhere, right now, a child wishes for love. A child wishes to be young forever. A child wishes to be a super hero. The wind-sail seeds float to the ground and grow into another generation determined to burn like the sun.
April 29, 2014
Three Poems – Mark Anderson