After emailing a copy of Audre Lorde's essay "The Uses of the Erotic" to a friend
because of what we said at dinner about how our bodies feel to us. To spell it out, this is after salting my new yoga mat, which my teacher swears will help with the slipping, after walking the dog through piles of melting slush – December rain on snow on mud – after skimming an article that suggested our phones are becoming extensions of our minds, or something to that effect, while contemplating all the powers I don’t know I’m giving up this week, as measured in the light years between my language and my body. Last week, my partner said, when I was falling asleep I murmured witchcraft witchcraft witchcraft into the pillow – hypnagogic conjure I must have inherited somewhere in the last millennium. You know, I say, holding leaves inside my cheek, this used to be illegal – meaning the chlorophyll leaching directly into my bloodstream. I worry how the screen gathers my energy, renders my melatonin adrift & inert. It won’t stop raining this decade, and we did it with our unfeeling bodies. Eventually, while falling asleep I try to fall back a few centuries, sifting through piles all the women like us left behind – craft is an exercise in making, a skill that wants practice, i.e., to become rippled with gold through every fascial plane, and also completely soluble across space-time – don’t pretend it makes sense when I put it like that. Instead, take the broad leaf, the wax, the unrolled cloth, mouthful of river, quartz, clutch of clay: everything is made of something. I lay my language on it and then I take that away and put down something that comes before language. I put down something that comes before I put down something and I come before I put down before language something that comes
maybe I grieve by
scrolling the unlit passageways between here and gone
looking for symbols etched by sticks of carbon on the black ceiling:
are you coming, frog of beyond? moon-tongue drops a bag of bones
they melt into pools of milk I stir with one finger.
second attempt at going home
here are the deer tracks we kids called signs of God – remember? here, our father’s voice, an olive oil lacquer over the dinner table: this is what we believe, this is what we don’t.
family is a kind of country, I think, like the one we drew around the deer’s hoof prints in the mud of the dried-up creek in the woods behind our house. we declared ourselves leaders, knowledge-keepers,
the way most humans will once they claim a land as their own. my brother and I walk the quiet streets of the country he calls home now, and I confess to him that I’ve always felt in exile.
I read that Robert Hayden once said, because no place is home, in a sense, everywhere can be home. I tell my brother this and he smiles, and the primroses open their moon faces toward
a statue of a leader on a rectangle of land called a park. here we are, on a nearby bench, siblings recalling the night sky from which we both came – our mother. praise the woman who taught us how
to clean a bathtub well, how to sauté garlic and onions like an invocation to the worship we’d do in the kitchen. praise anyplace where you are well-fed. here is one way to go home:
find your brother, find a bench (any), pull the yarn out of each other’s throats until your language finds its hooves again, hear your common gallop over the land.
what if, more than place, it’s about sound?
if it’s movement that matters – places knit together over time – vibrations – then I need to hear you say what and where we are, no matter the answer, and hear how many ways I can ask –
-- Dr. Irène P. Mathieu is a pediatrician and writer. She is the author of Grand Marronage (Switchback Books, 2019), which won Editor’s Choice for the Gatewood Prize and runner-up for the Cave Canem/Northwestern Book Prize, orogeny (Trembling Pillow Press, 2017), which won the Bob Kaufman Book Prize, and the galaxy of origins (dancing girl press, 2014). Irène is on the editorial boards of Muzzle Magazine and the Journal of General Internal Medicine's humanities section. A member of the Jack Jones Literary Arts speakers’ bureau, she has received Fulbright, Callaloo, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts fellowships.