The line runs through the hotel lobby, then extends past the pool, and down and around the graveyard. The pool looks nice. Some manatees are performing. There’s a little island in the center with monkeys. “I can still remember the floor plan of that house in Amarillo,” the person beside you says. “I’m sure it’s still there,” he adds. I’d like to think it’s still there, anyway. That would bring some elegance to the equation.
The manatees wear little pink tutus and the monkeys wear little red hats. We’re leaning with or against each other, as the line extends to the cloverleaf. We bring all the rocks we can carry, and make little piles when we get too much. Then we start over. The sweet smell of a brand new day. True, but no matter what the resemblances we undertake there will never be a final correspondence, despite the lists we pass back and forth of the living and the dead, and the in-between.
It’s said the line was seen in Westminster once, where it got tangled with other lines. But so many things could be true about losing touch, and having this be it, blinkered by where we came from, but as there were two ways about it, we found our noses a little off to the side of the grindstone where there was a comfortable divot within which we could rest a bit and introduce ourselves to those around us. And then it came time for us to find chairs as the music stopped, and the dwarf with the garage door opener was looking off toward the casinos, pretending darkness. A few old-timers still meet there with their checkerboards and little pieces made of filed bone. “We’re bone workers,” they say, and the air brings a bit of dampness as the line extends through the sand traps of the golf course which stand there like a new idea, one you’ve just thought up.
Box with Noise Elements
At some point the wind always shifts suddenly and the gust carries off small dogs past where the king is caught in the tree dancing along the edge of the roof. It’s been nice, and now we’re applesauce.
Further postcards in the gift shop include paintings of barges and counter girls waving from ferries in New York harbor. We take two of everything, and carry them outside hoping for kites.
While falling, all you want to do is fall, they say, sounding like all those children’s stories we hid in a shoebox under the floorboards, so we’d have something to find someday when perhaps we could explain them. We left detailed notes before we moved, with Xs and dotted steps.
Such things always start out as a memory but end up as a question. It’s no wonder we lilt when we meet in doorways, only to bump into each other and get turned around so that we go back the way we came, spending the rest of our lives where we just were thinking it was where we were going, with the wrong children, and feeling something’s not quite right about the wedding anniversaries. That’s it, isn’t it? The story of the girl in the woods? The darkness of the trees?
Ethel & Myrtle Try to Avoid How Emotional They Get
In the bric-a-brac of the yard, or the people across the yard, Ethel and Myrtle are thinking it’s not necessarily bad to be completely misunderstood. Sometimes it’ll help, or at least buy oneself time, out in the middle of the ice storm when what goes on in the minds of the possessed is far from what the manuals project, with that if-you-could- see-me-now thrill making way for the temperance guild and general din of all our forfeitings and acquiescences.
I used to worry about my father, for instance, there at the microscope, and now they’re criticizing us for it, as apparently they’d like us to have little adventures that remind ourselves of just how sweet it is to have lived, and how we all live again through it, and there’s some hope out there that feels like a rush of air on the Stutz Bearcat, while we practice turning off the faucets with our elbows. But they criticize us in such lonely, defeated ways, it’s difficult to feel anything but sorry for them. “Be happy,” we say, “don’t cry.”
Maybe if we lift something heavy. Maybe if we sit awhile reading them sonnets that go, “How are you doing, Joe? Geeze, I haven’t seen you in forever.” How maybe such questions would help us think about things differently, so that we might be better able to get past blaming old pictures of ourselves— Look, we’re all people no matter what, with our mothers losing their minds in the living room as we order pizza from the hall, keeping an eye on them while juggling scissors. We never had a choice which door to knock on, and now they’re all the same, swinging outward, and then breaking.
Your Hands as the Third Law of Motion
The clocks of Pangaea never run backward, true, but sometimes they go forward in pleasing, sparkling ways. The shrubbery that was rather unsubstantial now looks like Lincoln, and people are lining up wanting tickets and a look at your herbicide, even if all your ideas are smaller now, including the ones for the backyard Ferris wheel and corn maze. It had to do with your uncle, and now we all love the same animals. The platypus, the yak, the manatee, and the effervescent forts they make in the camp fitness yard, begging you to stay away from home.
Things are going on there, unlike here where everyone has stopped in mid-stroke, even the fire in the hearth, the choir in mid-lunge, the lovers grasping the porch rail with everything they have, as the princess lies waiting for some light molestation from a stranger, like when you’re in a crowded theater and something you say sotto voce sounds like “fire,” and the next thing you’re able to define clearly is filled with forms, and stories you make up from glancing over the detective’s left shoulder, laconic stories, like the ending of some movie you didn’t get to see, but of which you had this clear vision.
Now the fields are filled with wind farms, and we’re worried we might have to start rationing weather. It certainly seem to be calling out to be done, or to have a song written about it being done. We should have brought some instruments or taken some lessons, or understood music better. Some idle practicing that could remind us that perhaps we should have had children. But there’s always something we were meaning to do that we forgot to do while power washing the deck or picking up the pool passes. So maybe we did have children after all. Maybe that’s what all these rooms are for.
Of Certain Small, Valuable Kitchen Appliances
Take whatever it is, and call it Layer One, and suddenly it’s layers up and around the room.
A table. People leaning over a table.
One of them is pouring maple syrup. A chrome jar for powdered sugar.
“I’ve always been here,” they say, which is drawn away or applied. Of the one and the rest.
I did not know you, and the brush of clouds was too forceful.
I did not see where I was going and I reached what I can’t remember what it was I was reaching for.
Vanish the windows. Vanish this tablecloth for this one that was always here.
That was the house with a missing wall so we could watch. Maybe it was a table on wheels, or there was never a table.
A counter. Some people around a table. “Tell me a story about me,” they say,
from the darkness between thoughts.
This is the Part Where You Whistle
The clouds went by and so did we, just fads, probably, we thought, in that hoping-for-ice-cream way we’d grown so famous for before we went hopelessly out of our minds. I remember that from an experiment I was in once, where I had to keep changing my pants according to the tones from a wall speaker. I liked several of them, where they prompt you to take a self-guided tour. A feeling came upon me like nausea then, some thought I’d been driving past for years. There were children in the yards singing “I Demand a Horizon,” though I doubted they knew what they were asking for. It was the view through a window from a commercial for cereal that the altar boys were so going on about, practically out of their robes they were, and into their I LIKE BANDS t-shirts. They named rocks and taught them tricks. They were very good at holding their breath. I’ve always wondered about that, and about myself, as well. But what’s the use in wondering, when the schedule that the guy at the booth gave us shows that many more things should be happening than currently seem to be happening. I arrived. I changed my pants a few times. I left. Why not just say that? As there’s always another model in demand, with sale frames and years of research, saying “I Love Goodness.” The box set was still in transit back then, though anything that rises in a closed system could appear to be the reason for that system. Invisible dogs on studded leashes, for example, 1-900 numbers and comment cards.
-- John Gallaher is the author of four books of poetry, most recently, Map of the Folded World, from The University of Akron Press, and Your Father on the Train of Ghosts, co-authored with G.C. Waldrep, due out in Spring 2011 from BOA, as well as the free online chapbook, Guidebook from Blue Hour Press. Other than that, he’s co-editor of The Laurel Review and GreenTower Press.