750words Feb 2 2015 ~ The Chipmunk Dance

The chipmunk dance was first introduced at a ceremony celebrating the arrival of the new moon, that tiny crescent of light tilted in the night sky like a fragile scoop honed from honeyed sunshine and hung high on the wall of el noche.

Man noted the slim elegance of this moon’s presence above the horizon and coincidentally movements of a furred animal with thin stripes of white running parallel over its shoulders and along its spine. Man was happy under the moon and over the chipmunk because, indeed, he was over the chipmunk as his shadow–thrown from the light of leaping flames unfurling toward dark heaven–flooded and pooled about the equally happy creature. Thus, Man identified the shape of the shadow as the shape of himself and movements of the chipmunk as the movements within himself as if he, himself, were the shadow and the chipmunk was, indeed, within Man’s self.

And so it was that Man began to dance, incorporating the pawed chipmunk’s movements, twitching and switching directions within the shadow and within the man, both chipmunk and man looking skyward from time to time and finding the tiny crescent of moon tilted above them. Crickets, cicadas, whipporwills, owls, loons and mammoths provided the rhythm of night’s music while the chipmunk danced within Man’s shadow and Man gyrated within the slim moon’s light.

As the moon gradually crossed the starlit sky, Woman appeared. She was as natural to the landscape as the grass, yet Man had never before seen her (or any woman for that matter) and he lost a few beats of the rhythm, and stumbled forward into his shadow very nearly stepping on the chipmunk. To step on the chipmunk would’ve been like stepping on his own heart because, by then, chipmunk and Man were integrated into one, or at least they believed they were, and we all know how the beliefs of Man are sacrosanct (not certain what sacrosanct means exactly but it seems to the author to fit in this line and so she will leave it there for the moment).

When Man nearly stepped on the chipmunk, a small gasp escaped from Woman’s lips and Man noticed her mouth and how the slip of light from the fragile scoop of the moon seemed to make her lips glisten with dew and how her eyes seemed lit from within with tiny fires of broken blue, the blue broken by wheat-colored gold and new-hay green and the tiniest petals of lilac blooms–and he stumbled anew–and not just because of Woman’s eyes.

Something inexplicable was happening and he knew not how to control it–even if he had wanted to control it–which he didn’t. His shadow was growing. And within his shadow, the chipmunk (who, meanwhile, had continued with a frenzied chipmunk dance while dodging Man’s awkward footing and dangerous sways) was growing within Man’s shadow.

Woman made note of these alterations to Man, Man’s Shadow, the small furry creature who danced in Man’s shadow. She moistened her lips. She was a healer. She could help Man. And she did.

She embraced and nurtured him through the phases of the moon, from new and crescent to half and full and through all the waning to half and crescent and new—and vice versa—through many seasons. As she did so, the chipmunk chittered and danced and chittered some more. He wasn’t alone. Other chipmunks arrived. They drank acorn wine and imbibed in daisy-chain chipmunkallia. Saber-toothed squirrels arrived to see what all the noise was about. And unicorns. A whole herd of unicorns came—sources for some pointed arguments about which there seemed no resolutions. (Note: Contrary to myth and legend, unicorns are vicious hooved beasts who stick their sharpened two cents in everywhere without permission and with no sense of decorum. Their absence from the modern world is due primarily to these vile tendencies—well, that, and the ride they missed on the ark.)

Long story short: Man found himself with Woman, Woman with Man. Most men have forgotten the bonding between the first man and the chipmunk who danced in his shadow and within his being–but not all.

I, the anonymous author of this informative piece soon to be posted on Wikipedia, have met one such Man—a man who celebrates the chipmunk, who dances the dance, who heals and is healed by Woman. Unfortunately, names must remain hidden.

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750words Feb 11 2015 ~ The Dress Form

Once upon a time there was a dress form made of wandering leaves cut from tin and rigid iron which stood near the window and waited. Rusted bronze in color, the form wore a narrow belt of hammered tin and a pendant in the shape of a clock that opened and could hold a paper cutout heart or a picture of someone dear, or both, along with a lock of hair and a button from a favorite shirt.

The form was headless. Its bottom edge was where a woman’s legs ended once they went all the way up. Crossbars ran from one side of the bottom edge of the form to the other. Where the bars crossed, they rested upon a hollow iron column almost the size of a vacuum cleaner wand. The column supported the form and stood vertical and straight with four curvilinear legs which ended in curly-ques on the floor and kept the form from tilting or tipping over when the weight of the sun slapped it with day’s flat palm of light.

All day long the form waited, tin leaves never wilting, tin belt without a pucker or sag. Its shoulders kept very good posture through every disappointment, every new mote of dust that settled atop the rounded surfaces of rigid iron, plus all the tickling shifts of light as day walked up the sky and over the roof of the casa where the form was kept.

Because the form was headless, it could not sigh. Air was immobile, did not move outward or inward, was simply there, within the form, surrounding the form, and, because the form was skinless, it could be seen through from all sides—the leaves twining its back like a visible echo of the leaves twining its front. In essence, it was as empty as the clock-shaped pendant worn about its neck: a hollow chamber made of vertical spines held in line by the hammered belt and the absent hands of an artisan who once upon a time sculpted the form of an invisible woman.

The form’s patience was endless as it waited through the morning light, the afternoon shade, the deeper shades of evening, the dark balmy nights pin-pricked by stars and an indecisive moon which showed itself incrementally only to hide itself in the same manner. All the form wanted was to be used. To be useful. To carry the weight of a shawl or a shirt or a dress. A summer scarf woven of chiffon and light as a feather would have pleased the form. Was it asking so very much to sense such a scarf’s supple softness draping its posture-perfect shoulders, the drape of its length running the length of its meandering leaves, perhaps the finely rolled narrow hem of one end tossed casually around its headless neck? These, or any one of these sensations, would’ve brought comfort to the form.

But the form’s mistress, who once crafted sundry items the form could support, no longer busied herself with such things. Rather than a crafter of textiles, its mistress had given over such industry to become a crafter of words. The click of knitting needles had been replaced by the tickety-tick of the keyboard, the construction of syllables ricocheting about the room where the form waited, and the plumes of smoke rising from the numerous cigarettes the form’s mistress smoked during her frenzied attempts to shape words into stories.

If the form owned a head for worry and angst, for whining and winges about its plight of existence, it might have expressed by thought or a tilted angle of its stand the injustice of being left idle, the unfairness of words chained together which could not be worn, the waste of her mistress’s imagination on airy nothings. What were words, anyway? What made them so important? They couldn’t be fitted over the form, couldn’t be straight-pinned into pleasant and pleasing designs, couldn’t decorate the form’s elegant vining of tin leaves, the meandering ways of pressed metals. If the form owned a head capable of emotions, it would be vexed.

As it is, the form doesn’t own any such head. It doesn’t own legs—only a stiffly elegant four-footed stand. It can’t run away. Can’t show its displeasure in regard to being unused, ignored, left by a window to gather dust and sun in the morning, pinpricks of light by night. It might think, if it could, how fine it would be if stories and poems were semi-solid things—items woven from silk and wool, from bamboo fibers and flax—articles woven with structure and beauty, their endings evenly hemmed with perfectly spaced similes, their beginnings draped and tossed lightly about this waiting form’s headless neck.

The Daisy

After her center went bald the daisy was left to stand in a room owned by the sun; she knew from the feel of his rays on the dimples where seeds had been, by the riffling of his heat against her sere under-leaves like a tattered collar about her throat, by the ache in her roots for water, and by the absence of any green bodily smell—an absence she rued, and with great discontent, though she wasn’t certain why.  It had been with her from near her beginning, this odor that came with her greening, with her first frail reach through a crack in the loam, a spindly pale curl unbending, reaching up until light filtered in and with the light there was bird song.  The songs were air-shifted into notes by other air shuffled by leaves in high trees until they bloated, becoming plump melodies too heavy to stay airborne and sank like the knees of a nun near a narrow cot, where they whispered Grow, grow to the mere thread of her, before sinking further like rain.  And the songs tilted grit in the dark earth as they went, easing the way for root hairs to flow from her source, to cling and rest, feast on worm castings, move on.  It had been an adventure, a two-way fun ride, in which the opening curl of her and the smell of her greening shot ever upwards while her footing slipped by increments through a darkness she trusted without knowing why.

She’s been standing for days in this room of the sun’s and knows it belongs to him by how hot it is kept in the long corridors of July, and by the way the old songs rise out of the earth in waving undulations, silent in their evaporation.  She is exhausted, tired of this bed, this room.  The burred clover crowding her stalk is too green, its small yellow blooms too yellow, but she should not judge, she knows she should not, those lives unlike her own.  Her face lowers.  With every lowering there is no going back.  Her last petals, poor darlings, have loved her too dearly, have clung to her chin like a beard, all their fired bright life wrung out by the bully who rides up the sky everyday to lash all he owns with his infernal rays.   There is no going back.  Daily, her neck atrophies against upward motion and she is a crippled thing, unable to lift her head or turn, unable to spot from what direction her landlord may approach or which door he may take to leave.  Death is slow in arriving, a tardy guest, and the emptiness of her face looks on the floor of her home, now usurped by the massing clover.  She is anxious to know the outcome of all her flown seeds.  Then the roots, idle for such a long time, release what they’ve held and are released.  She is light as a shaft of airborne song, she is song, she is rain, she is earth.

Dia de los Muertos: Conversations

There are the marigolds bunched to earth with flounces of amarillo, castanets on their sepals, dust narnaja on the garden fingers where little bones baille on headstones and sugar teeth are azul.  There are the sombreros negra laced with silver, pumpkin seed pearls bleached blanca, cinnamon and manzanas rojas.  There are the little bones turned of dust, noon or sunset, la noche y la mañana, little bones turned of dust.  They become the trickle that feeds stones and sheep with song.  When they laugh, the wind sighs and silences, sighs and silences like bells hung on a new moon when la bruja’s skirts flash past.
        The Lady of the Dead is dust and whispers to dust, telling them who sits with marigolds blossoming from their chests.  She loves the sighs and silences between fists and bowls of grain, how the grain plays armónica, y el perro thumps la pandereta, and all the little bones dance. 
        When did marigolds learn flamenco?  When did they don castanets?  When did I hear the little bones singing on their way to dust?  The child girl with ears as long as a truck has climbed up the ribs of the woman to hear what she heard at one.  And a smaller child, who nests inside, has climbed up the ladder of neck to hear the bells toll on.   
        I will hear them talking, one speck of bone to the next, and the next, and then they will turn to me, me with my azul teeth, me with my marigold skirts y camisas rojas, me with blossoms amarillos floating over this cabeza del azúcar where loco thoughts once curled, and we will dance, the way little bones dance, until we are singing water, dew on the bells of the moon.

The Person Who Lives in the Blood : An After Words Fable

There is a person who lives in the blood.  Everyone has one and some have more than one.  Some are big, some small.   All are noisy and live in boats.  The persons who live in our blood are never talked about, doctors don’t mention them nor labmen, but there isn’t any doubt whatever about their existence.  When a newborn takes her first breath, or him, the person inside the blood is the cause.  They are said to paddle their boats up to the cry dial and turn it a quarter turn, wait, if no cry is announced to the world, another quarter turn is added, and so on – then they oar a short distance away, make sure all is okay, row off to other arterial canals, exploring the brand new life.

At night when life is calm, the person inside leaves her boat, or his, and floats on her back, watching a thousand synapses tremble and fire all along the dome of the veins.  The persons are often quite lonely through most of their lives.  They do, in fact, die, eventually, but sad as that may be, they seldom encounter the others, even when several others help to maintain the host.  It would be utterly silly to believe otherwise – consider the scope of the body universe? nevermind all the auras and such grown beyond the physical limits of skin.

No, they exist in quite solitary ways, scraping the placque off their small boats when not needed to dial up the cries or lower the pressure on tears.  Each has his, or her, own emotional curve, of course, to maintain, but, in general, the persons who live in the boats in the blood remain stoic, if not content.

When at last the voyages of the person bring her, or him, into close proximity with the chambers of the heart, for the first time they each well and truly know fear.  After a while they get the boat righted again and flowing less chaotic currents again, but the tiny, tiny hearts inside the persons who ride in our blood do pound awfully loud for a pulse beat or two or three.  Funny how fear can create euphoria.  Sadly, once the person tastes that Whoosh through the rooms of the heart, their stoicism departs. 

 

[After W.S. Merwin , THE TASTE, from The Book of Fables]

Rope for Her : an After Words Fable

In the beginning rope for her meant a way out.  It was long and made of small hairs that fall off the backs of black and white cows so that when all of the hairs were hand knit together they made a checkerboard of light and dark diamonds.  The rope was exceedingly strong, the knitting done by tiny hands too small to do anything else and the owners of such hands, to stay useful and secure their jobs, did the knitting with such precision and earnest desires that their ropes were made like no others. She liked to look at the rope, she did, but she really hadn’t the need of one, not then, not when she had no desire to leave a place where she was content.

     After a while, and because the rope was left out where it could be admired, attached as it was to a ring in a high wall in case she changed her mind and needed a way out – after a while the rope began to be eaten by small hair-eating bugs who preferred the black hairs to the white.  This left her with a rope that looked as if it had been made of white lace!  A dainty rope!  A beautiful rope!  But not a rope for escape.  So what?  She thought very little about leaving.  Things were not so bad.  And she had the lace rope to admire.  She couldn’t complain.

     When a complaint appeared one day in her throat, like a frog in the throat of a nervous speaker, the appearance of lace the rope had once had – had vanished.  What remained looked like dirty string – common dirty string.  She let the complaint stay lodged in her throat, not even a whisper emerged.  After awhile, she forgot how to make sound.  Even song had begun to sound like complaint to the ears of those who could hear; and they weren’t very big on complaint of any kind.  The safest thing, with only a string of what once was a rope, was quiet.

     She lived in quiet for a very long time.  The string rotted away, disappeared into nothing, just as her voice had done.  And her eyes, which, from time to time, had seemed somehow accusatory to her keepers, her eyes she had taken to keeping closed for long periods of time, until, when she opened them now, they were all the same color of white.  When irises are unneeded, they take offense and go.  Just so with hers.  They’d left half an eon ago.  But her ears were still the same.  Well, not exactly the same.  With age they’d grown bigger, longer, wider.  And her hearing, because there was only that one sense (other than feeling, oh, well, and smelling), had grown keener over the passing years.

     Thus it was that she heard the root of a distant tree.  Ear pressed to one stone in the wall of her keep, she heard pebbles move.  True, they moved at a very slow pace, but move they did.  After a time, the root broke a stone from the upper wall, not far from the ancient ring where the black and white diamond-patterned rope once hung in all its meticulous glory. 

Daily the root grew.  She could not see it with her white eyes, and she could not feel it, it was far too high up yet to touch, but she could hear it.  And she could smell it, earthy like a potato, but not.  She would make a sound in celebration of such a rescue as that the root would provide, but she could not, even if she remembered how, her lips had grown together in such a way that no sound could escape.  When, after a very long time, the root reached the floor of the keep, it waited there offering a barely perceptible dangle.  How sad for her that at the very moment the root came within reach she found her bones all knit together!  She could not move, in any direction.  Slowly, her ears filled with dust and webs and spiders.  Eventually, the root, tired of waiting, took off again with a growth spurt, feeling its way around the circular well where she had lived for such a long time that she had been forgotten.  The root grew through her then, never even realizing. 

In the spring, the blossoms on the tree, the one that seems always to be reaching for a sky it can’t quite reach, are all the same color of white.

 

 

[after W.S. Merwin, Hope for Her, The Book of Fables]

Review: The Book of Fables, W.S. Merwin

If you read for escape and with not a lot of time to sink into a long work, then Merwin’s The Book of Fables is the place to go. It’s like a gated play yard for the imagination to spend its recess time. You can climb on a spinning yarn and be dazzled as the landscape whirls by, or you can go through the ups and downs of a see-saw ride, or pick up a question from a grassy expanse, roll it in your hand, and set it back down with some of W.S. Merwin’s insights rubbed off to your palms. His fables run from a sentence or two, to a bare quarter page, to as long as perhaps a dozen pages. I have not read a single one so far that didn’t provide the brief escape that I needed in the moment from the everyday humdrum. Merwin has a wondrous imagaination and way with the written word; I only wish he had been recommended to me earlier.