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.

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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]

The Knife Maker

 

The knife maker didn’t start out with a perfect knife.  He was a keeper of birds and at that time there were birds that came to be known as “jays” which were kept for their feathers-more blue than ocean or sky, weightless as the web of a spider, tough as lichen on a rock and the rock hosting the lichen.   Even the shade whispered in awe at their brightness, blinked at their sharp cutting tails that flashed like blades of blue glacier ice at the bird’s whim.  The knife maker gathered the feathers from the birds’ pens for the fashion industry of the day and took them to the long paths of women who nimbly knit them together with the sinew of stringy ducks’ legs, making long gowns of iridescent blue, indescribable blue-gowns bartered away by the knife maker’s mountain people with shore peoples who traded shells with sharpened edges for the dresses.    The sharpened shells made breakable scrapers and weapons that shattered in the hand and the knife maker, keeper of birds, watching the feathered tails of the jays in their shaded pens, watching the shade flinch at the sharpness and shape of those tails, picked up a hard stone and began shaping it with another, honing away the lichens and honing the sides into the sharpness, if not the color, of the jays’ tails. 

 

After mountain knives were perfected, feather dresses weren’t needed for barter and jays were freed from their high-netted pens to scatter the skies over valley and shore. There were no shore people left, no one to wear the blue gowns once the knife-maker perfected his craft. The jays began squawking. They have squawked ever since.

It is said that when the knife maker puts away his hard shaping stone that the jays will warble arias of great beauty. In September of the year two thousand and eight, this has not happened to date.

  

[After W.S. Merwin, “The Broken,” The Book of Fables]

The Star Panther

There is a panther so large that when it walks the cosmos solar spots flare on earth’s sun and Mercury winces, grows fractionally smaller until the increase in heat dissipates and that planet can sigh with regained expansion.  In this cup of all universes it stalks gazelles behind stars.  Its belly rides close to the edges of Saturns by other names in other systems as it slinks toward its prey.  There are many such panthers deep in the systems prowling the stars, devouring gazelles for nourishment and each of them leaving their spoor just as the gazelles leave their vaporous gases-signs predators, in a long line of predators, live by.  The gazelles never sleep.  In due course they faint from unrest and as their legs drop from behind star cover the dark panther moves in to banquet upon what it has sought for a thousand days or years, surviving through lonely space on the termites shaken from comets as they passed him or her.  (There are truly more she panthers than he in the cosmos but they are so far beyond political correctness that such manners of speech go unnoticed.  And unsaid.)  They are lethargic, these panthers, when full and in their fullness is when gazelles flock to the most distant nebulae to mate and calf new springers and dancers to dash the great savannahs of heaven, leading the waking cats on spiraling journeys across silk clouds hung with rose damask and black velvet robes thrown off for the night by bears that no longer wear fur.  They maneuver space and around all objects in space as if traveling the same roads over and over again, never bumping an asteroid or stepping upon an Alp sprung from Venus with hooves that would rive the planet in half or split the ranges away into space to become another moon.  No.  The infant gazelles race owls in flight and laugh at panthers’ sly moves and stealth until their lives spin out.

            The hunt has gone on from the beginning.  Before gazelles the panthers stalked owls and before panthers the owls stalked the small furry mice of night.  These days you can hardly find one!  Theoreticians in some quarters of the cosmos surmise the increase in comet termites is due to the decrease in mice of the night.  There are dissenters, of course.  Of course there are dissenters.

 

 

[after reading W. S. Merwin’s “The Camel Moth” from The Book of Fables]

 

word count 412