Prose Poem ProlixbyJCSTREET©
A LAYMAN’S GUIDE TO ENGULFMENT
By JCSTREET © 2004
Something has to give way soon.
I am watching her hand. It is small like the hand of a child and this is meet. She is not genuous. She carries the mixed grill of her life on an empty stomach and a smile. The texture of the skin on her hand is like that of a map of desert… filigrees where the clay has been deflowered by drought; the canals of Mars seen at a great distance.
I am practicing seeing beyond the blunt outlines of things. There is an etheric quality that comes in the half-light, half-sleep of dawn. Her hand is a lifeboat on the sea of my misery.
She works for Justice and the word, when I walk in front of the ancient copper-roofed buildings in the winter sunlight, rolls through my brain like a worm dancing on slick ice.
Justice is muted broadloom, open-plan offices and spare, light wood which has been brought from Scandinavia to be fashioned into desks and side tables on which justice is done.
In one of these there are many books, muted in color; leather-bound with ribbons of gold foil that shine like glow-worms at night—fireflies of flagrante.
Although I stride confidently through the lobby of Justice. I am perennially challenged by a guard who demands identification. I pull out all manner of cards from a plastic wallet.
They ladder down to the floor like daisies that have been woven into a chain in Taiwan. The guard is satisfied but it is required that I sign a book giving certain personal details and locating myself in time.
But, once on the elevator I can pass for a lawyer.
“It’s the mukluks,” she says.
The confident strides across the lobby of justice; the perennial challenges by the guard; the raining down of these daisies which grow in perfusion like a chittering lifeline down the palm of the hand; yes, even the signing of the gold foiled tome . . . these things are just.
These are the passports to her hand, gleaming like wax in the sun which seeps through the copper-hued windows in the justice cafeteria.
The coffee here is bad. It has been justly criticized.
Her hand is a window through which I see light beyond the bars. When I pull on her finger the channel changes and I mold the landscape until it fits the mood of the moment. She is silent through all of this except for small sounds which she makes from time to time. These are the sound of a woman in love.
The waxen fingers frame the dream.
Walking to Justice on a grey day is with foreboding filled. Fluorescent light wrestles to the hand; turns it to crystal. There are blue veins under the skin; fingers frame icicles and parking lots; fast chicken franchises and public libraries from which the titles of books have been stolen.
She is silent through all of this, except for an occasional moan. Surely Justice and mercy shall follow her all the days of her life.
I don’t know what I should have done had I not had her hand to hold.
In the eastern part of the city I am slathering layers of creamcheese onto wholewheat bread. The sun is falling into the snow, hopeless-caught in nets forged by trees but, later, dropping free over the escarpment of the Ottawa River down to a juddering death in the Gatineau Hills in nearby Quebec.
The creamcheese slathers into the holes in the bread and the holes in my belly. It bypasses the holes in my heart.
I have recently been to a warmer place. From my vantage point in the grass, just above the sea rocks, I could see clearly the delineations of West Coast cedar bark.
Far above the topmost branches, clouds and seagulls skittered off an imaginary carrier deck. Their late afternoon cries were sullen. They fell a long way before splintering the rocks with noise.
Lap, lap, lap went the water, casting an oily gaze over sad tendrils of kelp, transiting the littoral.
I was lying very still in the grass, smoking one cigarette after another and building a bank account of hypothermia that would help death come quickly when I slipped quietly into the sea, later in the day without television coverage, to swim to Japan.
Clouds bunted each other on the afternoon stage and then roiled away—hurt and crying. Patches of blue appeared from time to time and there would be twin-engined aircraft flying very high and issuing a clear moan that was haunting. There was something anachronistic about these aircraft. They had the quality of conjuring a sad, rainswept, 1942 afternoon in Kent.
It was a monochromatic afternoon and this produced the second image, which was that of an arctic coastline. If this could be imagined then it was easy to see the high-flying aircraft as missionaries of mercy, whisking an appendix-poisoned Eskimo to some distant operating table in Frobisher Bay.
That image would, of course, suggest the attendance of a medevac nurse—one of those doughty Britishers, trained in midwifery and called to the north by the promise of adventure, money and a doctor-husband.
The woman who is trying to destroy me is one of these.
There was a time before darkness fell when waterfalls of sun flowed out of the sky onto the islands far out in the Strait of Georgia. I think I may have experienced some small Daedalian epiphany then, for the scene brought a flash of déjà vu which was later identified as the color plates contained in some childhood book. It may have been The Water Babies, by Charles Lamb.
Whatever the source, this small fluttering of the heart convinced me to abandon my record-breaking attempt.
There are moments like this in all lives; charting the tacks and heels of sailing ships, no matter how ragged the canvas.
Anyway, the decision meant a long walk to the nearest telephone and a short, voluntary stay in an institution designed for the treatment of the insane and poor in spirit. It was a wise decision.
Vermont in winter is crazy.
The thick hammered ice—stretched like a pelt over the lake—belly laughs when I walk on it, and the cries of fishermen come to the ears from a great distance. This is even before the wine has been opened.
When the wind blows, it welters over glist-ice sculptures the shape of beef kidneys. One crouches down and shoots directly into the sun with a camera stopped down to £22 at a two-thousandth and polarized.
Fishermen frozen against this scene then appear as moon-scaped Inuit; speared for a seal hunt.
These are just some of the things you can see and hear in Vermont in winter.
When her hand goes to Vermont, it goes in woolen mittens painted in gay colors. They might be blues or reds or yellows. This gives a fresh aspect to the texture of the hand and lends breadth and texture.
Robert and I get drunk here on California Chablis, while his wife splits wood on the hydraulic and feeds the cows. It’s a total, dehumanizing rush. Robert has no time for sadness.
Her hand is the one that pushes the Jim Beam bottle out past the frightened, haunted trees where even the tongue of a salamander could not find it.
The trees say good morning with whipcracks; bursting in the dawn.
Pity the St. Bernard with the frozen, broken paw. We rushed it all the way to a vet in Swanton, but it recovered anyway.
Her hand is a cunning wielder of scrabble words. I challenged ploctyx, but when she rearranged the letters to spell “love”, I wept; placing the letters carefully on a triple word space for 19 points.
None of this helps me free myself from the woman I love; the woman who is trying to destroy me.
But! It gives to time . . . a certain alacrity.