THE END OF WINTER

bernadette

Dear Bernadette,

When I imagine something’s wrong with me

I immediately attribute this weakness to you

and in this way I make you stand in for my father

As I’m sure most people who live together secretly do

I do apologize, I know you are completely another

Small babies or infants are supposed in the mythology to be men’s vaginas, I meant to say psychology. M would like to have one so he puts a shirt between his legs, I think he thinks about his diaper as a vagina and so he doesn’t want to lose it.

I better hurry to accommodate family to see what’s going to happen with them today, every morning’s the same dawning before it’s talked about or told like the dull woman who wanted to tell the dream she had of you a week ago, then she never said it, she just said it was recurrent.

Bernadette goes into her room to work. Now there’s so much to do for a while, a lot of little things, getting the dumb objects out of the bag, peeling oranges, making some space to slice bread, washing the tray and to find a clean cup and to have to deal with the awful sink.

I check the online mom group page. A mom is asking the others if it’s ok that she feels her dreams, desires in letters to please others and a thing called self-love are gone. I write her back that it would be strange to not be depressed in our patriarchal society. I tell her I have no money, no parents to help and am barely using my brain to get at ideas that used to interest me and she is brave to speak up. It’s a cheesy reply but I wanted to tell someone that I haven’t been on food stamps since I lived with my parents in south Brooklyn and being reminded of that is the kind of beating you get when you burn the dinner and think why am I even the one to cook for you and go hungry in protest and read The Match Girl to feel grateful. Another mom had a great reply:

  1. I feed my 21-month-old twins oatmeal every night for dinner. It fills them up and they sleep through the night.
  1. I brush the twins’ teeth every night but I constantly forget/don’t care to brush my own at night.
  1. I seriously HATE that I am pregnant with baby #3 right now. I only ever wanted 2 kids and I got them both at the same time by choice (via IVF). This pregnancy was a total surprise. I know pregnancy is a blessing…blah blah. I just don’t care anymore. I want my body back, I miss my wine, and I would LOVE it if this baby would STOP KICKING MY DAMN VAG ALL DAY!!!
  1. This goes with #3, I refuse to give sex to hubby until he gets a vasectomy. It’s been over 6 months now.
  1. I shower twice a week.
  1. I’m perfectly fine with clean laundry staying in the basket. I hate folding clothes.
  1. My floors desperately need to be mopped.

At some point in their lives, some women are incapable of pondering loneliness while also feeling lonely in a new way. If yr identity has been around the rim of the glass, thirsty but used to feeling solitary but generously comforted by hours of rambling thoughts, this robbery will leave you separating from yourself like a congealed fat roof solid and hiding the brown unstrained liquid below. As I am often unstrained and come with the bits for the sauce that will never be smooth it strikes me dischord-less and dissonant sounding when I bring up the plurality I chose. I want to be a singular caricature parachuting down on some distant hill with only a bottle of wine and some bread and cheese in waxed paper and nothing to say by dawn. I want to be inside the flyer my ex sent me last night, four noise bands playing a show in my old neighborhood, no fight for the one note between them. I want my picnic lunch and the right to bore you off to a productive sleep.

 ***

The NPR station goes on in the kitchen and I won’t put my contacts in until the last minute so the eggs the kids the radio the fridge the tiny five by six kitchen the black and white tile the sink the kids again the rain friendly slapping the casement windows all blurry. I’m blurry too.

(SOUNDBITE OF RECORDING)

RAZAK: Despite media reports that the plane was hijacked, I wish to be very clear, we are still investigating all possibilities.

RATH: Authorities are now investigating passengers and crew. And the search for flight 370 continues but in a new and much larger area. Two hundred and thirty-nine people were onboard that flight. Their families and friends are trapped in a state of suspense unable to answer that crucial question: Could my loved one still be alive?

Dr. Pauline Boss works with people who have a missing loved one. She’s the author of “Loss, Trauma and Resilience,” and a professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota. When we spoke this week, she had just talked with therapists in Malaysia working with the families of the missing. I asked Dr. Boss about her advice.

PAULINE BOSS: One of the first things you want to tell families like this is that what you’re experiencing is an ambiguous loss. And it’s the most painful kind of loss there is right now because you have no assurance of the fate of your loved one. And then I add this: It’s not your fault. And I add that line because most people who suffer from this kind of loss tend to blame themselves. I should not have told her to go on this flight. I should’ve gone on this flight myself instead of her. All of these kinds of things go through the minds of the people left behind. And so it’s very important to tell them repeatedly it’s not your fault.

My day of Mayer seems shorter than most days without her recording the gas and dirt in the air singing me to the car or out of bed. (“This ‘personal’ innovation did not make a very good impression on the avant-garde, whose attempts to combat the hypnotization of self in the confessional lyric showed in their super-“objective” works”) and I will struggle with being a poet. I will struggle with being a fiction writer. I will struggle with being a nonfiction writer. I will struggle with being a feminist and being understood. I will struggle with anger and disappointment. I will struggle with being in couples counseling. I will struggle with being a bitch.

Mike and I spend the afternoon in between classes talking about capitalism and surfing and skateboarding and Mayer. I talk about her book. Constrained lives just as valid a way of determining and examining the outcome of writing as are games and self imposed formal constraints, no.

I’m interested in range, not consistency. In contorted, subverted, mangled form and not an adherence to a style or constraint. In pressured, fevered, boldness, not a leveled distance and paced hindsight. I desire an almost calloused repetition that mirrors the being told over and over, that echoes, that shows the frustration of echoing, the knowing that the echoing is being done because the tongue was cut off to repeat for a man who can’t look up and now he got the girls to do it too, that the myth bares repeating, sadder this time, play it once more only make me cry or laugh at the trying of making me cry.

Surfing and skateboarding, Mike tells me, is similar. The fall and the mistake are the best parts of watching one play with the sublime. A weaving around near fatality. The anti-sport. The anti-score card. Not looking for missed comas. Seeing the way the surfer moves and his drive spirit elegance and sporadic moments of ease. The near death mistakes make us grab our heads and look away and in again and when the surfer lives, when the skateboarder gets up, when the poet moves through the scraped knees and lives in the next stanza, wet and shaken, we live there, too, and she asked for permission for us, so I thank her with this day, the end of winter and greedy pink bushes everywhere yelling hope at me in this march of madness. I would lick all the bark for one sweet shake at the flower, is what I’d say if I was Keats, but today, I’m Mayer, looking look here.

And what about that one girl who rolls her eyes at me every time I speak and what about the other girl who turns red every time she speaks and I thought she didn’t like me, but I remember now she said during break that there was hostility across the room and seems like it’s because there’s a whole post feminism contingent.

Which Mayer day can I write about besides today, the almost end to winter March, Friday the fourteenth? Is it the day I have class Thursday and meet Mike at the park with Jake and Franny and she cries when she sees me, and Jake makes a new friend and we eat cold fries. Or is it the next day we have lunch and clean the house together and go to the therapist and then meet my in-laws and I drive to the beach for the Lidia Yuknavitch workshop and then I buy the steak when I want the shrimp but it’s expired but I almost take a chance on it but put it back after smelling and it’s both the sea and the plastic and the shells and bad sex that make it too much like living already. The pressure of the joy of cooking and eating a meal alone and so I eat the steak that smokes up the house and then I watch TV and I make the fire and I avoid the neighbors and I fall asleep and wake up late and go to the workshop.

And Mayer, too, was poor or working class, but either way, hand to mouth with small children and so it’s best I write about today when this is on my mind and I’m so sad when the young woman at the check out calls me M’am and avoids my eyes after I say EBT for payment. I re-write the ostrich compendium for myself after a break, still two hours before I get the children, and include it in this re-write of the Mayer book.

So here are the writing ideas there’s no time to explore today, it’s my turn to pick up the kids. The Dragonfly is getting too crowded and hot and I have to go to the coop next door, forgot to buy olive oil, and end up wandering the fruit isle and get pork chops, too. Run into the Tin House guy and he looks right through me onto the snack isle. Next time write about:

The kitchen, The bedroom, Repetition will give you my poison, Materialism, Mock, Trial, Retreat, Dana Ward’s This Can’t Be Life, Lies: a Journal of Materialist Feminism, Rob Nixon’s Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor, Patrick Ouředník’s Europeana: a Brief History of the Twentieth Century, Alice Notley’s Culture of One, Lauren Berlant’s Cruel Optimism.

Enuresis, Values, Foster care for adult women, Autonomy and dependence as stages of writing, Inter as enter, Cover over, Gaps in teeth, Aggression with missing parts, Doll arms, Doing acid and listening to the Pixies at eighteen, Art therapy interpretations of drawings of fragments, like girls with collars and cuffs means helplessness and limbs cut off, Draw a nest directive imposing lies about a wished-for family structure, Degraded bodies, buildings states, peeking past the peeling paint, Compost, Gleaning after the gleaners have come and gone, Shells as gorgeous and hard barriers for girls who are sick of smiling, Negation, Nesting dolls, Fake is the point pointing, Reproduction art.

Sentimental Footnotes, Women are the footnotes of explaining and referencing and proving documents of a blighted past, DFW knew that footnotes disrupt, interrupt and engage the willing that can’t or won’t or don’t want to be raped again, Gentrified neighborhood sterile conversations, Embalming fluid, Trans late trans, Reduced lunch, Embarrassment as virtue, Dress up, Guarding, Bait, Wrapping paper, Feels blind, how does it feel, Contrary, Broken record is scratched like it’s violated and it’s agitated state makes you get up to turn off, Permanently designed to skip staged experiments, Repetition is everything in me, Hypnotic, Avoidant or instructive, New purpose, Seams shown, Return or the revolving door, revolting against the door, Change given is a subtraction of original, Post post post.

I don’t want to be believed anymore.

*Excerpted from a prose poem based on Bernadette Mayer’s Midwinter Day, which was written within and about a single day in the life of the poet and mother.

2 thoughts on “THE END OF WINTER

  1. “Surfing and skateboarding, Mike tells me, is similar. The fall and the mistake are the best parts of watching one play with the sublime. A weaving around near fatality. The anti-sport. The anti-score card. Not looking for missed comas. Seeing the way the surfer moves and his drive spirit elegance and sporadic moments of ease. The near death mistakes make us grab our heads and look away and in again and when the surfer lives, when the skateboarder gets up, when the poet moves through the scraped knees and lives in the next stanza, wet and shaken, we live there, too . . .”

    So much truth here—the reminder that the wipe-out is beautiful because it flirts with failure, and still comes out alive.

    And . . .

    ” Is it the day I have class Thursday and meet Mike at the park with Jake and Franny and she cries when she sees me, and Jake makes a new friend and we eat cold fries. Or is it the next day we have lunch and clean the house together and go to the therapist and then meet my in-laws and I drive to the beach for the Lidia Yuknavitch workshop and then I buy the steak when I want the shrimp but it’s expired but I almost take a chance on it but put it back after smelling and it’s both the sea and the plastic and the shells and bad sex that make it too much like living already. The pressure of the joy of cooking and eating a meal alone and so I eat the steak that smokes up the house and then I watch TV and I make the fire and I avoid the neighbors and I fall asleep and wake up late and go to the workshop.”

    Jesus. The gorgeous, sad, and strange crush of mundanity, intimacy, and avoidance. I am reminded of a trip I took to the beach to watch the ocean after being heartbroken. To remind myself that water purifies and stings, that it both tears down and rebuilds the shore.

    Like

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