Mercedes Lucero is the author of the chapbook In the Garden of Broken Things (Flutter Press 2016) and winner of the Langston Hughes Creative Writing Award for Poetry. Her writing has appeared in New Orleans Review, Curbside Splendor, Paper Darts, The Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Journal, The Pinch, Heavy Feather Review, and Whitefish Review among others. She is a recent Glimmer Train “Short Fiction Award” Finalist and has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is currently the Fiction Editor of Beecher’s and curates a collection of works dedicated to the experiences of autism and developmental disabilities through the online literary magazine, Spectrum Extract. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Northwestern University and is currently pursuing her PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Kansas.
Key Concepts are from her manuscript, Stereometry. * see note
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WED May 17-WED May 14
Survival is mostly silence, but I learn this slowly. My friend killed herself at the start of the new year and at first, I think survival is mostly like never knowing the gun was missing from the cabinet because there was never a reason to check. But months later, when we whisper, it wasn’t intentional at a relative’s funeral, I begin to think it looks more like that, more like phrases we whisper to ourselves even when we aren’t certain we believe them. Somewhere else, it is midwinter at some other time and I am on the phone with someone who is telling me they do not want to live. Even now, I cannot remember what I said. Maybe it was something like there will be a time when it does not hurt so wildly but even that sounds inappropriate. Survival is mostly silence and all words begin to unravel around me. Instead, I learn to speak in geometric patterns.
Contagion is a real thing, a vector, a magnitude in which we all dwell. This contagion can be psychological. I didn’t know Robin Williams or Kurt Cobain, but I grew up with them. Of course, it can be a proximity of location. The boy who was bullied at the high school two towns away. The closeness of the relationship always determines the strength of contagion. It is strongest when you know the person. When you hugged them outside the bar the night it was too warm to wear coats. When you spent the afternoon eating beef jerky in bed until your mouths were sore from salt. Those of us who dwell here can be both fascinated and terrified by this proximity. It is like the time your parents weren’t home and you lit a paper towel on fire just to see.
I remember I asked why you were crying. I remember I asked if I could read poetry to you over the phone. A statement is only ever a sequence of steps to help us understand why we do the things we do. For instance, I once held a hot lightbulb in my hand to prove I could. For instance, I rented an apartment downtown just to hear continuous noise. For instance, you Googled how many pills it takes die without pain and I read poetry to you in the dark until you agreed to let them take you to a hospital. How much certainty in numbers and how much uncertainty in minutes I could not count. What I really meant to say that night over the phone is there is a common ratio of silence between two bodies, that the world is nothing except a walk down a neighborhood street with a tremendously dark sky above and quiet homes with porchlights that are barely bright enough.
* Author’s Note on Stereometry
It starts perhaps with thinking about space, about three-dimensional space and later, locating oneself within that space. Lately, I have been concerned with mathematics and arithmetic and seeking patterns within the arrangement of the universe. I gathered textbooks on geometry and cosmology, spent hours solving equations and memorizing theorems. I have made a list of questions related to my hypothesis for further inquiry:
- What are the geometrical properties of a body that turns into itself to feel its own curvatures?
- What is the area of the shape a body makes when it is filled with uncertainty?
- Is there an equation by which I might find the volume of resistance a body creates when it is told that it does not deserve to be erased?
I have surmised that if stereometry is the art and science of measuring solid bodies, then surely, there must also be a way to measure bodies that are not so solid. Surely, there must be a way to measure bodies that are made mostly of water. That cannot help but dissolve and evaporate. Mostly I have been thinking of what to say. Even I know sunlight can be too heavy on the skin.