A cape rises and falls,
suspending the hustle in a diaphanous sigh.
Limbo has grown vast around your heads,
I dive to the bottom of its keratinous depths.
To your roots.
They are a budding Braille that speaks only of you,
pressing vital being through my fingers,
leading me in orbit around your opulent skulls.
It is time to return the favor.
Shears open and close in rotation
so as to untether you from all ends.
Only beginnings remain-
for the time being.
For once, mother is right. He is not well.
She has carefully tucked him away at home all these years. Away from public restrooms, parks, schools. But somehow danger always finds a way in.
Hence the daily physicals. She is a zeppelin gliding above her territory, her monstrous magnifying glass stalking every inch of the boy’s squirmy body to uncover enemy threats.
And they have had their share of scares. TB. Smallpox. Ebola.
For a while now, though, the truth has been wearing away from her worry. The odd lump and spot, ache or pain has always turned out to be nothing serious or just nothing at all.
She cups his face in one hand. With the other, she fans waves of fever from his cheeks.
“You’re burning up!”
It began right after his routine sterilization of the keyboard. He had thrown away the cotton swabs and was watching the system start up when he noticed that the repeated applications of rubbing alcohol had begun to give a ghostly effect to the A and I buttons. He reached out to the poor endangered letters, suddenly curious to see if more of them would disappear under his touch. As he made contact with the keys, a small shock erupted at the tips of his index fingers. He jerked backwards in response, while a residual burning snaked its way up his hands and forearms like a lit fuse.
The searing lines from both sides met up at his chest. There they multiplied and branched off as countless molten fiords that invaded his writhing torso, legs and feet. Then up, into his head.
Now, minutes later, the pain is gone, replaced by a numb glow that reveals itself to her through his vacant eyes.
For once, she does not panic. A stoic calm settles in while she coaxes her dazed son into bed and forms a padded sarcophagus around his outline with his striped sheets and comforter. As she walks to the kitchen for her first aid kits, she forms a plan of action. First, she will take a detailed account of his symptoms. Next, she will research for a diagnosis. Finally, a treatment can begin.
When she returns, the child is seated in front of the console again. He has every finger positioned just as she has taught him for the QWERTY layout: ASDF on the left, JKL: on the right, both thumbs on the space bar. He remains there, motionless, a seamless extension of the machine.
“Honey? Can you turn around for me? I need to take your temperature.”
She places her hand on his shoulder and feels the same electric burst in the center of her palm. It rakes its heat up her limb.
She stumbles to the bathroom, her brief attempt at composure engulfed by agony. She struggles to open the medicine cabinet door. The scalpel dives out and flails around desperately in the sink. Once it becomes still, she picks it up and flips her affected arm over to rest it on the icy porcelain. She blinks twice and forces out a wisp of a sigh. She wills the blade to forge a jagged cut into her skin. A bellow sounds as she thrusts her thumb and forefinger into the wound to pry it open.
Blood. More than anything, she sees blood. And the striated contrast of muscle, which looks just like the autopsy photos in the medical journals she reads. But after dabbing the area she notices there is something else, something metallic- a long, slender rod supporting her arm from elbow to wrist. Deadened with shock, she slices further downwards, into her hand. She unearths five more rods, about a third shorter and smaller in diameter, fanning out from the one in her arm. Metropolises of motherboard sprout from the steel, their wires spilling out either side.
Just as feels the infection ascend her spinal column and head for her brain, her son’s computer comes to mind. If only she had taken the time to update it and back it up.
Because, after all, it’s not the human part of him that’s gotten sick.
I’m remembering a moment
packed in cotton,
infallibly buoyant in a back-seat sky.
What I do now is fray,
as time goes about its languid sucking
at my threads.
The floorboards expose themselves to me,
each new inch an unexpected permutation of perversity.
The steering wheel just lies.
You didn’t notice today that your grandfather
was blurry even when we stopped
and rolled the window down;
and I can’t tell you that all this, in part, is why I reach
behind to take hold of your hand.
She is tired of carrying her shadow around.
It has grown so long inside that she can actually see it nudging against her fingertips. From behind her skin, the color is more of a purple than a black. She knows it spreads as far down as her toes, too, because under her high tops she senses the same pooling of darkness.
Lately, no blanket or bath can stop her shivering for long. She’s a ridiculous character from the cartoons she watches, with her chattering teeth, a head littered with yellow peach fuzz, some stick arms that dangle hopelessly at her sides. The only thing missing is a blaring circus soundtrack to accompany her every awkward move. Or a couple of dramatic sound effects like a KABOOM! each time she knocks a glass off her night table or a GLURRP! for when the nausea starts to swirl around in her belly again.
Sunset is her favorite time of the day. This is when the light is at just the right spot in the sky to pour right through her window, just for her. This is when the darkness comes out. Out of her.
It has to be done just right for it to work, though. First, she has to stand inside the orange triangle on her rug. She does this facing towards the wall where her horse poster is hanging because she can’t stand looking at the opposite wall any more. All the Get Well cards she got in the hospital have been tacked there. Then comes the hardest part- the wait. It doesn’t matter how long it actually takes; it always hurts the same. The wanting sucks and sucks at her throat while her knees wobble under the ruthless count: one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three…
When the hot rays finally reach in and lap at her cheek, she imagines the hand of a giant swooping down to press a golden button. Her head is set in motion, swiveling in the direction of the door. She lowers her eyes. From underfoot, an inky body begins to unfold into the visiting square of sun, stretching out its lush frame all the way to the end of the floor and then up the opposite wall.
Now comes her turn to play dress-up. She shifts her weight a little this way and that to admire the dark reflection that is blossoming at her side. And she remembers what it is like to feel alive.