In The Depths Of The Ravine

Sticks are what I use when we’ve been hiking for three hours, and occasionally as mum admires the flowers, my brother and sister sword fight with sticks. To the side I draw a sun in the dirt, dragging my stick behind me as I run to catch up with them when I notice they started walking again.

We continue like this and even cross the canal; hopping from rock to rock as my fingers tingle and my mind screams “dont get wet, you can’t swim” until my sister and brother splash each other and I have the sudden urge to dip my shoe in the cold stream.

When we get to the deep end, mum finds flat stones and skips them on the shore, and my brother even gets a few. My sister tries it too, but her rock slumps on the water with a splash which taints the cement holding the canal together.

 

At some point as we gaze in the distance, as mum teaches us about the birds, I drop my stick and forget to pick it up again and I’m flushed with embarrassment because I didn’t see or hear any birds. When we get back onto the path I pout as I watch mum and my brother hug each other. I kick a rock, and my sister runs after it; she laughs and looks back at me expectantly so I giddily punt at the rock and it goes flying again. The rock is a soccer ball and though my aim is off and the rock makes dirt rise, we play until my sister hears mum whistle — we ran too far.

As we wait, my sister notices the both of us don’t have sticks, but she finds two twigs and for a moment we cast spells and I laugh as she mimics herself crashing into a tree. I see my brother running up to us and he stops, drawing a long stick as he plants it firmly into the earth “you shall not pass,” he says, his voice carrying out behind us and we all laugh as he bows.

I wait for mum, and they talk about video games so I decide to sit on the path. On the ground I notice ants carrying pebbles so I picture myself carrying a boulder, and what that’d look like to a giant. On the side of the path I see a couple brown snails in the grass, and one hanging from a leaf.

 

I distantly hear mum come back and decide to climb up a trail up to the top. As we walk my brother says, “I wonder what’s under that rock.”

Mum quickly replies, “No! Don’t lift it,” and he snickers. When we get to the top I see plastic bags and beer bottles and even a blanket near a fallen tree and I wonder quietly, shivers creeping up my back as I see the roots of a tree curing around a rock and beside it a lighter and a crushed white and blue pack of cigarettes.

My brother hands me another stick which I lean on as they talk because I’m standing to the side so I can’t hear mum whispering. Below us, at ground level, the grass leads to a road and I count the cars as I realize we’ve been here a while.

On our way back down I use my stick so I won’t fall and mum even takes my hand a couple times as my sneakers slip on the earth and my feet tingle because my mind screams “dont fall you’ll break your arm.”

 

Once we get back to the canal mum bends and takes some beautiful rocks, glistening from the water, one is green and smooth and one is ridged and brown, and I stuff them both in my pocket as my brother and sister lead us to the stairs, and I fall behind again after I leave my stick for a dog to fetch and pant my way up to the car.

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Little White Shell

you bend down at the shore and it’s there, glimmering as water passes over it, foamed and vicious, crashing onto the sand. the white curve draws you down to it, spotted just as it glides with the water, bumping against your shin.   

you reach blindly as another wave crashes and almost lose your balance as the white swoops under while you seek it. lifting it out and cupping it in your hands as the sun glimmers and wet, mud-like sand falls out. you rinse it underwater again and it is no longer bare and white. instead it’s creamy and a little green as the sun passes over it, rays cooling your skin in a delightful contrast to the cold water at your feet.

you stand there bathing under the sun, like a cat on a porch, blinking at its brightness, a sigh escaping your lips as clouds pass over, and you wonder to what lengths this small item has passed to end up in you hand, or how much longer for it to become a bit of sand.

you think it was probably lived in, but you’re not sure by what. it’s too sturdy to be crushed by a sea carcass or a foot. it has a hole in it, whether from the waves or from a small creature, you’re unsure.

 

you take it back to your beach towel, stumbling and distraught for a moment, where’s my towel again? wrinkling your nose as your weighty feet crush into the sand, you walk with clumps of warm sand sticking like glue to your toes. the walk is slow, each step a mission as your hips jar and your heels work while you seek out a path that won’t fling sand into other people’s eyes.

the pearl coloured treasure clasped in your left hand as you walk, you finally get to your towel, dropping to your knees onto it, making sure not to get too much extra sand on your safe island of cotton. you dry your back first, and the sun still blinding you even though you aren’t facing it. the creamy colour stands out even as your vision fogs and your eyes water in attempt to see through the brightness of the sun.

 

when your back is dry you turn over, using the object as a sun block even as you continue to stare at it, twisting it around and around, playing with its shadows. this is the good thing about the sea. despite the sand and the obnoxious sun, this creamy green gift is a collectible. its as useful as jar of sand, but that’s the thing, it’s not sand. a smaller one might become a part of a necklace, or a bigger one might be a paperweight or shelf decoration. but this one is creamy and has had a full life under water. now it can have a full life as you twirl it in your fingers, guaranteed not to become like the stuff that sticks to your toes.

obviously possible

or maybe we just see things like we’re told to see them,

like a flower in the grass or a light in the dark.

perhaps we see things the same, but they can’t be since our eyes see colours differently.

possibly i see what i want to see

like i hear what i want to hear.

or maybe it’s because i cannot see. obviously i cannot hear,

because i have an aid like a tiny microphone in a large field of people

and only those beside me can see it and only i feel it.

perhaps the vibrations i feel

when i cannot hear are like mini earthquakes on the earth.

or as tiny humans in a big universe we are like the birds in the sky

it is huge and we are small but we are one and together.

or maybe we are born from the will of our mothers.

or from the stars. perhaps both, to satisfy the public system.

our birth is symbolic because it is the start of an us,

but also of a me that will be an us.

or maybe it’s all a ruse and we’re just us without a meaning.

people give significance because they crave it, maybe.

Chilled to the Bone

Jesus, I don’t want to. Someone else can fucking sweep; why me? It’s like I’m a fucking doormat, I swear. I seriously hope the heat gets turned on tomorrow. Or someone replaces me tonight, maybe I can coax Angel, or Peter. I can go home and — fuck, I hope he’s home. If he’s out, he’ll be stressed and — he never texted me back did he? That’s okay. It’s fine. Mona said he just needed time. Yeah, time. Time I spend at work. I haven’t felt warm since the fucking sun’s been out — and, now it’s all clouds. Victor would say “You’re such a cat, always looking for sunshine rays.”

At least he’s not here, telling me I should’ve waited till next week, taken the week off and focused on the damn assignment, focused on school. He’ll be okay, though. “Just taking some time.” Probably miserable as hell and totally denying it, but it’s fine. It’s cool. It’s not like texting him will solve it. If he’s home, he’s probably listening to music and cooking. Fuck, I’m so hungry. I hope he makes something warm. Something soup-y.

 

Jesus, watch it! I’m sweeping for Christ’s sake. I know you’re holding fucking boxes of food but if you weren’t wearing headphones, or I dunno, yelled “Comin’ through!” I’d have seen you, you imp.
Where the fuck’s my pile at? I hope you didn’t fuck it up. Well, I guess the longer sweep the less time I’ll have to spend serving customers. “This meat too well done, do you think I could get another sandwich?” No, you can’t. “This isn’t what I wanted” Well, you pointed instead of telling me, so my bad, “This isn’t warm enough” I burned myself on the pan, you asshole, eat it. “Why is there tax on bread?” I have to count the fucking change without a cash, alright. Relax, sit your ass down and wait for your sandwich.

I should’ve brought an extra pair of socks. But at least it’s warm at home. I’ll have a nice tea and keep Victor company while he does his work. Maybe I’ll eat – maybe sleep on the couch so he can have his privacy. I don’t know, man. How should I handle his stress? His stress is stressing me. Mona said – yeah, yeah I know – I can’t fucking help much but it would be damn nice. I hate being a fucking rat, doormat, whatever, tip-toeing around his stress, worrying about him. If he’d tell me a bit more maybe that could – no, no you have to give him time. And space, if he needs, yeah. It’s perfectly human. He knows that. You know that.

 

This is the shittiest fucking broom. Doesn’t get the small crumbs. Maybe it’s advocating for the fucking ants and rats.

If someone else fucking runs through my pile one more time I’ll have a cow. Squat right here and have a fit. Like those fucking children who’re making their parents crazy — touching everything and bickering loudly — impatiently ordering as if I can make the food come any faster. Just get your kid under control if it’s that embarrassing — even though it’s not like anyone actually cares.

I just want a smoke, some time with Victor and a fucking tea. Something warm and cozy and shit; not all these strangers and stray co-workers. At least Allan hasn’t busted my ass because I’m “Still sweeping! What the hell, man?” And Victor hasn’t said “What about that assignment?” for a little while now — probably because he’s so miserable. Fuck I wish I could just hug him and force him on the couch with like fifty blankets and a tea and Ripley.  


Ripley’s probably sleeping happily in his corner at home. It’s so cute when he curls up so tightly taking as little room as possible, a warm ball of fluff.

If Victor knew what he was stressed about, if he knew he could go for a walk and let it all out in one steamy breath. He’d be fine. Oh, shut up, get over it, he’s busy with his own thoughts. He probably — stop assuming — maybe he thinks — I’m so out of it, so clingy or — whatever. Dude, that’s ridiculous. Stop worrying about him. Christ; this isn’t good for you.

 

I’m gonna go check on Angel, maybe she needs help. Fuck sweeping. Let the ants have a party. Customers need their “fresher than fresh” sandwich and Ansel probably needs help. Victor’s at home where he needs to be. I’ll be out of here in no time if I keep with Ansel and Angel. They’re probably desperate for interactions that don’t include “What can I get you?” and “That’ll be…” and “Here you go, sir.”

atlas and i

helplessness is the feeling i get when you don’t reply with more than one word answers for an hour. when your eyes don’t shine, when you won’t even look at me eyes cast down and brows creased. helplessness is like when i want to teleport from my bed into yours because it’s midnight and you feel as far away as the moon in the fucking sky and i can’t do anything about it. from my bed i stare at my screen in the darkness and i hope, fuck, i hope you’re not hyperventilating i hope you aren’t trying to isolate yourself. disconnect plays like a broken recorder in my head. god can you not, can we not, i’m right here i love you. i can’t help you though, not unless you allow me, and even then it’s still mostly on you. how i wish it weren’t

 

helplessness is feeling like a fish in a fishbowl like you can’t even swim you might drown but you’re a fish so you live on. as a human you need air but you have too much as you hyperventilate and fuck no don’t cry. don’t try to make yourself feel better though, no, don’t count to 5 don’t feel 4 things, don’t smell 3, don’t hear 2, don’t. or do, you’ll still be miserable.

 

helplessness is the feeling i get when i feel like shit but i want to feel better. helplessness feeds on boredom and my headache. it’s letting everyone down because you hate it, i can’t fix it when i feel like shit, and everyone else expects more of me. helplessness is when i know i’m not letting myself feel better, when all my worries and all his worries play in my mind like a black and white movie. helplessness is knowing i can feel better but not knowing when i’ll get the energy to finally do it. it’s knowing i’ve spent all this energy feeling like shit. where’s a fucking wall i can smash my hand against when i need one?

helplessness is knowing he cares and it makes you feel guilty but that is so wrong, you know how fucked up it is. but you still cry and you still wish to be shot out into the sky because you don’t deserve this — but yes you do. worse he doesn’t deserve this but he couldn’t care less because it’s not about that — of course it’s not.

 

and helplessness is when you want to crawl in bed, but what good would that do because the thoughts are still in your head and your headache is so strong you’re far past just needing sleep. you also don’t want to be alone, but being with others especially some takes so much fucking effort you might as well give me a paper cut in the worst spot.

helplessness is after an entire day you’ve stirred those thoughts in your head and you just want them dead, you don’t even care if they end up in heaven or hell as long as they’re gone. and long as you can smile and you try to feel something other than tired, and, oh so fucking helpless. as long as when we talk i don’t feel like crying, i don’t feel like teleporting into your bed, i don’t feel like i’m living the same thing over and over and over again and i can’t stop it, or worse i can’t bring myself to stop it.

 

sometimes i try to prevent helplessness. i know it’ll happen soon and so i put my foot down and i make some plans. i build a fort and get some armour and i’m ready. but as soon as the adversary comes, i’m crashing, burning the bridge to hell with all my thoughts. my armour was just leather not diamond. you never believed you could fix it but, god did i want to; maybe i built that bridge just so i could feel like i did something, as if i’d prepared myself. but you prepared yourself for disappointment even though you didn’t mean to. it made you want to punch a wall and you didn’t want to fix it, didn’t know how not to set yourself up for more disappointment. it’s not inevitable unless you make it.

instead build bridges so that together we can fix it and even though it’s still mainly on me that little bit of support might make the world fall off atlas’s shoulder. instead of being atlas, you carry me and the world and i am the one who makes it weightless as we work together.

 

helplessness is when you know you’ll need someone’s help but you don’t seek it because it’s on you. but that phrase has been playing like a broken telephone in your mind so now it means you’re all alone. you don’t remember it meant you can do this but you need to work on yourself before i can help you. how could you remember, how could you forget. you see his face and you know you’re not alone, but god, do you want to because then he couldn’t see you like this, because then he wouldn’t be so frustrated by your misery and by the fact that you let it be.

let it be is how i’m supposed to let misery be, but he means let it be like a chair you fix when it’s broken — let it be a problem you can fix. something you try to change and you have confidence, you know that he knows that you know that it’ll be helpful. not like a balloon you blow till it pops and fuck here come the burning bridge. i’m not helpful to myself even though i want to be. i let it be till he’s the one pulling me to a mirror – look at you, acting like atlas. you don’t need to, you can fix that broken recorder.

 

a couple days pass and rain comes and you feel the way others feel when the sun is out. you’re not seeing the burning bridge and you don’t feel like atlas anymore – instead you see the light at the end of the tunnel and it’s beautiful like his face as he drives you home in the dim lighting of the streets. you see clear as if your glasses hadn’t been scratched and the colours reflecting his face in the streets are distinctly alluring.

it reminds you of the stars as you two sit in a field together and feel the wind. suddenly the stars seem farway because you feel like your feet are set down and you can move steadily. there’s no repetition in your mind, no need to count 5 down, no need to feel guilty. let it be.

rorschach

a window to the mind, a keyhole for the locked terrors. there is no key much like in life there is no path. perhaps since life has many paths this key hole has many keys. one for my future house, one for my mind, one for his, one for everything like a master key. in the depths of the school those keys fly around, their flapping wings loud and menacing.

 

which will you choose?

that which leads to owning a cat? that which leads to interest in science and spacecraft?

 

we define things by shape and size but on paper a cat, an old key hole, and a spaceship all have the same size. it’s all about angle. much like perspective and opinion changes us, it changes how we see things. someone else may not see the keys and you may tell them, chose anyway but if they don’t like that one they can drop it down the sewer and get a new one.

instead of a cat, maybe a dog. instead of space, maybe the sea.

 

it’s not me who chooses what others do like a higher deity

or two or three.

or even one for each season and

concept like samhain and his fellows.

 

black cats have green eyes that reflect us like this ink reflects me.

or is it just that i see what the cat sees which is me

as i crowd his face and coo soft kitty.

 

some fear black cats and tall ladders and mirrors but without the cat you won’t feel love and without the ladder you won’t find the key and without the mirror you cannot see.

 

even if you didn’t want to see, the key still tells you you have to

because then you’ll climb the ladder and

find a key or two or three. you’ll pick and choose

or want to use all three.

but that’s not how it works on earth or in space or in the sea.

the key is a hierarchy of living and dying

 

in the sea, there are fishes that are bigger than humans but on earth we and our machines are bigger – much bigger than cats.

 

in space it’s like under water; there are new rules and you can only breathe sometimes. with caution you live and you choose the key that says you need to adapt to this non-earthly environment. you’ll need a suit and a team.

they each have their own key

but we don’t have the same door

even if we have the same space ship because

they might own a snake or a guinea pig

instead of a soft black cat.

 

and on the day of samhain

they might pretend they aren’t home

even though you’re out in the cold rain

giving each child their own key

in the form of candy.    

 

perhaps the higher deity or your fifty

will seize the key

just as you seize the day and buy an orange cat instead.

 

i’ll then say “go buy a ladder and get a new key,”

and he may say “sit in a field and look up at the stars”

and your key hole will change into that one that allows you to go to space.

 

all key holes can change, with the help of who or what you ask?

whether a ladder, a mirror,

a thought or a high deity,

 

i don’t know. the point is, the key will let you know.

 

or maybe it won’t because the idea of knowing is appalling and you don’t want to, in which case you should sit at home with a tea and your orange cat.

the keyhole will take you where you need to be and the will in your choice of key will take you farther.

Someone in my Head

on this night we are on the bridge with woof woof les chiens with their owners. paws are loud in the darkness. and we look up into the sky and it makes me dizzy i’m petite and Maman points and Tristan nods and i feel far away kind of like les etoiles. there are never shooting stars but Apo hopes. peut-etre, “maybe we’ll go see them in august,” Maman says as if i know what that means. i glance at Apo and le coté du bridge entre the cold bars that look sharp with red dust that Tristan says is danger and i know we’ll be here a while. ow mon coup hurts with the curve of it as i look up at the constellation i should find – it is my name after all.

Papa sees me after work as he puts away his velo and i’m in the yard with Apo, my twin always together never apart even in the night. our room is high up. one bed in a little chambre avec des jouets and books i don’t like but Tristan does. our yard is full of framboise that have péppins and hurt with needles that aren’t visible so i step cautiously around them and avoid les guêpes qui piquent Tristan. and later pendant the summer Maman will turn the framboises into jam that we will eat on petit pain for breakfast with Maman because she doesn’t work like Papa does. but sometimes she comes to school and les élèves call her Madame and i help with the kids de la maternelle because i’m 6 so it’s okay. Madame Bernadette gets it.

on our birthday on fête la fête with Nonna and everyone else and we have 2 cakes. une pour vous and one for Nonna whose birthday is actually next week. i want my own cake because we aren’t one but toujours ensembles vous vous avez les filles, Maman always reminds me i nod. Apo says nothing too. i think that means we did right because la fête continues. we pick gifts from the one bag given to us, and when Apo sees mine she says c’est le mien i keep it. non c’est a moi.

on the beach it is summer and we are here after driving and je pense i did sleep. well Apo did. “on mange des crepes demain,” tomorrow’s breakfast will be sweet and i can roll them on my own now. Maman still thinks les couteaux are dangerous. but Philip and Dacia use them. they also put nutella and that’s degeu and sucré. yes, more than sucre brun. Tristan likes them with limon et sucre, because il manage bien Maman says.

on the way to the hospital Papa says “you can sit in front” and i look back at my seat… if he says it’s okay i’ll be okay i guess. Papa leads me everywhere because you can’t know these things, places and names and things you can’t see or read. like common names. but the signs on the long road where Papa drives quickly and there are other cars and i can’t even hear the music. i wonder if it’s coldplay. the signs repeat their words Rue Allen Road. pourquoi. i didn’t need to be told twice it was pavement that cars zoom and bikes pedal and people walk with their chiens.

on some nuit when it’s late and we’re supposed to be au lit, Tristan and Apo are up parce que Papa cris. i can’t hear very much until they get to les escaliers and i hear banging and le plancher creaks crack crack crack bang like a heartbeat or mine as it goes boom boom boom booom loudly in my ears. Papa often talks about money, and he yells at Maman and tries not to show it, mais tu es jeune. when you’re older you’ll know Maman has spending problems and Tristan will defend her and you will be just as afraid with the same image of someone qui monte les escaliers and – no stop it there is no heartbeat you’re okay. it’s okay. calm down. because at the end of the night when you’re in bed with Apo always and forever you’ll be told bonne nuit by one or both and Maman will say “je t’aime a la folie” and Papa will say “i love you” and you will not know how to answer but to parrot back, sometimes.

and in bed always and forever at night in the same room as Apo and sometimes Tristan sometimes you are one and you hold hands but sometimes it’s warm. tu veux être seule all alone but i can’t because Tristan sleeps above with stars, i sleep under in the darkness beside her. so on se chicane and one of us bleeds because of our nails sometimes by accident. oh. je m’excuse, je t’aime. ca va? or va t’en, tu m’enerve. il fait chaud et tu ronfle! zzz zzz zzz groggy and loud beside me. STOP IT.