Distress prep

Summer was a waste. Not in the usual ways, not because the long days flowed strangely and consumed more of me than I’d imagined. But because I sat idly by and let it be wasted. Me in my ill-fitting bathing suit reading the first chapters of a thousand books on my porch swing. Me under the same strange corrugated roof browsing magazines and listening to podcasts, naming birds and watching smoke under the assumption that I’d not forgotten how to be productive. Summer was a waste and I welcomed it, the same as pouring a bottle of liquor down the drain. Sure it could have numbed me some but that’s no reason to make an ass of myself.

Then equinox came and the days got shorter and reminded me to ask, what is it that’s killing me? Is it the momentary lapses? The moments where I imagine I’m not socially stunted white trash leaning in a plastic lawn chair against the dun-painted side of a rented double-wide trailer. The moments when I imagine I felt something clever, something universal, something beyond the smoke and the sky as red as the selfish politics that consistently isolate and alienate me from my neighbors? Was being hopeful killing me? Or was it just my softness? My edges? My schemes?

I got an unexpected acceptance letter in August and spent September telling myself stories that there was no journal and the editor accepted my work out of pity for other editors — so I’d stop submitting. Now it’s October and I’m out of stories. With another project, my collaborator is demanding that we pin down a title before we go live, but I’m still running laps in this:

iv. Proserpina

Where have you gone, my dear?
I waited there for you
blooming in scorched hoofprints
where death-black horses trod,
until I succumbed,
a casualty of will,
gone to seed
and slumber,
cycle stronger
than form.

I will look for you this summer,
when I bloom:
sun-drowned,
soil-bound,
held fast
by live roots,
stardust pipeline
where neither way is out.

I will look for you this summer,
in the place where we both grew
strong.

My linguistic circuits lapsing, it’s all feeling. It’s a solid wall of Midwest high August humidity as experienced for the first time. It’s pressure suffocation, boards and stones and misplaced morals. It’s waking to the sound of the ocean but seeing the mountains. It’s each card falling at the wrong angle and poking my palms when I try to gather them up. It’s not block, but a thousand things I know as thorns and glass and salt in the soles of my feet and my best translation is simply to howl in pain. Some communicator, some lighthouse, some great adult I am.

Next month will be November, next month I will have to pretend this year is business as normal. Next month I’ll look happy enough, not sure how I’ll feel. See you then.

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