Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Where Beauty Rhymes with Vulnerability

He touched the ice rimming his plate of oysters, those poor little crystals, slowly deteriorating.  In his mind he saw her with her coat collar pulled up, framing her face, so indistinct, yet seemingly so warm and inviting, as little snowflakes graced her hair.  How sentimental he had become about her already, not knowing her at all, but letting himself muse on the delight of snowflakes caught in some grassy wave of her hair.  He smiled.  Oh, maybe it was the alcohol, but there was no harm in it either way.  Does thinking make it so?   How would it matter?  Thoughts swam in and out constantly.  Which stuck?  Which set up shop, as it were? 

He brought his fingers to his lips.  Suddenly a strong perfume of hyacinth so pungent and feminine startled him.  He looked around to see if someone had slipped up beside him unbeknownst, but he sat alone at the bar.  Where had he been, then?  He had gone to get some groceries after his trip to the hardware store.  What had he touched?  Fish, cream, coffee, a pack of mushrooms, a tin of tea.  The cashier?  He couldn’t picture her just yet.  Some dumpy woman, with dark strings of hair.  Were her hands slathered with such a strong scent?  Had they touched his?  A receipt passed between them.  That was all.

What scent would she wear?  His blue-robed oyster princess in the snow?  He brought his fingers back to his nose.  It was almost choking thick and sweet as a hothouse in spring:  now jasmine, now lilies.  He pulled back a little.  Just a touch here on his fingers could make him nostalgic for something as yet unknown, a swing of silk in a hallway.  But a whole pasture of it, a whole swath of a woman dripping in such scent—one wouldn’t be able to breathe.  His happy reverie was broken.  He had dark thoughts again.  Women were difficult.   He returned his attention to the oysters and ordered another drink.  

The Timid Light Around It

She thought for a long time about the various birds she brought to her story in the car.  Why had she chosen them:  hawk, raven, crane—surely there were more melodious names, more colorful ones.  Would Dell’s son have joined in if she had called out other names?  No, it wasn’t her words; something else was holding him back.  Was he grown-up already and suddenly too shy to speak his mind and let loose his usual parade of the fantastic?   She wouldn’t know.   In so much of life, our minds are elsewhere.  Some one had said that more poetically than I, she thought.  I have my dead.  That was Rilke.  Why did she think of that now?  Grief slipped in like a thief, when one’s mind was wandering.  I have my dead.  Yes.  Mine.  A collision of losses seeped in, crowding her thoughts.  She walked to the windows to see the loons had returned.  It felt too early, too sudden.  A melancholy came with the draping mist, pulled like wool over the olive water of the lake.  One loon preened its black and white herringbone feathers while the other floated silently, two solitary figures in this muted world.  The redbud on the shore that once was so brightly pink with blossoms, was now hung with a few yellowing cordate leaves.  The locusts next to it had long ago shed their petal-like growth, and once-gilded leaves littered the muddy black earth below like some shrugged off cloak.  She turned to tell someone this and only found a dusty ficus, inherited from her mother, that somehow kept its dull life afloat in this still indoor life of no birds, no bees.  Who was she thinking she would tell? 

She lit the two white tapers and drew a bath.  She poured herself a Pastis.  How cloudy it was:  The drink, the world, her mind.  How cloudy and how white:  The bathtub, the candles, her skin.  She let herself slip into the heat of the bath, smoothly soft the porcelain, like the marble of him.  How she had felt the heat, that terribly violent and delicate machinery that ran under his skin, beneath that thin weave of his white shirt, patterned with small red leaves, tiny acanthus.  How would it feel to have them drift down over her?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Painted with Birds and Insects Amongst Blossoming Branches

The teapot had drawn him in—its blue pattern calling from some past; a dream perhaps.  Her dress, yes, blue slubbed with white, twined over and over, long like how his bones felt now that he remembered, something deep and flowing through him.

He wasn’t going to that shop, just passing by on his way to the hardware store for some couplings.  Some couplings, dammit.  And then the blue in the window glinted, caught his eye.  He went in feeling too large, of course, too unsteady.  If only it had been some bigger place, some vast anonymous brightly lit box where he could slide into an aisle unnoticed and browse with his eyes scanning the shelves, his fingers free to touch without any questions.  But it was a cubbyhole of a teashop, a dark acrid den.  He was afraid to ask about the pot.  He didn’t want to hear its provenance—how it was Delft or Chinese or what the design meant—he only wanted to touch it, to hold it close to his face . . . .

“You like that pot?” 

Oh please, he thought, don’t say it, don’t tell me.  “Yes,” he nodded, looking downward, sighing.  

Just then another customer banged through the door, jangling the red strung tangle of brass bells and asking loudly, almost bellowing:  “Tea.  I need Green Tea.  And White Peony.  Do you have these?”

Oh, thank god, he thought.   While the proprietor re-directed her gaze, he reached quickly into the window display and grabbed the teapot, pressing the blue shining ceramic to his cheek.  A sleek, cold rush; thrilling, like popping one’s head out at night from an overwarm house to just catch a glimpse of a sliver of the moon before it was shrouded again in frosty clouds.  “Forgive me.  Forgive me, my love,” he whispered to the soft glaze, the tiny twists of stems and wings.  Just as quickly as he had grabbed it, he replaced the pot and left the store.  Back on the blaze of the sunlit street, he felt his heart burring, his whole being smiling.  What, what was he doing?
He had gone mad.  He shrugged and kept going.