memory underneath language, not because you wish to, but because you must

September and so much was in motion.

I had a new lover. I stood at the threshold of her bedroom door. The smooth edges of her skin flowed underneath the sheet she held up, covering herself in the chill gust of our bodies, finally and with great unwillingness releasing one another’s.

I went to San Francisco, joyful and afraid. I knew we were opening a lid we would not be able to close again. I did not know what this would mean for my primary relationship. My partner who was increasingly icy. Angry and sulky and accusing me of crimes I had not committed, did not want to commit. He said I was trying to push him away from her. It wasn’t true; I never wanted that, I always wanted him to have more, as much as he wanted, to get his fill.

I loved him and wanted him to know love. To trust it.

I went on my short journey and then I came home and already everything was going so fast, it was as if we were spinning. There had been two, now there were three and I could not catch my breath, they were both running so fast. I wanted to hold them, but like wild ponies they broke, choking on their own wheeze, leaping up against the wind.

October plunged down like a guillotine and November was a wildfire blackening the bodies of the whimpering wounded, leaving behind a wasteland without any history but burning.

I knew I had loved because of the shape of its absence. But I could remember nothing of what that meant, except in the nightmare of their two faces. Fists and hard kicks and frigid looks. I dreamt night after night of being murdered by him, of watching the tender face go suddenly blank before the hand with knife or fist fell towards me in a cold wash. water falling.

I died that night at the end of autumn. I clung to the floorboards and sobbed and beat my fists. I called their names but no one came. I called their cell phones every thirty minutes but they didn’t answer after that first time when I said please dont do this and begged like a broken thing, without strength–a hated thing, a discarded thing.

and then when I called again the phones were off. they didn’t want to hear my voice. they didn’t want it near them when they had gone to be together, safe and free of me.

It was november, season of darkness.

how do you measure your own survival? I learned to count in footsteps and accept this as enough.

I learned to breathe and not count at all, because the counting was slow.

I learned to hold a pencil and then a stick of color. I learned to stand for hours and put lines and shape onto paper. I learned to cry while working and I learned to stop crying when it been long enough. I learned then that only the work could keep me from lying down. so I learned to cling to the sweat and the labor and the force of giving birth to an image.

Skin regenerates, even after a mangling burn. You can’t even see the scars on me. Just that I’m skinny now–smaller and taut, wired with thin muscle. When I see myself in the mirror, I see time written in my own eyes. I always felt like a child with her, that brief lover, bright in darkness–who in the end turned out to be a stranger and then a smudge, someone I would not recognize in a crowd.

I can’t trace that sensation of feeling so small and new and lost in wonder. Will this agedness stick? I don’t regret it; I will fight harder and more ruthlessly now. I will never again forgive teeth against my neck. I will never lie down again on that rock, wishing to save you with my own blood.

I don’t want to wake up again a child. I don’t want the burden of such faith.

Leave me to my colors, to my hours of work. I will sweat and break for myself or g-d, like the sea and the cliffs. I will watch you from the high tower. I won’t come out when you call because I gave up my name to the waves and now it gone and I am free.

yet closed within the fist of this allegiance is a prayer, wadded and crumpled. Not to be a child but, yes, to wake again, to strip to skin and dive in after the name I cursed and then surrendered. to choke on water and find flesh against my own flesh, heat in the heart of the strong, sharp cold.

to call a name. to be called. to cling to another body with joy not fear. to release. to trust that I am strong and supple, that having now died, I cannot drown because I know the water is my lungs and my kicking legs and I will never fight her again.

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