Rumors to the Contrary
Tired, I was fighting with myself, a duel between my good and bad intentions. I should have known but I couldn’t predict what my opponent would do next. I found myself in every direction in my kitchen. Where could I run? I had an ordinary face, thin torso, long darkish hair. My mirror explained things to me. I stepped forward to argue that my young children didn’t need me anymore, which became whispers as my feet hit the floor.
Of course they still need you. Their minds haven’t fused with their bodies yet. She was forceful, spitting from the glass.
Then why not break it off now? Make that split between us happen. I was exhausted by my sons.
Unreal flames began, surrounding the two of us, wincing at the stacked and unwashed bowls and glasses of water piled around the sink. Did either of us believe what we were saying? Did I trust a condensed childhood to create a human being? Families were so full of secrets and problems which accumulated in sad places, creating another form of fiction and juxtaposition. There had to be some space between us where we could both reside.
I recalled myself lost in my own house, rooms moving away from me as one son screamed or my ribcage twisting away as my children fought or meditatively shutting my eyes when something broke or spilled. I noticed that we were both breathing in and out at the same time. Both of us could intentionally insert or withdraw ourselves into the lives of our sons.
I hurt all over although my life was strapped to hers bifurcationally. I was hoping that I wouldn’t understand language any longer.
I’m made of words, but I see your actions, I explained, although I didn’t need to.
Is there a god? Is it me now? We asked each other.
We agreed we’d live with one another.
Life of the Mind
My heart is self-destructive but the world already knows that and adjusts accordingly. Horizons offer simmering sunsets or flaming sunrises from my apartment windows. But I’m usually at my fungible job, a computer scouring my face then commanding me to do something or snagging my thoughts with tidbits of information. I’m a ghost filled with ideas. I’m grateful when my intellect separates from my body. My body abandons those messy emotions and goes for a walk around the office, which contains mental pitfalls.
Hello, my mind greets a new bald man, his body wavering in nacreous light, his thin fingers clicking on keys, his eyeglasses reflecting his screen. He tilts his head briefly at me. Have you heard the rumor about Phyllis? I ask.
He manages a No. His face is fixated, nearly touching the computer.
She’s gone to Italy. Permanently.
He doesn’t respond. I move on, drifting, floating over the flimsy, gray cubicle partitions with my phantom feet. My brain giggles as I note everyone working or appearing to work. One woman surreptitiously and continuously studies a photograph of a man on a dating service.
I whisper, He has a prehensile tail which you can’t see in that picture. I wander some more.
Back at my own sad desk my heart complains, What a shitty job. You should leave. My heart races. I peer at a different dating site and claim to like pets, beach walks, jigsaw puzzles, and sex. Too many people respond.
My head aches, etches jokes, twists toward complex ideas, sifts through anxious childhood memories, rescues my imagination from reality so that my spirit can soar to the ocean and lay down in its electronic water.
My ideas fly to beginnings and ends, making the world accommodate me. Currently I’m running late with my work. In my thoughts I blame so many people, verbing them. Fear builds within me. But I can explain it all with my hands, my face, my heart, my words, entirely bypassing my mind.
Too Much Is Always Asked of Us
Souls peer over my winged shoulder longingly at the animals. But they aren’t mine to allot. Milling about are riotous hamsters, a dog redundant with its tricks, an insistent cat, a kangaroo with its paws in its pocket. Lies are derived from the truth but they wear overlarge, complicated hats, I explain to whatever comprehends me. But the souls don’t care about new artifice and the animals spend their time escaping from whatever has held them too long.
I am trying to fold myself up. I take pills so my future can meet my past. I like music, even though my mouth is shrinking, just like the rest of me. Soon I won’t need much anymore. My thoughts wind themselves around me and squeeze. They beg to live outside me like pets.
My ideas declare, You know you aren’t that interesting.
But I have a job to do, I reply.
I keep going. Soon there is a problem with time which is apparent on each body although one makes me want to hold it and another reminds me of rabbits that can’t jump anymore. Each one makes me more myself. And each makes me miss the archival me.
Souls gaze for years at the awkward, badly used flesh and bones, wanting to be surprised by something architecturally new. Wait, wait, they say, pointing, what about that? Nothing wants much to do with lopsided me. I sway too easily with my torn wings, a grimace, too many decisions. Remarks fall all around me but can’t kill me. I unveil a soul’s best moments without any appreciation from them. There’s no cure. I always have something on my mind since I once glimpsed my brain a long time ago when it resembled a raw little animal.
There Was Once Another Person Here
I awoke on the plane, not knowing where I was going or why. In the turbulence these are some of the things that hair can do: fold, flatten, curl, flare, wrap, grow helpless. So where is the sky? Clouds are limping away and in my sleep’s ruin is a bitten sun whose face seems human and close. I don’t understand where violence originates. Maybe from the invention of self that has already evacuated from my body? It’s weight is impossible to carry. I have grown suspicious of nostalgia and foreign countries and nostalgia for foreign countries. Always. A baby cries from far in the back, another way for the body to shed itself and a wish against repose.
A few long-dead gods spin just outside my window as if warning me about the atmosphere and accidents. Someone’s food slides across tray tables to rest near the oval glass, displaying a distant landscape of trees. Too many objects hurl themselves or sing against other objects. Light and noise are unstoppable in the swirling.
I finally ask the man sitting next to me, Where are we going?
The wind has us now, is what I think he replies.
My mind retreats to a scruffy season that usually ruffles up my body although I can dress for it. I don’t understand this incident, no matter what happens.
Please, I tell this man I don’t know, while watching the forests growing closer, remember me. I touch his hand then cover my eyes briefly as if praying. My eyes spring open, onto the window where one of the gods looks bewildered by me as if someone else should be in my seat.
Cut into parts by the scissorhood I piece myself back together awkwardly, angry and annoyed that my sections aren’t quite puzzling together as they should. If my arm doesn’t slide into its allotted slot, I consider connecting it down lower on my torso. But how would that affect the way I eat, comb my hair, pet my cats?
We began scissoring ourselves when we wanted to examine and question everything, our lives and ideas already kept compartmentalized in boxes within us. The original scene: a warehouse type room, an overabundance of conversation with its backs and forths, a horde of blondes, brunettes, redheads, greys, purples, and all else. Soon someone brought an enormous scissor as a solution. Our eventual choices: changing ourselves, then everything, with convex, beveled, straight, or serrated blades used for sewing, hair, gardening, or medical procedures.
What is a scissor but two sharp blades attached with a screw? We asked without answers. Why us and not them? It was messy at first, losing a tuft of hair or too much blood, scooping up the wrong anatomical piece. Then we built Changing Rooms so nothing could be misplaced. This began the place named Scissordom. We emerged new creatures.
Are we more alike now? One of the brunettes inquired.
Maybe, but probably not, said someone who was still profusely bleeding.
Several of the reconfigured began to compare limbs, raising a hand, a foot, a knee, and then another and another. Things became a bit grabby. Someone clutched someone else’s shoulder. One person was a professional juggler, tossing fingers and toes into the surprised air, then catching them again. Each person was different.
There’s too much emphasis on our bodies, one of the Scissored complained.
It’s only one path to the mind, I declared back then, when I was prone toward remedies.
But now I know better, how we all wanted to love every bit of each other, how we shivered when it was our turn holding one of the overlarge scissors, how we wanted to ameliorate the world by transforming ourselves. If only we had known how much it would take and what would happen. So many logos, slogans, and manifestos are still proliferating. Scissored, Un-scissored, Re-scissored, Ex-scissored, Pre-scissored, Post-scissored, Multi- scissored, Mis-scissored. Were we giving ourselves away or rebuilding?
I didn’t know where I belonged anymore. I worried.
Who is this really for? I ask now although I already anticipate the answer. Afterwards I always arrive home to my collection of cats that are hilarious, pretty, and mine, even though every time I return I am a new person.
Laurie Blauner is the author of five novels, nine books of poetry, and a creative non- fiction book called I Was One of My Memories, which won PANK’s CNF Book Contest. A new novel called Out of Which Came Nothing was published by Spuyten Duyvil Press. Her latest poetry book is Come Closer which won the Library of Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander Press. Her work has appeared in The New Republic, The Nation, The Georgia Review, American Poetry Review, Mississippi Review, Field, Caketrain, Denver Quarterly, The Colorado Review, The Collagist, The Best Small Fictions 2016 and many other magazines.