After the rain

After the rain, the air in the house smells like death. Ok, maybe decay. The carcasses of mice and birds rot inside the walls, poisoned by long ago tenants, or asbestos covered wires or glass filled insulation. The walls themselves, two hundred year old bricks – clay and mud, moldering away, crumbling, becoming what they were before they were baked.  Even the brick-makers grandchildren are long dead now.

The mice have eaten all the insulation but their fur doesn’t make up for the warmth they’ve stolen. The birds nest in the rafters, in that space, holes in the house, between roof and ceiling. Their restless fluttering over my head at night, feeding my nightmares with sounds of flapping wings too close to my ears.  I have to wear a hat to bed. Protection from the cold and Tippi Hedren’s screams.

If the bricks continue to crumble, if the mice and the birds continue to carve out their own homes, what will remain? Will it all come crashing down, all of us, bricks and birds and mice and me, buried in the muck and mildew of the rain soaked basement, decaying with the mingled bodies of our ancestors?

Will this smell be my last?

Is that what you call it?

Prose Poetry is poetry without the rhymes or the line breaks. A collection of words intended to convey a feeling or a mood – not so interested in plot or character.

The last two things I wrote, Unresolved, here on this site, and The death of a moment, over on my fiction site definitely adhere to that description. As does a piece of mine you’ll find in the upcoming issue of The Philadelphia Evening Post.  (Issuu Link)

I didn’t know it had a name, but it is the way I write to myself.  My notebooks full of scribbles that pile up on this desk are full of moments and moods.  I make up the stories, the plots and characters to contain them, to make them capsule shaped and gel coated, but that is only the way they end, not the way they begin.

Perhaps I will stop trying to be what I think you will like.

The death of a moment

“I’ve never cheated on my wife before.”

The words emerge from his mouth, swirl, spin, land on my tongue, only a breath away from his own. The words are ice, my mouth slows, shuts around the cold. I will not go where I am not wanted. But his hands have not heard his words and do not release their grasp. The words take the moment, a warm pocket of time, and pull it inside out. The moment, all of its seconds behind, above, below us, all of them building towards something. Some thing that is gone now.

The things I have forgotten, or rather, not forgotten, just…. put aside, ignored, for the sake of the moment, these things fill my mind and I am remembering all of his words, from all the other ruined moments, over all the years we’ve known, or not known, each other. These sporadic moments together only amounting to a number of hours, but spread over a decade or more, maybe, I can’t add it all up, right now. The cold has spread from my tongue to the roof of my mouth, and my brain is freezing, now.

A moment within the moment, the cold is pitying. I only invited him to dinner. I’d hoped we would end up where we were, minus the ice of course, but I know he is married now, I knew he might walk away. It was always his choice.

From the beginning, so long ago it’s almost only a story I tell to myself, I only ever wanted a kiss. I asked for a kiss. One kiss. Knowing everything he knew, I still asked, and he said yes. Every time, he says yes.

And every time I ask again, knowing everything I know. Knowing that every time, after he says yes, he will say something else, a word, a phrase, coated with truth and reality and with a breath, my pleasure from the moment will have ended.

I can say, “Then don’t.” I can say, “You should go.”

I say nothing. I stare. Cold pity pours from my eyes into his. His deep, brown, intelligent, sensitive, kind eyes. I love his eyes. His long lashes, his smooth olive skin, his small ears. I love his soft brown hair, though there is less of it each time I see him. I love the curve of his lips and his tentative tongue. I love the way his hand feels holding mine. In those stories, we are always holding hands, though that only ever happened once.

My silence, my closed mouth, my frozen moment, his words seem to affect only me. His hands are still moving, still holding tight. Despite everything we both know, he does not let go. This is what I wanted. To be wanted.

Words continue to flow from his mouth. What does he want from me? Forgiveness? Permission? A line drawn in the bed sheets. If he doesn’t cross it, it doesn’t count.

Pity dissipates. I’ve done it again. I’ve made up a story. I’ve made myself the hero and given him his lines, and for a while, he played along. But the truth is that he doesn’t really want me, or rather, he does, but only because I have, again, handed him this perfectly crafted moment of passion minus the responsibility of all the moments that must follow.

In a moment, I will be alone, and then…
I will cry over the death
Of a moment, again.

Unresolved

How did the homeless woman get into the locker room in the first place?

Why is the fact that the police officer was Kind and Patient so important?

I don’t know the whole story. I was a minor player, a walk-on, an un-credited character in a non-speaking role.  The camera only caught my entrance, my eyes widening at the unexpected sight of the male cop in the woman’s locker room. The hitch in my step hardly registered, as the camera panned back to the center of the action.

Why didn’t they send a female police officer?

I cannot see the center, only the edges, as I move through the scene.  The cop standing, right arm outstretched, holding open the door to a toilet stall.  Two of the gym staff, hovering stiffly, adding to the tension in the brightly lit, tiled and mirrored space.

The path to my locker, temporarily mine by virtue of my combination lock hanging from it’s latch, was such that I could only hear, not see, the cop say, Kindly and Patiently, “Is there somewhere I can take you ma’am?” as I moved along it. At the end of that path, all connection to the scene ended.

There was a TV in the locker room, tuned, as usual, to a major network where the familiar voices of the morning show people were talking about the giant tree in Rockefeller Center. The volume was the same as always, just a bit too loud. Good for covering up embarrassing bodily sounds, but bad for when one wants to know what is happening behind one’s back.

Finished with the locker, I turned back, intending to walk to the nearest mirror, to check the placement of my winter hat before exposing myself to the world outside the gym. But the scene had moved. The homeless woman was now at one of the sinks. I saw only her back, as viewed through the mirror behind her, a large mound of dark cloth, bent over the sink. The thick ankles and bulky shoes underneath the only proof that the mound was indeed human and not a pile of laundry.

It was at that moment that I made the assumption of homelessness.  (And it is still only an assumption.) The tension emanating from the three people around her, cop and staff, was not of the threatened (as from a criminal) or worried (as from and injury or illness) it was of the stress that comes from dealing with a person that none of them knew, exactly, what to do with.  Who else but the homeless can cause that sort of tension? A person who’s entire existence is defined by doing nothing wrong beyond being in a place where she does not belong and, more importantly, is not wanted.

I could not cross the invisible line that separated me from the scene. I exited, hair unchecked, stage left, unnoticed by anyone, more anonymous, for the moment, than the woman at the sink.

I don’t know what happened next. I will never get answers to the questions I’ve asked.