Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘voice’

lip and eye

It starts here.

9pm, heading home from pub trivia at a busy spot near my office. Down on the metro platform, the orange line train pulls in. Only six stops to my station. I’ll be walking the dog by 9:30.

The doors slide open onto a car bubbling with chatter. Summer in DC, the weekend lasts all week. Between nuzzling couples and clusters of young people, a few wilted office drones slouch and sleep. I take one of the few unoccupied seats. Bar hoppers stream out around me.

 

Manspreading.

He takes up a row. Briefcase on its side next to the window, legs splayed, foot halfway into the aisle. As I settle into a corner perpendicular across the car, he catches my eye. I ignore him, pull out my journal and start writing.

The sensation a prickle, a tiny persistent sting against scalp and skin.

He’s still looking.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

MudMaid2

“Can bowls swim?”  a question asked.  I knew the answer they wanted was No.  But bowls could float, even heavy bowls, if flat and large enough. The large, flat-bottomed bowl of an ocean liner, for instance.  If Paul thought like that, too, he’d give the wrong answer.  They meant small inanimate household bowls.  Not the bowl of the deep ocean, say, holding currents, coral, plants, and creatures — itself floating on the earth’s liquid core of iron and nickel, whose swaying produces Earth’s magnetic field. Not the bowl of the earth floating — or, with so many life forms, was it swimming? — in space.


— Diane Ackerman, One Hundred Names for Love

It is all okay, just the way they say it is.  By every measure, it is fine.

Rise weary.  Shower off the animal, dress in unremarkable cloth.  Speak in operation manual dialect.  Meet only the eyes of the bus driver and snap straight the helicoid moment as you stride to claim your seat.

Write like a man, the librarian says.  She scrubs her emails now.  Each is an écorché peeled free of padding.  Each correspondence a naked, muscled machine, its purpose laid bare.

Maybe we danced before.

Maybe we pretend we haven’t forgotten the petronella turn.

We collect pennies as paperless assurance.  We eat, we mimic love.  We wish we could un-know what keeps pressing in on the periphery, even when we lock tight the frame: that ice cream and sex and even the names we whisper in the dark are all bound by the law of diminishing returns.

For vague yet persistent unease, a prescription is available.

This is all there is.  By every measure it is fine.  This is complete.  This is plenty.  Our dissatisfaction with this is obstinance.

Another name for resistance.

(what once surged up through our splayed wrists and out the emerald throat of our imagination)

The silence now is clack and need.  It is invisible traffic slamming body into cathode paralysis.  It drags us in its gallop towards an ever receding horizon line, a simulacrum of quest.

Be here now

Breathe

(they tell us)

(because they note with concern our multiplying menagerie of worries)

(and wish something for us that burns on in the smoke ribbons curling into the corners after the candles are safely doused)

(something we have tried, in the pressed cuff of of our indoor voice, to wish for ourselves)

Alas, this here now fits like rust blossoms and papercuts.

Somehow the body must press itself back onto a barren frame.  Foreign as those cables have become, we have to bend to the task.  Scoop up gelatinous handfuls of song-meat and poetic offal.  Pump synovial fluid into stark utility lines gone stiff from exposure.

We have to see again with eyes that roll loose in the waterlogged bowl of our skull, itself a bowl bobbing in our story’s fecund, fly-kissed quag.
 


Image: “Mud Maid,” Lost Gardens of Heligan
 

Read Full Post »

She writes on her wrist, “WAIT.” Why Am I Talking? She considers the purpose of every word. Quiet, she weighs intention. She holds.

Under the even veneer, she churns. Silence has its risks. Being forgotten is a possible cost, as is the chance — the near certainty — that others will muddy her canvas with their careless depictions. Secretary, single mom, working class, slob. Vapid, coarse, striving, dull. The urge to speak presses against her throat. She knows the folly of words whose aim is to set the imagined record straight. There is no record — no coherent one, anyway, and none of consequence. She is as fleeting to the rest as they are to her. Attempts to manage impressions with speech have never been successful, and the question is always there: What measures success?

Which is just code for WAIT.

What is the project at hand? What hope? What promise?

Maybe, then, the urge is to chime in. It’s pure enthusiasm, yes? After all, the idea is in play. Impulse, excitement, the ping and rebound. A human labrador, she thrums for an opening, a nod.

She aches for release.

But she’s been in enough rooms with enough words from enough jumbled heads. Absent a design, all those voices clang. They cross and veer, fall short of the mark or land far afield. She’s suffered. More, she’s witnessed shared and persistent low-grade suffering. All fall victim to the aimless talking, the eggshell egos, the throbbing need. Idiocy framed as insight. Five words where one will do. Then 25 more where none belongs. Dismissive of the call for clarity of purpose, they talk on. Add just one more thing. Barrel into the action (failing to check if this is indeed a playground and if they are indeed invited). Calendars squeezed, conversation pressing out completion, day’s needs choking sleep, all excess wrung out of these things we call our lives.

Why Am I Talking?

She chooses the risks of silence over the indulgence of speech. When her voice is needed, she will use it. Not free it, no. She will consider. Qualify. Check and weigh. Why Am I? Making sense of the possible outcomes based on the options at hand, speaking only after thinking, she tries to become the introvert she is not.

Speech is tight. Trim. Like the correspondence, the public face, like every composition. She uses the fine-tipped pen. Only with the door closed, in meandering tangles secreted away in spiral notebooks or private folders, does she dare let impulse loose in words. The place she stores her naked origins needs a key and a code. But she knows, somewhere under the contained madness, that locks are not required. No one wants to know.

The rest are busy tending their own.

She wants to ask them, those clacking skulls, to WAIT. No one cares.

(About you, yes. Fellow earthling. Neighbor. Dear one. Friend. Be well, be whole.)

Also no.

No one wants to hear the thick and spilling conception tale of an embryonic insight. No one has time. When another goes on like this, on and on in the ways she has ceased to allow herself, she marvels at their unchecked ruminating (Ruminants chew their cuds, she recalls. They stand still. They graze. They are prey.) How do they come by their blind confidence, their self-assured oblivion? Why do the rest of us put up with it?

No one is nearly so interesting to us as we are to ourselves. Also its inverse: No one is as interested in us as as we are in ourselves.

Not the best friend, the spouse, the kid. Not even the parent. Not the boss, colleague, or subordinate. Especially not the subordinate, but what is she going to do about it? The conceit is required. The long journey asks for order. It’s how you stay afloat. It’s how, in fact, you stay aboard. Just don’t mistake courtesy for curiosity and respect for reverence. WAIT. Why? Until she can answer that, she’s not.

Grow up, she says without saying it. This is the best she can do.

With regard to becoming, in the absence of the where or the how — or, as it happens, the who — she’s at least got the Why of this silent beat. At least for now.

She keeps the lips sealed. Slips lead to injury or shame, contrition, disavowal. Narratives are demanded. More words, dangerous words, to further twist the lines and spin the vessel.

Better to wait. There is plenty to do in silence.

Loose and light, she leaps across a row of hay bales under a white-blue haze. Arms like wings.

The girl recedes.

She lets her. She watches from behind glass, behind the wheel on the far-off road, moving without noise. Getting to somewhere.
 

Read Full Post »