Blow Blow Breathe Listen by Rebecca Cook
Blow Blow Breathe Listen
Every day these chemicals, every day this swallowing down, blue and white, green and white, a palm of pills between me and the voices between me and the monster its teeth its twisted backward baby head. There were dried up flowers in a white vase above my bed, a tiny silver bracelet. It’s hard to remember it now. How I shot up in bed how I skipped down the hall double quick to bacon to eggs. How I banged my fork bam bam I’d like some more. It’s hard to remember when morning was more than this.
I wake up, I walk downstairs, I go into the kitchen, I swallow the stones the tongues the hot coals the arrows shooting clean through. The smile of holes. The smile of mother. Do not look. Do not look in this mirror. You will see her you will spin dizzy flogged flayed down the afternoon house the white noise static gagged mouth of gauze. This is the thirsty. This is the tongue. This is the cup, the long swallow breaking the day into its equal squares. This is the road. This is your father. He no longer doubles you up the hills. He no longer coasts you gentle down.
And when it isn’t pigeon-grey, when the head isn’t a clogged drain. When the sun comes up and splits the head open, this, this is the price of a perfect morning, a perfect beginning to a perfect day. The price of a thrift store chest opening lifting out the bones of such a good day, such a good day that breaks the body into a million atoms popping and whirling. Watch her climb up the rope. Fifth grade gym class. The fastest way to heaven. These are her hands clutching the silk. Now she is mounting the golden stairs, her mouth is full of strawberry ice cream her face is plastered with yes, yes, take me. Take me, everyone. Please take your piece, everyone all across the world, there is such a plenty, I am nothing but bubbles. I sit in the school desk in the kitchen hanging upside down watching my mother’s feet. I will never come up I am a biscuit I am a corn pone I am twirling inside my mother’s voice heavenly, holy, three in one I am three in one I am everywhere. I am music a brilliant chord sparking sparkling the ring on my mother’s finger she hands me a cookie an apple a bowl of crackers. The bowl is clear it has red cloth inside I dunk each cracker into a tall glass of water until soggy. I can barely lift them to my mouth.
This is to fall. This is the hole. First the cow fell in, then the girl, then all of us. This is the hole we dance around and around, a ring a ring a rose achoo! All it takes is a little push one little look backwards, a long look down the stairs, the pit. It’s too white it’s deeper then deeper, it’s only a dream. She takes all her college classes in high school. They make her do it. She can’t run up the steps. Hand over hand rung over rung pulling herself up but something has hold of her, something grabs her ankles, oh yes, the haunted house, what happens when you’re eight years old. It’s completely dark. She’s in the hole in the water now, the mud from the rain, she is drowning here. Her father’s voice be careful, so careful of the well, the flat cover in pasture. He says he’ll fill it with stones he says he’ll seal her in. But the cow stinks and the flies come. They lift her from the hole. She is a river she is swimming toward the boy who almost drowned, long strokes through concrete through slag black from tip to tip it was never morning it was never light this dark glove this forever this now is all there is.
This is a scar on the wrist thin white like the little girl her angel robe her tinseled hair. They are splitting the curtains, very green the forest her mother made them they wait in the cedar chest. And the dishes are very ugly. How can she tell her mother how much she hates them. How will she ever tell her there is no hope. How will she ever tell her that her wrist is too white, that it will yield, the skin will red purple yellow green. The wrist knows this is not I will not, it knows that this is oh no not me these sounds these dreams of sock feet down the twelve o’clock hall who wants a cup of water who will soften that throat of fear. You will wake up you will carry that lump of coal and phlegm in your neck, the terrible smell coming up from your belly, from your greasy hair, your friends will say, really, you should wash yourself now.
Perhaps she should swallow the whole lake, the breast deep stroke of it, the mile wide across to the thicket of trees. She is pulling herself through the water, the weeds, the ever-clear glade of it. She is bursting, her lungs, heaving for air, turning blue at the mouth, the southward pull, the deepest current. She is belly-up on the water’s surface, the mirror of sun. They net her up. She is caught, thumping solid on the shore.
I close my hands around the capsules, around the hope, around this too shall pass. I’m better. Things look up I look up there is a spring in my step it’s April and nothing is cruel there is nothing to dread. Except that little fish on the shore. Except dying for want of air. Except October. Except the other shoe that is always polished always waiting by the backdoor. Over there. Where Jesus sits.
Perhaps he will come, put his mouth over mine, breathe life into my belly. Perhaps God will break my ribs, break me open, lift my heart to the morning light, beating again, and bloody. Maybe I will swing up from the desk and smile at my mother and I will not be dizzy and I will not see stars. Everything will be level and appropriate and I will walk a straight line to the upper room. The Spirit will come down on my head, every day. Yes. I am raising my glass. I am drinking. I swallow. I await your coming. When you will set me on the riverbank. When you will wrap me in a towel. When I will sit in the sun, all day long the sun and into evening when I’ll watch lightning bugs again. A whole big mayonnaise jar. Bottled light.
© Rebecca Cook
Rebecca Cook’s novel, Click, was released from New Rivers Press (August 5th, 2014). She has published two books of poems, The Terrible Baby (chapbook Dancing Girl Press, 2006), and I Will Not Give Over (Aldrich Press, 2013). Her essay, “Flame,”(Southeast Review), was a notable essay in the 2013 Best American Essays. She was a Bread Loaf Fiction Scholar (2009), and has most recently published work in The Nervous Breakdown, The Seneca Review, Jubliat, and Map Literary. She blogs at godlikepoet.com.
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