Teal Gardner



i don't know a little delegation came over it was sudden          there are old ghosts shitting in the ceiling this system isn't working          the grates are again blocked the sudden is root thought no one has time          logs against the door in fissure smile after we have seen icesheets breaking to          the size of a quartermile when my lentils burn or when the faces on the fridge          begin to cliff and move out with the orange pan sizzling uncutely smell your old sax          double the bread and this is not a command wherein the bowl is full fresh utah sand & nobody forget i mean nobody remember where, with blood, do we collapse to as we           shit and shit and shit this is the easiest way no this is the easiest way no we are all ticking timebombs as offerings as apricot jam as brunch we are war as brunch & we forgive the fuckest of thee

I am eating refrigerated food out of my animal brain, and winning. Two hundred calories, washed dishes. I forget, don’t know what the chicken looked like who laid the egg. So. Yesterday I saw a mole run over by a car, the mole’s face went starnose, I’m sick in the driver’s seat. Remember something about qualia & how we can’t know what it’s like to be something other than ourselves. We just can’t know it. I filled a thought bubble with the tiny furs of voles and slept there. A month. In the summer of every year we talk about cicada screams. I wanted to leave that out. In FL they must be obsessed with the movement of huge, face-sized insects. My father is a well-known Parasitologist.

Now I am living in a hivebox of sorts, out of the family huddle. Now we are doing yoga as a household, rolled the Persian rugs back. Roll out the sticky mats. Down dog. Emu breath. I had a dream about her last night, the one who isn’t talking anymore. I screamed at her, and scratched her and pinched her. Then sat next to her for a lecture on heartworms. I’ll call her Dirofilaria immitis, here now, for fun. After yoga, later we will all do a home grown kirtan and try to crowd ourselves full of too much. So that we can choose to take less.

Avocado, broccoli crown, bird seed, the so-delicious lentil soup, one pancake, gin and tonic, kale always kale, apples, onions, garlic planted and sprouting and now dying having reached the limit of indoors, a box of hard cheese, almond milk gone off, eggs cracked, eggs on the porch, eggs are hard to finish the full twelve of. You have to try and remember to share. To share. Share breath and candlewax under the strange internal air of a house that grows and heaves. The wind is intense. We lose windows. The windows smash into grass. The grass is covered with dogshit. Near the compost pile. Frozen through. Onion skin. Banana husk. Boiled beans. Beet greens. Stems. Seeds. The smell of weed coming through the tunnels inside of the walls. Basement jams. Who used to live down there? Lives there still. Succulent plants in the window via Chelsea. Red-lightbulb dance party basement via Butts & Evy. Out the window, broken off the top of the house. How many kitchens? We don’t share enough. Standing on a chunk of ice in the backyard, looking across at emptylot. Dreaming summer, when we take hits on top porch and throw things off into the grass. Burn it in the firepit. Nothing you can’t eat. One rainstorm during our party last summer stuck us together as we were dissolved in a water that meant birth. One more party to bind us all, a night away. Another potluck, dirty dishes. Cornbread of course. We share air, dishes, the toilet. Bloodstains dripped from diva cups poured, shared with the houseplants. Some do this. We share the week but move like ants crawling in our tunnels. Blast open the chest of the house if you can, blast open the bike jumble and the clutterporch. Shatter the air around our mutual avoidance. Black the wall so it can be written on. Scrawl when drunk:

“You love the world, you love it. You love everything through your love of the house.”

Weekend. After some low-level glooming, I finally got out around 11:30 am without seeing anyone. Not really avoiding, but yes, avoiding. I want to take a walk and then a bath and then walk again. Crows are out, so I follow the murder down block. Shit, there are probably 150 of them, all trading places in the trees. I stay back and watch for a long time as they caw and glide, big grey sky behind. Caw so high and loud, and I can’t tell which black swooping bird makes which sound, up in the trees they reorganize themselves. Walking a slow perimeter of the park’s dormant grass, I choose a place to sit down. Sit, think, smell. Smell is like shit. Spring is happening, and so all of the old shits the dogs have taken start to thaw in the grass, to decompose. Miles of piles of shit. Looking out of the corner of my eye, without moving my head, I see this dog squatting, owner looking downcast. I’d hate that too. I register a Nordic blend, she looks like a brunette Liv Ullmann, with an even more sinister nose. She smells it too, and closer. Dog is done with the squat, she bends to pick up the turds with a blue plastic bag over her hand. The leash is around her left wrist, hand pointed straight up, fingers pressed together, thumb in, leash loop slacking down toward the elbow, dog looking at the crows. I look up too.

We started being roomates with our teeth. A double rainbow. We bored into the house seeking honey. Honey of friendship, we sought the honey of each other & look. Look at it now, it is a house of crystal. And you can make it your house of crystal, you can breathe in it.

We can actually sleep here, but maybe a month or less remains. I dig up an old note that was taped in the downstairs kitchen (three kitchens total in the house). Grease splattered from its proximity to boiling oil, it still reads “This kitchen has always meant love because of Dirofilaria immitis .” I stare and blink, remembering when all of this happened before. There was a night at a bar when it all got so dark & out in public, she fixed her face drunkenly at the human object of her hatred. Screams. Just so much sobbed anger & betrayal. The air held it, holds it now. The downstairs kitchen holds it in that greasy note.

The one who wrote it is gone to Portland. Her box of leftovers sits in the living room. Tax returns come in the mail. We try to be good ex-roomates, moving things left behind along proper channels. I used to try harder. But I dream of a ribcage filling up with tax returns and waxed linen thread. I am sewing my mouth shut with it, joining the strike against talking.

Maybe a week. I drink tea in the morning & do fake yoga. Coffee can’t be had because the best is 60 miles away, just a little too far to make the trip. Too close not to hold out for it.

Dirofilaria immitis waking up on a couch further East. She sit up. Stretch, sip water. Check the phone. Nothing new there. Birds are ruffling up & making dawn-cracking morning sounds, finally. Months ago frozen knifewinds would shred the house apart. Yes we lost windows. Cramp’t into apartment style rooms in a house so big and labyrinthine, echo the hall, the door slowly closing. She cut off. Hair and talking; wait, no I cut my hair in December, when we were still sharing words. Laughed about it in the kitchen when I’d walked in with a hood on, straight from Great Clips. She was making dinner in the downstairs kitchen, and I walked in, started talking with those two girls, all so easy. She joked “What if you had a pixie cut? That’d look cute.” I pulled my hood off. Astonishment, laughter! Laughter! It is hard to miss laughter when it removes so fast. Was that the last time we joked together? Months ago, and now I’ve re-named you: Dirofilaria immitis. Heartworm.

She left and was a cold front. My chest flamed up in a beautiful dance, as if I could effortlessly flush the whisper out. Close the sheets that barrier the french doors, full of glass. Spend a winter behind them. Prop them with pillows so they don’t budge as the pressure shifts between the upstairs and the downstairs. Air rushing up when the front door opens forces a tiny yell from a hinge near my head. Laying deep in nothing in bed.

Stuff and jump. Double take. Doing it on the edge of the bed. Wait, water is boiling. Stop. Start to think about the gas bill, pants around my ankles. Stop. Bring in the steaming tea cups. Close the door. Do a double take. Double back. Double chin. How old are you? Double the number fifteen, bout there. Round there. About time, dear. Two sugars, dear. That’s another life past, there. Haven’t even taken my boots off.

Old habits against new aspirations. Whiskey or tea? The eternal new question. Hear a pounding one night, the next, I’m flat out & nearly limewashed & covered with ants. Another occasion with ants where she (new she, new house, new possible, new number, all coming this summer) put an ant to death under her thumb. Complained of the smell; “Smells like Windex.” Found one behind my ear and smashed it. One organism down.

I feel the earth under my ankles and today I am ninety three years old. Another organism with all of my feelers out, doing a sex dance at the front of the domicile, even doing a waggle-dance with my antennae out, crazily swinging my abdomen hither, thither, zither. You know. We were all in indie rock bands back in those days. I beg you to forgive me, but not from a point of reverence. I’d begin to darn your socks, if you’d only let me touch your frozen doorknob. Cough. Exhale. Can you love the earth that is a boiling pot of snow? The bent on heat thermostat tells me nothing, your door is shut. I am volatile.

Read lists. Tiny pillows. She thinks in miniatures while burning a prairie patch. I know this because she told me so. Words that do the same thing appear, paint the same painting, wrap a Tony Smith all black metal sculpture in our shaved hairs, something for Father, we don’t mention. We all have a blank for him, it seems, trying to radio for sisters. Men come in and come out. It has to do with habit, training, the future, fear, and a hurt someone counted as hilarious in a far off nature-ridden summer sounding like the 4th of July.

Let’s begin this way: I have chosen a night to talk to her. I begin skipping blinks, just seeing a bit longer, spiking like insulin. Focus on the pillows, on the tiny stitching between bands of white, soon to configure myself before her face. Wondering if anyone has ever freaked me out this much. Why she holds a distorted mirror without trying to. Why she moves her body like a bundle of sticks draped in black canvas. Why I am forced to constantly see through the night, looking out against my multiple judgements, bad and good, better; I want to look at her face and not have this shattering sensation in my sideskull. Illness. Sooth-singing:

Oooh, oh. I want to be your sister. Oh neighbor, I want to carry you. You you, oh you, you are outside of what I want to see. You are hard to see, hard to screen. Valuable jewel. I loooove you. I lo-ove you, I lo-ove you.

I am incapable of sitting with her, so I stand in the doorway. She has her back to me, the computer is open. Someone is moving in the screen, walking back and forth on a stage. I ask her, manipulatively, if I’d alone done anything to offend. She whipped her head around, full of a total swarm. The air held it. I stabbed words at the air that held it. The air held the stabwounds. The air was full of stab wounds. The look on her face disappeared into her hair. I felt high and hideous. I am low, lowly, and ungovernable. She looked at me with her limbs taut, I took a step forward. She wanted to say—I wanted to—we wanted to be friends, I think. So much ache and fear. Look at the screen and the woman had stopped moving. She was taking questions from the audience of the TED Talk.

Weeks later, now dance party mode. When the stun of winter wears off everyone wants to give pot brownies a try again and starts doing dead drops on the flowery carpet. Indoors we do these. Outside on the porch beetles are collecting, water beetles, with huge black slick backs. They swarmed in and now can’t leave. We hear them crunching as new feet approach the door. She runs up to me, I’m mid-sway into a shoulder swirl. Our shadows touch before we make eye contact. She’s all like “you know you couldn’t have told me in a worse way that there was going to be a dance party here tonight.” I look around. Where is? There is? This is just a few people who live together dancing. I am choked. I don’t know.

I go upstairs and shut my door. My room is full of paintings. They ask me questions. On a blank canvas I paint a couch and some arms flying off into a mid-peach hazed background space. I blink. I anticipate our death. The date when she was supposed to move out is moved back. The new house isn’t ready yet. The dull green house that I would have moved into but it was too expensive. Shit. I am stuck living in a rotten honeycomb that stinks so sweet, all the maggots of earth give it a whirl through. We die in each other’s houses, I keep thinking. We will all eventually live long enough to die in houses, alone or together. Holding on or not being held. And how tightly?

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