ICE IN A WOODEN BOX
Ink river opaque. Slosh within the reverb of syncopated vehicle fugue, under whose bridge human bodies are rendered antlike in every act. Wind swabs the outer perimeter of the island, and each contributor light simplifies blue, yellow, pink. Alienating landscaping hardens me to the actual grass rolled out beneath underlit benches. Past the corner with the loudest music is the working side, where effie and I find one shadow to urinate in. What kind of working. Recognize where it starts, ink river, it drifts in deeper from skin— dry under shirt. The parking spot is tailor-made according to a stranger who watched people try for it all night. On rotation to align the parallel. My mother's is a different question of worthiness. How the echo sounds now. Note the bag carrier carries the bag— tonight or ever— each labor and its ephemeral identity cascades within the same vein: worthy body, mass, muscle, money, where it came from, motion, even sex. Only later do we agree— post clam hours, through which I make her press— All things pass, while loud notes slice the air penetratingly and sometimes visible as lightning inducing a clap. Danger, equal part pleasure, melting point dynamic. Is that what this is? Writing headlines from the insular safety of an office, boxed. Each fact of this world is a trojan horse: penetrating. When the gate opens, does it not always lead to war? In heat or cold, in presence of wood, remembering the day old ice cube in wooden box. Organic insulator. Laws confine beings— all cages and all forms. Language is a series of humiliating repetitions. Halfway through my read, I'm redacting live, unsure of my word, image blown out by the careless endurance of a too-slow shutter speed, shame. Each exigency of this jurisdiction drives me further from my certitude. In a day or so there is a puddle beneath the box. Everything melts, and still I have no words to describe myself. It is that slim margin of hot nights within penumbra of cold. Spun into this season of rigor— what is wrong with me that already I can't identify anything I would like to do besides remain in your company, follow a tree's shadow hours. You say I always want to take it to the roof and I wish I knew one thing wrong with being high on top with you. Even to gravity there is much to lose. Brought to my end: roof of tower, edge of wilderness, exposure. Wind swabs the perimeter of any island. It is too mundane to always have a story straight. Make me say from whence my gray: nightmare of my father throwing sponges on the back porch, and a new circumstantial demand for cognizance. I am shy and tired. Now you know this version. There are physics to solitude, sock pattern plot in a clean apartment, activity of night or day, work holds a body in congruent shapes. Daniella says there is a masculine quality to her sadness. We are unrecognizable, changing form, drumming away. Same strange muscle behind her guitar. Wailing is the word. To reach out from isolation, direct it forward, find it form. Unlocked mine on a bottom floor. Noise after all is what I always want. The relief of vacancy is very Sunday. Push my late thought across the table, pushing toward, waiting for confirmation of receipt. What is the cost of time: waiting, not waiting, pivoting toward or away from, cleaning out each drawer in my house, rearranging tapes, and rubber tubes, other collections I can't seem to lose. Patricia asks about my career, and I know I am sick when etymology boxes me— sudden entrapment within an image of something propelled through air— careening. That moving object is my bubble, body, melted down, inked like words on sheets, spilled, and in a puddle now. Nun in the movie instructs the girls to keep their answers to the cop short and bitter. Bitter is my jaw, too. Each fact revokes itself in conflict with any facile desire to know which version is real, to trust some brief stasis. My father's lesson is that time itself expires within itself; lithium or any drug becomes too heavy metal for the privilege of endurance. And every few years of my life I meet a new man in him. Our skulls are still the same football, our mouths the same fig. Rituals of mourning are so partial within cycles of worn remembrance, incomplete reemergence. Hold still, chin [hold it roughly]. Watch the window: details blur outside the car. What is real is just the greenness of the smear perceived now by one damp eye duo. Dial his number. Sit in the silence. And wish for restoration, our order. This time help me— please— implore his wisdom to surface and ensconce the bobbing egg of my consciousness, to father me. My old dog is most docile and unadventurous. Goes for a walk since we know it is best. To abide in the salt spray of our youth. Mind, my refuge, transient sentience, I beg you: stay. Open free meandering mine. Where are you? Massachusetts man left a jar of coins behind in my house. Coins inscribed with language other than that of his swollen tongue. Where did you get these? I wonder, sifting through them for pennies to cast, to read my fortune out from the book of changes. My time has more sprawl. I stole countless time. Where are the lives I thought were mine, collected as old dishes in the sink, but more disposable. Were they made of paper, ice, coins? My recollection is that they were made of bodies, and time. This sisterhood is both more specific and more diffuse after discrete reckonings with the dents of our adjacent childhoods. Her boyfriend assures her I am too weird to sell out. There remains in my mind a kitchen sink big enough for us both to sit upright and mirror image each other howling face. Are you gaslit by the immateriality of the past? The date changes, I toe the brace around the inkwell, river more placid since sun tumult. How many shades she contains. It is corny to steal a full day in private conquest, to write a poem, before running toward a waning sun, calling dad on the way to my drum.
Tess Brown-Lavoie is author of Lite Year (Fence Modern Poets Series, 2019). Her writing is printed in Fence, Text Means Tissue, The New Farmer’s Almanac, and various punk publications that resist enumeration in bio format. Tess performs and teaches, drums for the band Mother Tongue, and cofounded Sidewalk Ends Farm in 2011. She serves as President of the National Young Farmers Coalition.