I tried for some radical joy yesterday.
A few weeks ago we got a big snow, and the school buses have all been late. She’d been out sick for an entire week, and now she was going to be late for school. So I drove her—fine. It looked like rain, now.
She’d started freaking out about things—first, just being late, then a growing fear that I would forget to pick her up at the bus stop. She wanted to write down the plan.
What does stressed out mean, she asked. I’m just really stressed out.
A man walked by with an umbrella tucked under his arm.
You know how I get the bathroom problem, she said.
Her friend gave her a little princess but it didn’t help at all.
A man with an umbrella is just like a man with a gun in my country.
A boy who is walking or standing or playing in my country is just like a man with a gun.
The tears were starting to come, she said.
A specific kind of death just like a memory now and turning the other cheek.
It’s like a genocidal thing, a colonial thing, and it is a woman thing in my country.
The plan could be a picture of us that she could look at when she started to panic.
The plan could be walking to her friend’s house.
In my pretend blog, called “Complicity,” I post pictures of the small ways we ruin everything. The blue crystals of Sno-Melt draining a thin river into the grate with a salmon stencil above it.
The pile of expired pharmaceuticals.
I’d been talking about the perfection of the logo with a giant marmot in the middle, why it’s so satisfying.
Turning off your phone during dinner is kind of like turning your phone off for a little tiny bit in my country.
The lack of pretension, sure, but how to frame that so it’s not ‘lack’ I celebrate?
The plan could be I just always wear the same thing. And stand in the same place. Get there early. Please.
So, you like hedgehogs? he said, intentionally missing the point.
We were supposed to leave for a trip as soon as she got home. I asked her if she could gather her stuffies.
Sobbing, her arms so full of stuffies and blankets and pillows.
The way they blow their nose once and toss it. The Kleenex flowers overflowing from the bins.
Her dad yells up the stairs—leaving in five minutes—collapsing.
It’s okay, it’s okay; the plan could be take some pictures of the things we need to leave behind.
A coat of bubble wrap is like being in danger of being cold but not quite cold yet.
Or like 70 degrees in November, yay.
She took several videos of her bed.
There is a lot of anxiety, her teacher says. Her friend, another seven year-old, has been having panic attacks.
It’s transparency, what makes it acceptable, not the thing but the word or the idea of the word that is not real. A euphemism in my country.
The way seeing someone curled up in a doorway asleep makes it possible to look at them but seeing someone curled up in a doorway and awake is like being so interested in Carl’s Jr.
Transparency is a word with a high target value and straight pins are a reminder that you are not safe in my country.
Fragility does not exclude a person from being part stone in my country.
A woman is either a gorilla or a stripper and not ‘like’ anything at all in my country. A woman is ‘lack’ in my country.
One entry is this giant gate-thing.
The giant gate has a big wooden plate hanging from it that says FOREVER WILD.
Whenever we ski past it, we raise our fists in the sky and shout FOREVER WILLLLLLLD! and laugh maniacally.
It’s hanging over a driveway.
From a gate made from old-growth trees.
We talk some more about getting a pleasure divorce.
What is less “forever wild” than someone’s driveway, or a marriage entering its second decade?
What a relief it would be—all that alone time.
But faux—so just when you really don’t want to do something. All that ‘taking it for the team’ is just gone.
“Simplicity” sounds cool, he says.
Caillou’s grandma says “it’s everyone’s job to stay safe” in my country.
This is vaguely threatening to some of the people in my country and for other people in my country it frees them to look away.
I make a switchel, a healthful tonic. It’s a cup of vim and vigor.
Desiring to cheer her, I say, nothing is harder than your first day on skate skis! Beaming, a picture of a postcard of a clapping-hands emoticon.
Dying is, she says. Dying is harder.
A cup of vinegar? says my asshole.
I’m really a pretty joyful person.
The plan could be not talking. Not dying. The plan could be lack.
My asshole says, I’m putting a gank move on you, when he passes me. Is that racist, I ask. The bristling that ensues.
At breakfast we watch a show called, “Devious Geology.” Nature Channel. No one speaks.
Reposting articles in my country is like pulling your collar up over your mouth and saying yeah to your armpit in my country and forgetting is related to the onslaught in my country but also a national pastime in my country.
Emails have been sent and unsent in my country and the petitions are like vitamins in my country and the rocks are in fact in our blood though no rocks have been touched in some time in my country.
If we can help it, in my country, at the very least, we try not to know about what they contain.
My friend and her friend have a jokey conversation about being bros. Example: “do you even match pitch, bro?”
Urban dictionary says to “gank” means to steal or take something that doesn’t belong to you.
I’m like Rules Nancy over here. How to say in language what can be seen or felt so obviously. Description demeans.
The plan could be vehement nodding.
Lying on the sidewalk is like a tantrum in my country and also like listening to what’s under there, the listening is like super frightening in its stillness and receptivity and in its non-conclusiveness.
It’s not my language to gank in my country. But ‘bro’ I will gank all day. Self-righteousness is an aftertaste that never goes away in my country.
Do you even steam kale?
In my country we repeat things to give them legitimacy like when I see euphorbia I shout EUPHORBIA and when the president assaults her he says “you can do that” in my country.
And you can in my country and you do in my country and you do and you do and you do in my country.
The problem is when I see one, she says.
Would you like to have an experience in the shed? I ask my asshole.
The problem is needing to say the rules for them to be real.
I forget, she says, whichever. Erasing the air in front of her face with her hands.
The problem is but.
The problem is onslaught and on and on and on.
Why don’t you get up and walk around in my country.
This is my year, one of the big ones. So I have to mark it. Core strength? Learn to sing? Drink eight glasses of water every day? One idea I had was to grow an organ, invisible, that “flexes in the presence of the marvelous.”
Miéville is talking about the placenta of course. And I’ve grown two of those, the first quite huge. I dumped it over the railing onto the nasturtium bed and I always imagine those vines each spring are the largest and most resplendent on island.
Pulsating, it’s another word for flexing. For radical joy.
The second we buried near the giant Ponderosa. When so many of them flexed and fell, I worried this subsequent unearthing would make visible my organ, again.
Freezing water is what we spray in winter on those standing on their own land who stand for water for all of us in my country, freezing water and tear gas.
A treaty means nothing, a war means nothing; we break them, they go on forever in my country.
In my country the strawberries don’t pick themselves and the language of colonization is like a sterilization of mothers and a small useless box until my country finds a use for it and takes that too, in my country.
And, and, and.
Erosion and exposure. Publicly crumbling. Rebirth and afterbirth. Radical joy. Reverberating sorrow. Holding. Holding on. Holding with. It’s what the plan could be.
And what then, bro. What then.
Copyright © Ellen Welcker
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.