--- D E N N I S B A R O N E
Others believe in silence. The red door doesn't open. Others believe in watching, waiting for the water to flood. Fall is the season for fiction; spring, poetry. Winter withers and decays and the deluge arrives. Others sing a little ditty and dance the hokey-poky. Water rushes the wall, the door. The red door doesn't open. It holds back the flood. My shoulder stiffens. The silent ones, the observant ones, the entertaining ones come forward, come toward the door. I ask them nicely, very nicely not to open the door. The flowers, they say. The fields, they say. The sun.
The Senator dances in the woods. He holds hands with the woodnymph as the waters rise. He knocks on the door moments before the flood. He sings and he dances with three woodnymphs now.
One nymph goes to sleep and awakes in another body. She does not know this man whose body she now inhabits; she is sure of it. She hates him. She hates this man with crooked teeth and skin like an elephant. What, she wonders, has become of the me that I knew yesterday, an hour ago?
The second nymph goes to sleep and awakes in another body. I am that nymph. Once I was Hercules. Once I had crooked teeth, skin like an elephant, but such strong arms and so much strength in my loins.
Now I am inside the body of my mother trying so hard to meet my father before the flood, before the door is forced. Now I am beautiful, but my parents are divorced and they criticize me: my hair, my puny arms. They say that I can't make up my mind, that I can't stand on my own two feet. They say that I have to decide once and for all what to do about the body that I have hidden under the back stairs. They tell me to hurry. Hush, they say, you can hear all that water on the other side of the door.
There used to be a wood carving on the outside of the door, a jade figure in my hand as I pushed hard on this side of the door. Customs are so varied; language poses so many problems for those who would use it, who would call out the warning, who would bow low in parting. I had to get the jade figure back into the storage box and then send that box to some other country. That might stop the flood; stop the transformations, the changes in the styles of women's dress. My mind, that uninvited guest in this body, fled to the burial ground.
One nymph goes to a party and awakes in someone else's mind. She doesn't like this, not at all. In fact, she hates it, she hates it all. This new mind of hers looks out of its old, borrowed body, out of its foreign eyes and sees the door and her puny hand hard against it. What, she wonders, has become of the god-like figure that I saw here yesterday, an eternity ago?
The second nymph goes to the same party and awakes in someone else's mind. Once that mind was mine, once I was Einstein. Few believe this, few believe in the transformations, in the changes in the styles of women's dress. Once I wore wire-rim glasses and cable knit sweaters to the laboratory, but something must have backfired, some unforeseen doorway must have opened and ushered in all that water, all that red glare.
I am in the body of my father now trying so hard to lose my mother, but they have remarried. Sometimes they praise me, their Einstein. Other times they tell me not to make up stories. They say I have to plant my two feet squarely on the ground and decide once and for all what to do about the brain that I have left in a box at the front door. They tell me that I won't be able to take it to the beach. They tell me that I won't be allowed to play with it anymore. They tell me to go to my room and close the door tight; to keep a light on and stay awake; to study the patterns in the wall paper and never, ever sleep again.
© crossconnect 1995-2000
published in association with the |
university of pennsylvania's kelly writers house |