© Copyright 2018 by Pierce Logan
Above is a back sprawled out over rock face. Hung like a sentimental painting one sunburned hand and the other stuffed into a gap between boulders—steeped in a pitch like a teabag.
His tent is a long way down.
His bird mother watches him from a safe distance. Maybe she knows better what he is doing now that he displays feathers on his back in taut muscles.
He launches himself for a higher grip and stretches out like a tail of scarves.
Feather muscles stand out appearing as if a butterfly.
His skin is burning now,
It is so dangerous to depart on this expedition
Because one into the soul is never-returning
He has a conversation there with the rocks, the concave dips on the flesh of his face resembling them.
His mother had come to the U.S. and leased a modest two-storey building, opening up a candy shop. She swept it up like valuables out of dust. He grew up devious—writing little signs to his mother’s candy: “This one has eyeballs” and sticking it as a label in front of the jars. He retreated often as he was made fun of in his classes for his accent and for having to take ESL class. None of his friends were from his ESL class: he retreated far from that classroom and tried his hardest to fit in.
In their apartment, he slept on a mat on top of a wooden surface positioned to one side of his mother’s bedroom. The air was calm and still, save for a little gentle wind that drifted from under the sill as if vines climbing in from outside.
He loved being outside and would spend days doing seemingly useless tasks and taking particularly long at them. Right away, his mother became worried about his intelligence. She would ask him questions about what he wanted to do.
—Today we are going to that museum you wanted to go to. Get ready soon, we need to be leaving in thirty minutes or else we have to pay to get in.
When he wouldn’t respond and only seemed to spend time doing unexpected things, she began to consider him a lost cause, but somehow in a loving way.
On the rocks, high above all of this time, the Timeline, the moments spent at home, the moments spent as a child, he finally understood how she loved him. Mothers don’t give up, unless they are evil, he thought to himself. From such sun, he becomes as jolty as a drone bee or a cart of a kid’s rollercoaster. His limbs shake, his whole body slick with sweat, his hands raw at the stumps of the fingers and palms, chalked.
Camera 2: His line can be traced down to the base; he is near the summit. It can be traced down like a spine, with few curves, with wires like vertebrates: Is it that his body has become this giant rock since he has now learned its entire body? These metals compressed into a hard, sparkly silver, and he, fragments of metals compressed into a softer silicone vase, breathing in the offspring of the kingdom’s flower seeds. Perhaps he is physically just one expression of this full part of his self. He is wholesome now that he has reached the summit. He is whole.
there, there is chatter of birds. They seem to say nothing different.
he thinks. He has no urge to shout or to claim the mountain. Once he
had heard: You
don’t get to conquer a mountain, you just get to stand on top
of it for a bit.
Pucker: to gather something into small wrinkles or folds—
I wonder if your world is different, grandpa. I keep these chopsticks you gave me. You never send me anything, because mom says you can’t talk to us because it is law that you stay home and we stay here in the U.S. It’s not safe for you to come, she says. But we are here and you are not. She says it is easier for mothers and children. I’ll be an old man like you one day, however.
I know that in English the word “us” is like “I”. Really I don’t know the difference because our language does not do that. But I don’t understand why they name this country “US”, I guess it is just like “them” really and not us, too, not I , not everybody. Well, I don’t like that.
I do not like English but I must pretend to speak it perfectly because when I do not, the kids at school make fun of me and it makes me sick. Today I threw up at school because a kid punched me in the stomach and I had just eaten lunch. That was not fair because I couldn’t even finish my lunch, if you think about it. That should be considered stealing. I am mad at him.
Grandpa, I think you will not get this letter, maybe not. I think the law will try to take it away from you. I think this is like the police officers or something at home.
But I am smart even if mom thinks I am not, and I am going to disguise this letter as something else
;) < — That is a face showing that you and I have a special secret that the law will not know about.
I hope you are well, grandpa, because I think about you and your small shoes that I always stare at when we talk in your living room about painting and words and birds and butterflies and rockets and whatever else is going on. I eat every meal with your chopstick, too. Mom always stares at them. I think she is worried I will not forget you, but I don’t want to.
In a Dream
He has always become obsessed (“possessed” as his mother would say) with whatever it is that gathers his attention.
One time she took up basket weaving with another woman from their homeland. The two met under the radar in their new town. What he didn’t know was that she had had a regular practice of basket weaving in their homeland, as is common there, before she had him, and before the war broke out yet again and they had fled to the states.
He found her stuff and he began using it in her absence. He knew how to weave because he would sit in total silence as his mother and her friend, Mave, would weave and chat, whilst asking each other questions and endeavoring to find out if the other had found any of the latest tips for improving techniques in basket weaving.
-No. I just haven’t been up with it. Lately Christian has taken all my time to manage. I cannot clean the yard myself anymore: My knees are weak, and getting weaker by day. Honestly, those stairs are a sin.
Mikhail sat in silence—a complete silence, making sure not to even breathe too loudly, lest he disturb them, for his presence was of an acquired taste only, he concluded in a vacuum one time as a boy.
-Yeah...His mother would say, meaning to say more. But Mikhail sat by her side, even as she desired to talk about him, vent to her equal about her son and all the trouble and pain he has caused her and her worrying heart.
He wanted to be like her, do something she loved too. This way he would surely be accepted by her. He needed to follow her example.
So, he’d ask to join her session with her, promised to sit quietly, and he’d work at the weaving just like the two of them.
After six months of practice in the living room, his mother had made two baskets she was proud of: A royal blue one with undyed fibers at each end, and a Deep brown one with gloss finish.
These were hung at either end of the window behind the kitchen sink.
-I could begin to sell these, his mother told Mave. You know, I could hang these around the store. You know how the little shop owners in New York City hang a mezclave of items in front of your face like that? I can do that, too.
-Yes, yes, Marilyn, Mave told her. Marilyn was not her real name, for her name was too complicated for any American to pronounce. Actually, after saying her name when asked, she would receive the dumbest faces staring at her in return. That was it, they stared at her. She read through a LIFE magazine, this blonde woman appearing on the cover with a pointer finger in her mouth, and she kept her name torn off from the cover and stuffed it into her still unfamiliar pockets to contemplate later like when to have the piece of bread saved in your pocket. It was Marilyn Monroe.
He had also finished one gorgeous basket. A three rod coiled pomo basket with her name in their native language on the inside. But he only put this detail on it in marker. A marker she told him not to use because it contained asbestos.
-I tell you to stop using these pens! These American mothers will give anything to their children because they are insane. If you keep sucking on these fumes while you draw, Mikhail, you can hurt your lungs. You want to run all the time, your lungs will fail you with this...Cry-oh-lah, she tries to pronounce the word written on the marker.
He suddenly remembers how she had scolded him for this. Maybe this time he stands on the mountain, rubber-soled feet—flat bottoms, as flat as the edge of a ruler—thinking Actually, actually I’m just like everyone else. Perhaps he understands his freedom, really. Will he ever be as sane as his best perception of himself?
What is a patriot? This was something his teacher had asked him. What is patriotism?
His legs are sore, high in the inner thigh, he suddenly notices. The thought slowly fades.
A patriot is a fan of the country, he thought now. No. Maybe that’s wrong...A patriot is someone who always trusts the country, its government and, believes it is a part of oneself. No, perhaps trust is beyond that.
Is he woven yet into himself, sewn into his place in the world?
It is the essence of a mountain that makes it as it is so. At the top his senses shoot him psychedelic messages—a full-bodied cigar smell. When he wipes some sweat beads off his forehead on their slope down, a smell of basil on his fingertips. The horns begin blaring, the colors of marching bands passing him in streaks.
What is happening is a dream, he thinks.
-Hey cuckoo bird, he says out loud.
He remembers the first time he got high. His chest became warm, he wondered if this was normal.
It is worthwhile to mention: He began with running. Running, what has given him a feeling of freedom, of ecstasy, of joy. It is so freeing, so dangerously freeing, to do what you want. To perfectly say it: To allow your will to decide what you do next. These are the thoughts that grace him when he runs.
It begins with Bramble and Lieberman. The theory that humans are running animals. Indeed we outrun the horse who cannot cool itself down as efficiently as we can, or run for as long. Which created Man Against Horse—a 50-mile race with humans and horses.
It begins with running extra long distances. It begins by becoming intoxicated by this feeling.
It begins with windmill legs and graduates to a crawling bear, bound up a big mountain to obtain instinctive goal, or to rescue her young.
He finds some more love for life in water. In the strokes forward, and in the barreling down under wave. He feels as if he is swimming amongst diamonds, along the keys of a piano, creating the water sound like crystals only for himself.
After he begins swimming, he begins shaking off like a dog, then climbing up up up the untouched faces of sacred rock, farther back from the foam fence of the sea, onto the beach.
Time seems to cease when he does these three things. Even in language Space and Time are connected: long, far, close, in, on, at. Synchronicities are perceived in the brilliance of self trust.
You have to be daring or you’ll die! This thought jabs at his anxious ankles like a spring animal trap.
We are capable of creating novel sentences in any language—regardless of how well-versed we are in that language—but we may only be totally right in our native language or languages, every time.
He wonders how he knows this—Did he read it somewhere? He doesn’t remember if it was something his ESL teacher had impressed on him—a very good person, indeed, he knew. How much of my life is as a human or just a host for bacteria? Who is in charge? And—Am I in a dream?
He looks at a tree and sees himself; he wonders when he reincarnated as Mikhail and when he met himself.
He sits down now. He sits in the still dirt. The dirt under a tree by the pasture on the top of the mountain. His legs folded, the nylon ripstop fabric holding his legs, his butt, his knees in a perfect Buddha hug.
He draws circles in the dirt. This dirt is circus dirt, this dirt is wildlife dirt, this dirt is worms in a cup dessert dirt, this dirt is hot chocolate, this dirt is volcanic dirt, this dirt speaks vibrations, not unlike whales from the sea, flopped onto wallpaper, at disposal at your hands. So, Grip it, Mikhail. Grip it.
A mother helps her child cut a birthday cake. He could not grip properly.
-Too much fooling around outside playing with that boy with his red ball.
-They call it wall ball, mommy. It’s not a bad game you wouldn’t want me playing. It’s a lot of fun and Sam’s mom says I am really good at it.
-Don’t listen too much to that big head of hers telling you things. These American mothers really just gush over saying nice things to kids. It’s not good for you little ones to believe you are good when you are not—. She cut herself short, for she realized she had said he is incapable.
Mikhail cries. He flees her touch, her surrounding his island with her arms wrapped around his small body, her hands wrapped around his—warm love changing to clay, changing to wax paper, changing to hatred, the cake a mandala fleeing his nirvanic reach. Serotonin flushing out of him and into a storage pool. His arms stretched toward it like a helpless baby monkey, grey and with a small mouth, not sufficient for finding his own food.
You are as dumb as a panda bear.
He draws something of a kite, which he was quite good at flying around the neighbourhood.
What is it to be redeemed? I begin to think that all my life is here. I, alone, exist. I, alone will create what my life is to be. No path is wrong, but some are better than others...No. That mustn’t be true, for some paths are rainier or windier, or full of insects that bite, or insects that explore your skin and tickle you, but don’t hurt. It depends what you are willing to sacrifice when you make a choice.
As he is bent over his folded legs, clothed in grey, he contemplates how much of his life is here, in this place and at this time. He sticks his finger under the opening of the sock around his ankle. An identical pair in which he balled up the letter to his grandpa back home, and mailed out a pair of socks, as part of a clothing drive from the U.S. to help the needy family members left behind. He feels the sensation of the mat he slept on at home on his back now. Two years that he hasn’t slept on that mat. He feels it so thoroughly. He feels the support of it on his back, his naked back that would contact it. He’d think of it as a beautiful lover he never had, he feared to tell his mom, but wanted to, to know if it was possible to have such a lover. Was dad like this?
He imagined there she was supporting him like a witch on a broom. His fantasies something like fairytales of an unattainable woman being attained by his charm. Long hair, she had long hair he could play in. Really, her long hair consumed some of his time. Like climbing, he liked to use his time to do that. To play in her hair.
He’d bring her hair in smooth circles, like playing an instrument rhythmically, like orbiting a planet.
-Can you braid it? she’d ask, yet he’d have no idea how.
-No. But you can show me.
-But your hair is not long enough to show you.
-Can’t you show me on some of the hair you can reach?
When he was a kid, he was forced into a school like that of boot camp. He was deviant enough to force his way out. He forced himself into things. He forced. The staff was not well-trained or even benevolent. The only thing that pleased him was snack time for the snacks themselves and for the time he’d take them into a small wooded area with a brook and a bench carved, quite well, out of a tree trunk.
He often wondered about his father and his mother would not talk about him. She knew little about him, she conceded to Mave while sitting one day. Mikhail overheard this and it became all the information that he gained to associate with his father. Okay, he thought, a man with a nice black hat, a face always with a shadow from the hat covering it, with a body that moves swiftly yet always away. Always away. He has only secrets, not love to give.
This unrequited love interest that was his mat to sleep on responded to him:
-With hair like rope, I don’t look good with braids. So, just forget it.
No, he thought to himself. She is slipping away. Why did I say anything? I should just look at her and fall in love. Keep love so simple. Why did I say anything? Now she is upset with me.
-No, dear. Your hair is beautiful. Even like rope, it is gorgeous braided, or without braids. I think it would look nice too, tied back, even.
She looked at him, flattered, turning red with eyes sparkling and staring into themselves in the mirror, she grinned.
He had pleased her.
He looks up toward the tops of the trees. He sees them blowing ever so slightly. He hears the calling of his mother bird. He desires no nest. He wishes for nothing. In fact he sits and only that.
I am 24 years old. Unpublished. I write poetry upon request on a typewriter for the public in the metropolitan area. I have self-published two poetry collection books Oblong for sale on Lulu publishing and Amazon, and Bedrock for sale on Lulu publishing and soon to be on Amazon. Senior year at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Majoring in linguistics and minoring in Portuguese. Work full-time for NJPIRG canvassing. Love languages and running and learning.