(Lakshmi and Persephone, to Sita)
I don’t want to ask you about
how wide or how large the hole grew to —
I’d rather not remind you it’s even there
at all. When the white rabbit disappeared
down into the abyss, to the other side,
pocket watch in hand, a dandy’s waistcoat
girt about him like an old fool from sepia days,
we did not bid him goodbye, or Godspeed, or even
tears. Perhaps a veiled middle finger out of his sight,
or a “fuck you” shouted down the hole in frustration
for the pile of undone things he left behind — but that
was all we sent after him into the ether;
and I wrestle with an arm larger than Atlas’
while Vishnu tries to keep the world turning
slowly in its days, trying not to knock the tin soldiers
off its surface, still trying to be steadfast, or jar
the shooting stars out of the cornflower midnight mantle
above our heads. Your honesty can make the embers
of a heart in someone else’s chest die, or
leap up in conflagration accusation, pointing
flame fingers at you and asking why there are
no tears, no eulogies, no honor for the dead – but how
do you mourn a crotchety old rabbit hypnotized
by his own pocket watch and refusing to drink in
the benevolent sun overhead? You don’t. If
a stone falls out of your shoe, tumbles into the river,
and is carried downstream out of sight, do you feel
any sorrow for the pebble? You don’t. But you
nod, accept the condolences, and shuffle away.
Sita, has the urge to disappear into the ground
faded away? There is no more need to
cover your head with earth, to beg the eye and ear
of Rama to turn to you again and listen. But
the hole in the backyard attracts my questions,
the ones which I dare not ask lest I resurrect
things that should remain dead. Call it a
computer mind seeking data to parse, seeking lenses
to view the world around me through. You have just
broken through, like a mad woman hungry for air
bouncing up to drink the sky – it causes me to wonder
if there is even a hole in the yard at all.
Earth was made to heal itself,
and holes must eventually swallow dirt
and become silent. I have a glass shatter heart
that knows what it is like to replay soundtracks
and celluloid memories until they wrap themselves
around your neck and close off the air
in your throat. I will not thread the projector,
I will not load the reel-to-reel and strangle you
with tape. The questions can wait, or never
speak themselves into the air. In the meantime,
I will teach you how to leap off the earth
in trampoline fury to grab and drink from a sky
that you have never tasted.
© 2012 Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.
This poem was written for We Write Poems Prompt #100: Poet’s Choice. We were asked to write a brief description for a prompt idea, and then write the poem for that prompt. I must confess, my description will not be brief, but here it is….
I’d call this prompt “Entilo/Veedilo”. The title is taken from two words in Telugu, a Dravidian language commonly spoken in Andhra Pradesh in Southern India. It translates to “Inside/Outside”. For this prompt, I’d ask poets to write about inner conflict — specifically, when the norms of the group dictate we must do/say/believe/feel one thing (the “outside”) when we’d rather do/say/believe/feel something else (the “inside”).
I’d written the poem last night, before I even knew what the prompt was…and when I saw the prompt, it was easy to devise one that this poem would fit. As I mentioned in my last poem, a family member who I never got along with recently died, and I’ve had a bit of a conflict within myself about this. The reason why we never got along had to do more with this person than me — I tried to reach out to this person, get along, and be understanding, probably more than was healthy for me or my fiance. I don’t hate this person, but I am not sad that ze is gone either — only sad that this person did not take advantage of the life and opportunity given to hir. Normally, people would expect one to grieve and be sad at such a loss — but I must confess that I feel quite the opposite. I’ve had to do the best that I can when receiving remarks of condolence, namely reducing myself to saying “Thank you” when presented with such remarks. (I don’t think it would be in good taste to dance around and sing “Ding Dong, the Wicked Witch Is Dead”!)
Also, you’ll notice two voices in this poem. This is another one in the Goddess Chronicles, and here I introduce the mask of Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, prosperity, light, wisdom, fortune, fertility, generosity and courage. I use her to represent the part of me that is curious, taking delight in asking questions and figuring out the world around her. I identify her with a concept I’ve mentioned in my other poems about Asperger’s with the “computer mind” — that is, storing large amounts of data, having a sharp memory, and attempting to parse and solve problems in a rather particular and logical way. You notice Persephone speaks here too — I’ve mentioned that Persephone is the more vulnerable part of me, but she’s also rather innocent and vivacious. I identify her with the “glass shatter heart” I speak of in my Asperger/autism poems — i.e. the very sensitive, emotional, and over-empathetic part of me.
Anyway, thanks for bearing with the long explanation, and I hope you enjoyed the poem.