Hernan

The waters rose in the night, fast.
No nos dio tiempo de subir cosas, she tells me
and it’s true. Fue una perdida total para muchos.
In the photos, the refrigerator is listed over, had floated
into the centre of the kitchen and landed tilted back
against the counter, left gently reclined as the brown water
receded. Jesus. The mattress and the sofa they piled on top of it,
submerged.

We lost it all.

It’s okay. They are just things. My suegros built their new house up five feet,
knowing, of course, how it floods. There are no photos of their youngest
son, my husband, as a baby or a child. I sometimes try to imagine his face
as a newborn, the tiny dark baby that left his older sisters disappointed.
They wanted one like they saw on TV, soft and round
and light, but he was flaquito y morenito and they loved him anyways.

His grandmother left him the tiny house and he rebuilt it
like a piece of art, with salvaged wood and the good hands
of his friends, and brought two babies home, held me together
when I lost my oldest son.
How does that happen?
How does the water just rise that fast in the street?
Waist deep in an hour, trucks submerged. Everyone
looking for somewhere to sleep.

There have been so many floods. I know that mud too well,
how it coats everything with the realization that things
covered in mud are sometimes just things
and sometimes they’re less or more than just things, but always
they are impermanent. The only thing to do is wait for the water to subside

and accept what’s left. It helps to laugh, so if you need to drink
a little, why not. Everyone will help one another to rebuild
when it’s time, blessed with the fishermen’s secret
understanding that to build in an estuary is an act of acceptance
that we are just guests here, even if we forget it for a while.

N.M. Lindsay

28/08/20

The hands at your back

This morning I walked the dogs in the rain on a loose leash,
felt my shoulders soften, the breath come even with my stride
and realized that, these days, my rage is more sad
than usual. There are no more injustices
today than there were yesterday. There have always been
so many I can’t even fathom the depth.

I think about Marina, the ship captain’s daughter, antlered
with migraines like a chandelier of broken glass, the shards
cutting into her eyes, light refracting from a choppy offshore wave
in a stiff wind at high noon.
Even though she never went to sea, that light still pierced her
like her father’s sharp, impatient needle and worsted wool.
Too bright.
Too hard.
Too cold.

My problems aren’t really problems, are they.

I think about how my rage is more tired and more sad than usual,
but I don’t really want to talk about how sadness runs in the family
and how there’s medication for that, too, or how I could just
cut out gluten. Maybe my sister is right. Maybe I should go paleo.

Maybe there is a conspiracy and we are all brainwashed sheep
breathing eating reading drinking shooting up poison
into our selves & our kids
keeping the machine running on our addictions to things,
on our cute hopes & dreams,
our savings plans and good investments,
our empathy and best intentions,
our routines and recycling and sensible shoes.
and the Bonny Henry ones too.

(Because isn’t she just a fucking hero up there on our screen
one that kind of looks like me, a perimenopausal doctor/mom/Karen/
crone-in-becoming,
one who asks to speak with the manager in a kind, calm voice
asks the kids one millionth time to do this one basic thing
smiles sweetly and waits, quiet.
Breathe in. Hold for 4. Breathe out. Hold for 4. Repeat.
I know that smile too. I know what it is to feel
that deflated, like a large party balloon that someone blew up over and over
and over, and then got bored and forgot to knot.
Maybe she also drinks wine to laugh and forget once in a while.
Maybe she has also lost a child,
or will.)

But I won’t comment here on the politics of pandemics and whose deaths
matter. I want to talk about how I don’t need to be day drinking
to articulate my rage or my sadness in a steady, calm voice
and I don’t need to be disciplined with a chipper anecdote about
how you pulled the double shift and made brownies for cub scouts
and it was the best time of your life.

I don’t need to be reminded of the invisible lines
around things you don’t say out loud without reaping the consequences.
How unbecoming is anger and why
are you so angry anyways?

Fuck those invisible lines. Fuck the isolation and immobilizing fear
of disagreement that keeps us inside them. Fuck the good manners and
the anger you won’t express and the shoes
you can’t afford and don’t need anyways.

The house is already burning, and all six of the kids are dead.
Later, you will keep their ashes in a small tin on a shelf.
It’s okay to cry. They still exist somewhere.
You still exist
somewhere, so please, don’t forget this one thing:
the hands at your back are holding you up
holding you up
holding you up
holding you up
holding you up
holding you up.