Only you and I,
only you and I, my love,
listen to it.
A girl puts her head on a boy’s shoulder; they are driving west.
The windshield wipers wipe, homesickness one way, wanderlust
the other, back and forth.
We tell ourselves stories in order to live. The princess is caged in the consulate. The man with the candy will lead the children into the sea. The naked woman on the ledge outside the window on the sixteenth floor is a victim of accidie, or the naked woman is an exhibitionist, and it would be “interesting” to know which. We tell ourselves that it makes some difference whether the naked woman is about to commit a mortal sin or is about to register a political protest or is about to be, the Aristophanic view, snatched back to the human condition by the fireman in priest’s clothing just visible in the window behind her, the one smiling at the telephoto lens. We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.
Rosie only has one verb. She doesn’t dance or sing or swim or cook. She wants. Yep, that’s all she does, wants, all day, every day. And she’s saying Rick, hey Rick, guess what, it’s my birthday, I want a hamburger, a cheeseburger, ketchup on my cheeseburger, small french fries, medium french fries, large french fries, ketchup on my french fries, a coke with ice, to the sky, a big one, frosty the snowman t-shirt, pork and beans, purple shoebox. What she means is, I want relief. Oh Rick, I want relief from this bad feeling and I only have this short list of nouns that may or may not help me, divert me.
My knees buckled, I went down to the floor. I cried in English, I cried in French, I cried in all the languages, because tears are the same all around the world.
His shoulder blots out the stars but the minutes don’t stop. He covers my body
with his body but the minutes don’t stop.
I spent the whole day
crying and writing, until
they became the same,
as when the planet covers the sun
with all its might and still
I can see it, or when one dead
body gives its heart
to a name on a list. A match.
A light. Sailing a signal
flare behind me for another to find.
A scratch on the page
is a supernatural act, one twisting
fire out of water, blood out of stone
We can read us. We are not alone.
— Brenda Shaughnessy, “Miracles” in Our Andromeda