Art by: k.m.a.
Do you ever feel it? Those vines: They slither unnoticed through the cavity in your chest, wrapping themselves around your rib cage, and then, suddenly, they tighten, and you gasp, and there is nothing else.
Do you ever feel it? Those hailstones: They rain down within your head from some unseeable, undefinable spot in the sky above until, gradually, the sound of your thoughts is also their methodic pelting and crashing, and there is nothing else.
Do you ever feel it? Those embers: They draw their oxygen, their energy, from the burning of your bones, your muscles, your flesh, until you are so hot, so charred, that you are nothing but ash, and you blow away in the wind, and there is nothing else.
Do you ever feel it? Those gusts: They sweep the air to some secret place until it is all gone and you do not get any of it, your lungs empty, you gasp and you choke and you clutch at your throat and there is nothing else.
I can’t remember the feel of it: Running on wavy walls; stilling for the buzzing bee; jumping from stone to pipe before falling into a murky pond. Hiding behind a stone three times my height; spying on a praying mantis; crying while running up a hill and eventually deciding to stop. Or did I add the praying mantis in revision? Jump-roping. Tree-climbing. Jukeboxing.
I can’t remember the feel of it: Unfinished diaries; ten-year-old anguish; something is wrong with me because I am angry and I am sad and I am on the seventeenth story of a building filled with people I don’t understand. Hiking up a mountain in the pouring rain, coated and covered in mud and at home in the hills whose paths and places and people do not live on maps. Muttering innocuous maledictions into the wind. Turning a steep cliff (is there a better word?) into a slide and getting covered in dirt and not caring. Not caring. Turning a wooden truck attachment into a makeshift home and catching water bugs in the creek and building a bridge and climbing on rocks under a bridge and bike rides and trails and wild berries and tamed bushes and quarters and attics and stuffed animals and the toll of a grandfather clock older than my mother at three in the morning when I’m hopelessly jetlagged, lying awake in the obliqueness of the night, with no blue cell phone light to distract me from my thoughts yet.
I can’t remember the feel of it: Raising my hands to the sky during worship songs to signal my virtue, my devotion to a God I didn’t seem to know despite hours, days, years of hopeless prayers. Breathing in the words of my friends and trying to memorize their hopes and joys and dreams so I could help make them happen. I couldn’t make them happen.
I can’t remember the feel of it: Panic attacks and pastries and tea and overplayed songs. Escaping outside to a faceless woman’s voice on the phone. An email from my father with a story he could never say aloud, written in a style whose contours his spoken voice would never bend and twist into. A roof. A drug. A secret — more than one, to be truthful, if the inherent lies of language and the evasion of the self will permit me that for a moment. The walks and the mountains and the stars and the tears and the myths. Solitude. Confrontation. Escape. Reckoning. Rhapsody. Disillusionment. Hope. These were my prismatic feelings — where did they go?
Question: Those vines, hailstones, embers, gusts — they were not always ubiquitous. You did not always feel them, in tandem, attacking. What happened to you? Who did you become? If you met me, would you know me, accept me, love me?
Question: When did your feelings become inaccessible memories of abandoned actions and halted habits and put-down patterns lost to time? When did my feelings become metaphors for tricks my brain plays on me, sensations so physical it’s difficult to believe they are less rooted in tangibility than those sensations I can’t remember the feel of?
Question: Who am I? What am I made of? What circumstances, desires, interactions, etc., have shaped me? How has time altered the core of my being, subtly adjusted me from moment to moment until I became an irrevocable stranger to my past self? If I cracked my body open I would be bone and marrow and sinew and blood but what about my soul, my spirit? What stuff is that composed of, what substance renders it into being? Has it changed too?
Question: I am growing up, and down, and within and without, and through and around and all the prepositions and none of them and the ones that don’t exist in this frail language too. I am the opposite of growing sometimes, too, which is possibly growing as well, so it may be that nothing is growing; it’s all just fickle and bizarre and life.
Confession: This is a map, or a diagram, or a sketch in a journal. This is my life reduced to two dimensions and some frenzied letters in a ridiculous font. This is everything and nothing anyone ever needs to know about who I am. Do I need this soliloquy, this quest for meaning, this philosophy, this hope for reason, this — I’ll be frank — detritus? What does it all mean? Does any of it matter? I don’t know if this is prose or verse or something else because I can’t explain with language what these moments have meant to me, done to me, made of me. I see my hapless repetition and absent subjects and verbs and bounteous run-on sentences. I know I am breaking the rules of this language because I am trying to tell you something in words that can only be known without them; their rigidity is so restrictive that I cannot communicate the way I intend. I apologize, I think. But this is ineffable — isn’t everything? Isn’t that the eternal downfall of language? Of the mind as the vessel through which we perceive the world? So-called reality?
Confession: I am afraid of the answer to the question, But what do I really want? What of who I am is a fabrication for others’ sake, or worse, for my own? Can I live with myself only if I hide from my consciousness the true nature of my being? Maybe I am not an artist or a thinker or a passionate and caring member of society but something weaker, something tragic, something unnameable. I could perhaps tell you what all this mess of words means to me, makes of me, but I’ve already used up all the space I have, and language is growing a testier tool, so I’ll leave only this omission.
Confession: I am weary; I am wayward; I cannot but wail sometimes, or wallow or waver or wane. What I thought was stone within my mind was worn away by the river of change, and now what is left is only vines and hailstones and embers and gusts. What is left is despair and ecstasy in equal parts, most likely because I cannot admit what those are hiding.
Confession: I revel at nothing; I rue everything. I rue nothing; I revel at everything.