My father photoshops the word “waterfall” over the waterfall in the photo. In case I didn’t know, in case I had forgotten. I admire the word waterfall, a clothed thing. It clambers over rocks, turning natural tricks. If only I could forget about the megachurch over the hill with air-conditioned legs inside. If only I were thirsty or had a vestigial pail. It’s like whale watching, waiting for my return. Or like waiting for the rain to put out fires in a megadrought. Palm fronds rattle their accordion hands as I open up my megamouth to spit out my share of ashes.
The ballgame crackles from a tiny television set and shoves the sky into a pocket. My father stares at the air as if there was a ball there. There’s a gelatinous substance on the steeple, there’s a gelatinous substance, I’m sure of it, though I’ve never been up there. Now I’ll never know love again and love will never know me because the world is a scheme and a scheme cannot lift a saggy liver-spotted hand from a hymnal.
The little light in the microwave oven comes on when I open the door and it’s such a relief not to think about how little things work, like the frozen things invented by men with degrees in taste who study the desires of the tongue and approximate, approximate. How I heat them! Behind every curtain, behind every cupboard, a chasm yawns open to expose the underworld. We shouted verses in the common room until the doctor said, “Shut up or the moon will turn purple and the world will end.” Is there an anecdote in here that is worth its weight in salt? I throw a pinch over my shoulder for good luck getting out.
At night I want to be told stories about bunnies. Bunnies that go to school, wear clothes, fly planes, play instruments. Bunnies that hop to school each morning carrying clarinets in hard black cases. The bunnies try to play a song together, but they produce only squeals. They ask their music teacher, why is this so hard? There comes a pause as long as the fence that keeps the rabbits on one side of Australia. Certainly talking was hard at first too, the music teacher said, but you didn’t stop talking.
My father leaves me sections of the newspaper. The politicians gnash their tiny gray teeth and all the other men brandish their weapons. I scour the obituaries, but they have no specific plans for me. Only the comics suggest a pattern that can hold my interest. I’m convinced that the secrets of the universe are hidden in the folds Lucy’s dress when Lucy says, You’re an idiot. I have been deceived again by a five-cent therapist. Where is Snoopy going in his aviator glasses? The doghouse in my father’s yard is big enough for me, though the dog is dead, and what does that mean?
The bunnies study the surface of the moon and try to determine whose face it is. Their first and only guess is God’s face. The moon is big enough for two of us, but God said he wanted me off the moon. How could I believe that God would ever dream of giving me so much room? Now the rose buds are blooming on the fence out back, but it’s like calculus, trying to make an adage out of nothing. The sugar in the sugar bowl hardens into a rock to represent one idea of patience. It’s like the blackbird that fills a parabola with pebbles to get the water out again.
My father does crossword puzzles in his armchair so he can fall asleep inside a word. He doesn’t worry that he won’t wake up again even after all the long nights he watched me charge around the yard like a rabid thesaurus. I burned through answering machines and conspiracies. I composed poetry about the apocalyptic drought. I said anything in my head and in my head was Holy! Holy! Holy! and Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy. Did I tell you Ginsburg visited me? He stood beside me at the dinner table and said, First thought, best thought. But he was talking about death, not poetry. Was I dead? No, because the plates kept coming.
Copyright ©2017 by Jennifer Metsker
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission
Jennifer Metsker’s poetry has been published in Beloit, Birdfeast, Cream City Review, Gulf Coast, The Southern Review, The Seattle Review, Rhino and many other journals. She has won the Third Coast Short Docs prize and an Academy of American Poets prize. Her audio poetry has been featured regularly on the BBC Radio program Short Cuts. She also writes essays on mental illness and art, and her most recent piece can be found in the anthology The Shell Game: Writers Play with Borrowed Forms. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she is the Writing Coordinator at the Stamps School of Art and Design.
Birdfeast was imagined and created on Thanksgiving 2011 as an online poetry magazine. Starting with our 11th issue, we’ve opened submissions to all genres in an effort to encourage and give a platform for cross-genre/hybrid work and, we hope, help bridge the space between genres. Birdfeast is interested in writing for the sake of writing, regardless of what box it belongs or doesn’t belong in.