during the pandemic, i ordered a smoothie from a little cafe in LA. i picked it up from the makeshift counter set up outside the door, and when i got in the car, i saw there was a small note taped to the top of the cup. it read: “someday, this will all be a memory”.
i knew whoever had written that note was thinking about the state of the world and could have had no way of knowing about my comparatively small struggle in it, but this little kindness gave me a moment of hope, a window into the future when the pain of this time would surely have faded a little.
i only wondered and worried about how long it was going to take. “someday” doesn’t like to tell you when it plans to arrive.
What happened was this: Cathy and I walked to the edge of the reservoir’s water and from her purse she removed a Ziploc baggie containing two filmy-tailed, rather stupid-looking goldfish that Pup-Tent had bought for her the week before in an isolated moment of kindness. We sat down on the smooth rocks next to the spotless, clean, infinitely dark and deep lake water. She said to me, “You only get one chance to fall in love for the first time, don’t you.” And I said, “Well, at least you got the chance. A lot of people are still waiting.”
She then poked into the glassy still water, made small ripples, and threw a stone or two. Then she took the baggie, placed it under the water and punctured the membrane with her sharp black fingernails. “Bye-bye, fishies,” she said as the two languidly wriggled away down into the depths. “Make sure you two stay together. You’re the only chance that either of you is ever going to get.”
LIFE AFTER GOD
you shut the door, drove me to the all-night shop.
I was three weeks late. the air was damp and hot.
our pale reflections on the back windscreen,
the local radio DJ playing Dancing Queen
and the checkout girl in the superstore
who didn’t look at me, just what I bought.
you pointed out each lit window in town.
Take notes, you said, one day you will write this down.
it’s true. most days, I plunder what I see,
play deaf unless a poem answers me.
when I nod absently at what you’ve said,
I’m thinking of that night instead—
me in the bathroom, long before time,
already squinting for the telltale line.
“Take Notes”, Helen Mort.
by the middle of the week, i am tired of being a person. so on thursday, give me a space to die a little in private… i will retreat into myself, where i have resided obscurely through immeasurable and contrasting lives, all disorganised and stacked on top of each other in the pit of my stomach. sometimes, they spill out of my mouth like sheets of ice and your nagging fingers pulling at my bottom lip, hungry for me to tell you what i think before i know how to say it.
Marilyn Monroe took all her sleeping pills
to bed when she was thirty-six, and Marlon Brando’s daughter
hung in the Tahitian bedroom
of her mother’s house,
while Stanley Adams shot himself in the head. Sometimes
you can look at the clouds or the trees
and they look nothing like clouds or trees or the sky or the ground.
The performance artist Kathy Change
set herself on fire while Bing Crosby’s sons shot themselves
out of the music industry forever.
I sometimes wonder about the inner lives of polar bears. The French
philosopher Gilles Deleuze jumped
from an apartment window into the world
and then out of it. Peg Entwistle, an actress with no lead
roles, leaped off the “H” in the hollywoodsign
when everything looked black and white
and David O. Selznick was king, circa 1932. Ernest Hemingway
put a shotgun to his head in Ketchum, Idaho
while his granddaughter, a model and actress, climbed the family tree
and overdosed on phenobarbital. My brother opened
thirteen fentanyl patches and stuck them on his body
until it wasn’t his body anymore. I like
the way geese sound above the river. I like
the little soaps you find in hotel bathrooms because they’re beautiful.
Sarah Kane hanged herself, Harold Pinter
brought her roses when she was still alive,
and Louis Lingg, the German anarchist, lit a cap of dynamite
in his own mouth
though it took six hours for him
to die, 1887. Ludwig II of Bavaria drowned
and so did Hart Crane, John Berryman, and Virginia Woolf. If you are
travelling, you should always bring a book to read, especially
on a train. Andrew Martinez, the nude activist, died
in prison, naked, a bag
around his head, while in 1815 the Polish aristocrat and writer
Jan Potocki shot himself with a silver bullet.
Sara Teasdale swallowed a bottle of blues
after drawing a hot bath,
in which dozens of Roman senators opened their veins beneath the water.
Larry Walters became famous
for flying in a Sears patio chair and forty-five helium-filled
weather balloons. He reached an altitude of 16,000 feet
and then he landed. He was a man who flew.
He shot himself in the heart. In the morning I get out of bed, I brush
my teeth, I wash my face, I get dressed in the clothes I like best.
I want to be good to myself.
Trouble, Matthew Dickman