Saturdays Autumn does her and Kathy’s laundry, buys their
weekly groceries and household items in a better
neighborhood several bus stops away.
She plays at mysterious stranger, strolling the main fair,
window-shops, browses, loses herself in displayed art,
secondhand books, street performances, circus of
the shopping district.
She tells of her adventures, at first self-deprecating,
wry half-smile, hands out as if to hold off ridicule,
though she knows that is not my style.
As she speaks, falls into story, defense disappears.
I can feel with her secret mix of magic and sadness.
Kathy works excruciating hours for little pay, jobs she
can get without questions, references, resume.
She leaves early, while Autumn is readying for school,
returns well after dark, exhausted, carrying her
nightly bottle in its local liquor store bag.
“She says the drinking helps her sleep.
She doesn’t talk about the nightmares.
It can’t be that she doesn’t want to frighten me,
or remind me. I think she is ashamed of her own fear.
She tells me she is so sorry, so tired. She needs
to sleep; the drinking soothes her, a ritual
against her demons, her demon lover who scarred
I don’t mind nightmares, violent vivid movies that
grip me in sleep. Fragmented horror scenes
can’t hurt me. They are a safe place to practice,
work out strategies for facing horrors.
We never know how we will react, act against
those shocking surprises, unexpected loss,
brutal confrontation, even the occasional triumph.
I guess that’s how we find out who we are.
You would think, you know, that wouldn’t be
a mystery. I mean, here I am, all the time,
wherever I go, me. I’m not like them, the people
who made me. Maybe in some ways, colorations,
attitudes I don’t know I have. That’s the point.
It’s not like I’m in charge, creating the present me
to make my life easier or what I want it to be.
I get to watch, experience, figure out who I am and
what this world is that I react to.
Me, me, me. Ellie, you let me go on and on, like
all this bs matters.”
What could matter more?
My silly issues with eternity, situational morality,
so old, flavor chewed out of them.
Autumn is so achingly brief, so damaged and yet
young enough to absorb and grow beyond
Children grow entrapped in the world of their keepers.
Kathy once believed in thrilling possibilities, in
out distancing her familial restraints, admonitions,
I don’t know her, only secondhand in vari-colored
glimpses. I think about her, though, who she might
have been, who life has made her, what unconscious
legacy she wills forward.
Autumn is becoming my obsession, a complex
bittersweet journey out of my own self-conscious misery.
Whatever of her I can carry with me makes me more,
gives me vicarious mortality.