Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2014  Vol. 13  No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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The Dimensions of the Anomaly

On Polishing Boots
This kind of thing: the black ones, triangle toes, from movies with horses, red thread on them, red thread pattern. Laney does this: adds black to them. They were losing color, she’s wearing them on her feet when she gets here, the black ones which were getting whiter, with lines. She takes them off, she puts them on paper, she makes them that color again: black. How? Color smeared on, smells like my hands after holding a park railing, rubs it in with a cloth from a plastic bag, dirty cloth, sticks her fingers into the corners and hiding places. She smiles. No. She looks. It’s like she’s smiling. Her mouth’s not smiling.

On Laney
When she comes in it feels warm in the room. When ma’s in the room it’s tight in the chest. But when she comes in the chest loosens up. Untie a knot in your shoelaces. That kind of thing. Sometimes I know what she wants. She wants to iron her shirt and then she does iron it. It’s nice to know ahead of time.

Sometimes something almost-not-there is there between what she wants and what I know. We go outside and I think to the park but it’s just to the store where the shelves smell like sunny dust and she lets me pick up the paper to put the black ones with the red thread on.

She has brown eyes and the middle of her is soft when I put my head on it. I did that one time. It made sounds inside like water. I wonder if that is what she is inside, water that is warm and covers you up. Tub water. Not water with a color, but warm water that you sit in and you put your arm under and the whole arm is warm and inside of it.

Sometimes I know what she wants and it is not a picture that I am in. It is not a tiptoeing place, and the edges of everything fit together, smooth. There is someone there who holds her hand, and that other hand is not as soft, but it squeezes hers and doesn’t have to pull it away and hide it over their eyes and breathe as quiet as possible. There is someone who looks at her brown eyes all the time. And it is a house like my house, but I am not in it. Like me but with brown eyes too. Eyes like her eyes. That kind of thing.

Sometimes she knows that I know what she wants. And the picture that she has is of me knowing what she knows of me knowing what she knows.

On Toy Blocks
Today I was drinking milk, which is cold. Sweet taste, grass, bones, they say drink milk for bones. And Laney wanted to get the blocks from the living room and give them to me, but she watched me drink milk and then eat cereal that my ma gave to me, but the edges of the cereal were too sharp and I had to get it away from me even though Laney tells me with her brown eyes to try the things my ma gives to me. And the cereal went out everywhere and onto my ma who sighed through her nose and left the room and my heart untied.

But I saw Laney watch her go and her heart was not loose string, in her eyes it was a fist getting tight and then opening up. And getting tight again.

The blocks go in the living room because I do not want them most of the time. The edges are supposed to be smooth and go together. I know because people put them together to show me and tuck one that is round and whole into one that is round and empty. But the edges are not smooth and if I put them together they would just scratch together and scratch together and never be all the way still and all the way next to each other.

Today she wants me to put the blocks together in the way that she is making up a picture of them together, but she does not tell me how with her hands counting off the steps I should take like usual, so I can’t follow her picture. Too many sides of the blocks to rub together the wrong way. What it is that she knows or only halfway knows makes her farther away somehow. How ice is when you put it in the sun. Some of it is gone soon and never comes back. That kind of thing.

It is nicer when she puts her boots on the paper and puts black on the boots and I watch. So when she stops everything starts to shake and I start to shake and I become a sound and everything becomes a sound and so she puts more black on the boots and wipes them again with the rag. Things get quiet.

On Colors
Green is what happens when you pinch a pine needle in your fingers and your nail makes a slice. Some of the needle stays there and slides under the nail. Green is the smell under the bush in our front yard after it rains and the ground is wet but wet with leaves that small animals walked on last night while I was sleeping. Green is my ma’s socks which are scratchier than the other ones, so they make a sound when she walks on the wood floor and I can hear where she’s going and where she’s coming from. Mostly her socks are the color of her feet so they are barely there at all, and so quiet that it makes my shoulders move closer to the bottom of my back. 

Green is a little bit of my dad’s eyes, but only sometimes. They can be the color of the sky, or the color of his shirt, or the color of a tree, or the color of the clouds when it’s too cold to rain but not cold enough for snow. When he looks at me they are green but get more like the clouds the longer he looks. They used to be green for Laney but now they are always rain eyes when she is there, and my ma’s eyes are rain eyes too. A little bit of a colder rain.

Green is mint leaves Laney picks outside and then puts in a glass and pours hot water on them from the singing kettle and the smell goes everywhere even though the water and the leaves stay in the glass. Green is the clothes Laney sometimes wears when she comes from the place that she goes to without me. It is a toothpaste green and the air around the clothes is toothpaste too. My ma said did you get more shifts and Laney said yes I did and maybe a shift is what you call those green clothes and the green smell because my ma said good then, that’s settled.

And at first today blue was the way air tastes if it’s cold, and blue was the cover of a book in the library that had threads coming off of it, but when Laney came in blue became something different. What she knew about blue was that it was all water everywhere, blue from the sky between nighttime and not-nighttime, blue flowing into my mouth, blue getting into my ears, blue coming from inside my fingers, blue like not breathing. No more blue. That was what I wanted. I took off my blue sweater to show her. No more blue sweater.

On Me
I am not a person. My ma is a person, because she says so, and also my dad. When we go to the park they say look at the other kids, go run around with them, but it is a big group of people and I am not a person so I can’t run with them. It is like groups of anything. If there was a group of dogs and I tried to run with them they wouldn’t know why I turned left or why I didn’t smell the same places on the ground or what I wanted to eat or why I needed to stop in the sun and sit there until another cloud passed over it. So I couldn’t be with them. And a cat couldn’t be with them. And I can’t be with all those people at the park because they don’t know what I am either.

Laney knows. She can take me to the park because we sit on a bench or I stand by the best tree and if there is a group of the kids running around she and I just watch them and see what they do. I am not the same as Laney but I am closer.

I like it when we go to a street full of little cloth houses that are full of flowers or beads or carrots or apples. Sometimes they have pictures hung mostly straight but with a little bit of a mistake. More often tilted to the left. People pick up apples from one stand and put it in a cloth bag, or pick up a natural beeswax candle and put it to their nose and breathe in. On those types of streets everything has an exact right place and you can get back to it and know that it is there and I know that my right place is next to Laney all the way from one end to the other.

On the Animals Laney Is and Isn’t
Laney comes here when my ma goes, or my dad goes. My ma and dad feel warm sometimes but also cold, like being in the dark. And your eyes are closed so you don’t know if it is still dark. The naked mole my dad dug up in the yard that kept digging in the air. That kind of thing. Laney is warm, but her eyes move like an outside cat. When a bird flies by she sees it go by, but also sees that it goes quickly.

A green animal is a sloth which grows moss on its back from sitting still in the trees and just watching what is happening. Or a green animal is a hummingbird which is never sitting still because its heart goes so fast that it has to keep up and sometimes in the sun it’s not green it’s blue and it never sits still with you. A green animal is a snake, that looks cold and wet but it’s actually warm and dry if you touch it.

None of that is quite right.

On the Blocks, Again
When Laney comes into the room, usually I don’t have to walk very close to the wall and count how many times one foot goes in front of the other between the kitchen and the hallway or the hallway and my bedroom before my shoulders can stop being tight to my neck. Usually she is not a heart knot.

Today Laney wanted my ma to go, but also she didn’t want it. Usually Laney wants to take a big bag of clothes and put them into piles after reading the little tags that go inside the collar. She sometimes smells the arms of the clothes and then puts some of them back in the bag. Sometimes she wants to do that, but she doesn’t.

Now that my ma is gone Laney has a pile of blocks on the ground and her two tall shoes that she puts more black and more black onto. Except on the red thread. She wants to know if I will put the blocks together in the shape she’s making in her head, but she won’t explain how and I feel like I am going to shake again. When I shake she puts more black on the shoes that she put on paper that we bought from the store. I picked out the paper to buy. I see exactly what she wants to do with the black and the paper and the cloth she uses to stick more black on.

Laney didn’t bring a bag of clothes today, she brought the almost-black shoes on her feet and then took them off and put them on paper. She picked up other papers from all the different rooms in the house and put them in her bag but the paper we picked has the now-very-black shoes on it. She isn’t thinking about the shoes while she rubs on the black. Brushing your teeth while your mind decides on a new color, green not blue. That kind of thing.

The important thing today is the boots on the floor and the soft brush she used to rough them back and forth, the shushing brush. And me lying there while she made them black and black and black. If she keeps brushing the shoes then I am also brushing them and she is not picking up more things and putting them in her bag. She thinks the things she is putting away are important and tells me, that the letter of reference and copies of notes and last check are the important things though nothing happens to them when she touches them and I did not help her make them and so they are not the important thing at all. I can’t move the blocks like she wants and she kicks them with her foot in her sock and it shouldn’t be important but she gets colder and it drains away the street with carrots and flowers and it drains away the color green. It freezes the water in the middle of her and she doesn’t understand how to stay focused on the important things, any more than I know how to change the color of my grey eyes to match her brown ones.  end  

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