September Chapbook

I think I’ll go out and kill someone
I don’t know
like leopold and loeb
just to see if I can do it.
A thin freckled girl
or a frail old man
who shakes when he walks
like cassius clay.
this isn’t noble
this isn’t good
some thoughts shouldn’t be spoken.
Maybe the thought police
will come and get me tonight.

Last night I slept on a purple velvet couch
in a pale room
with a yellow cat on my feet
and dreamed of mosquito nets
and running away.
Once, when I was a little girl
I ran away
and no one came to get me.
I left a note I’d written
in yellow crayon
on white paper
with a picture of me
and mother and father
coming after me
to find me
but they didn’t
even notice I was gone.
I walked all the way to the corner
and stood in front of the tavern
filled with strangers
drinking sour beer
and eating hot pork.
I ran home
and found them drinking coffee
and eating cake
arguing about something
they always argued
about something.
I hid under the sink
and waited
in the dark, damp, dirty
rotten smelling hole
with thick, sticky rags
and cockroaches
and mouse shit.
I could kill someone
and never say a word about it
and make believe
I didn’t do it.
once I put a rope
in the hall closet
and told my mother
to go there.
I wanted to see her hang.
I wanted to shoot my father
with a gun
but I never did.
I’ve been pretty good
most of my life.
So the other day I went looking for a mouse with a track ball because I’m getting so numb from the tip of my pinkie to my elbow that I can’t go another day without changing my writing habits. I dropped into the Computer store and they didn’t have what I wanted, so there was nothing else for me to do but drop into Loeman’s next door. I loaded up on things to try on and made my way through the aisles to the dressing room. I had just pulled my dress over my head and was about to get into the first pair of trousers when I noticed the woman across the way. She wore nothing but a pair of black thong panties and gold high heeled platform sandals. She wasn’t particularly pretty and, I must say right off, my ass is better than hers; it’s smoother, firmer, rounder, and better shaped. But I stopped comparing after that. She slipped into a mini cocktail dress of black lace that nearly exposed her nipples. Her breasts were pumped up with silicone – believe me – nobody has breasts like that without silicone. She had a snake tatood around her ankle climbing half way up her calf and a flower jungle on her left shoulder cascading down to the wing on her back. She tried on a silver tube which I thought was a top but turned out to be a dress although the bottom of her buttocks showed unless it was stretched down hard. After that she pulled on another see through thing made of black net with nothing but a band across her nipples and across her hips. Where she found such clothes in this shop beat me. I realized I’ve been looking in the wrong department. Where does she wear such outfits, I wondered. Is she a dominatrix? Does she go to sex clubs and show herself off to unknown men or does she wear this at home for her husband. She behaved modestly, hiding her breasts with her hands as much as possible whenever she pulled something off and covered herself quickly with the next thing to try on.
I’ve watered the flowers on my balcony twice a day in the heat wave. The cactus has sprouted a bud which grows more than an inch each day. It’s thick and succulent and about to burst. The children have come down from San Francisco and there is chaos in the house. My son knocks over a heavy paper weight on the glass table which sounds like a bullet shot. I drop what I’m doing and rush over to see what’s happened. Karen has left a pile of candy on top of the piano. I don’t know what to say. Each day, before she goes out she covers her body with make up to look like she’s sun tanned. She wears very scant clothing: a tiny skirt that barely covers her pubes and a slim elastic tube across her breasts. Somehow she manages to cover her entire body with this product; her long slender midriff, front and back, arms and legs, even the spaces between her toes are darkened. Beautiful as she is she looks like she’s been to Florida and stayed in the sun too long. My son says she tries to get him to put it on too. “She wants us to be a black couple, mom,” he explains. I don’t get it. I must be getting old. It makes me think of Michael Jackson wanting to be white.

Today is the birthday of my ex-husband who I still think of in spite of myself. This morning my thoughts went back to that morning a long time ago when a friend called and told me she would bake a cake for my son’s third birthday party which was the next day. Would I come and pick it up in the afternoon? The sky was gray that day and the trees were bare. It was the middle of January and the forecast promised cold weather. We ate lunch together, my husband and I, while the au pair girl fed the children in the kitchen. Snow had started falling in the morning and the ground was already covered with a thin layer. I drank coffee and smoked one cigarette after the other.

We had fought the night before. I couldn’t understand why he spent so much time at the office and so little with me. He didn’t pay any attention to me. “I can never satisfy you,” he had said again and again to my bitter complaints. We didn’t speak of sex. We never spoke about that. I wouldn’t have known how to and if I did he would have ignored me. He was adamant that nothing he could do would make me happy. I told him I needed help and wanted to go into therapy. He didn’t like that idea and when I insisted on hearing his reason he slammed down his magazine and said it would probably lead to my leaving him. In any case he wouldn’t pay for it and that was that.

We were still at the table when the butcher arrived with his weekly delivery of steaks and hamburgers, chops and chickens. I instructed the girl to separate the packages, to wrap and mark them carefully, and stash them in the freezer. I asked her to leave out the steaks for that night. The boys were going to take a nap and we were going to pick up the cake.

I stood in the doorway of the garage while he warmed up the motor. It was my job to pull down the sliding door after the car was out of its box. I didn’t mind the smell of the exhaust fumes or the noise of the engine. The air outside was cold and crystal clear and a few white flurries fell. I was wearing navy blue woolen slacks and the new, heavy black boots that I had bought in New York. They were lined with thick wool and did a good job in keeping my feet warm on the long walks pushing the baby carriage. I remember thinking that the leather was so thick I probably wouldn’t even feel it if a tire drove across the toes. I stood and waited for him to back the car out.

I remember hearing the gear slip into its notch and seeing his face through the car window as he turned to look behind him. I saw his profile first and then his eyes as the car began to move. It all happened so quickly yet I remember each moment as it occurred, as though slowed down through a warping of time. One moment I saw his long flaring nostrils and bulging green eyes, and the next moment I was caught, stuck, unable to move; the front fender had me pinned up against the wall and I couldn’t free myself. I screamed for him to stop. He stopped the car, got out, and ran around to see what had happened. “Get the car off of me,” I screamed. “Hurry.”

I meant for him to lift the car. Instead, he ran back into the car, put the gear into reverse, let out the clutch and turned the wheel slightly… the wrong way. Rather than releasing me he maneuvered the car in the wrong direction so that I was crushed against the wall in the doorway of the garage and then quickly released. There was no sound, no indication of what had happened to me. I lay on the ground half inside on the gray cement, and half on the new white snow. Everything around me was covered with blood and pieces of raw meat. I felt a warm sensation on my foot. I didn’t look down but from the look on his face after he came around to see what had happened I knew it was bad. I felt no pain. Only an uncontrollable trembling and a desire to keep my wits about me. He was crying hysterically. “Go call the doctor,” I said. “Get an ambulance. I need to get to a hospital.” And then, imagining he would fall apart and do everything wrong, I added. “And don’t bring the children down here.” He disappeared and I lay there on the ground, alone and shivering, staring up at the sky, watching slow, gentle snowflakes drift down upon me.

27% OF ME IS OUT THERE

by Carol Pearlman
I’m getting smaller. A bone density test showed I’ve lost 27% of my bone mass, based on comparisons with pre-menopausal statistics. Also, I’m about half an inch shorter than I used to be. Where have I gone?

As far as I’m concerned I’m bigger and better than ever, but looking at the charts with the figures and percentages plotted out in purple, red, and yellow bar graphs, I’ve been reduced; some of me has gone somewhere else.

Have I dissolved into atoms that have gone out into the atmosphere, circulating across continents, perhaps preparing to join a hurricane in Florida or an earthquake in Java? Or have I gone further than that? Am I out there with the stars? Hanging around with The Big Guy? Am I still trying to “tell it like it is?” Einstein told us matter is indestructible, so I’ve gotta be around somewhere. Maybe some extra-terrestrial sighting reported over the Mojave desert is really half an inch of me, or my bone mass floating around in the ethereal soup.

Talk about busting bubbles, somebody’s doing the old “86” on my body, scraping my chalk, rubbing me out, making me history. I mean where am I going and what will become of me? That’s what I want to know.

In any case I don’t want to think about being dead. Not today. I heard a song on the radio this morning written for a dying friend and the lyrics kept saying, “go ahead and go already.” It was nicer put than that but listening to it go on and on was so awful I thought isn’t it a pity when good intentions go so wrong. My mother acts as though I have no feelings. My sisters don’t care for me. Some songs really shouldn’t be written.