Art: “Strangers to ourselves” by Wanda Bernardino
iv. I LIKE YOUR UPPERCASE
from the attic, you shout. as if a discovery of an old frock needs a celebration. & it does. we should celebrate. the suona is a wooden oboe used in Northern China at funerals. I have unearthed the china cups from a trunk in the basement. the cello plays. I wish to write a libretto. a libretto for you. an ode to your brightest colours. your tendency to fabricate a persona. my dolly. I dressed her in orange with green trim. I adored the green trim. the simulated silk. her clothes were much nicer than mine, but I didn’t envy her. I spoke for her. she couldn’t move. To be able to run is the best of all.
v. red, blue, yellow
science is the reinvention of old myths with a happy ending. Persephone there is no hell. you wanted to be free of Demeter. admit it. family. what shade of red your imagination. the whorls of Mars. a war god. an undiscovered country. down deep in the cellar of pretend the fruit rots. every sibling has a story you’d rather not hear. deny it. adjectives, Anne Carson tells us, are the latch of being. [AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF RED]
hold the water in your hand. a volume. indigo through your fingers. the light. trickle blue beneath your skin. bitter oil of regret. slush over rum. dark confessions to the cold. stride across a frozen ideal. sand into glass. spark into flame. seed into wood. a house with history barring the windows & doors. wind blows through cracks until the mind dominoes.
the dolls awoke. whispers in nightmares the closet with dresses you never wore. the tartan yellow kilt. grandmother’s daffodil soft cardigan. the buttons spun sugar wedding cake. the door cracked open with wonder. red light green light. children obsessed with the freeze frame. the still life come to life. sad clowns. Pirandello’s characters wore masks to evoke the commedia dell’ arte. what do you wear. a mechanical columbine doll dancing the Nutcracker Suite. solitary. impulsive. en pointe.
De mortuis nil nisi bene
i. to become a figment of your Freud. in his red book. Jung prescribes sketching to return to childhood. piles beach stones. & the moon. waits for the players on the bench. to smother the night. shadow incinerated by unreasonableness of flame. potential infuriated. furious. to suffer. the consequences of sulfur. of volcanoes. lamentation.
ii. an epic with fraught outcomes. having lost. the game’s die is cast. recast. ever a predictable itinerary. where we are. now. the poetry is placeless. invites language for pretense. the fervent line up to taste the body of. the blood of.
iii. candles drip. errant the singe. of hot wax. to be martyred. eyebrows thick with worry. remember the festo of ‘taud: to discourage orderly formation. leave off the birds. arrange books by emotion. the D. Comedy, P. Lost, The W. of Oz. Envy Alice ever after. turned into a graphic novel.
iv. Helen plays logic games. did she or did she not launch a thousand hyperboles. punctuation leaves a stain. refuse can be read two ways. the skeleton’s nomenclature is bones. on the stage there are six actors. in search of a.
vii. abandoned & decayed
notes from the hardwood floor. I am damaged. chair scrapes. harsh voices. a window left open. first the rain, then the snow. the wind makes the keys of the piano in the corner play a song I’ve heard before. over & over. that old refrain. is it Scott Joplin? I wonder if you miss me sometimes. days gone by. pining for you.
sometimes for money, sometimes for fun. that old ragtime cheery piano background like wallpaper, each note matching the next. train tracks covered with moss leading down to a tunnel. vines over everything & automobiles rusted out. ravenous insects with metal teeth. it was only a dream, she thought, but didn’t wake of her own volition.
sweet jeezus I have a ghost. a ghost. I have a ghost I see in lightning bolts. her world is sparkly, more sparkly than mine. neither of us is prawns in the game. nor do we dance. although she glows & trembles more than i. what is radiance. not the science. from inside she glows. she’s transparent. slides into me at times like cream. rubs her creamy self all over me. ectoplasm. bits in my hair. my ghost is painting me with silver one hair at a time. one halo. two wings.
I like this. I like how she sings to me. I like her mellifluous languid notes. her fluid rivers. her waves. the way she washes up on the banks of the river. an urban mermaid with her bottles & city junk ships made of metro newspapers & plastic blue boxes. she harmonizes with the air which is silent for me. white noise. how the dark at times smothers me. I can wear only light colours at night. I am unjeweled. I keep moonstones in a lacquer box. & memories unhinged.
the secret silence of suburbia. is like a cloud. a gas cloud. an atomic cloud. big mushroom of boredom building. the climax. the anticlimax is a yawn. a folded envelope holding another mortgage interest bill. the houses are built with bricks of banality or one clear wall of dull stucco so mindless & malleable it bends the mind to its will. we are zombies. suburban zombies. our dream is to take the bus downtown & stay out past 11 pm.
the only houses I enjoy are the ones that are destroyed. the results of explosions. the ghosts of dead warriors, children’s dinky cars. houses in films. great mansions made of marble. legendary castles with nooks for the unborn & the servants. my mother in sheffield in the second world war, an industrial centre, the target of bombs. six months after her friend was killed. she slept in an open air camp. she flitted. I flit. I am restless. give me a month to month rental contract. I won’t sign anything in my name, with my blood. it flows too easily & out & empties.
Phrases in italics are from Esi Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues (Thomas Allen Publishers; Canadian First edition (Aug. 25 2011)
Some of these bits have appeared on line in the Toronto Quarterly blog (2014) and in print as an In/Words broadsheet (Ottawa, 2013)
Amanda Earl is a trouble-maker from Canada who writes poetry & occasionally pornography. She's the managing editor of Bywords, & the fallen angel of AngelHousePress with its shit-disturbing imprint, DevilHouse. Her poetry book Kiki came out with Chaudiere Press in 2014 & a smut collection Coming Together Presents Amanda Earl also came out in 2014. For more info, please visit AmandaEarl.com or connect with Amanda on Twitter.