Register Sunday | October 21 | 2018
February Towers Art by Angela Dalinger.

February Towers

Three poems.

Laws & Locks

I didn’t want to come off the couch and start to care,    
for that aspect of all action she shoots out beyond:    
eating, not cleaning; dressing, not washing; smoking    
but leaving the ash. I didn’t want to join Otis Redding    
blaring, the clack of her frenetic emailing, to learn    
again I’d been conceived to Willie Nelson in the cold.    
While what is most familiar about my mom: her love
of American bulldogs and academia, Bhaktin and birch,    
dancing and crime-shows, all got bloated, contorted,    
worked into plans for starting a circus, stationing each    
soul by the secret gifts she gave them. It would be my    
third year keeping the house clean, family up-to-date,    
while her friends thinned out, the phone stayed quiet    
and under the lamp-synced dark the suburbs nakedly    
displayed the architecture of her isolation; of smuggling    
decaf coffee, dollar paperbacks, donuts and hopeful    
narratives for her to hold while she slept the sedatives    
off in Ward 9. But hospitals couldn’t bring her down,    
not anymore, and there is—as one doctor pointed    
out—no law against destroying your life. So I sat on    
the couch, coddled my conscience, let the guilt chew
my ankles, until I could feel self-preservation and duty    
slump against each other in the staleness of waiting:
for this phase to fall, for the hospital to form her; until    
one night my brother called: she’s missing. Then I came,    
wearing, like dark bags, the secret hope they’d lock her
up underneath my eyes.    

Backdraft

.feeling centre in flight, flocking back behind the roofs
— ooze from the garage’s newly frozen mouth — what do I    
remember
— the light was so bright — neighbours come inspect   
us three synonyms of shock — hoses slosh by — line us up    
curbside — shake their shoulders under the blankets — back    
inside for my brother and his friend — taking the drive come    
fat-pantsed fighters — trucks careen the corner, wash through    
their sirens — sir, Sir, what is your emergency? — the surtitles she    
lit this on fire stream above the conjured vision of her leaning    
matches into the garage — sprint for a comedic share of water —    
flare of garbage in dark, obstinate patches of plastic, squid-ink    
plumes of smoke — air a thick swelter — not hot — I try to tell    
by the handle — garage door seams choke cobalt-smoke — light    
over-shines my weak eyes like the side of a spoon lifting milky    
film from tea — I open the front door — check the bedrooms,    
basement, washroom, closets, anyway — I knew she was gone    
— curtained room wears the dawn anxiously — raised my body    
the shaking backyard birch birds had flown in preemptive    
startle — wake up — something’s Wrong    

Over Lethe By Stilt

I’m still not there. Long lines of emergency left me pawing
after a horizon like a light-switch in the dark. I lost my faith    
when I realized I was a believer in hospitals, diplomas, doctors—    
in the great rigging of reason. Reason like a box you should be    
able to climb in when the forest gets too dark or someone you    
love goes shooting out past where it’s reasonable to expect to    
return from. All enlightenment: embodied this, emotional that,    
sharing campfires, wearing the same antlered hats as madness.    
Drugs? Restraints? Padded rooms? You’re a walking signature    
when your mom’s manic and all you can do is adjust, and adjust,    
until your life is to hers already just a thing for pain to take    
its shape from—the how close or near, the how tight the walls—    
steel-trap where sudden ghosts play handball with the memories    
that used to be unbruisable. I feel the constant pull inside to sleep,    
to let the back-alley power-saving currents of streetlights dictate    
a dull sequence of dreams. I didn’t know what to do, I was scared,    
and angry. That night felt like I was trying to sleep on the side of    
a crumbling planet, dreaming of blood-cures and magic flutes.
I’m still not here. Still camouflaged in dreams of sleep and mercy.    
Still sleepwalking, stilts on.