Miranda would not hope or stand. She spread her arms and legs out
across the tiles nearly spanning the width of the corridor repeating
“not permissible this is not permitted.” Disgusted I walked away.
I stayed. Laid my body down.
—LABOR, by Jill Magi
The blinking light on the office answering machine; the message
from a hesitant young woman asking about a missed appointment
for a Subaru. This office’s previous occupant is dead
but his commute lives on, needs oil, needs rescheduling. The yellowing
professional association pamphlets in the back of the filing cabinet
say “crisis,” as they have always done. I am a replacement
for a part that used to come with an assistant. You have reached
the voicemail box of the person I work for. What calling
is this, exactly. Galen describes an atrabilious patient struck down
with a fear that Atlas, who supports the world, would become tired
and would throw it away and he and all of us will be crushed and pushed together.
Think of the children! Think of the customers. We must remain
awake and individuated. Of course as far as I know, the heavens
held themselves up just fine before the war. Divine make-work.
One of these days we’ll have a say in what happens
to us. Until then, I do some gardening, work disguised as recreation
but an image, too, of disentangling the systemic from the fruits
of disposition, though cleverly, everything flowers and the shoots
of everything seem the same light, welcoming chartreuse. I keep
trying to convince the earth that I can do more for it than provide
a cloak in the exact dimensions of my prone body. In those
intermittent hours, even through the chasms that stretch, deep blue-black,
between them, one might even come to believe in a glimpse of affect
beyond scarcity. You don’t have to be happy to be happy.
Kimberly Quiogue Andrews is a poet and literary critic. She is the author of A Brief History of Fruit (University of Akron Press), winner of the Akron Poetry Prize, and BETWEEN (Finishing Line Press), winner of the New Women’s Voices Award. She teaches creative writing and American literature at the University of Ottawa and you can find her online at www.kqandrews.com.