Notes Toward a Personal Mythology

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

(Answers to Nine Questions from Sandra Simonds’ Book The Sonnets)

1 .  There is a six-week-old infant in my lap.  I haven’t yet woken up from the epidural or from the whole birth experiment experience.  The first few days I don’t even change his diaper—his father does.  I stand to the side.  I look.    

At eight weeks, I become more alert.  I lay the baby on the bed and read him some Frank O’Hara poems.

2.  My son is two, and he calls apartments “compartments.”  I’ve sat alone cross-legged in compartments all over the East and the Midwest, in a posture of repose and tempered anxiety.  I chose at least two of my apartments because they reminded me of tree houses,  one in Philadelphia and one in St. Paul.  Compartments, I mean.  Both were also haunted.  

The last time I had a skylight, though, I was 15 in Heidelberg.  My mother had rented us a two-story compartment in a large converted barn by the Neckar River.  I sat on my bed in a Benetton sweater watching snow swirl above the skylight, thinking something like, “This is (my) life.”  

Once we had lived in a converted garage in the home of my grandmother and grandfather.  My mother was 18.  I was an infant in swaddling clothes.  No one could have imagined where we’d go from there.  

3.  All I see on the mantle are (a) the free Xmas tree boughs from Home Depot; (b) a picture  I bought at Taliesin (Frank Lloyd Wright’s house in Wisconsin); (c) a vase from my carpenter ex-boyfriend; and (d) a framed photo of my glamorous Myrtle Beach grandmother, two children in Catawba College cardigans trailing behind her, thinking thoughts of their own.

(a)    I asked for a wreath and he brought home free Christmas tree branches.
(b)    We didn’t get to tour Taliesin, as we arrived as they were closing.  I was in Wisconsin camping with three Midwesterners who spent the weekend very drunk.  Alarmingly so.  (This is (my) life?)
(c)    He bought the vase at the Walker Arts Center.  That was nice of him.  If slightly impersonal.  No, nice.  I still like it.  (“Why are you so critical?” he said.  “There’s something wrong with you.”)
(d)    “I always hated the beach,” she said.  “So much sand.” 

4.  My core has gone missing, is something you may think in the months after giving birth.  My abdominal muscles have collapsed!  We love you get up. 

5.  My college boyfriend loved the movie Tucker with Jeff Bridges.  He had a shirt he called his Tucker shirt.  He imagined himself into the role of a 1940s entrepreneur who pitted himself against the companies and lost.  It was everything I loved and didn’t love about him.  His inscrutable fascinations.  Tucker?  Yes, Tucker.  

6.  I believe I took one ice-skating lesson.  I remember at some point in middle childhood standing on ice and being told to straighten my spine by imagining a string coming out through the top of my head like a marionette.  A curious image, mixing agency and ... puppetry. 

7.  My lava has gone missing.  Well.  It’s in there somewhere.

8. Here’s a clue:  Thirteen years after “us,” I dream that I am yelling and yelling at you for being married but having a girlfriend. Well, first I am yelling at the girlfriend, but then I revise myself.  I turn to her and say, “Really, women must stick together” and begin yelling at you instead.  Later that morning, I text you to tell you about this dream.  

9.  What have I done to push you away?  What haven’t I done.  

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