Tabula Rasa

(Clean Slate)

I tried to let this blog die by starving it of attention. I checked in on it today and expected to see a rotting corpse. Instead, I noticed a faint pulse, rib cage heaving from occasional gasps of air.

It’s been a tough four months of non-creativity for me. I’ll work through it, if only because I know of no other option but to work through it. I’ll post the rest of Lizzie Chronicles soon. For now, please tolerate my rambling random thoughts in the form of poetic prose…

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The Man Whose Sweat Smelled like Chicken Noodle Soup

I swear it did. His sweat smelled like chicken noodle soup. Soup from a can, not the homemade kind. He didn’t smell like when Momma made it. No, not like that.

His was a soup-from-can scent, and the three-for-a-dollar kind. The brand you don’t recognize and want others to think that you buy it because you like it, not because it’s on sale.

His scent was especially evident when working hard around the house, which was most days. Or when he got nervous because the cops pulled up and knocked late, strobe-light flashing through his broken bedroom window, broken because of rocks we threw just for the fun of it.

That was when he first showed up, before I got close enough to smell soup from a can. He never repaired his window, but he never told Momma either. He had a right to but he didn’t. She would have burned me good. We all just lived with the draft.

One day after a lot of things had happened, some of them good, I smelled him strong at dinner, I grabbed his ragged hand and squeezed. “I’m sorry,” I said. Out of habit, I leaned toward his good ear, the one not ripped from the ricochet. Among other things I am poor at, I’m a really poor shot.

“For what,” he asked.

I shrugged. “Everything, I guess.”

He didn’t say anything but he squeezed back tears. When I woke up from a dream, I went downstairs to a house that smelled not like soup but like a house. Momma said after breakfast that the man parted ways with us. That phrase sounded weird to my ears. He parted ways with us. Her word choice reminded me of the funeral phrases I’d heard from grown ups.

“You mean he departed this earth,” I asked.

“He passed on?”

“He passed away?”

“He left this sorry sod for a better home?”

I was like that, not shutting up when I should know better. Momma said that was just about enough out of me. She said I was to never to speak of him again, ever, and that included asking what happened to him and why and what she meant by parted ways.

“Besides,” she added, “his ways were not like ours.” This generated only more silent questions.

“So, shut up and eat before it gets cold.”

Now I live in the old house alone. On frigid mornings, I eat chicken noodle soup from a can and wonder what happened and why and what she meant, but I never speak it out loud, not even to an empty house and home. I should know better.

I just mind my own business and eat and relive the apologies and squeezes and the broken windows and open drafts and the hard work and a ricochet and the scent of the warm spoon under my nose.

If I happen to glance at the wall calendar and notice that it’s a Tuesday, I’ll ponder about the one odd sock he always wore but only on Tuesdays. He did this no matter how he smelled.

I always wondered if this was out of intention or coincidence or out of necessity. I was afraid to ask why but always wondered. I imagine me asking and I imagine him grinning and saying he’s got a odd-matching pair just like these upstairs in his dresser drawer. That makes me grin like he sometimes did, sideways with a squint.

When I’m done eating and wondering and grinning, I clank Momma’s spoon in her empty bowl and reach into my shirt pocket and fondle a mangled slug extracted after a long and unsuccessful surgery. I’m a poor shot on most days, among other things.

“It went in one ear and out the other.” To the empty chair across Momma’s uneven kitchen table, I echo what the surgeon said. “Just like most of the things I was told growing up.”

I wonder why it was never fixed, then I ask myself why fix it when a folded napkin under a short leg works just fine. Then I wonder what I’ll have to eat tomorrow and what the house will smell like then, and if I have just one more round, maybe two, since I’m mostly a poor shot and bored between meals and ponderings.

.   _   .   _   .   _   .

Formal Dining with a Stranger

(from a dream)

His dinners were always formal
Setting for twelve
I was the only and rare guest that night

He ate at the far end where he normally ate alone
Silver and linens and ancient mismatched porcelain
When the wine was opened and poured he tapped his glass for silence

“A toast, he said, “To –”
“After the toast may I offer a prayer?”
I interrupted his toast but I asked nicely

“If you wish”
“Spin the wheel”
“See what we win”

“But what about your toast?”
“We’re serving rolls”
“That’s nice”

“Besides, the wine has been squished between the toes of strangers”
I bowed and said thanks
Literally, thanks.

He didn’t bow and I don’t think he even closed his eyes
Didn’t flinch
After dinner he asked about the prayer

“So,” he dabbed the corners of his mouth
“About your spin-the-wheel prayer”
“What did we win?”

“You get one do-over”
He smiled and nodded
“Thanks”

.   _   .   _   .   _   .

Finally we find ourselves
Deep inside sleep pleasant breezes blow
From a new ceiling fan
Nearly silent
The fan comes with remote control but batteries not included
It also comes with really short pull strings

.   _   .   _   .   _   .

It took me this long to come home
Hard to believe
Seems like only yesterday I was packed-up leaving

Some ghosts are heavy
Dead weight
Now stressed bones ache

Not as alive as I once was
But not as ready to run
Hard to believe

I’ve been so long gone
Seems like only yesterday
I was stuck here

A sack of dead weight
Packed-up leaving
Dead-weight ghost

Not fit to remain in one place
Not ready to move out of place
Not ready to leave home not ready to move on not ready to return to this same old new space

.   _   .   _   .   _   .  

I remember when Mom would call at 10pm
Every week
When the phone rings late like that
I glance at the clock
That must be

Mom

I say

I said until she died
Now when it’s 10pm and the phone doesn’t ring
That must be Mom

I yell

When she was alive that was when she’d call
Now she’s dead every week at 10pm
The exact time when my phone never rings
Every exact time it’s not her calling
At 10pm
Every week just before bed
That’s how I know it’s Mom

It could almost never be Dad not calling at 10pm
He always called at random times
But never at 10pm every week
That was when she called

Mom

I call

.   _   .   _   .   _   .

I found a silver owl pendant in the parking lot
Placed it on a community table for someone to claim
All they ever did was move it around
Change its position or orientation
Nobody wants it
But they want to touch it hold it play with it
Then put it back
But never the way they found it
Always the way they left it
It has jewels in its little round chest
But who cares? Nobody I know.

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