Over drinks I say everyone has sadness, and every sadness is legitimate because I do understand the loneliness of a well-dressed mother of one standing with her back to the kitchen door. What does she see? Maybe manicured lawns, maybe beauty, but I do understand her.
As though I have the strength to look at a street child straight in the eye. I don?t. I have studied the mother in the story for more than three hundred pages, I have said every sadness is legitimate, but there is no sadness in the eyes of the street child and so I cannot look at him, I keep my gaze averted. He amuses himself with a coloring book washed into his corner by the flood. The pages have dried the wrong way and there are now waves there that he cannot flatten, as though the sea has imprinted itself on everything it has touched. Nevertheless he is happy. Maybe I can give him crayons instead of coins. He has no home, no family, but he is happy. Must we feed this happiness with a box of crayons? Is every joy legitimate?
Look at me, wondering about this nameless child, now, when I cannot even look him in the eye. Sometimes when I avoid a group of them on my way to the train I wonder if I hate them, or fear them, if I am a bad person. If he sees this he?ll probably hate me for using the idea of him in my aesthetic. Like a poem can help me. I?m sorry, I am just here for drinks and a good time. If I try to forget the homeless tonight, is it a sin? The mother in the story with a house and a child and a living husband ? if she feels sad despite the food on her table, is it a sin?
Here we are, fragrant and dressed and tucked away in a warm corner of the city. Over there, the bright lights of a giant carousel, and beyond that the bay swaying its filth. Let us finish this glass and take a walk. I must tell the bay to stop. I must march over to it and tell it that everyone is asleep, everyone who stares at you sees nothing and dies.
We walk toward the light because that is what everybody does: the moth in that story, a bewildered traveler, anyone or anything that is lost. When the eye looks at a dot of brilliance in a dark room its muscles open wider, hungry for more. Look at this unnecessary carousel eating up resources, but it is a pretty thing and so we let it be, we keep our insults to ourselves. I do not hold your hand as an apology for a mistake I have yet to do, I point to the ground and say Water so you will not slip and hit your head. Preemptive affection is the norm. And yes, there will be a mistake, somewhere, sometime, and it?ll be mine and you will be hurt, perhaps, and you cannot lash out at me for I did not take your hand, I have told you about the water. It is important that we both remember.
Most of the cars have left the parking lot, and How strange, I say, as I am assaulted by this sudden openness, the sudden glimpse of space, the pavement and the remaining vehicles looking naked and abandoned. You say something about loneliness, and naturally I say We must take a picture. The city moves so fast that even isolation has become elusive. Come, let us turn it into an image, let us pin it on a wall. Let us study all its angles until we can say, Here. This is where you end.
---Ma. Eliza Victoria
But What I Really Want to Say Is
I am showing you my life. It is afternoon
as I write: The summer has given up its sticky heat
in place of rain, premature but as gray
as ever. I cannot see as far
or as deeply as where you are, but when I tell you
what I tell you, you must believe me.
I am showing you my mother, the way she rearranges
furniture you wouldn?t even think
the wood?s been eaten into. When I tell you I forgive her
her skittishness, I rely on what you know
of the term. Similarly, you must understand
that I choose not to speak of my father. Similarly,
you must understand when I tell you several stories
about my father, each annulling each.
I do not intend to be true,
only truthful. I am showing you how
I have loved: not enough, or too much, the result of both
being termination. But when I say
there were days when my cheek pressed against
someone?s sweaty back signified
forever, I mean for the moment
to be acknowledged, I mean there have been
a few, and they have all felt the same. I am being sentimental:
I know no way to speak of the self
without amplification. I am showing you what the bruise
on my thigh means. I am showing you
the implication of a sigh, behind a sneer, and what the proper
response should have been. I am showing you
what should have been. I will show you shame,
string it up and place it around your neck. Most of all,
I am telling you what I want is for you to tell me
It is mine, too. Not an epiphany, not a punch line,
but a mirror, but a kiss, but in the air, perfume, effluvium.
---Mark Anthony Cayanan