20
small fires by Mary-Kim Arnold
19

Drove the desolate stretch of 95 between New Haven and the Rhode Island border and remembered my mother, returning home from surgery. Pale. Her eyes ringed with gray. Her skin papery and translucent.

I have not thought of this, have not held this memory actively in mind, for years. It was as if she came, unbidden, to remind me of some important thing, but what? And of course, this notion that I could summon her with my unconscious, to assist me in some present-day struggle, is a fantasy, a trick of the mind. I am not convinced, after all, that the dead are too much invested in the fates of the living.

My friend tells me that the last words of her father were: “I thought I would have more time.”

My mother, as she died, developed ascites, a build-up of fluid in the abdomen. Her stomach was bloated, distended. I have a memory of her leaning against the kitchen doorframe. She is wearing a pale blue nightgown and her hands are resting on her enlarged stomach. In silhouette, her body mimics pregnancy, but there is no life growing in her.

The last days of summer feel somehow both shapeless and urgent. I wake with pain in my stomach that feels like fear. Something has shifted in me. Things once held closely feel as though they are already gone.

I feel anger. Name it anger. I feel fear, name it fear. We fought, even at the end. She once said: You are always reporting on your feelings, like a wartime correspondent. You saw this, you did this, you felt this. But now, in this room, with me, you feel nothing.

I try to collect the memories. To write them down. So many I have lost now, after all this time. What did she say to me before I left? To return to school two hundred miles away? This was when we thought she would get better. When we thought there would be more time.

And what did she say when I came back, weeks later. When we knew the way it would go, but not how quickly. I remember how faded the azalea bushes looked in the thinning light of late September. How the blue of the drapes we had hung the year before seemed drained of color. The whole house, faded, out of focus.

12

To be direct: The fantasy is to be discovered, reunited, made whole. From the willow basket floating among the reeds. To discover lineage, a kind of completion.

Of Theresa Cha’s Dictee, Timothy Yu writes, “The great theme of the book is in fact, the paralysis caused by historical and mythical thinking.”

“…an embrace of writing itself as the master discourse that moves out into agency from the stasis of history.”

If history is static, why do I insist on returning? To put it directly: Why do I keep getting it all wrong?

(He said: If you are writing about a journey, then look, you are getting in your own way.”)

Yu suggests that Dictee locates “home” in writing itself, its experiments, its abstractions. Writes itself into agency.

Cha says:

Memory

It is an empty theatre.

Cha:

Why resurrect it all now. From the Past. History, the old wound. The past emotions all over again. To confess to relive the same folly. To name it now so as not to repeat history in oblivion. To extract each fragment from the word from the image another word another image the reply that will not repeat history in oblivion.

Being forgotten is a kind of death.

I dream remembering. Of being remembered into life. Resurrected through memory, being held there.

A mother returns after separation; a child returns home from a journey. Living in re-union.

I write the things I remember but the truth is I remember little. The blue-roofed school in the country. Men on park benches sleeping off the soju of the night before, there on the sidewalks of the dense, hot city.

They wanted to give us a sense of history, to learn the traditional methods of pouring tea. To dress in hanbok. To learn the traditional folk songs and sing them with our foreign tongues.

We took photos at Mt. Sorak and in the gardens. We drank soju around wooden tables. Sang songs. Propped each other up as we stumbled back to dorm room beds in the night.

Toward what agency might I be writing? From what stasis of history am I turning?

Yu: “But for Cha, myth and history collude in creating stasis and in robbing the individual of her singularity – even as they provide our only means of knowing not only our pasts but ourselves. Neither can provide change; each ends in repetition.”

Repeated stories represent no movement, no progress.   

What is needed: “the reply that will not repeat history in oblivion.”

24

Let me be direct: I went back to try to awaken something in me that I had believed to be dormant.

By walking the streets of Seoul and inhaling the scent of the air after rain; by kneeling on the packed brown earth of the countryside; by waking to the fine gray mist that hovered over Mount Sorak: I might rise, shrug off decades of troubled, indecipherable dreaming and be touched, as if by divinity, with sudden and profound recognition. I might say: Now, I know who I am!

I walked. I ate, I drank. I tossed at night in my narrow bed. I breathed the stifling, wet air.

We took language lessons, learned to count to ten. To greet each other by name. To bid each other farewell. We watched children play the traditional games with sticks and wide ribbons.

We visited a school. At the entrance, rows and rows of shoes. Fans blowing in the hallways, small comfort in the wet heat. As we stood there, watching the students file past, L. collapsed. Slid to the ground with an exhalation of breath, part moan, part sigh. I volunteered to sit with her on the air-conditioned bus. She rested her head on my lap and slept while the rest finished their tour.

At the audio museum, I let T. take my hand for a moment and bring it to his cheek, as if the place itself triggered the memory of a gesture he was now trying to replicate.

J. said: This city smells like home. Like something that I recognize. And I nodded, said yes, yes. But to me it did not.

Did I return home unchanged? Is it even possible?

(The teacher, years later, says: “Your poem is too terrified to tell the story.”)

Did he mean: the story of traveling six thousand miles across the earth to feel nothing? To recognize nothing? For nothing to have been loosed in me?

Let me again try to be direct: It is as if, when I left for the first time, as a child, I excised from my body any part of myself that ever knew that place, that air, that earth. So that what remained was only scar tissue, to remind me: There was something here that you have lost.

30

Let me be direct: to say I want you is to challenge fate. I came here, orphan girl, plastic sac in which I carried: extra pair of flowered tights, red wool hat, yellow sweater knitted by a kind, nameless woman in her suburban raised ranch for the church drive where they gathered up the tiny garments and sent them to Korea in trash bags wrapped with masking tape and so to say I want you is to ask for more than is allotted, to say open me, map of rivers is to reach beyond the walls of this sheltered space to which I have been carried, lifted from the swift river and set gently down too wet, too hungry to sleep (but what did they expect, taking in this abandoned child, feral, waiting, and ready to strike)

14

JIMIN HAN, one of the loveliest, most generous, and insightful people I’ve been fortunate enough to meet online and then, gloriously, IRL, tagged me for the MY WRITING PROCESS BLOG TOUR.

Jimin maintains a lyrical, meditative blog at Notes from the Stone Barn. Her short stories and essays can be found online at NPR’s Weekend America, The Rumpus, The Good Men Project, Karkita Review, and Korean American Story. Jimin teaches at Sarah Lawrence College’s Writing Institute.

So, I’ll ask myself these questions, and then I’ll answer them, that’s how it works. OK?

OK. Here we go:

What are you working on?

(1) For the past two years, I have been working on and off on something I am calling a “lyrical co-consideration” of the lives and work of Francesca Woodman and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. Both created compelling, provocative, and rich bodies of work that pushed boundaries and challenged existing conventions of the genres in which they worked. Both presented themselves as subject and object in their work. Both died tragically young. 

(2) I have about three hundred pages of a messy, sprawling, fictionalized memoir-y thing that circles around the fragmented understanding I have of my own adoption from Korea as a child, my periodic attempts to search for my birth mother, and what it means, in mid-life, to let go of the fantasy of reunion.

(3) Recently, I have been working most consistently on a great many poems. I wish I could suggest that they might be a collection, but the most I can say is that they tend to be concerned with my current preoccupations, which include, among other things: weather, taxidermy, and desire. (Not necessarily all at the same time.)

(4) I have also been working steadily, for the past several months, on a series of collaborative poems with Eric Raymond. We take turns posting two lines at a time in a shared document and exchange notes on process and revision. It’s a kind of low-impact way to work on something that is different from our primary projects, raises different creative questions. So much of the work of writing is solitary business. I appreciate having something for which I am not the sole creative engine.

(5) For this reason, I also take great satisfaction in playing bass in the band WORKING. The group effort is a welcome respite from the generative requirements of writing alone. I consider this an important part of my creative life.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Oh, I don’t think that much about genre, and I don’t know. Maybe what I am doing differs from what some people are doing but is the same as what others are doing? (I am not always certain what I am doing, but it seems important to keep doing it.)

Why do you write what you do?

If I knew, I might be able to stop! I draw from a range of sources and tend to follow little paths as they present themselves. I don’t know that this is the best way to proceed, but it’s what I can do. Once, another writer called me “promiscuous in my interests.” I don’t think it was meant as a compliment, but I took it as one.

How does your writing process work?

I try to work in the morning, as early as possible. I try to leave myself assignments, prompts, little notes at the end of one session so that I know where to begin the next time, but I don’t always do this.

I read a lot. Although I do not always complete things, and I do not always read as well or as closely as I think I should.

At times, blogging regularly has helped – I’ve used this blog as a notebook of sorts, one in which I capture sketches and beginnings of things, exercises, false starts. 

I have not always been good at this in the past, but in recent years, I have found that talking about what I am working on, worrying it with other writers, helps to open possibility. I am very lucky to have an in-house writing consultant, collaborator, and coach in Matthew Derby. I am always presenting him with some question or frustration over breakfast, or in the car on the way to the grocery store, and very often the co-articulation of the problem creates a way past it, or at least, suggests new avenues for exploration.

I also rely heavily upon the wise counsel of Kate Schapira and Tina Cane.

So now I tag three more people.

I was scowling in the third floor lounge of the VCFA dorm when Mo Duffy Cobb interrupted me, waving a beer bottle. “Do you have a bottle opener?” she asked. I did, in my room, but I didn’t want to get up. She sat down across from me. Extended her hand. Immediately started chatting, and what can I say? I was disarmed. I brought her the bottle opener. We toasted each other. And the rest is history. Travel with her through her beautiful blog

I met Lauren Westerfield in Portland on the picture-perfect Reed College campus for the Tin House Writers Workshop. We were all in Maggie Nelson’s thrall that week. Lauren’s anatomical memoir drew me in from the start. A fearless, lyrical writer, perceptive and articulate reader, I was thrilled when she agreed to join me on the staff of The Rumpus

Do you already know Kevin Fanning? If you don’t, I am telling you right now that you should buy up his books, you should follow him on twitter, and you should invite him out for spicy chicken wings at BonChon, but make sure you trash talk before about how much you will eat. It enhances the pleasure, I guarantee it. (It also helps to have Matthew Salesses with you, but now, he’s far away.) 

10
Anonymous asked:
Hi Mary-Kim. Congrats on taking over as the new essays editor at The Rumpus. I'd like to send over an essay. Could it do it via Submittable?

Thank you! Yes, all submissions should go through Submittable. MK

33

The summer I spent in an airless classroom, the windows thrown wide did little. Nothing moved, no breeze. We held our breath.

She said: Draw a map of home, but I could not remember the shape of things. I drew a flat tree. I drew a path from one door to another. I drew a man, sitting in the front seat of his car, smoking a cigarette. There were coins on the sidewalk, dull discs.

My daughter was gone for the summer. I wrote her letters I would never send. This is the way it was with us: All silence and mute longings. Afraid that to name love would suffocate love. Afraid that to name grief was to draw a path to a place from which we could not return.

I dug a garden bed. Planted hardy things. Stalks rose from the dark, hot earth. My knees ached. Callouses bloomed on my palms. My hair smelled like dirt.

In the news all summer: exhumations. I am not making this up.

I left for the shore. Sulked there for days. It rained. I swallowed sand. In the mornings, I ghosted by the water’s edge in gray mist. The foamy sea cooled my skin.

When I returned, there was a postcard from my daughter. She was with her father, who had taken her to visit his parents. Yesterday, we ate ice cream two times! A drawing of a cat. Of an ice cream cone.

I take her plastic bowl and spoon and set it at her place on the kitchen table. Then, I put it back.

Two bodies dug up in one week. A woman whose daughter is claiming that her mother was murdered by her lover.

And another, murdered in her bed while she slept. They need tissue from the child she was carrying in her womb.

In the airless classroom, the instructor says: Make a timeline of all the important events of your life. Go back as far as you can remember.

I do not remember the 18-hour flight from Seoul to New York City, but I am told that when I landed, there was snow. It was late March, an unexpected storm. Just enough to slick the roads and swirl in the wind.

We drove through the blue night as snow billowed and drifted. The flat sky a dull sheet of memory without stars. 

22

She sits facing the open doorway, the light at her back. She is writing a letter she will not complete.

“It’s hard to write you after such a long pause… too long, I’ve got nothing to say… Tomorrow I’m going to Philadelphia where they’re printing off a little book I made in Rome, a little publisher’s doing it. All in all I’m pleased about it but not too excited because it’s an old piece of work.”

-=-

I spoke to the woman in the back office of the little photo processing shop she ran. We sat on metal stools. She began speaking about her childhood in Korea. How poor her family was. How they sent her here to live with a distant cousin who was a professor at the university. “Philosophy,” she said.

But he was not a kind man, this philosopher and so she left his house.

-=-

what did you do then        I got a job at a Korean bar        I poured soju 

and sang songs that my mother had taught me        sometimes the man

who owned the bar        would sing with me too        he wanted me

to come home with him        but I was too sad        and didn’t want to

I just wanted        to pour drinks and then go back        to the dingy room

I shared with the other waitress        so I had to leave        that place too

-=-

She carried a gray box with her photographs in it.

Sontag says: “To collect photographs is to collect the world.”

-=-

When winter comes, I tell you: This is how

I will undress you in my city. The bridges

are being built up and then torn down again.

Here it is always winter.

Slate gray sky. The absence of birds.

My fingers along the length of your spine.

Bridge lights blinking and broken.

I tell you: Under this concrete, a river flows.

-=-

“Do you remember that day when we had to go to the canteen but instead we ate in a restaurant and I ate chicken and peas and I was so happy about everything?”

-=-

Sontag: “Photographs give people an imaginary possession of a past that is unreal.”

“Photographs document sequences of consumption.”

“A way of certifying experience, taking photographs is also a way of refusing it – by limited experience to the search for the photogenic, by converting experience into an image, a souvenir.”

Souvenir: from the French, for the act of remembering.

-=-

“I have time.”

Your mediocre cloud. Your little mouse.

She was not sad, her friends will say. Exuberant –

ambitious, fragile. Tender. But not

sad. She filled a room with feathers.

She hung fabric in the room

to resemble wings. She said: “When I return,

we will eat pears.” What is life, after all,

but apprenticeship in dying?

Little mouse. Topolino. “Kisses

on the mouth are a like a miracle.”

9

Barthes: “Thus the life of someone whose existence has somewhat preceded our own encloses in its particularity the very tension of History, its division. History is hysterical: it is only constituted if we consider it, only if we look at it – and in order to look at it, we must be excluded from it.”

-=-

Artificial memory #1: Grove of white birch trees. Francesca in a white dress. She holds her arms up. They are branches. Hair falling down, obscuring her face. She walks closer. Her arms grow wings.

Artificial memory #2: Francesca on the beach. Sand on her legs and in her hair.

-=-

The problem of femininity: “Not only female but feminine. So insufficiently critical, insufficiently conscious of it critical potential.”

-=-

Artificial memory #3: The family in the country. A stone house by a stream in a field of white birch trees.

I do not remember a stream. I remember a graveyard. I remember the coolness of headstones beneath my fingers.

-=-

Imaginary museums: Museum of Ruined Houses. Museum of Lost Fathers. Museum of Remembered Graveyards. Museum of Things Left Behind after Death. Museum of White Light. Museum of Fitful Sleeping. Dream Museum. Museum of Summers at the Shore. Museum of Mourning. Museum of Forgetting.

-=-

Elaine Kim: “My mother thought of herself as Korean, although she did not visit Korea until she was sixty years old. Tense and silent, she did not tell stories. The women’s stories I heard were told by my father, who was oblivious to women’s dreams and desires. There were only two, both centering on female loyalty, chastity, and sacrifice: the tale of Choon-hyang, a kisaeng’s daughter who remained loyal to her high-born lover despite torture and imprisonment, and the story of Simchung, the filial daughter who sacrificed herself for her blind old father.”

-=-

Artificial memory #4: My father sits in a wooden chair in a dimly-lit room. It is night, and there is wind. He is facing a television screen, black and white. Muted, the figures rush in and out of frame. My father, unmoving and silent.

-=-

Francesca, in a letter, January 4, 1980:

 “….I was happy because you remember that my work used to be very personal, feminine, too much to do with myself and I wanted to create a bit of distance and also to do something with a more universal significance. Then this fall I was really unwell and I let myself go, I couldn’t sleep etc etc and I got really sick, I couldn’t understand what was happening, you know I am not the delicate type at all. I ended up in the hospital and then at my mom’s house to recover. It wasn’t all bad because I had the time to read the complete works of Proust, which inspired me a lot. I’d really like to create a work of art like that, rooted in and linked to everyday life but addressing questions of great scope.”

-=-

Chastity Museum. Museum of Gendered Space. Museum of the Body. Museum of the Delicate Type. Museum of Woman as Wound:

“all she needed to do, for the images to come, was open the wound.”

-=-

Francesca, at the end of the letter:

“I must get back to work before the light goes.”

14

Elizabeth Gumport: “Woodman reveals the injuries that occur in the time it takes to produce a single picture: hair turns wispy, flesh fades and stretches into smoke. The longer her shutter stays open, the blurrier and more transparent bodies will appear until at last, they disappear. Shortly before her death, she began experimenting with a particularly long development process that required her to spend several hours producing a single photograph. In the end, the camera captures not the girl, but the long moment it looked at her.”

-=-

In the countryside, in the afternoon, she gathers up slender stalks of lavender as the sun sets. Her brother stands nearby, watching.

When she is done, they walk back to the house in silence. The cooling breeze. The fading light.

She fills the room with white feathers. She hangs dead birds in rows on the wall. This room in ruins. Late light.

-=-

Susan Sontag: “But essentially the camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own.”

-=-

In a dream: I knelt by a locked door. There was a keyhole and through the keyhole, I saw a white bed, untouched.

I have always been baffled by fathers.

I went there, to stay with him. Washed lettuce in the sink while he slept.

The heat of the city pressed down on us. The sky was bruised and blue.

We argued over love. Its insufficiencies. He said: You are too young to have such hardness in your heart.

In the news: a dog left keening in a crate on the steps of the animal shelter.

The nurse said: It will be soon, but it will not be tonight.

-=-

Peggy Phelan: “Our encounter with the photograph always occurs after the event recorded within it. The belatedness of photography reminds us of our tendency to arrive too late and perhaps especially to arrive too late to appreciate the unique drama of our own mortality.”

-=-

I left my father in his city of death. There were men in other cities. Houston. San Diego. Newport by the sea.

Everywhere I went, flags flew at half-mast, but no one could remember why.

Cities of perpetual mourning.

Barthes says each photograph contains its future death: This will be and this has been. Whether or not the subject is already dead, every photograph is this catastrophe…. That is dead and that is going to die.

-=-

Peggy Phelan: “Art, like all things human, succumbs to death. But that does not mean we leave no trace of our attempt to live and to create despite our vanishing.”

24

My father moved out that summer. My mother took us to the shore. We stayed on the second floor of a double decker house that we rented a week at a time. There was a wide wooden porch where we sat in the late afternoons until those boys moved in downstairs.

They spotted us as they unloaded their car, pointing fingers at us and calling out: Attack! It’s Pearl Harbor! They ran in circles on the sidewalk, made shooting sounds with their mouths. We were unfamiliar with the names they called us, but we knew they were not kind.

In the mornings, at the beach, we dug deep holes and buried ourselves in sand. Threw beach towels over our heads for as long as we could stand the heat. For a time we were invisible. Inconspicuous mounds eliciting no notice.

-=-

Francesca’s brother stands nude in the corner. He is wearing a wolf mask to cover his face. His arms hang down at his sides. A slender boy. They have been playing a game. He is hiding in plain sight.

-=-

I too am tired of looking at myself. In this age of tender spectacle.

Sontag calls the camera a predatory weapon – automated, ready to spring. She says to photograph a person is to violate them, see them as they never see themselves.

-=-

When she died, she left behind an unpublished artist’s book, a set of five images called “Portrait of a Reputation.”

Of her journals, in her youth, she had asked: “Does it read as a book, one wonders?”

-=-

We were child models, actors, and dancers. That summer, from the beach house, we made trips back into the city – first for a small part in a film about China. Then, for a musical. Auditions were long, unglamorous affairs and we sat around in leotards and tights with our hair in topknots for hours. Then, paraded in a line in front of a wall of mirrors. Someone demonstrated a dance combination. We mimicked. A few of us were ushered out, our numbers thinning. Then, a new combination. Then, one at a time.

I was asked to let my hair down. And then hold it up again. Can you make a worried face? Can you look confused? Can you hold your hands to your mouth like you have seen something you wish you could forget?

-=-

Elizabeth Gumport: “Her death does not simply cast a shadow over the images, but suffuses them with a strange, spectral light…”

If living is a slow erasure of self, then dying is fixing it in place. Barthes says: “the photograph mechanically repeats what could never be repeated existentially.”

-=-

The boys did not stay long that summer. A few days and then they had packed up again and the sidewalk beneath our porch was again quiet. The battle won or surrendered, it was not quite clear which.

At home, my father was packing the last of his things into cardboard boxes and trash bags. What he left behind: a few plastic hangers in the front hallway closet. A neat pile of matchbooks from neighborhood bars and restaurants.

And later, after he had been gone for weeks, on the floor of his closet, I found something he had perhaps not intended to leave: a faded photograph of myself as a child sitting on his lap. His head is turned away, and I am facing the camera. I am wearing a blue dress, leaning back against his chest.

-=-

Barthes might say that the photograph does not restore what has been abolished, but attests that what is represented had in fact, once existed.

Or he might say that experience, itself becomes vulnerable to the effects of its representation. 

44

I don’t remember dreaming, only waking to a thin line of pink light slicing across the horizon. Then rising, pacing the long hallway in pre-dawn shadow.

I keep hitting walls. Not knowing what is next. The problem: I look at these photographs, describe what I see. There is something I am missing. The story of a young woman. To represent the body of a young woman without doing further violence. Without laying her bare. And yet here we are, the problem of the woman’s body, offered up.

The spectacle: Beyond one life or another. Beyond the logic of the factual. These photographs: their arresting stillness. Experiment: throw a wooden spool across the curtained cot of childhood. This is a way to anticipate loss.

-=-

Of herself as subject, she said: I am always available.

Of herself as subject, she said: I am as tired of seeing myself as you are of looking at me.

Was it Barthes who asked: What is life after all, but apprenticeship in dying.

-=-

and flesh is not machine         and the body is not reproducible         

and the dream of endless reproduction        endless return

is not possible        to see face to face the limits of this human

moment        to stare at it        to blur the frame        a hand

in motion        a photo booth spits out the same image again         

and again         our uncomfortable truce        with machines

19

It seems as though everything is in bloom today – from the tall goatsbeard to the variegated hosta that grows low and dense along the path.

I walk facing traffic. A few cars slow and give me wide berth. I remember the day one summer years ago when I missed the last bus and walked for miles. My mother was dying but we did not yet know.

I slow down. Past a rehabilitation center set back among some trees. Perhaps a person could get well here, sitting on a bench facing trees and asking questions of the wind.

Across the street, there are stones arranged to line a ditch and I want to say this is called a French drain? I think about crossing the street to inspect this more closely, but I do not.

A man and his daughter ride down the hill on a two-seated bicycle and as they pass, they leave the scent of sunscreen in the air. Further up the hill, scent of chlorine and I turn to see white sheets hanging on a line. Shoes left on the front porch. Occasional  hum of passing car.

I have walked a large circle around my point of origin, although this is not what I had intended to do.

Rust on the sidewalk
the particular blue of mailboxes

At home, peonies are blooming
without me      

Here, wild strawberries tumble
down a slate wall

Sedum grows in the crevices

— 

At home the wheelbarrow rusts, abandoned in the rain. 
I tell myself: I would be a different gardener here. Here, 
I would be more diligent. Would take better care of my tools. 
Would keep a garden notebook to make plans. Would not 
leave all the mulching for so late in the season after all the weeds have already taken hold.
                                               And this is how it is with us 
believing this time it will be different. This time, I will be better.

A mustard yellow Dutch Colonial farmhouse so bright and charming 
the sight of it brings tears. A child’s playhouse in the yard. Mulch 
in neat mounds everywhere. 
                                                                 A person could have 
a good childhood here: Could trap frogs in jars and fall asleep 
to the sounds of crickets. A child could live 
on wild strawberries and sweet peas. Could find reasons 
to stay out all day singing          even after night 
falls gently down over the mountains         even after 
other children have gone to sleep.

Facing the sun which is low in the sky and bright

Hearing footsteps approaching but not looking up

Car drives past behind the bench where I am sitting

They must be accustomed to this. To have us descending
on their town, a week at a time,

marching down to the co-op and buying up
their wine, their artisanal cheeses, their cases

of Heddy Topper. Playing pool in their bars
and throwing darts at the wall.

A sign taped to the base of a windmill reads: Take Back Vermont 
and one wonders from where the threat comes.

Clematis white and purple

Woodpile covered in a blue tarp

I smell honeysuckle but cannot see it.

In the apartments across the street, a fight breaks out.
A woman’s voice shouting:

“I’m not going to fucking see it.” The word could be see
or clean or eat. An important word to know, in context.

A man in a white t-shirt steps out on his porch,
then disappears back inside.

Tomorrow, I leave this place, its blooming. At home,
the mulch will need tending. The weeds

will have advanced, unchecked.
And I will have circled this place for days. 

Circling, circling, and now stopping.