radio, news — Naomi Buck Palagi
sitting at a chipped laminate table, an old farm house. Legs slouched open under gray skirt.
This morning I wasn’t even sad. Imagine me sitting there as
door to the living room
bangs shut. Door to the bedroom bangs shut. Door to the backyard
bangs. Hallway door already shut. “When one door closes…”
Me looking up tired what now, seeing the door to the basement swing slowly open. Me
sluggish, watching the door which has stopped moving.
Imagine me sitting there
into evening, staring at the door. At the black space behind it. Imagine
a whippoorwill calling outside, me startling.
Some focus startles back into my eyes.
The kitchen very dim.
Imagine me slowly
getting up. Going to the sink, turning on the tap. A metallic odor to the water. Sliding
dirty dishes into the sink as it fills. My back
to the basement door. My back
Each dish I hand-wash slowly, soft
circles on flat surfaces, slow swirls in dirty mugs. Listening.
I put on the kettle,
place a bag of tea in a heavy mug, just washed. Imagine me.
Wanting to open a window but not wanting to know if
it is sealed shut. My back
to the basement door. The kettle hisses and I jump, I
turn it off. Pour it steaming into the mug.
The whippoorwill calls.
Hands covering but not touching the mug I stare out the window. I have never seen the
whippoorwill. The radio kicks on, staticy,
news about people going back to work but what work,
who won what? I walk over, turn off the radio. Unplug it.
I drink tepid tea, stare out the window.
Watch me as I start to drink the
last sip but pour it
back from my mouth into the cup. and now
Watch me turn toward the
basement door. Walk toward it. Set
cup on floor
at top of stair.
It is dark now in the kitchen
Darker in the stairwell.
Pause. Let’s take a breath. I wasn’t sad this morning, and the news is not obviously bad. But
polite doors have been closed, a darker door is opened. Something moves. At some point,
we must learn more,
and I’ve left a sip of myself
at the top of the stair, anticipating return. Imagine
me gone in the basement for hours, the tea getting colder on the stair. Imagine me gone
weeks. The tea evaporating little by little. Months going by. The tea to guide me
home dried up and gone. Imagine
the whippoorwill calling and me not hearing. And now,
imagine my return.
Imagine it with drawn, haggard lines on my face.
Imagine it with great voracious slug-creatures attached to my legs. Me, gathering strength to
pull myself up the final stair. Me reaching the top, flailing, knocking over the mug,
lurching to the door, all the doors, trying to unlock them and all of them stuck shut. More
oozing up to the kitchen, filling it, me trying to get out the window. The window
calling lonely in the distance. Creatures
Suck out all the air.
Watch instead an imagine of my return.
Watch an imagine of my return, haggard lines on my face.
Walking up the stair. A storm in my absence, kitchen window broken. Shards of glass
glitter in the sink. Dampness on the sill where rain came in. Imagine me,
coming up the stair, my face worn from travels, a leaf
tangled in my hair.
One hand curled,
disfigured. A butterfly
fluttering above me, blue.
Up my back and along my outstretched arm a massive
wound loosely around my damaged arm, its head and tongue pointing eagerly forward. Imagine a
climbing behind me.
I bend to retrieve the empty mug, I smell the faint scent of tea. Imagine the boa flicking its
tongue toward the scent.
Noise wells up from the dark basement. A raincrow call. An
elephant trumpet. I am pushed
forward now, my face relaxing, my eyes
bright and focused, the jungle
filling the room and bursting
the doors open and suddenly
we are outside and jungle
keeps coming from the stairwell, we fill out, we spread out over
used-up farmland; now watch me walk. I walk and walk and walk. I am growing tired
but do not want to stop motion, the motion is good. Clouds have gathered.
Thunder rumbles in the distance and it is hard to distinguish in the rumbling of the earth what
is thunder and what is great motion of jungle. Rain
begins to fall.
I slow, and stop.
The jungle keeps moving.
Butterfly takes cover under a leaf, boa
slides off my back, my arm, it keeps moving. I hold
my cup empty to the sky I tilt my head. I watch
rain fall toward me
from such distant heights.
It is not wrong to imagine such things.
A whippoorwill calls in the growing dusk.
Naomi Buck Palagi grew up in the back woods of Kentucky and now lives and works in Northwest Indiana. She has work published in journals such as Spoon River Review, Otoliths, Moria, Eleven Eleven, Blue Fifth Review, BlazeVox and Requited, and has had work featured on WGLT’s Poetry Radio. Additionally, she has two chapbooks, Silver Roof Tantrum (dancing girl press, 2010), and Darkness in the Tent (Dusie Kollectiv 5, 2011).