In the Garden
by MARK ARTURO
You were the painted face, the considered night, three black stallions on a march. I was the peeled-back rind of something discarded, repurposed as a hat. You had seven weeks to answer one simple phone call. You did not fail at the task, but it could not be said you completed it, either. A cage can have openings, more than one, invisible to the eye but whole in themselves. You were the winding clock, I was each movement of the hand, and that is what I miss.
Your sister Leslie had this tiny boat she used to go out on as a girl, long before the cancer. I still get Christmas cards from her. There is a diligence in certain people which feels like tracing a finger against that long, white wall. Those individuals break themselves against incontinence, instructing us that nothing is ever really unbearable. I want to imagine a better person than myself.
Leslie featured the gifted dress, paeans to songbirds so unexpected beaks shut in response, an animal smell, not unpleasant but still worrisome. You had the clean scent, the arched neck, the light sweat misting on an exchange. I had the bottle.
In our purpose, there is an accounting of deed and voice. You talked too much, on the phone, at night. You made me feel apoplectic with your nonsense worries. Not angry at you, or me, but the corruption of the world. Sweetness always reverses itself. That is why I never take it seriously when someone believes that I am cold.
You rolled the magic die, ending the game too early or not soon enough. I was the wizened epoch, managed as a tragedy and destined for repose. Leslie was the ancient crutch; her daughter is the swirling phantom. No more adjectives left now. Only people, and their nightingale eyes.
Here’s what I can do: wrap the old engine, shiny and clean of grease, in a red plastic container to hide it from thieves. Glove the sky and hold tighter than you believed you could when you found something you wanted, or loved. The only firm grip is that of God, she said, but I did not believe her words: only acts.
Calm is an additive, something you put into it. From here, isometric, symmetrical.
Here’s where we can go: Portugal, or further down on the peninsula. To your mother’s house. I’d honestly love to see her garden. Over to the campus, where you waited with coffee all those hours. Tibet and Mali, whistling over a new ocean. Stand outside the house, wondering if the human beings inside of it are nice, or if they turned. Ireland. Bermuda. The tall hill in that photograph of you.
Making visible the hours in the arbor. Holding a small object rather than a long, thin point. Stars in her throat, face against the ground. The sea of the formerly inconceivable. A key frame redrawn on paper.
This is the last attempt, until the next one. You were all the condensation. Leslie was the morning rush, her daughter the ancient tome. I made a few things with my hands just to show you they could still work. I won’t touch anyone with them again until you say they do.
Mark Arturo is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in New York. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.