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BlazeVOX [books]
Cleaning the Mirror
by Joel Chace
(BlazeVOX , 2008)



We move to where we honeymooned. It is a natural decision. We could see our area crumple up. A birth happened next door. A birth happened on the neighbor’s couch, the hospital an uninteresting mute white. Sopping tweed, I went around muttering, and our peaches refracted into prunes, and leaves detached early, and the tree bark left shining resin on the hands, a black coagulated glitter. I called a special gardener who scratched the trees filling up his nails. He said, It’s a leaping mold.

Mold leaps? From where did it leap?

It’s a utero mold, he explained. Are you pregnant?
The neighbors, I informed, had a baby on their couch. I pointed to the couch, which they’d put on the street with their trash. From the yard, we could see the wet spot, the circularly concise womb water, the brine, in that day’s shrill sun, a blue moon’s resolute stamp.
He pointed over toward our walk—Your shrubs, too, are negro.

We’ve got leaping mold, I said to you. It might leap into the house. Into our bed. I thought of the gunk spinning viscous in my privates. I thought of it welling up in the eyeball spattering bruises on sight. He says, I reported, it could leap now.

I made a speech to you. I have been known for being histrionic, overly sensitive, and insistent—a knee clutcher in the bathroom, a vomiter, a stove kisser, an iron tonguer. But you knew all this.

Don’t bear young on a couch. Simply don’t, I said. I made you scan my body with the bathroom’s pore-magnifying mirror, in search of the mold already arrived, but you slipped from the clinical to the sexual. We’ve got to get out of here, I murmured with insistence. Your penis thrashed enthralled, it fell, its white gnats coughing phlegm.

I gagged leaving the house thinking about it—the birth. An early wind had arrived. I got blown into the front door trying to leave. My possessed elbow broke the bell. You heard the frantic, dying ding. Let’s, I said, at the wooden table, clawing our initials reflexively into its softer center, go back to the island. To fly against, until past, wind.

Here we are. The plane was something. Bloody Mary’s came in kits. Do you want a Bloody Mary kit? the attendants kept asking, until I bent, and laughed, and plied, complied. A tray of olives, one small pickle, a ¾ glass of tomato juice, a packet of pepper, and a vial of vodka—I felt great, as a child before a promising craft project, one of color and education.

We had to make an emergency landing due to a loss of air in the cabin. Everybody was a dirty, pocked blue as we skidded rough on terrain that wasn’t far from the beach. We were instructed to try and sip the air through mixing straws that were handed out, a consideration toward our neighbors who also yearned for life.

I saw a woman allowing her son to take forbidden gulps of it from behind her hand, as if she were feeding them to him, one after the other, like apples. But soon he turned blue and pocked like the rest of us. We were instructed to punch out our windows once we got to a certain low altitude. Islanders were waiting with bandages and water and air tanks and mats for us to collapse onto, which we all, about four hundred, did. We looked like Jonestown, a cannily recovering version, or in reverse, rising—Jonestown rising. The hospital later was a bamboo pleasure, and we used it as a base for house hunting.

Here we are at the house, your hand a black from smashing glass that’s finally separating into deep purple. Think of it as jet lag, I cajole. Something to sleep off.

If it doesn’t get normal, there’s a plan. A local doctor has been ordering in shipments of doves—funny, we all agree, when birds with their wings are put on a plane, and doves particularly, as if forced to bring peace to us. He removes their hearts in a special way, with a serrated scoop. It sounds tricky and even unreal, but it works, we’ve seen it in other examples on the island—he puts the hearts in the muscles behind bruises, it makes a flattering white oval appear, a perfect tattoo of an egg. It’s voodoo and silly, but after all, we came here because we’re adventurous, or, to be adventurous at long last.

The house is glass with the openness of a bathroom stall to let sea air roam through it. We sit flexed and I guess at if I should have a baby. I wax my stomach thinking about it. I daydream about one of the doctor’s dove hearts floating like an Alka-Seltzer in the utero with it. They say to conceive in the ocean has advantages, and we live right here. But I’m scared of the moon. I think of it curling a small finger of potent magnetism into the utero, making it lap and even roar with personal wave, smoothing any fetus opportunity into a ball, in its own image.

We tour the birthing room at the same hospital we were introduced to early on. I run my hands lingeringly down a bamboo pole in the style of deep reflection and get a splinter. I cry over the sign of it. You look piteously at my drop of blood, having been through much worse in that area, having smashed through the plane glass while I waited rapacious as though at some sanctioned teat, and then shoved my face out into the air, and gulped, and gulped, its blue staggering backwards back into the gut, shot.

We sway and mix pelvises. But then I go down for gin and don’t come back up. I call the doctor from my cell phone in the sand. I confess all the fears about my body, and look with much heart at my finger, which had bled and now contains a lavender dot, an observed Venus in a tan outer space, its starry night grooves of identity. I declare I need a transplant. I need the transition of an operation.

What, he says. But what do you want?

I don’t know, I say. I say, You’re our only friend.

I lie on the couch, letting the cell phone bob on my face lush from sobs. In the morning, I tell you all about it.
Is it necessary, you ask, you study my body.

Yes, of course, I say, I move my body around, a half hula, so you can’t study.

Maybe we should go back to the states, you offer.
If it’s good enough for you, I say, I refer to our arrival, when I sat for lengths by your side, by your sad negro hand, my tennis skirt pleats going flat on the chair like un-drunk tonic going unfortunately flat.

They bandaged my hand, they didn’t incise me! you shout.

I trust the doctor. He’s our only friend here so far. We owe him this.

We owe him, you muster, a chance to go into your body with his witch knife?

You go for a swim and talk to tourists, honeymooning couples like we once were, about their banana boat rides. You pat the end of the blow-up banana like a horse rear, you send it off. You talk to honeymooning women about their plans, immediate and distant. Sometimes you invite them over, and they tell us the details from their wedding and confess to having fucked in three with someone from Sandal’s, to plunking jiz in neighbors’ morning juices waiting on trays in the hall, and to other subtle vandalizing touches that might mark off indelible love more permanently so then toeing sand, feeding initials into the insatiable sand.

This is not the time. My operation is coming, sure as tide, in a second. As you point up at the house from the beach, for some young couple caught in your net, I signify No. I put my arms into an X over my head.
The doctor makes a house visit.

Thank you for making this unusual house visit, I say.
He presses his two fingers all over my body, looking for a sign, as I lie in the bed, alternately roused and drowsy.

What do you want, he finally says, hands up. He’s brought a case of doves, whose rot is climbing as we stall.

Something new in my neck now, I decide.
He focuses on the neck, with his two-fingered technique. He finds something of interest.

This wobbles, he says. He lets me touch it. I do. It trembles.

He takes out some Novocain and tells me to gargle as deeply as possible, while he takes out one dove, yellowing and smelling of waning melons, its beak already shipped to the jewelry shop, and then, his famous serrated scoop. He slides out a knife that has a pink glow, as though dipped in a pig, and cocks it into my larynx, and with feeling, too.



jonestown rising


caren beilin