by Gail Mazur
Clarice, the Swiss Appraiser, paces our rooms, listing furnishings
on her yellow legal pad with a Waterman pen, a microcamera.
Although I've asked why we have to do this, I forgot the answer.
The answer to why is because, inscrutable, outside of logic,
helpless, useless because. Wing chairs, a deco lamp, my mother's
cherry dining table—nothing we both loved using looks tragic.
Most nights now I sit in the den reading the colorful spines
of your art books, Fra Angelico to Zurburan, volume after volume
of Balthus, Botticelli, Cezanne, Degas, Michelangelo, Monet,
Titian, Velasquez. Friends. An art school's asked for them—
after all, they have no "real" value now, except to me....
Upstairs, Cerise—is that her name?—gasps at the bentwood chaise,
the blonde moderne bedroom "set" my parents bought
on their two-day Depression honeymoon in Manhattan.
I know this has something to do with paying taxes.
Last night, a real icy February zero, I went out to start
the engine of the car you gave me on my birthday,
to keep it going, then came in and forgot it till this morning.
I woke to the city's recycling truck grinding my papers
and plastic bottles and my motor running. And still, I wasn't out
of gas, Our neighbor, his head in a red bandana, yelled,
"We didn't want to bother you at one in the morning!"
and I thought, How did you know I wasn't in there, suiciding?
Cerise means "cherry," Clarice means "light" or "famous"—
is her name Clarissa? What is she saying? She's blurring,
she looks like a Candice, she looks nice enough, but
I'll defer judgement until she's finished this business.
If I let on I felt sad, remember my mother's advice?
"Everyone should collect something!" That was her path
to the purpose-driven life, along rows of a flea market,
then alone in her house jammed with the nicked, the chipped,
ceramics with dings, the inscribed wedding bands of strangers—
damaged things that always needed gluing or polishing.
I tried not to teach our children the world's a dangerous place,
but there we were, four of us, plunked into history, listening to Dylan.
Then, two of us. Our son and daughter out in it, unafraid, purposeful....
Somehow, life veered from the script. I should get a new cell
phone, but eighteen of your messages are in/on my old one
and can't be transferred. How can Verizon say your voice isn't
really in there at all, calling home to me?—Then where is it?
Why should it disappear from somewhere is unapparently isn't?
Why should my living here be so metaphysical?
Callista enters our bedroom, the room sacrosanct to me,
off-limits, but no matter. She scans our night tables, our TV,
our pills and lotions and clippers. Oh, morning here
you'd perform what you'd call your "ablutions" while
I read the paper in bed. Pearl slinks from her place on my pillow,
Bogey's hunched in the clothes closer on your shearling slippers,
Hosni Mubarak's been deposed, Benghazi's a riot of freedom
until the Khadaffis say it isn't. The day you died, I knew
what people meant by saying the earth stopped spinning
on its axis. No choice but to write myself, to keep going.
Today's Science Times says we're not in the Garden of Eden anymore—
well, that shouldn't give evolutionary biologists pause. Life,
says the geologists, is a natural consequence of geology.
Geology? I know there's got to be more to be written.
Clarissa, Clarinda, Career, whatever your name is,
pack up your digital camera, your officious watery pen,
your scrutineer's notepad, you're in the wrong biosphere,
your data will never add up—Clarity, I think we're done here.
Last updated April 10, 2023