Our Word :: Week 3 Day 3 :: {Unlearning | Renaming}

by Cassie

Once, I named all these things : love.

The rattling of a red metal dustbin in the wind / the squeaky wheel of a half outgrown bike under the buzzing streetlights that called me home / the flat sound of my feet over pavement over dirt over earth / the shhhhshhhh of brand new baby leaves blowing in an unexpectedly cool breeze for April / the sweet cooing of doves and the cawing of crows in the barely there light of the morning / the lonely song of a seagull splitting open the sky above the sea / the rusty sigh of the mailbox with a fat package inside / the unbuttoning of buttons and unzipping of zippers and the soft f sound of clothes falling to the floor / the bumpbumpbump of the tires on the road in between tracks on that scratched up CD / the crisp pop! of a tab being pulled back to open a beer / his first cry and her first cry and the only time he openly cried in front of me, the way the over-starched sheets rubbed together like a grasshopper’s legs / the hoarse way she laughs with her head thrown back.

The flawless machinery of her jaw working tirelessly in those early days, in those early morning hours / the small pile of snow on a vulnerable branch in the quietest moments following her final breath / the fast swooping of bats on the back end of dusk / raven wing hair under a halo of sun-dappled pines / starlight that smelled of shit and the horse that kicked me in the shin / standing outside in blackness looking inside the house with all the lights on / a perfect fork of purple lightning that almost ran me off the road / a dimly lit motel room and the silhouette of him the shape of my future / Jerome Ave. after all the shops closed up and the curbs were cluttered with abandoned handbills / four rows of painted saint prayer candles lining the seven a.m. shelves of the bodega / my mother’s steamed up skin reflected in the gentle waves of bathwater hot enough to burn / his three year old face, upturned to the small square of sun coming through the window as he slept / my face in a fogged up mirror, sunburned shoulders peeling like the skin of old garlic.

The way I’d never lick the fork when my grandma made french toast, and all the powdered sugar and melted butter would gather together in between all the tines, and I’d save it for the last bite / cherry tomatoes still hot from the sun / orange and vanilla vodka and sprite, sipped on the sly with her my accomplice / all that salt on his skin three hours in to those early all-nighters / the first few lines of that song trembling on the tightrope of my tongue / kissing the briny soft spot at the top of her head moments after it emerged in this world / Gray’s Papaya’s hot dog and a banana daiquiri standing up outside in the street / the first time I figured out I liked pickles (at thirty-three) / sharing pizza on the cold floor of the train station / fresh guacamole with my feet in the pool / curly fries and her dad’s grilled burgers and thinking nothing could ever taste that good again / the strawberry cake she made for all my birthdays / the pecan pie he made from scratch when I was pregnant just because I wanted one.

Wisteria in the middle of May, mixed way up there in the top of the pine tree we cut down last year / Pond’s cold cream on her face as she read us Bible stories under sheets like snow / L’Air du Temps in a too cold sixth grade classroom / butterscotch breath before I’d ever been kissed / sleeping with his shirt under my pillow / honeysuckle lingering in an old Avon bottle / stepped on clover still wet with dewdrops / hot blacktop after a pop-up summer storm / creaking leather and chain-smoked Marlboro Lights / half past midnight perfume in her hair at a crowded club / our bed the morning after / the green tree smell on his head when the air follows him in / her slightly dirty scalp like dust and spice and the way it made me sneeze / the hay hidden away in the dark when the sun hit it in just the right spot / the inside of the first car I ever bought / rain clouds hanging low over Callendar Wood, the trees coming back to life in the wet.

Her foot in my hand while that one breath went in and in and in / her nails up and down my back, scritch-scratching me to sleep / his nails up and down my back, waking up my heart and hips / the velvet nudging of her nose in my palm / the numbers under my fingertips, pushed down like a prayer, waiting for an answer on the other end / the way he covered me with his blanket and his kindness / the length of him behind me on lazy Sunday afternoons that lasted lifetimes / the vibration of the train beneath me / all that bass coming up through the floor and how my feet still hurt on our wedding day / the tiniest hangnail / his head-down hiccups up against my pelvis / cracking open all around her imminent arrival / the shell-shocked embrace of my brother at the foot of our father’s coffin /  his hands in my hair, all in my hair / wind in my face on the water / his hand in between my shoulder blades /  his hand in between my legs / digging down in the dirt, watching myself grow.

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