Tears of The Velveteen Rabbit

 

I don’t mean to say everything is all serious

all the time, or anything

but never having no power

and always in bed because

my bones are sweet and flake

like communion wafers

and the radiant pain of whales

harpooned in their bed

hanging on to the calm of coral

high pitched cries that escape

my fingers, so willful they barely

need me, it never stops.

and always at someone else’s

mercy, and mercy if I’m lucky,

pities or whims of folks who

would take away the paragraphs

of my pillows and linens

leaving me without a story

and pluck out my eyes like

crows in fairy tales, or set

my eyes on fire and descend

deep sea divers into the lavender

scent of the flames. I’d like to be light.

I’d like to be someone’s sharp

sunshine or funny bone, or

happy go lucky child that took

no more time or attention

than the unspoken word

once it gets uttered. To stretch

out, extend my front and hind

legs in green grass without

a thousand needles entering

the pores of my skin, without

the earth itself opening its

hungry mouth and feeding

on my breath.

 

 

Transitioning

 

i am becoming

everything appetite is

 

to hunger.

it feels like the truth,

 

the melody

of it, the quiver.

 

even the stronger

effort for breath.

 

pudding and cakes

and french fries

 

all day long

and counting mama’s

 

memories

like rich people

 

counting money.

 

the bigger I get,

the better I levitate.

 

the easier I float

unnoticed

 

across bridges.

 

the roundness

of my aunt’s

 

fleshy arms

that kept the rhythms

 

like clocks

that harbored the wounded

 

and sometimes

healed the sick

 

are my compasses,

my maps.

 

hunger is the black out

of bodies dangling

 

from oaks,

the “received” document

 

with almost no

readable print.

 

taste is the shameful

relief that I was

 

not one of the them.

 

 

prison chapters

 

inmates couldn’t read me

but I was always there

usually in solitary

 

i was a crazy book

they said a banned book

too dangerous a book

 

the cover had been ripped

off long ago, along

with the front matter

 

and so i had no title

no place of origin

no shared category.

 

one man ran the library

one man got first pick

of all the books

 

he read me whenever

i was loosed

on the general population

 

he read me well enough

to know every word

by heart, every inch

 

of dialogue every broken

whisper. sometimes

in anger, he tore pages

 

sometimes he broke my spine

sometimes he swallowed

coniferous paper pulp

 

interwoven with sea

seashell bits, dried

roses, hemp fibers

 

cotton rag tatters

sweetgrass or palmetto

balled into a fist.

 

sometimes in the shower

the story unfolded all

at once, in muted sounds

 

and drops of blood

in a borealis of swirling

water, or in the cell

 

on lockdown, the lights

cut like a rival’s skin

he realized he couldn’t win.

 

the wafer of flame pistil

he took inside the filthiest

city he could imagine

 

remained alive. he

could never unread or be

un-changed by my story.

 

 

 

Thermal

 

Today, when the air is sticky lead

I slow flow with the thousands.

 

We are like herds of lemmings, people.

 

We are like nanomites moving through

a monk’s bloodstream, searching

for the creator.

 

We have no clue to what They look like.

 

We may not even have

the right vision to see Them.

 

Through a snake’s eyes, our clarity

is abstract art, if art

is the precondition

for living.

 

To a cuttlefish, our black is thermal

amethyst verdant.

 

To a fly, we are barely a blur

and to a mosquito, but for our heat

we do not exist.

 

I keep thinking I see Them, but who knows.

Is that Them on the corner

wearing a bright red scarf

and broken bones?

 

Is that Them, on the pink

fairy bike stalked by whoops

and fists with the innocent bell

that tinkles?

 

Is that Them, torso bared

hammering away

on the hot tarred roof

sweat and tears dripping on hot shingles?

 

Is that Them, inland from the bay

on eyelids of wind

wings splayed shaving time

soft white bodies bringing

glared breath?

 

I keep thinking, suppose.

 

Suppose this is the terror

I hold back

in the twitching of a cigarette

 

in the dissipating dream that someday

I will make peace

with my mind and my body.

 

In the cavity of every eye

of every trick

circling the block,

of every ghost

inside the machine

when I cry mama, mama, is that you.

 

Suppose

They’re just like us

and helplessly trapped in loops

like the fools in cars who think

 

the next time ‘ll be the perfect one

and after that, redemption, and at last

an end to hunger.

 

Suppose

there’s no going home again

to go to.

 

Suppose

this is all the art there is to living.

 

 

Prahlad is the author of two books of poems, Hear My Story and Other Poems, and As Good As Mango; and a memoir, The Secret Life of A Black Aspie. He is a professor at the University of Missouri, where he teaches creative writing, folklore, disability studies and film.

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