The clamor of the world, that is outside and inside, needs to be quelled sometimes to breathe.


Notes:

  • Cartoon Source
  • Post Title from: Fred D’Aguiar, “Year of Plagues: A Memoir of 2020“: “The clamor of the world, that is outside and inside, needs to be quelled sometimes for poetry to breathe.”

Saturday Morning

My desert cactus has five spindly branches spread untidily in the pot. Each time I water that cactus I wonder why. I see no progress in how it looks; I water it all the same along with the other potted plants around it. It maintains a nonchalant brownish, greenish, and trace of yellow that appears anemic, as if on the verge of turning brown all over and withering up, if not for my regular water. Once afternoon, I pass it and what catches my eye makes me stop in my tracks and look again at the source of that stimulus. There on the end of one of the five tentacles of the cactus is an enormous flower, yellow with dozens of bristling stamens, and layers inside like a catacomb in miniature. I take photos with my phone, I call everyone from the house to come and see the miracle of a flower where I thought no such thing could occur. Thank goodness I kept watering that cactus after I dismissed it as ugly and unproductive or at least unresponsive to my care of it. The cactus flower proves me wrong. Nothing else in the garden comes near that flower’s majesty. By evening it shrivels and lies limp on the end of the thin branch of cactus. Next morning I give it an extra drink and apologize to it, and encourage my dear, ugly, surprising cactus to keep on doing whatever it does and to ignore me.

—  Fred D’Aguiar, Year of Plagues: A Memoir of 2020 (Harper, August 3, 2021)


Photo: Mike Grant, Desert Bloom, Phoenix, AZ

Tuesday Morning Wake-Up Call

I beg your pardon, I hear my disease answer in reply to my many charges leveled against it—of trespass, hijack, squatting, invasion, vandalism, anxiety, psychosis, psoriasis (of the mind), catatonia (of the spirit), a Gordian knot (of my reason), poisoning, pollution, warping—I did not grow in you uninvited by the way you lived and the life that you were given to begin with. I started in you with time and from time. I opened my eyes thanks to you finding the combination to unlock my presence in you by the way you lived your life. I had no intention to riot against you, my host, upon whom I depended for sustenance and a quiet life—which is all I ever wanted. I did not intend to finish you and me in the process. As long as you lived on, so would I. As long as you left me undisturbed, I would keep quiet and dormant in you until the end of your days.

You see me as spikes, barbed wire, and broken bottles, all cutting edges in you, and you forget that you set me going, turned me on and cut me loose in your body. I did not expect it. All your talk, reading, and tree-hugging company, and demonstrations for good, signaled to me that I would not have a hectic life that charged to a rapid end for my host and for me, but that I would be in a quiet place, unseen and ignored and quite content to amble to an octogenarian’s crawl and walker decked with tennis balls for a snail’s mobility, staggering brakes and watch-paint-dry stoppage. I could see it when you meditated or did your yoga or ran or lifted weights or ate greens, lots of them, with poker-faced enjoyment. I stopped thinking of a day when I would be free to run to my end and in the process, bring about yours preternaturally early. [Read more…]

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

We hug across the gearbox console. I tell her I love her very much and she tells me she loves me too. I drive around the block of her school for her red face to clear and for her to stop hiccupping with upset. I beg her to forget everything bad that sprang out of my mouth. That I am a fool at the mercy of my diagnosis. That I lack the necessary control to be a proper father to her. She says she wants me to be her dad, none other, and that she loves me and she will be fine in a minute or two. She offers me my soaked handkerchief. I tell her to keep it in case she needs it again. She says that she is fine. We have never been closer and with such intensity—thanks to my cancer. We are late for the start of her school day. I tell her if she feels bad just call me or text and I will leave work and pick up her in under ten minutes. She says she will be fine, really. That I shouldn’t worry. That she feels better. She asks me how I am doing. I tell her I feel better too. We part with a brief lock of eyes and hurried mutual I-love-yous. Thank you, cancer. I called you a f*cker for turning up uninvited and ruining what was supposed to be the party of my life. Now I thank you. You turn up the intensity in my routine domesticity.

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