Swidden: “All of it burns”
There is always “burn” here now.
Door knobs burn in my hand as I turn them, so I leave the inside ones open. Even the floor burns the bottoms of my feet, so: shoes, but they burn also. These words too, all words, whether I think or say or read them, they all burn now. Sometimes./
To hear them, these ones here, spoken aloud in this room today — w/ no one aside from me listening, no music playing, nothing baking — to hear them without burning, what I would give for that! To be back there, here but back then, in my dream of life again, where it was plenty warm enough, what I would give./
There were times I’d think I must have come from there to here through someplace really cold. I’d think, could I have died that day? That day I “wakened” to the smell of all my pies burning and you knocking as loud as you could on the door. “What’s burning? Are you okay? What’s going on with your hair?”/
We threw the pies into the garden, laughing. You cut my hair in the kitchen to help fix me back up as we aired the place out. “What happened, though? Did you fall asleep? Since when do you bake pies and for what?” I opened you some wine and we spent the rest of the day together./
But I watched the pies slowly disappear alone. It took weeks and then one downpour finally carried the rest away./
Today, I know I came through someplace really cold to get here. Why else, how else, could touching these now — these plastic keys — burn me so? So that the plainest words/thoughts, uttered as plainly as I can manage, are birds barely escaping a flame and then at the very last second returning or just stopping, letting it happen, letting it wrap them and hold them in its hot hands until they turn to ash?/
There is always “burn” here, but I’ve begun to wonder if it might be okay for a time./
After all, crying now is like climbing a tree—but on another planet. Crying: Why? How? It doesn’t happen here, I don’t think, but I’m not completely sure (having learned about evaporation so long ago). I do know it’s not okay not to cry ever./
I know too that today nothing is baking, no music is playing, and no one knocks or doesn’t knock at the door. And I know I didn’t die that day. I am being still and quiet, no more words aloud for now, dreaming of when I was “just warm enough” and wishing I could cry, here or on some other planet, any planet (except Mercury, Venus)./
And yet. Even though these words, my memories, the door, the floor, the bottoms of me feet — ALL of it burns, all of it is burning me — I begin to think it could all turn out all right, that one day I will be just warm enough again.
NOTE: I found this old poem-like thing in my files and decided to post it because I’m often too tired to think (see Sarah: My List of One). I guess it’s pretty weird, but I wouldn’t post it if I didn’t like something about it. In any case, I’m happy to report that I am warm enough again … have indeed gone on (& can cry now if I must). No more pies. CREDIT: I pulled the background for the photo from the blog of Lao Bumpkin, who writes a lot about slash-and-burn agriculture.
Insightful and vivid portrayal of this category of mental illness. Unfortunately I relate to the piece far too well. Thanks visit my blog.
Writing this was a very spontaneous act, about 10 years ago. The pies were actually quiches and that event just happened around the same time, and not exactly as told (I was fully awake while burning them :)) — no real connection that I can think of, just seemed to pop up in the writing process. ANYWAY, I didn’t think of this at the time as being about mental illness (though it certainly doesn’t sound fully mentally well). To me, this is about a sort of hypersensitivity I often feel to what can be a very overstimulating world/life — like everything seems “on fire.” Sometimes I play possum! Maybe, I don’t doubt, I have something to learn from you (though I’ve thought round and round and round this “fire” thing) — will visit your blog (again). Thank you.