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An invalid.

My hair fans out on pillows embroidered with grey and green ivy. In this dimmed room where god has seen fit to drop me, I make observations, which I note down in a small clothbound book. Sometimes my feet swell. I don't mind. Amusing little blood vessels, delicate as the branches of a fossil-fern appear on my ankles. Sometimes I get hives. The light that ventures in, through my two windows, is possessed of a chronic eloquence, like the muted light scrawled across the floor of some secret cathedral, waiting to be unmasked as random splashes of blasphemy. My knowledge of spiders and their ways increases daily, although one suspended in the corner closest to the door seems to have fallen from grace: she hasn't moved for days. I fear the worst, though one of her relatives didn't flinch for a week, then produced a glob of eggs the size of my thumbnail. The babies emerged almost transparent. It made me itch to watch them scatter. Outdoors, the ever-present theatre of seasons provides endless antidote to my cultivated high-mindedness. Glimpses of nature, with its comforting underlying violence are mine to enjoy in a truncated, overmagnified way. This afternoon I was brought bread pudding with sliced bananas, on a tin tray that has painted in its middle a picture of a lake in Iceland with an unpronounceable name. I don't miss the dinnertable dramas, since I still hear the highlights from down the hall. Last night, my younger brother was banished from the dining-room almost as soon as the main course was served, for putting a cigarette out in his mashed potatoes. Always overstepping his bounds, he remains my favorite. Originally bedridden with a case of clinically significant hiccoughs, my ailments soon multiplied, and became more interesting as they accumulated. My medicines are experimental, highly-touted, foul tasting--none as hilarious or effective as opium or ink. The canyon behind this house is full of flowering weeds, and eucalyptus trees so oily if you strike a match in their vicinity, they'll explode. The outside world is terribly crowded. All that lives or ever came close, competes for standing room, shouts to be heard. Even flocks of the stillborn, bewildered by an unilluminating demise, swarm around certain houses like schools of unpoppable bubbles. The fruity smells of infatuation and sorrow take up a lot of room, too, as do unspoken complaints, fish ponds, vegetable plots, and all that animal magnetism flashing between beings. Intellectual paralysis, that bird of prey, swoops around, conquering scores of minds at a time. Even indoors, one can lose one's foothold so easily, while appliances hum and mind their own business, quietly swilling electricity. There's no niche for me in such profusion. I need to watch these proceedings from the neatly shuttered windows of my controlled environment. I think my indefinitely prolonged mysterious illnesses provide the right approach. To lull myself to sleep at night, I close my eyes and begin by visualizing what's overhead, and then working my way down. Planets, stars, clouds, mountain summits, radio towers atop skyscrapers, crowns of the tallest trees, our weathervane, our roof (which needs re-shingling), my ceiling, my tile floor, the house's cement slab foundation, the crust of the dirt, animal burrows in the first crumbly layers of soil, and deeper down, (because the best is always saved for last) worms turning like white screws in the chocolatey earth.
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Author:Gerstler, Amy
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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