Evening Will Come: A Monthly Journal of Poetics (Issue 24, December 2012—Trans / Queer Issue)

Tamiko Beyer
Subterranean Haibuns

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Subterranean Haibuns by Tamiko Beyer
To sleep is to fall into something like another universe. In that other universe I have a different string of lovers. The three-legged pig is not a pig but a bird. The bird is a folk story that gives us strength. The problem with symbols: they carry too much weight. Or, they are simply tokens. I have come so close to being scarred by symbols. The why behind the sacred. Some secrets are best kept secret. Once we open our mouths, toads and jewels spill out. In the fairy tale, someone spews a mouthful of precious gems, another spews a species of frogs. Imagine carrying all that hardware in your stomach. Days of due diligence, kicked in your belly and it’s not even a baby; it’s a creature. When I was born, the cicadas chirped to themselves, a desperate situation. The air hung heavy across our skins. There were not many others in the room. My mother and my father and a person to help bring me into the world. I as I was not planned for, despite their desire to create a being.
Because we are always arriving with new yeses at the ocean’s shore. Because there are great white sharks out in the waters, because human flesh is still soft and vulnerable and delicious. Because what is delicious is forbidden. Because being forbidden, the skin is even more desirable. Because desire is a mountain and a lake. Because the body, always, because it begins and ends with the body. Because what has happened for thirty-eight years will continue happening. Because of heat. Because it keeps us safe, because of the sun. Because of dirt and because of water. Because we come at the problem from one way and then another. Because nothing is more impossible than pure song. Because song is a metaphor for want. Because ideas continue to push forward even when bodies are no longer. Because the mind cannot truly be separated from the flesh. Because we try all the same. Because trying makes it so, to a certain extent. Because there’s the subterranean, where temperatures are cooler and memories are sharper. Because a time of incubation. Because grief. Because what it means to lose an entire human being. Because the soul is a concept of all or nothing. Because if you didn’t grow up believing in god, what do you have. Because if you grew up among the silk crates of religion, and then leave it behind, what do you have. Because all of childhood is about finding the mystery of existence. Because where are the answers.
Systems say go. It’s not sleep I’m looking for, its an all-around digging. The cicadas are as loud as engines and the clock on the wall is a moment-to-moment demonstration of how time moves. The ritual unfolding. God – that concept I lost track of long ago. Not so, conquest. A country of beaches, white sand, a waterfall, a lake filled with carp. How we take over and never let go. The blue sky and the blue necktie. It was hot, my body incubated. The fish was raw and cold. I would not be the kind of woman who goes ahead without first asking about precedent and political viability. Bubbles, bubbles. The way light hit the water, the way water carried us forward. One can go out closed and then come back smooth sailing. The physical wave of the ocean, how it sucks from below, crashes against the sky, gives us back our stripped bones.  My body undergoing lessons in loss. Jewels and frogs, what it no longer needs to hold. The way I throw a pebble clear across the day to land in your lap. Today it was your fingers I was noticing. How long they are, rimmed by tiny white moons.
Friend, the cicadas are full throating their summer swan song. I know the days will grow shorter and colder: the first leaves have already fallen. When I look into the trees, the sparks there in June are no longer: pulsing light across the leaves’ veins. By August, life is already burrowing into the roots to stay underground until spring’s speed through capillaries, the burst again into unfurling. The days will grow cold and that is how the year curls onto itself. But for now, it is high summer and I am to give you an anaphora, a repetition across lines, a talisman. I said that symbols are only tokens but I don’t think I believe it. What is good luck is what has come into our lives with astonishing speed and surety. This is how I say to you that everything will be fine, because the cicadas are going full throttle ahead, and what the insects know, if they know anything at all, is the sheer force of life and their insistence of song, despite their hard, shelled lives. I have come with pen and paper to record the journey of twelve children, or the light that has come to stand for children. Sometimes we have only the silver, the hard tines of a fork. Love, the cicadas buzz into themselves, high summer, their swan song; they will soon be silent and translucent. The shades of color across the evening sky telling us what we need to know.
When I was born there might have been a thunderstorm. But that is the story of someone else’s birth. I have shown a predilection for stealing; now might be the time to stand guard. Back to my birth. It was the 1970s. Nixon had just resigned. People lined up for gas. A summer full of strange days. I was a child born into grainy circumstances. The summer became something more than beautiful when my mother pulled back her hair to feed me. Still, powerful men continue to lie. Tonight the rock band Pussy Riot is in jail for spitting their bodies and voices across pews, pissing off a powerful man. Not god. When I was 17 someone spray painted riotgrrrrl across the side of the high school. Red dripped down stucco and of course I held up my fist, and then I bit down hard. I did not know I was to enter a life of summer dresses and heels, all deviant. A teenager coming into my body, learning its lit language.
Into the deep and the trees sweeping across the rooted levels of government. We had no more real places to stay, but we did it anyway, hat in hand and motorcycle between our legs. Too many times I have gone the other way: into the magnificent trailer of dirt and desire. I was dreaming of something that looked like roses, but the worms and iron windows prevented us from going as underground as we need. Your scarred neck. That’s where our confessions lie. And then we come out swinging because we have done nothing wrong. We come out swinging because wilderness merits a kind of danger. I have always been kin to wolves, and this is a howling that is against bricks and deception. A howl of funerals. I say how many rituals have we lost. There are certain moments when I know giving up is not the way to get to reckoning, but I do it anyway. When I need to see things anew. You said beautiful must be broken to remain beautiful, quoting a woman who broke, in the end, unable to live a bodied life, unable to burrow down as much as she needed to survive. And you, gorgeous mosaic of fragments, loss and survival. As for me, impossible to live in a body not set trembling like a cello’s string. What I’m saying: we attend the world’s every move and come undone at every line.