Parenting, Poetry

Side Way


Tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.

– William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act ii, Scene 1

In case of paralysis, break glass. Out there
is here. Stairs, a whining thud, fat-bellied
cicada trapped in a breezeway
flings itself from wall to wall
until it surrenders
to defeat, so much like gravity.
Even with its trident of five eyes,
it is blind to the way through.
Corridor becomes vault. Had it been born
a bluebottle butterfly, it might stand a better chance,
its photoreceptors detecting
a million colors
more than those five eyes,
and far beyond what our feeble pair perceive
(and so believe). We are as wary of spectrometers
and their evidence of hidden hues
as we are of quantum wavefunction
and infrared snapshots of the Kuiper belt.

What if there is a side-way here?
This is the question the weary
winged migrant doesn’t know to ask. Maybe
it’s only ever alighted on tree
and wall, again tree,
again wall. What if rotation on one axis
is all it takes to reveal Dimension
and its confederate,
Passage?  To make the pivot
though, that’s what requires a shift
in paradigm or at least
credulity, a jarring turn beyond mere
direction of travel. It upsets the known
universe, opening like an atheist
to god or a disciple
to her end.

In case of defeat, break glass.
This corridor is a hall of mirrors
reflecting only what we’ve already defined
as real. Listen: the sky teems
with rain, even on a clear day. A leaf breaks free,
falls. Where it lands is neither ahead nor behind,
instead somewhere you have only just begun
to consider a place
that exists. Listen: everyone here
is breathing. Even the cracked concrete
in its own way. Even the bent wing
of the cicada as it readies itself
for the next attempt.

Image:  From the Hidden Door 2016 Art Exhibition, Edinburgh, Scotland

2 thoughts on “Side Way”

  1. 1.
    We’re in New Mexico.
    It’s summer — all morning to lounge in bed, talk on the
    phone, read the paper.
    Martha pats her spiky, old cat, Manet, studies cat’s cradle from
    Time is ethos, as if we’re engendered by our manner in it, not
    required to be in ourselves.
    With no cause to act on it, there’s no pointing beyond, so he
    up and plays Scarlatti in his underwear.
    Being together, like scrim, defocuses space.
    Knowability (features) of her face, continually passing into
    expression, is detached from her, a para-existence beside the
    mother, halo, unraveling.
    Light increases toward the red spectrum of day.
    She nurses her cat with a syringe supported against my large arm.
    My body is a film on her preconscious, of images she chooses to
    line conversation.
    Its alterity becomes a nuance of our ineluctable situation of
    futons, dishes, books, with the potential of a destabilized
    of time, no social or spatial outflow through pink walls.
    Atmospheric presence soaks objects.
    I’m making a puzzle of the New York subway map for her.
    I replace each stop with a name from our family, pestering for
    names, Schmidt, Laubach.
    I should see family as bodhisattvas helping me on the path, but
    it’s difficult if I’m not a bodhisattva myself, to recognize one.
    Anyone entering by chance (UPS, neighbor child,) sees synchrony,
    confusion emanate from our bodies of smiling individuals, as if
    photographed separately and assembled later.
    Asymmetry of legs, human, animal, disjunctions among gestures are
    sheathed in rose light wafting around a physical promise of
    She sets up a tent in our room, paints on the inside names of all
    the people she’s known, like stars.
    She cuts out paper flowers and scatters them on the floor of the
    tent, morning not interfering, even though flowers are immediate,
    I love to read newspapers.
    Negative space enters my house like spirits, low pressure under
    table, in the petals of a rose, like a person you love.
    Maternal love is needed for spatial sense, which gives rise to
    infant laughter.
    A ringing, overflowing sense of others collapses us, with no
    representable condition of belonging.
    She interviews him on tape and he answers in the voice of a young
    She draws Manet as average, general, to protect him, then
    introduces many toy animals into the tent.
    A common mistake of groups is requiring each one to compensate
    lacks in the whole, to care at any cost.
    Our coalescence around a sick pet overflows (like laughter),
    incommensurate with problems of sociality in her terrifying
    The dream is intermediary, unraveling a thing beside itself. I
    should try to help her, whether or not I truly help.


    By Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge

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