If you’re wondering
what’s on top of me,
Or a meadow.
Or a musical chair.
Or there it is again.
Must be the limitless
wanted us sick thinking
of its circle. Its teaspoon
of light clinking against
our breathing. This message
I’m thinking may be
too big to form images
on screen. Or nobody
which is why
we can still see it.
Revise that beginning.
It’s under me.
As in adoration,
the ability to burn
in a way that feels
to the unworthy.
This fine mist
clapping its ears!
My body, the same
as it always did.
Only now it’s inside
a bin of questions.
And great being great
in the scheme of things.
It could be worse.
It was worse we heard.
Also it is possible
to put a day on backward
and your neck to hurt
like a motherfucker.
at work. Yellow
highlighter. Sad balls
of rye bread. Skewered
schemata. Hopeless liar.
According to liar.
Chased by two-legged
monsters. Some mothers,
all messed up like bad
spaghetti. Of fighting.
Of not fighting. Of baffling
affection, or figures.
Dead computer. It stinks
like Venice, not the future,
Leigh. I promise you my
heart. Nobody even knows
about fragments there.
So what if my kid is retarded.
That’s what the word is.
It still is.
So what if she has a noticeable
metal gauge buried under the skin
at the front of her skull and wears
diapers even though she’s five and
doesn’t know from diapers?
I had a notion in my head I couldn’t
handle thisand told Megan as much.
Megan who worked for years with
retarded people. Megan who wants you
to cry at the Chinese restaurant and feel
good about it. Megan who, no matter
what you say, will say in return:
I don’t want her to be retarded,
Megan. I just don’t.
If Megan weren’t Megan, she could
have said, suck it up, princess,
but she is who she is, so she said:
I think you’ll be surprised.
Matthew’s right. We can handle
anything.While my friends were
nursing, I was signing papers
for blood transfusions. I was
signing papers for surgery.
Heather dropped off a cooler of her
breast milk while I was working and
I guarded it for us like a wild coyote
from my thirsty coworkers. I sat on
the cooler all day while I typed.
We are monkeys.
We are cougars in the jungle.
Our brains do get in the way
of our front window.
Do I love it?
No, I still don’t,
and yes, she still is,
so there you go.
Thank god for the really retarded
ones. The wild turkey ones
that have gone insane for air.
You can’t shoot them for dinner.
You can only say “By the grace of god
there go I, living with that wild ass
turkey named Unknown.
I could never do that.”
I love her.
She spins and giggles until she throws up.
She beats the TV with a baguette.
She loves Trash Shoot and Naked
and Bacon, quite equally.
She has eyes that people gasp at.
The color of spoons, of mercury.
Where are my eyes, Amira?
Some days I’m more stuck than others.
The turnstile won’t crank and I’m stuck
for 24 hours reading the same subway
poster about education or abortion or
Starbucks’ instant coffee.
Will she go to college?
Will she go to Kindergarten?
Will she “hook up”?
Will she “hang out”?
What kinds of questions
make a person go insane?
What if she had slipped
under the pool’s solar cover
instead of floating on top of it?
What if that lady hadn’t found
her playing on the overpass
next to the 25 foot drop?
How hard would that be for us?
As hard as easier?
Not those questions.
I didn’t drool in my potatoes
tonight and pee my pants.
I drank Squirt for dinner.
When we’re in the supermarket
evolved people smile at us
It’s fine. My nephew’s autistic.
The normal ones, like the one
I was, smile at us too, though
a little tighter, She’s not really
going to do that, is she? Oh god,
she is. Are you her mother?
Some times more than others.
I don’t know her mind, it’s true.
Not because it’s damaged,
I’m now convinced, seeing
I don’t know anybody else’s either.
Everything is so lonely sometimes
and there’s nothing to tie it to.
I am two parts astronaut, one part
Juggernaut. I can save our world
by tethering it to the grass with stakes
like an inflatable Bounce House.
Bullshit. The only thing I can do
is get in it and bounce like I paid
good money for it and I’m here to
have a good time and I’m going to.
A STORY ABOUT THE DAY YOU WERE BORN
It wasn’t snowing October. Though the tire was flatly symbolic and my dad–who I’d hoped would say, “Life doesn’t end”–cried. After a while, you popped your head in–fixed for now–and we drove away, one side lower than the other, thumping for speaking.
When we got home, I pressed my head against the bathroom floor. Years before, it was extremely dramatic, but now, the bathroom just so happened to be the closest room to the front door.
Later in bed we lay on our backs, not touching, the streetlight cutting across our legs. Curtains generally prevent this, light streaming in, but not ours. Even so, we drew them, as we had every night since buying them.
“Why did we get these?” I whispered, watching the light pooling in my palm.
“You liked them,” you said, and I whispered back, “I still like them in fact.”
It’s so easy to miss the beauty of misuse. All it takes is a poorly situated window and desire to be something other than what you’re inside of. It’s even easier to miss nothing doing and why we cherish our stories about it. Each one starts “the day you were born” and moves into the god-scale storm that swept us all out to sea.
Retard is an English-to-English translation of Matthew Lippman’s “Retards” poem at FROM THE FISHHOUSE.