Measure for Measure, Orientation 2019
In this desert, the sky is yellow and Biblical
In a small house with an unending yard that lolls into an arid hillside: she hems dresses, skirts, and trousers, careful to interact with her customers only as necessary.
In this desert, the sky is yellow and biblical, and the clouds move in the dust of the windows of the house facing hers, while she is distracted by an ant crawling down a crack in the wall.
Meanwhile, A moth busts its head against the kitchen window, worked up over the light of a streetlamp it mistakes for the moon and she looks at the dirt under her fingernails— downstairs, her son is getting high while her husband sleeps.
When day falls into night, she sleeps in a bedroom stripped of decoration, the exception only of her husband’s paintings: sprawling brown smears mirroring the desert and vineyards surrounding their home, which, when the light fades, will give the impression of dozens of windows leaking the night and the hills into the room.
The two never discussed having children (neither had ever consciously wished for children, and their parenting, or lack thereof, betrays it). Yet they were incautious, absentminded, and largely indifferent; and children kept coming.
Perhaps their first two, born two and four years before their middle, respectively, used up all the adoration and love they could muster up inside of themselves; and perhaps their last two, twins born three and a half years his junior, used up all the rest of their vitality, and their middle simply tumbled, unseen, into the bare space in between.
Perhaps their middle son with the dark eyes that—from the instant he was born— bore up at his parents with an intensity that verged on disdain, frightened the two into detachment.
Or perhaps his parents were so ashamed of their apathy, so appalled by their own inability to assemble any endearment for their child, that they could hardly stand to meet his gaping eyes that so resembled their own.
Whatever the reason, their middle son grew up unbothered by his parents, and seldom by his siblings, in the shadows of the hills behind his house with the company of the worm lizards and the moorish geckos, the red deer and the boars, the barn owls and the yucca.
You became a shady space, a distraction from a fallen face, a way to think of something different, a place to turn my do’s to didn’t’s, a break from rhyming which I’ve since resumed, a reminder that even weeds once bloomed. Ugly things that should never have been, icy eyes on hidden men. Hands promising to make up for a hurt of wounds disguised with double-edged dirt. A trust given out again and again Thrown so far, I can’t say where it’d been. But it came back, skinny and asking for a mother. And it made me cry to send her to another. But I did and so it went, Crying and dying and waiting to be bent.
—Nora May McSorley
Walls of a Men’s Room: Word Maze Found Next to a Drawing of Charlie the Tuna, Spokestuna for Starkist Tuna
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