Thursday, January 18, 2018

from THE HUNGER PALACE



In the fall, the animals begin taking over the house.   Mice beneath the stove, chipmunks in the basement.  Arriving home in the dark, my father finds a skunk sitting boldly in the yard above a hole that appeared only days before. Deer leave hoove prints in the frost on the deck, linger in the yard at dawn,  gnawing the leaves of the fallen tree. It's natural, he says, no one is ever home. 

In the hospital my mother has almost stopped seeing things, only the occasional beetle creeping near the floorboard.  The occasional butterfly flitting at the ceiling.  Infection leaving her body slowly like syrup through the iv's and blood draws, where I visit each Sunday for an overnight, the tiny spider in the corner of their shower at home keeping his promise to stay on his side of the water while the stinkbugs collect in the curtain shears.

In the city, they cut down three trees on my block, and suddenly there are large birds I've never seen before begging crumbs on the sidewalk. The moths eating all summer through my wardrobe grown slow with autumn, flickering only occasionally in my desk lamp. My cats go feral every time I leave them for more than a few days,  shitting in the bathtub and throwing up on the bed. Leaving large tufts of hair blowing through the empty apartment.

In rehab, the speech therapist asks my mother to name 10 animals --horse, dog, pig,. The solutions come slowly to her, her hands placing multi-colored blocks in multi-colored holes. What is your name?  Who is your husband?  What day is it?   She sighs  impatient with the woman who prompts her--goat, mouse, fox.  

In the fall, we are all  learning new animals--this panic that scratches like a rat at my door each week and won't leave.  The finch that catches in my throat and chokes me with it's hollow bones.  pig,  lion, crocodile.  There's a rabbit heart inside me that races every time the phone rings. One more?  Unicorn.

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