Things are turning around. It’s amazing how simple it is. Just like that, a hand reached in, and now things are turning around.
It goes like this: I’m going. (About my business and all that. And then) I’m caught. Something is cranking on the net around my body. (Tightening.) I’m lying in bed, in pain (pulled taut), thinking the only kinds of thoughts one can have when lying in bed (in a tightening net), which are:
– It is terrible to be lying in bed thinking only oh and ah
– It is terrible to think one’s lot is terrible
Then: A gloved hand tugs on the mesh of the net. Cool metal wedges under it. Tug and severing of fiber. A crack of light through an upper window.
I find a spot out front and parallel park with ease. I remember to lock the doors. The parking meter greets me with a cheerful red blink. (Things are turning around.)
A wispy spiderweb hangs from the parking meter’s card reader, and just below the slot waits the little, gray spider. It disappears while I dig through my bag for my wallet. I’ve scared it away.
I push my debit card into the slot, and when I pull it out, it’s stained with the flattened body of the spider, a smeared stick-figure on green plastic.
Just when things had been turning around. Just like that. A hand reached in. A hand with green plastic. Into the dark recess. Oh—
And here I’ve come to my own dark recess. I’m not sure what I’m in for, but I’m told it will help. The receptionist points me down a long hall. It’s dark and damp, sloped downward. More of a tunnel. A cave.
Lights ahead. Walls made of stone. Smell of earth. Drops of water dripping into little pools of water. I’m not sure how long I’ve been walking, dragging my fingertips along the rough stone walls.
I was in a cave once before. (Only once? I’m not sure.) Where was I? Can’t remember now. In a sea. I was swimming. There were several of us. And a woman—must have been the leader—she told us to swim into the cave. Said it would be too dark to see, and the current would carry us through, that we should let it carry us through, but to keep a hand to the wall, to feel our way along the wall, in the dark, and we would be carried through. On such soft assurances, I felt my way through.
And here I am, feeling my way through. Who knows how long it’s been. On such soft assurances. I’ve thought of turning around, but why give up now, just like that? I keep feeling my way in the dark, brushed occasionally by tendrils of knotted roots or ropes hanging from above. Occasionally, a light illuminates the ceiling that looks in places puckered and pocked, in others smooth and sewn together.
What’s that there on the ceiling? A shadow? A portrait of a body in repose? Is there someone here?
“Hello?” I call, expecting an echo to rebound from the cave walls. There is no echo. It sounds so dry, it’s like my voice has been sucked out in a vacuum. “Hello?” So dry it makes my ears itch. I’d turn around, but it’s so dark now. I wouldn’t know where to turn.
But, wait. Something’s happened. Something is opening up. What. Something. I feel it, but. It’s opening up. Where? I grab my left hand in my right. Yes, that’s it. Something in my palm is opening up. A little rectangle at first, with edges smooth and cold as pewter. It widens to nearly the length of my palm. The pewter frame to my opened-up palm.
I look into my hand, which has opened up to show its little green light.
There was a time before this.
When I wasn’t sluggish with ache, beached and heaving, yoked like a sea turtle in stray plastic and wandering terribly. Turning, turning.
When I was aquamarine light in scratched glass, downy hairs and an arm bent at a crawl stroke angle, gliding into the water. Moss eyeing the emeralds. Soft humming from the cracks in the ice on the bay. Cool droplets on the clear shower door. All oh and ah was wonder. A landscape scene with figures held in ice. A shoe dropped from the deck onto the surface of the lake.
Out of the cave now. Oh—all light and gull, wave and briny wind. Carried through like a tune.
It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust. Mind the green rocks. They’re slippery.
Ah—there’s that shoe again. My whole life, it keeps washing back up. Same right shoe, laces undone. Every beach. Every body of water. I watched it fall once onto the surface of the lake. And it keeps coming back. Hello, shoe.
Green is playing a tune, on a player with a dusty needle. And green is echoing. Green sprouts twist out of the rock face. Algae slicks. A forest throws its green upwards like a fire grows into the night.
The whole is losing definition. Still, the senses hack away at me acutely—sibilating sea, textured plaque and tangle on rock, lively smell of bacteria decomposing sea-dead—but I can’t seem to hold them up together. Oh—a too-large hole in the net was torn.
Up there on the cliff’s edge, a lady in an elegant green cloak, filled up like a sail in the wind. Up there in the clouds with the thickening blue horses. A storm is coming or a storm is going. A crag observes its erosion.
But I recall a beach. Nearly empty except for the pelicans and a few young fishermen, swimming out to place a net. I recall an old tune in a green ballroom. A spider turned to little sticks.
A gauzy red and yellow drifts toward me. A billowing of green. A rock and its episodes of light.
What forms lurk over me? If I come apart, will I be carried through? Oh, the oh. The tangle of holes. Oh, the whole in the net’s been torn.
How tight the weave on the burlap? Cover me, gaps and all. Wrap me and my braided recesses. I was held. At times too tight. I cohered. My world held fast.
I did as she said: I kept a hand to the wall, and the water pulled me through the dark. Ah—the ache was beached. It slipped through the mesh. Through the hard laughing mouths.
Above me, the blonde light is sleeping, like a mother, in the face of green static. Someone is driving between two dark fields, and heat lightning makes little cracks in the night. And just like that, the night seals back up. Light cracks it open. And it seals back up.
Oh—not burning, but ablaze with water lilies. Any moment now, a hand will reach in. Let me get my things. Let me just pack up. Will you give me a moment to gather my stuff?
Alexandria Hall is the author of FIELD MUSIC (Ecco, 2020), a winner of the National Poetry Series. She holds an MFA from NYU and is currently a PhD student in Literature and Creative Writing at USC. She is a founding editor of Tele-. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the LARB Quarterly Journal, The Yale Review, BOAAT, and DIAGRAM, among others. She lives in Los Angeles.
Aline Mare completed undergraduate work at SUNY Buffalo’s Center for Media Studies and an MFA from San Francisco Art Institute. She has received several grants and residencies including Fourwinds in Aureille, France, a 2015 Sino-American art tour in Shanghai, Starry Nights in New Mexico, and Headlands Center for the Arts, among others. In her mixed media and installation work, she explores the relationship between the human psyche, the body, and nature.