Undertaking

Anne Germanacos

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A full self requires stillness.
I am coming upon the face, the shape of it.

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Scratched pots and pans, wooden mallets hard enough to beat in a head. Sieves, bowls, scissors, tongs. Ladles.

Have we humiliated the house of our mother?

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Saw both sons within a twenty-four hour period.
The accompanying sound: a kind of purr.

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“ . . . Winnicott postulates the existence of a psychological intermediary realm between the subjective and the objective that he calls transitional space.”

Here we are.

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I was furious with him for making it so hard but the truth is that I hadn’t done my homework.

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I said: I’m just about done with my mother’s house
She said: You’re never done with your mother’s house.

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I could say to her: Are you saying that my work is anorexic?

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I sat in a kind of calm confusion, choosing not to define or decide.

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No answers. I just want a good sex life.

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What may feel like a tumble through space ends up feeling like a fall.

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No she in focus; no me.

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Before, talking about sex made it present.
Now, talking confines it to deep pockets?

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We’re giving her away now, this time voluntarily.

The things arrayed.
The bulk and heft of her.

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Working on the piece. This piece of the piece.

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Rape? Or the unclothing of a life?

so much dust

That (Trojan?) horse of a piano on its side, blanketed, cossetted.

chests and bowls—holders, like a mother

Leaves in the entranceway. A running faucet. Doors banging open and shut with the wind.
Raped? Abandoned.

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Now, she said, you’ve got me.
Then, she corrected herself and said: We’ve got each other.

I had no words.

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I said: Everything in here seems momentous.
She said: Like an earthquake?

That’s when it hit.

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I can only make things taut; I have no interest in roundabout or loose.

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This drawn-out shiva.
Sitting, we keep each other company.

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Dream: She couldn’t have died if the person before her in line was still alive.

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That woman (in me) who goes to Midnight Mass in order to brush against other human beings—I can’t not love her.

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One skin gone, the other arrives.

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Occasionally, she holds her own hand.
(Occasionally, she stabs herself with whatever is at hand, sharp or dull.)

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your address, my erotic life

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I’ve shut the door on that friendship.
Another abdication? How many abdications in a year?

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Mustard greens and curly kale with string beans and boiled potatoes. Hot, in the pot.

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I may go in there and say: I think I’ve stumbled upon our mortality.

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These frequent, cheap snorts of dream.

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When I finished that piece, I wanted to know what was for breakfast.

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Mortality may jump on the bandwagon, mortality may ruin your plans.

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I want to ask her simple things: Do you like olives?

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A relationship begun in an abundance of syllables, some remain unpronounceable.

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A mutual glance sparks recognition:
I know you, my self.

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The scent of our time, atomized.
Who owns that scent?

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The trick, I guess, is in knowing where to put up fences, how to tie off boundaries.

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my muse, my air, a valence, my permission slip

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“How we imagine property is how we imagine ourselves.” (Hyde)

Is that why I leave the door on the latch whenever I go for a walk?

• •

This bowl filling up with fragments of meditated time and image—
almost a wailing wall.

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She said canticle and I said: If not kaddish, then simple prayer.

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What I cry about?

My son on stage, forgetting he’s my son.

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It sings in me, you’re right.
He sings, as well.

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What do you call the commons of a brain? Isn’t everything your birthright?

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Begin (your parable, your legend) on a day when home is not a prison, when home is a commons, a field, a harvest about to begin.

How do you treat your commons?

And how do we negotiate the commons of our hours together—each one itemized, tallied, (paid for).

• •

Sometimes I think we need to eat something together, a slice of baloney, a crust of bread, an olive, a pear, a peach.

We have drunk together, a sip, and a sip.

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the extraction of grammar, a photosynthesis?

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He has the voice, sings the song.
I make up the song, singing as I go along.

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To go for the jugular: just another way of talking about a harvest?

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I put you at the grocery store, watching me, then think of better places for you to be.

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hoarder of space and time: objects of the mind

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Flooded with refracted light off the water of a mother—she floats on timeless seas.

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I face her, a you, and can’t deny the truth of endings.

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Look across and recognize this creak in the scenery.

A tear, a crack, the tears assemble, run down my face.
I wouldn’t be surprised if they ran down yours as well.

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This feels like tender new skin.
Tenderness may be inviting; people may respond in kind.

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You find your old self, unabashed.

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Turned off the greens. They’ll continue to cook in their own heat, the boil of their being, the way things do.

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The central molten boiling part: hardly an achievement, simply a fact.

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My neck is getting old. It’s true.

• •
The grocery store is the place where one would fall on the floor, weeping, isn’t it?
All those mothers.

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When she makes gestures pointing to the fact that we commonly inhabit the world, I am moved to silence.

Is there a word for it?
Mortality?

• •

She said: We haven’t turned away from it at all.

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I thought: Oh, this is life. I can still do this.

• •

Anything that reeks of ripeness slays me.

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In art, anything goes; it’s not life.

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Isn’t sex everything? Oh, and nothing, too, I guess.

• •

I said: I HATE not saying your name!
Then said it.

She said mine back.

• •

9/11

(a date to make you stand up?)

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Ate almonds and a protein bar, looked at expensive handbags at saksfifthavenue.com and now I’m calm?

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Talking to my oldest friend on the phone today, for just under forty minutes, was like being at a fascinating cocktail party.

Sometimes, the world comes back to you, thank god.

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Mondays are so reassuring.

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an insane asylum: not exactly the Ritz

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When I once said: We may be in it together, but you don’t suffer.
She said: That’s because I’m Irish and you’re Jewish.

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I cry, waking up and going to sleep.

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Clarity is gone; I am here.

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She is not my mother.
(You are not my mother.)

• •

Confidence is not my forte?

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I won’t ever scream at him again for not closing the cupboards or for leaving his shoes in a mess.

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You have been my everything—and now it’s time to say goodbye?

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Made it to here!

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I keep remembering—before and after.
This after seems huge, the before irreplaceable and fragile.

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A blossoming headache for days now—a kind of beauty, I guess.

• •

Is that orchid with its four huge white blooms, almost insanely robust, me?
Is the dead-seeming one a remnant of my graceful, delicate mother?

She was never purple, but she could seem a little hothouse from time to time.

• •

Measuring spoons, cup, thermometer. Hats and belts, sheets and towels. Buttons and thread. Shoes.

• •

Where is your mother-in-law when you need her?

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Here in a chair, surrounded by the elements: words, caffeine, sunlight, shadow.

• •

That diabolical merry-go-round has spun itself out.

• •

My friend and I walked the hill, touched the muzzles of frantic puppies.

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My sister says she hates it when patients tell her they’re premenstrual.
Do you?

We’re animal, after all.

• •

I can’t think that way—from one thing to the obvious next.
There’s nothing quite so boring, unless you’re trying to convince your husband of something.

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Full moon.

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Warming in a kind of afterlife, this life a little stolen from hers.
A bit finagled, like our precious time on earth.

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The sun: orange and round, about to turn red, about to be elsewhere, as we are—together and apart.

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Just us here now.
Hello! In every language.

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A girl sings a self in the incantation of a mother.

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professionally impressionable

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You’ve eaten me with a spoon, cut through me with a sharp knife.

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The sea rushes at this shore, this infinitely captive, captivating moment. She rushes, and we

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It’s the crest of the wave that dazzles, the astonishment of white.
A white we can’t conceive without the knowledge of crashing waves.

• •

I adore small, potent things.

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Smaller than a bean, a pea: you pine for your mother.

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Something happened: everything that had been simmering boiled over.

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The quality of your attention drives me mad with grief.
Still, I can think of New York.

• •

My husband waits, hovers, pretends to stomp away, pounces.

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What, after all?

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What method for handing you the hot wax of me?
For taking your impression onto me and making it last?

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No atheist in the trenches: I’ll keep resuscitating this love.

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I’ve hardly slept. It’s close to three. I’m ready to go.
Are you?

• •

You said: But sex often takes the rap.

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Something in me can hardly think of her without keening.

She said: You were waiting for sadness; now you’ve got it.

• •

But if I said I love you, would I be saying it as a woman or as a girl?

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They always said: After this is over, we’ll remember her when . . .

But I remember her then, right at the end. It’s the her still closest to me.

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How to put a coda on something never-ending?

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Accumulate, abominate.

• •

I said: Oh, you mean the history of my sexuality!

This many years later, that fire still burns.

• •

After buying the handbag in an air-conditioned store on a mostly empty downtown street, I drove Pine to the Pacific and who should I see from the corner of my eye but the undertaker. Driving the hearse, lighting a cigarette. I would know that man anywhere, with his blond hair and his dark, crazed look.

He lit up then moved lanes quickly, two over. I watched his left signal blinking red—I knew where he was headed.

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