we have a calendar
in our house
it’s still on December
my mom said
we’ll never get a new one
you would think it’s still Christmas in our place
or that she wanted to hold onto that year
she never told me
but the picture makes our place feel cooler
from July to September
we had a lady
who came to visit us
for a time
she had a Psychology-M.D.-Nutritionist-P.E.-Social-Services degree
she wore pink sparkling tennis shoes
i loved her shoes
they didn’t have discoloration or holes like mine
she said she would give us money
to help us out
if we let her tell us how to improve
“make some lifestyle change” i think were her words
that’s what our big problem was–lifestyle
she said we need more style
she started out by telling my mom
that i shouldn’t be
to live in misery
i asked my mom what the word misery meant
she told me misery was the word the pink lady used
to excuse herself
i was still confused
the pink lady made a prescription for my mom
some calendar pills
this calendar looked different
from the one on the wall
it just ran in circles
i couldn’t flip the page
my mom said we wouldn’t take them
this made the lady whine and frown
my mom told me that she didn’t want to turn into a snob
with the pink lady’s make-over lifestyle change
i told her why not
i wanted to tell everyone what to do
i started on my little sister
i called her fat
my mom pulled my hands behind my back
kept me from taking the pink lady’s medicine
we didn’t see the pink lady
anymore after that
my mom told me my sister was pretty
she told me i just needed eyes to see
i ran to the mirror to check
and wondered what those rolling balls in my head could be
my mom laughed
she said, “son, that pink lady in her pink robes cast
a spell on you. she’s not really lookin’ out for me, your sister, or you.
she just hates helpin’ people like me and you. she thinks since she doesn’t
have kids, she can tell every other mother
what to do. she feels right
but she’s abandoned reason and fact. she really
didn’t read Wollstonecraft. education hasn’t helped her one bit.
all’s that woman is proving is that women
don’t want to think and you know
that’s not true. she makes us
but i am telling you
see the difference between
authenticity and fake.
she’s still a doll with her pink shoes.
she thinks life is fixed with style.
now. you look at me. your sister is real.
you think about that.
get those rolling balls in your head to see.”
so i sat on the couch and thought
what is it my eyes can’t see?
Although I really like the pink lady, her pink silky robes, her pink ribbons, her pink shoes–she reminded me of a holy angel or a monk–I realized that she felt like a goddess or a god. If she felt that way about herself, how much would she think she is the author of good? If she thinks she is the author of good, would she try to direct people into her version of goodness? If they didn’t do what she told them to do, then what would she do? No. Her version of good was flat, two-dimensional. No one could be as thin as that.
I looked at my sister. Yep. She was 3-D, and she could even feel and move–that seemed like a fourth dimension to me, especially when she would sit and watch Star Trek with me, always asking me questions, poking me, and whining when I’d poke her back. Yep. She was 4-D. She even hit me when I called her fat. No paper had ever done that. She cried. I felt bad. No book ever made me feel so bad. It all added up. My sister was real.
That lady? From her pink throne, she never could manage to share a meal. She wasn’t even a friend. Friends at the very least share company. They don’t tell you what to do if they don’t know anything about you. She thought she was a queen. I wonder what she thought we were. She only saw pink, so maybe we were pigs, not the type to eat. She was a vegetarian, so maybe that’s why she called me a misery. My mom and sister, they could be fixed, but me, she didn’t want any more of us mulling around. I know she thought we didn’t have enough style. She treated my mom like a disease, or maybe that was me. We refused to become in her image and likeness. She said we would die, but we knew she meant that she wished we were dead. She wanted us to adore her advice. Every person she met was just another number, another dime, dumber than a mouse.
I shared my last crumb with a little white one. He told me the scientists were after him, trying to fool his reactions, switching meaning and words around, suggesting that he was the exploitable, sacrificial one. They did things to him, saying he was evil. He heard their voices when he was a frozen embryo, stuck in a tube. He told me he was one of the lucky ones. I looked at his scars, patches of hair, missing eye, and cut tail, and wondered what happened to the unlucky mice. He said that they live as pieces on other people. I didn’t want to know more after that. Thinking of a furry tail sticking out of someone’s head…enough said.
my mom didn’t believe in exterminators
we would move to a new place
except my mom likes this one
the calendar still says
the year some wall fell down
the year my dad died
the year my sister was born
Years later, we heard that the pink lady still had no friends, no kids, no kin. She was old. A friend had tried to stop her from denying that fact, tried to stop her from throwing away the voiceless fact. The pink lady was still stuck on 2-D, so she wouldn’t let anyone in her life who was fatter than that–that included her own babies. She wanted things to be markable, crump-able, throw-away-able, and easy.
It made me think about friends, family, and advice. Perhaps what some people say was nice. Maybe she was trying to be nice. When she said we had no style, perhaps her wisdom was true. I wondered and thought, just like my mom, God bless her soul, had told me to do.
The lady looked thinner than thin. Her friendships were just as thick; her family doesn’t exist; her existence runs with the clock; her money is trapped in a safe; the women she helped are barred, lost, or drowning in the segue; she finds more advice from papers and enjoys gluing and plastering the notices onto the children she’s losing; she feels guilty for living but wants to live forever in her pink room; she sacrificed her church in order to feel holier than the sinners there. She thinks she knows best. She thinks she is the best. She tells herself this every second of every day. Her mantra is complete when the money comes in. When the cameras arrive, she gives a cent to a poor child. She takes pictures of herself when she travels around in order to show people that she knows other cultures, and she knows what they need. Her smiling picture proves that she is happy.
She tries to believe that the smile she sees in her pictures is truly how she felt and feels, and she thinks she can get it back if she can convince enough people that flat is the best way to be.
It ain’t real.
She’s going to die, but she won’t even know she’s dead. She’s stuck on her smiling pictures, less than happy, less than real.
She sits high, but she can’t ever think outside of flat.
I felt sorry for her,
so I took her picture off my wall.
The calendar is still there.
On December 25th, my dad wrote a note:
“There are worse things than poverty. At least I have my God, my church, my friends, and my family.”
I understood that all we accomplish, however brilliant, is worth nothing without love.
It’s true. Love is fatter than 2-D.
I feel sorry for that pink lady.
Italicized words from St. Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul