Eileen R. Tabios

(a novella-in-prose poems)

Chapter 1

Someone thought: It wasn’t a unique time in human history. But it felt like more forces than ever before were conspiring against Love. People are benign until power is involved, and the history of humanity is a history of power. History is implacable—what it was, is. But Love has always retained its own trajectory—as a force, it can overcome unimaginable adversity. Love can burnish contemptible events into the roots for undeserved radiance. In poverty, it remains as pure as a waterfall. For Love, I have even forgotten the existence of countries. Yes, Love can falter, also fail. But this is Love’s profundity: despite its fragility and failures, its possibility remains as a positively and intensely transformative force. Still, each story must begin by bearing the risk that Love will crumple—what becomes solidified in history books are but fragments from the surface of a swamp. Beneath a surface fracturing unpredictably here and there simmers the deep grieving from compromises and aborted potentials. To be human is to create new variations of grief with too few surviving their way into Joy. Add “monachopsis” to your vocabulary of failed happiness: “the subtle but persistent feeling of being out of place.”

Chapter 2

Someone thought: If each day ended with a 25th hour, would he still have missed seeing the lover who could dispel winter from under his night blankets? He was convinced he had missed, instead of not met, the woman for which he would have released all weaponry from his body. He encountered her, but his eyes failed to snag onto hers and then engage. Perhaps her hair happened to fall over her eyes, or an arm happened to rise for shade against an unmitigated sun, thus camouflaging her face when they walked past each other. Perhaps other people blocked their views of each other, and he could only remain confused by his suddenly rapid heartbeat before it dissipated as they walked away from each other. Perhaps gods just laughed at their fate. Because history shows to be a god is to be cruel or mischievous. Because history shows that when gods act mischievously, they behave with cruelty. Would blizzards actually fall for no reason? You and I must make a promise even before the plot opens its eyes.

Chapter 3

Someone thought: He volunteered to burn. Bliss would cancel pain. He accelerated the inevitable by lighting the match himself and looked forward to the time when he would look back at this day, at this moment—at its necessary turbulence—and relish it as when he imploded to ashes to compost new growth. The past need not be irrelevant or simply educational. The past, too, can be salubrious—suddenly, the besieged world pleasingly blossoms in technicolor. Suddenly, everything becomes the South American blossom known as Happy Aliens or Darwin’s Slippers—the 2-inch flower bears an orange body and green cap to look like an alien holding a white tray. On that tiny tray, the number of possible experiences total infinity. With his lover, he wanted to experience all. For desire, he opted to become a new man, for which he set himself afire. Add “lachesism” to your vocabulary: “the desire to be struck by disaster—to survive a plane crash, or to lose everything in a fire.”

Chapter 4

Someone thought: “Light of my life, fire of my loins.” He’d always appreciated—no, envied—Nabokov for knowing how to write those words about his character Lolita. If only the entomologist and composer of chess problems had used less passion on overcoming his childhood. There is nothing romantic about suffering—those who romanticize suffering didn’t learn from it. That said, he felt that the transformation of “Lolita” to mean “precociously seductive girl” without reflecting her sexual victimization was unsurprising in a world that spawned the parallel universe of orphans. Post-trauma, victims were often inconvenient. Such includes young orphans (they don’t vote)—sometimes, something’s existence was simply abuse. Everyone should be adopted into belonging. Blood alone is undependable. No one should clutch at the sky as their only blanket. Did not humanity—despite moral flaws—create a god from a virgin’s son who offered his blood for everyone’s wine? To be an orphan is to add “exulansis” to vocabulary: “the tendency to give up trying to talk about an experience because people are unable to relate to it.” Can an entomologist who composes chess problems really fail to recognize child abuse? That said, some things are not meant for empathy.

Chapter 5

Someone thought: He began as he’d begun, not because his mother died but because he’d never had one. He operated from lack, not loss—they created different forms of anguish. How to respond to something never known? How to respond when “mother” becomes a signifier, and what is signified is doubly unknown because each mother is as different as each child is different from each other—how does psychology become science if it’s trapped in generalizations? Mothers are the first teacher of words. Words can ruin countries. “Therefore, and.” Countries can ruin words. How to cope when no mother existed who could have taught the anonymous him how to pray? With a mother, he could have created, then sung, no less than hymns at repose in antique leather-bound hymnals. With a mother, he could have recognized his name. Add “occhiolism” to your vocabulary: “the awareness of the smallness of your perspective.”

Chapter 6

Someone thought: For ships at a distance, there’s no difference between reality and a painting. In either case, the vessels are known only for their outlines. The distant ship that appears as shadow and smoke becomes mere profile outlined in black against a paper cutter’s white matte backdrop. Disrespecting (its) purity, white was chosen solely to contrast against the dark in reductive simplicity. But neatness frays against the honesty of the raw. A canvas of white against white pales against a canvas of white smoothed over a rainbow’s riot of paint—the inevitable leak will be welcomed for staining what was smoothly polished. Flesh without blood is dead. Ships at a distance do not exist unless they dock, open their gates, lower their staircases, and allow entry into an intimacy no longer withheld—an intimacy where leakage does not create just the one response of a shuddering recoil.

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