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bryan e.
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jul/aug  2003

the cabal
shut the
"the confrontation of aesthetics..."
vol. ii, issue ii
May 24, 2004
November 29th
Amy Muldoon

I think that if I write these things down, I will keep moments from disappearing.

I think that if I write these things down, I can trap people on the page like butterflies preserved under glass. It will stop them from floating away.

I'm not a butterfly hunter, of course. I wait until after the moments have flown beyond my fingers. Not all people do. They catch you while you are still in the room, drinking wine or laughing at a page in a book or eating sandwiches and thinking about whether or not you need one more velvet dress because you have nowhere to wear the first three you bought.

Hell yes, I need one more velvet dress. I buy red, the color of leaves in October. It laces over my left hip with red ribbons, and it has petticoats of tattered looking silk that hang beneath the hem. When I move, the silk whispers like leaves.

My husband says what the fuck. He asks where am I going to wear something like that.

"Here," I say, because there I am. I don't say duh, because I hate it when people say duh, but I think it.

I wonder who wrote the rule that we put on out best for the benefit of strangers. At home, amongst the people we love, we subject them to our ugly moments. Women wear sweatpants, and it is a cruel thing to do to your own ass. It is a cruel thing to do to someone who might look at your ass. Sweatpants. What an awful idea. Even the name is ugly.

My youngest son is small and his eyes are pure because he hasn't been taught the rules the Jones family follows. He gathers a handful of red velvet skirt in his hand, and shakes the petticoats to watch the silk flutter.

He says I should wear this every day.

"What, to do the bloody dishes?" my husband asks.

Connor looks offended by the suggestion. "No," he says. "She's too pretty to work."

I like this tremendously, for many reasons. Because he is beautiful and sees me through happy eyes. Because I hate dishes. Because it is good justification for wearing red velvet skirts at home. Because he is a good boy. Because I have made a moment in his mind where he found his mommy beautiful and he might keep it as insurance against a time when I am not.

Just in case he doesn't, I catch it and carefully pin it to paper. Here it is.

My children understand things. Kate thinks that being too pretty to work would be a fine thing. She finds a costume she wore in a play, and emerges from her room, Juliet in wine silk and gold. She could not find the under blouse, so her monkey print pajamas show beneath her slash and puff sleeves. Her hair hangs to her waist like a length of dark silk.

My principessa. I have made you dresses of red and gold, and sewn tapestry ribbons to your sleeves. You will not do dishes. You will sit in front of fires and read new books that I give you so that you will love the same words that I do. If you have a new book, you are rich, even if you have overdrawn your bank account.

She lets me braid her hair while she reads. I lay the braids around her head like a dark crown and twist in a necklace of garnet beads that belonged to her great grandmother. Her neck curves like the stem of a flower.

Why does Kate have a crown her brother asks, and I say ssshhhh. How many times have I told you not to make noise when mommy's casting spells? Connor wants a crown too, so he puts a bucket on his head.

We laugh, we three. Four. For a moment, I feel the disappeared one with us. My ghost child. He is standing by the window, smiling at us. It shouldn't surprise me that he appears when we are laughing, but it always does.

I catch you, I commit your soul to paper, because I don't know what else to do. I whisper my children, my children. It is a prayer. It is a song of goodbye sung by mourners in a desert outside a Bedouin tent. It is a spell that will keep them from flying away from me. It is a useless stupid moment that will mean nothing to anybody but me. My children will rise up and call me blessed, or maybe rise up and call me a fucking wackadoo.

This is exactly what my husband says to us. "You fucking wackadoos." He means that he doesn't understand, that he is from a different sort of people. They fry their tomatoes in bacon grease. They don't buy velvet. They think moments are things that you use and assign numbers to. They do not put jewels or buckets on their heads.

They are butterfly hunters. They think that they must catch you while you are flying, and press down on you until you are still. Impale you on a pin and tape a label beneath you and keep you under glass so that you never fly away.

I think the label would say this: genus wackadoo. morte. Hell yes, but don't my wings look pretty? Impale me.

I am dying here, I tell him. I am dying.

The words float into the space between us, they make noise but he doesn't hear them. A moment goes by and they disappear.

I throw my wineglass into the fireplace to see it shatter in the flames. It makes a beautiful sound. "Make a wish," I tell my children. The rule says the wish counts only if you drink from the glass first, but they are still part of me, so I bend the rules.

I wish for the moments passing. Here they are, in a circle of firelight. November with dark garnets crowning us and buckets on our heads and velvet russet and rustling and wine and spells cast in sparkling shards of gold etched glass. 

Nobody else can ever drink from that glass or take that wish from my mouth.