by loie merritt
It’s been two weeks since I’ve sat down to write. Everything is just misspelled words knocking against silent sobs in my ribcage. I can’t remember the way I felt before, the safety locked in, like both feet happily grounded in a block of cement, heat conducted and hardened with my own privilege. At the same time, nothing has changed. Day to day, feeding to feeding, broken dish to shitty diaper, my children requiring me to hold my own shit together. But in silence, I hear a clock ticking. And we don’t own a ticking clock. On this rare rainy day, I am thankful that I don’t have to go outside, into the world, the world that is the same except cut open. Do you feel that pain? What does the pain sound like today?
The wordless, ticking, heaving, sobbing, cold, could be forever kind of pain.
Sounds like a broken mirror. Sounds like burning skin.
On November 9th, I tried to write. The only thing I could get down over and over again:
My body is limp. Men are stepping over me.
My body is limp. Men are stepping over me.
The scar from which the babies were taken from me burns more often now. Even as the sun sets quicker behind the front range and the frost at night is killing the grass and the basil and the apples still clinging to the tree, even as my cells turn over and die small deaths, I let anger take root in my tire tread of a womb.
I let this anger spread into a red tide across the shore of my body. I let myself speed read frivolous mom blogs and plan a feast with friends instead of clinging to the post-truth media coverage of the end of our world. Our world that didn’t actually exist to begin with.
To begin with, it’s exactly what we feared. And worse. Now, language doesn’t mean any more than puss leaking from a wound I keep reopening with a too long fingernail. Now, open means to fight.
I fight the urge to give up. I fight the urge to pretend we’ll all be okay. I am fighting to keep my accounts solvent and the cell phone bill paid so I can call in an emergency. To make that phone call make that phone call make the call to your representatives before they stop giving us the opportunity to make that phone call. The opportunity is to march against the persistent flow of greenhouse gas, to hack through a jungle of men’s hands with a vagina machete, to collide with the truth that I know what it feels like to feel hate, to be hated but not feared, not truly feared or wanted dead.
To march. To hammer. To trample. To approach the borderlands of reasonable and to stride beyond, so far beyond I am no longer safe. I want my children to learn to walk so that they can learn to run, in case we need to run and I can no longer carry them. Turns out reasonable was under foot with every step we took and with each step we turned reasonable into dust.
One page and my fingers are finally warming again, the first time in weeks. My toes are bare and cold as is typical when I sit and write. I take brief pauses to consider if this is making me feel better. In these pauses I realize my skin picking has become more severe. When did this start up again? I dig and dig and dig at my ear. Does this make me feel better? I twist my hair in tight, frizzy knots and pull. Does this make me feel?
Language failing, disappearing, reordering itself to form new analogies in the wake of another ending of the world. My body is not a fucking perennial garden or a cracking foundation made of concrete. An economy, a part of the economy and its own kind, building a supply of milk at the demand of small mouths. Mouths with teeth now that bite when supplies are down. Supplies are down because I have no appetite, not for the last fourteen days. My body, mirror of a failing economy.
It’s my fault. The once astute ticker of my brain is trying to assess where to consciously invest. I am distracted and it’s my fault. The wolf biting at my tit reminding me of how I should, how I could define myself by these new starvations. Words to my mind: bonds, security, long term, hold me. Though nausea haunts me in the grim light of six am, I need to blanket a child’s hand over my chest and wrap her tightly around my stomach. As much to feed and warm and soothe her, as to pick at the dried mucus around her nose. So she can breathe better. So I can satisfy this compulsion to pick.
A scab behind my ear is bleeding. And then, I make her bleed too.
Do I deserve to feel better? What have you done for your country today? Is this a country to which you want to belong? Do I belong to the American dream when I dream of burning this orchard down to the root, making ash of each rotten fruit to fertilize something better? Reinvesting my time (not enough), my love (not enough), my body (not enough), my apologies (not enough), my collateral (not enough). What do I have to offer? My children. I’m doing the best I can.
I will stay, I say to myself every morning. Burn it down. Stay. Such a wasteland does not deserve these children. Now fire means birth.
I look up: How to make a bomb.
Perhaps this thing should be called, The Market of Failures. I dig so deep into my left ear; it begins to ring motherhood motherhood motherhood.
How to survive with a womb. I’m doing the best I can.
A failure because this is what we got for all that demanding.
A poll a poll a poll:
What did you think you were asking for?
What did you expect to receive?
Build the bomb. It will burn you down.
And still, all this noise and everyone wants to talk and everyone needs to cry and no one is listening.
My body is limp. Men are stepping over me.
Thirsty men are stepping over me to drink from a spigot vomiting blood, not water.
My blood and man drool seep into the dirt, the color indigo.
It splashes between my toes.
It stains the soles of my feet.
My children are watching these thirsty men step over me.
My children are watching me fail.
Now and always there is right and there is wrong.
We were wrong but are right. Now, how to get the right people who are so wrong to listen?
Now that something has shifted. Now that something has finally broke.
I only want to break bones.
What should I demand now?
And don’t say love. Fucking love. Today, love is syphilis. Love is liver disease. I need to be my anger and lash out with the same violence that is so determined to destroy what I believe. What you believe.
I demand a word that builds a bomb.
Help me plant that seed.
p o s t s c r i p t
I am not, nor have I ever been, a person who shares my private life with a consuming public or even my closest friends. I have come to understand that I experience my life through a jigsaw puzzle of image and thus, a jigsaw is what I write. What these images mean to you will be blissfully different than what they mean to me. And then everything changes. By the time I catch up with myself and get something down on paper, anxiety launches a new attack—my meanings have already changed. What I meant to express has already escaped into my cellular ether. And I swear I can now feel every cell dying.
How I see myself today both frightens and fascinates me. I have never been so troubled, so frustrated, so awestruck by my pain and the pain others are experiencing. In the midst of this suffering also come astonishing amounts of pleasure. I want to encourage this audience to seek out their pleasure as fervently as we must also exist in our pain.
I am coming to terms with my history; the one that lives in my blood, the one that itches the back of my neck like a bad tag on a second hand shirt, the one that I continue to live and write through. Still, language fails me. Every. Damn. Day. I am not satisfied by this medium, it is not enough. We must bear the responsibility of something more than the safety of our most natural art forms. But for now, this is the flagpole which my art uses to rise and fall.
Hitting thirty this year, I am more resolute than ever before, so strong and confident, and yet here I am forced into a fluidity of time, language, and truth from which I feel I will never escape. I’m not done discovering what form my art must take, but I am determined to live my truths with integrity, bravery, a little hope and humor. The interrogation of what I think, what I believe, and what is possible must never end and this is what excites me as I work today.
With so much of this existence that I still need to translate and then learn how to survive (and teach my children to survive), I praise whatever medium you have at your fingertips. I hope that in the difficult times ahead we will manifest a new vocabulary with which to define and honor our grief, our fear, our rage, our pleasure, and our pain.
Loie Merritt is a writer, mixed media artist, and performer from the coast of Maine. She recently received an MFA from the University of Colorado where she was an editor of Timber Journal and continues to teach creative writing. Her work has recently appeared in Map Literary (nominated for a 2016 Pushcart Prize), Lemon Hound, Anamesa, DREGINALD, and The Cafe Review among others. She lives in Boulder.