Diaries from 'The Quarantine Ceremony'...


Catch 22 Algebraic
Just born…

On our scheduled date of release from the hospital, two days after you were born, we have to sign these papers indicating custody rights and such, and, when we get to the receptionist, just before discharge, she explains what these papers say: that, basically, since your mom and I aren’t married, if we break up, your mom gets you and I have no chance of even taking the case to court, and I ask this woman, your mom standing beside me, just as a joke, “What if she’s not fit to be a mother?” “That’s for the courts to decide,” she says. “But, if I sign this,” I say, “I can’t take her to court.” “Yes sir,” she says, “right here by the X.”


Barring Lesbianism
Three months old…

Changing your diapers, I fear the worst—to think I’m the first, but certainly not the last, man to ever take off your pants.


Snack
Six months old…

You put your foot in your mouth and I say: “Save that for when you start talking.”


Helping Cripples Avoid Catastrophe
Nine months old…

This morning you crawled over to a sunbeam that fell on the floor, tried clutching it in your hand as if the house’s knees would buckle without its crutch.


Freudian Bananas
One year old…

It’s hard for me to know how or when to say the right things, as hard I suppose for you to say anything. It’s easy to say the wrong things when words you don’t want stumble their way off the throat’s elevator, only to slip on the tongue’s wet peel.


Notes on the Blackboard
One year old…

With all I teach you, I feel more and more these days that I’m the student learning from you, because, even as I jot this down, I’m actually reading that you’ve always been the pen, and I’m the notebook you’ve been writing in, the tape recorder you’ve been quoting me with, your words coming out of my mouth before you ever speak.


Set in Sway
Two years old…

Your hybrid eyelids are Venus fly traps, clamping their jaws around the insects and raw hamburger meat of everything I do, and, through your changing seasons, Fatherhood is a palm tree in California.


The Felt Island
Two years old…

After your mom and I broke up, after she asked me to leave, I felt I was under quarantine, exiled from her, from you—my family. For Christmas that year, I bought you all the Thomas and Friends train set stuff I could find because it was your favorite show. You loved it, though maybe not as much as I did. Building the Island of Sodor, where Thomas the Tank Engine lives, stretching lengths of green felt over a 5x5 piece of plywood, stapling the edges to the underside, putting those tracks together, setting up the little stations—it gave me something to do, something to get my mind off where I was living, where I was in my life. It gave me something to do with myself when you weren’t here—while I wasn’t there, with you, your mom. You could come visit me on my island. Those train tracks and all the trains with happy faces on them, they would be something you couldn’t wait to come over to my place for—if not me. You’d get excited about your Thomas and Friends train set, but really I was the one who cared about it, who needed it. It had to be perfect—if nothing else could be. And we’d play, pretend things were different, and I would board one of those trains with you in my arms and we’d go far, far away, to where your mom waited for us, to where we all shared a home close by.


Gravitational Sonar
Three years old…

Talking to you on the phone at your mom’s house, you hold the phone upside down so the receiver is near your mouth and the mouthpiece is on your ear. I can barely hear you. You’re so far away, more than it actually feels like not living with you, here in exile, broken, banished, feeling like I’ve lost direction, and you turn the phone right-side up, say, “Did you feel like you were upside down, Dada?” “Yes,” I say, “I felt like a bat with no wings, like I was going to fall on my head, so I’m happy you turned me back up the right way.” “You weren’t scared, were you?” you say. “No, just worried my feet wouldn’t be strong enough to fall back on.”


Late Video to Blockbuster
Three years old…

Paying your mom child support, it feels too much like I’m renting you. I wish I could rewind this movie to the part when your mom still loved me. I’d never return it.


Curiously Vicarious
Three years old…

Your mom and I, we stopped holding each other’s hands one day—I don’t remember why, and it’s not really that important, I guess. Not now. I’ve lost her, and that’s all I can say to make sense of how broken I am, so I think back to before your mom and I had our first drink together, before I got big out of control with it, and I realize, after all that time without you ever being born, you’re the only reason I was ever still going to be alive now. You’re the story of my life, being lived through you, for you.


The Good Will Drop-Off
Four years old…

I could give you directions—I could show you the right way to go, but I knew the first time I saw you tie your shoes all by yourself you’d draw your own maps to follow, and one day you’d come home, tell me about all the places you’ve been—and one day you’d bring me back your shoes so I could examine the mazes carved into their soles to find I was the one who was lost.


Delivery
Four years old…

It’s all so routine, the time we spend using up the time we have, and waiting—I used to spend all day with you before your mom got home so I could go to sleep before work. Now you’re in preschool, and I’ve finally stopped working overnights, but now that I don’t live with you I can only see you in the morning to pick you up at your mom’s and drop you off at preschool where sometimes you cry because you don’t want me to go. I get a car ride. I get a whole car ride to see you, to look at you through a rearview mirror. But there are Sundays, and you sleep over my place. My week spent working, sending off poems to be rejected, looking forward to seeing you and waiting for mail that never seems to come—I think of you being born and the only day I get to spend with you as the one day of the week the Post Office is closed.


The Age of Innocence
Five years old…

I fear that age you’ll soon reach when you don’t believe Santa is a real person. Not that I wanted to’ve lied to you all those years, not that I wanted you to feel you couldn’t trust me. I just fear that age you’ll soon reach, that same age when I won’t know you no longer believe in some stupid, corporate gimmick because you’ve stopped talking to me altogether, that same age you’ll soon reach when I won’t know whether or not you’re drinking, doing drugs, having sex—all the things I’ve done to find you.


Time’s Leprosy
Five years old…

You want a tattoo, like I have. I get you a temporary one for a quarter from a gumball machine. It’s of a mermaid with wings, and when it begins to fall off you ask if you’ll grow a new one, like a flower blooming from your skin’s soil, and I think of all the permanent things we lose in life, and of life itself being the one thing we never think of like a limb, as if we’re all just pickup trucks and when we hit the really big bumps all the lumber left in us slides out the back of the flatbed—but all we think about is driving, we have to keep driving, so I think of driving to see you every morning, to pick you up for preschool, and the moment you run out your door smiling with your arms open makes me feel like an immortal who refuses to act his age.


UPDATE: For more excerpts from The Quarantine Ceremony, please visit elimae, elimae and Thunderclap!.

9 comments:

xTx said...

all of these things mean that you are very, very beautiful.

Eric Beeny said...

Hi x, thank you. That makes me big happy...

davidpeak said...

i like these a lot. are you still writing them? you should put together a chapbook.

davidpeak said...

oh. quarantine ceremony. i need to read more closely. ... i still like these.

Eric Beeny said...

Hi David, that's okay. Big thanks...

adam moorad said...

seems pretty comprehensive. nice.

Eric Beeny said...

Thanks, Adam...

David Erlewine said...

damn, right here by the x. great start and these never let off my neck. damn well done, sir.

Eric Beeny said...

Big thanks, David...