An iridescent spider weaves a web
Her whole body moves like a single hand
Pull, stretch, dip, next
Pull, stretch, dip, next.
My friend prepares dinner
Slicing grape tomatoes
Graceful and relaxed at her kitchen counter.
Set, slice, bowl, next
Set, slice, bowl, next.
My sister crochets a hat
Curled on the couch on a cold winter day,
Listening to a movie while her hands work.
Loop, hook, pull, next
Loop, hook, pull, next.
I enter data
At work wearing headphones
Music distracting my mind from my hands.
Check, copy, paste, next
Check, copy, paste, next.
Repetitive motions get us through our days.
Work is work, everywhere you look.
The rhythms and pulses of life don’t change.
And they are the same
For every creature.
Sometimes I enjoy doing things the hard way
The long, difficult way
Without advanced tools.
It connects me to the past
To ancient humans
Struggling to make ends meet
To those who worked hard perfecting a craft.
I tried to saw dovetails with hand tools
When I made my desk.
It was hard work.
It took days.
I was sore, my carpal tunnel flared
And when I finally tried to hammer the pieces together
It didn’t fit.
But I learned
how much work
Every piece of furniture should be.
I can appreciate
The ease of modern living
Machine made items shipped to your home.
I can appreciate too
What we’ve lost.
You forge a connection
With things you built
With food you grew, harvested, and processed.
Even doing something as simple as washing your car by hand
You learn more about the state that car is in
Notice its scratches and weak points
Restore the sparkles in its paint.
I processed five gallons of grapes by hand.
When I sat in my kitchen
I mimicked the motions of my ancestors.
Women have peeled grapes
Into bowls in their laps
For thousands of years.
They spent hours upon hours
Processing the bounty of summer
To stave off winter’s bite.
They told stories while working
And some just worked
Alone, in quiet thought.
Every grape I handled
Taught me more about this food.
I learned to tell a wormy one by feel
Its rough scar tissue
Sent a shudder through my marrow.
I learned what every color tastes like.
I learned to love the Concord smell
Rich and strong and sweet and tangy.
If I’d used tools
I wouldn’t have had to stand at the sink for so long.
I wouldn’t have had the quiet thinking time
I wouldn’t have been able to practice my working posture
Relaxed enough to fight fatigue, yet always moving.
I noticed I was taking much longer than necessary
Due to my need to get every grape, save every grape, not waste
And I knew someone watching me would have felt frustrated
Just as I felt
When I watched my mother process peaches for the freezer
Always graceful, always painfully slow, yet inevitable.
After two days of work
The peaches would be all blanched, peeled, sliced, sugared, and frozen.
I felt her echo in my slow fingers
Of her, and a million women before her
All of us preparing the harvest
So we might have something sweet
I knew a man,
though not very well.
A nice man
We were all looking sideways at S——
with her regrowing cancer hair
but death came at us
from an unexpected direction.
I wasn’t even aware he was sick
I cut off the tip of my finger.
It’s not often I am afraid
but I was
I pressed my finger into my palm to stem the bleeding.
It felt deformed. Too short, too flat.
I didn’t want to know what it looked like.
A reminder of my mortality
we get the office email.
He has died. We grieve his passing.
The office is quiet
with heavy atmosphere.
Somebody has set
a vase of flowers
outside his office door.
They have been placed there
by honoring hands,
to honor the dead.
We decorate their haunts.
We create ceremonies.
We save mementos.
We tell stories.
I only knew this man by sight.
Another office worker
someone who helped grease the cogs
of our mutual machine.
We might wave or nod.
He had a habit
of muttering to himself
funny, quirky things.
I would pick up snatches of his internal dialog
when I walked by.
How well did he know me?
My finger is stiff with scab.
I worry at it, clean it, unwrap it, rewrap it.
It will have to last me
a few years longer.
Sitting at my desk, trying to focus at work.
Put this in that folder there,
Type that data here,
Fill out all the little boxes…
What was that.
a ghost wind passes through me.
I continue to type
I continue to read
but something inside has been
and everything’s going gray.
what is coming.
my stomach lurches.
please tell me this won’t last.
the world around me has lost all color.
Death has awoken
and rests his bony fingers
on my shoulder.
life is meaningless.
the world has stopped turning.
i’m back in that place again.
this cold, lonely cell
and i can’t remember how to cry.
five minutes pass… not long.
just as inexplicably
Death changes his mind.
wraps himself in his cloak
and curls back into a benign black ball in the corner of my mind.
as he retires, ambient warmth returns.
The world sets back into motion.
Color resurges into my reality.
I’m in my office again
Still typing away
That for five minutes
I was briefly pushed
Out of their world.
It didn’t last.
It didn’t last.
I finally finished something! My little horror comic is all done. See how cute and horrible it is. Joel is definitely me, going to work every morning. Witness the melodrama.
Being sick actually helped get this done. My brain was in a weird fog. I spent a long time sitting in my car in the parking garage because I got distracted by the weirdness of my tongue in the rearview mirror. It’s such a horrible gross alien, all twitchy and purple and veiny and sluglike. I just stuck it out and moved it around and marveled that I was in control of this thing. After a while I realized, I’d been doing this for god knows how long, and I needed to get a drink of water, and drive home.
Then I got home, and Don said something about the cat doing something, I don’t know, I don’t listen to him much 😉 and I thought about saying, “It wouldn’t be outside of the realm of possibility” in response. But I got mentally hooked on that phrase and was like, how long did that take just to say in my head. It’s the longest possible phrase. I say that all the time, too. Did I say that just now? I’m not sure. Why don’t I just say maybe. Could I find a LONGER phrase than “It wouldn’t be outside of the realm of possibility?” Could I BE any dorkier?
But when I called in sick, I just spent all day staring at the computer screen with the paint bucket tool, connecting lines, clicking fill, connecting lines, clicking fill. The whole damn thing got done. I am really amazed that I got anything done in the state of mind I was in, but if I were in a normal state of mind, I probably wouldn’t have done jack.
I didn’t used to be affected by colds this way. I’m not sure if this comes from getting older and being just more susceptible to everything, or if it is simply a matter of me not being as repressed, so I allow myself to get emotionally and mentally affected by things. It was kind of fun, except for the occasional drowning in my own excretions.