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We’re featuring Maria Melititskaya’s poem, “Alone in the forest,” on the Sunday Showcase today! The poem is a hero’s anti-journey of sorts, a cut-to-the-chase modern epic that questions the path home, and the emotional turmoil that leads us there.
Alone in the forest
– Maria Melititskaya
Odysseus is not headed home. He stopped by the bar for his ex’s favorite DJ’s set, and partied all night and laid down in the ship’s ample lap. His crew is the only family he likes. Or needs. Comfortable here, so much better to down an extra shot and not think “tomorrow.” Odysseus met some people and walked along with them, dropping by the courtyards and peeking into windows. All the paintings on these walls, the lamplight, uneven facades, where each life painted her greenery just for him: the plants, the curtains, shades of color, and a cat butt… Reminded him of something, but what was it? It’s a word at the tip of his tongue, behind his teeth, on the palate, lifted off, roofless.
Odysseus is moving, he’s moving, unaware of the waves, lost to himself.
Come, come for me, you apocalypse horseback rider, you wind that is also a horse, you sunburn, you unmade belief, you number ten bus. Come for me, for I have not stopped for death. For I have lived on and intend to live on well past my prime, perhaps, in a seaside town’s silences, construction sites, and dance clubs. Come, for my stocky legs have marched and marched to the nearest scooter and found none. Rust shall cover my steps, my eyelids shall rust over, rust is the word on the street. Come, for I wanted a lot and got that much more, especially from the AC’s cooling charms. Come, for the city is on its last legs, going somewhere, for hug is sameach and I can be atzuva when tired. Which is not a disease, nor the least of what is coming next. Dark sand lays ahead of me on the beach, rolling under my feet, and so do imprints of a horse’s hooves, and suddenly I am running the Neruda poem, “listen how the wind comes galloping,” but it is I, galloping right in its footsteps, yearning to take me away from the ground and onto the road.
Penelope is pleasant, always been a pleasant person. She nods to her colleague’s remarks, washes the dishes whenever there’s any in the sink, and cries in the cubicle silently, freezing if someone walks in. At night, she opens her work files and stares at them. Waiting for a feeling, any way to feel alive on this warm night. Deletes the docs, one by one, drafts a message to her boss. “Project A will need a bit more time, I should be done by the deadline, maybe I’ll crunch it on the weekend.”
Who knows, when she might be done.
I am watching a girl on the bus, the street, the screen. There should be a way to enjoy somebody’s look without wanting to buy it, no, imitate it, no, fold myself into her shape: black tank top, black jeans, light hair easily sneaking into a neat bun, as though on video in reverse. My childhood’s scariest nightmare was about being punished for imitating a stranger. Sometimes I get inspired by a line, a stanza, and still I mentally slap away my hand: “Original only, don’t you dare copy.” Sometimes I get inspired by someone’s life choices too, the layering of decisions over time that creates what we would call a home, what we would call a career. I feel inspired and jealous, and I slap away my hand: “This is not mine, and this home is not mine, and this desire is not mine, step in line.” Imagine that, starting from scratch every time. Or do not imagine.
Or you don’t have to imagine.
The air is thick and piney, pining after you. It’s filling in for your space, your inbreath of warmth, your ingrowth of flesh. The wind picks up in the far branches of them far conifers. Soon, in the next moment, it moves right onto you and right through your stoic, brittle bones, and then on, over the next tree, the next body, carrying with it a bit of yours.
Fury is fuel I can’t access most days. Neither fury nor pleasure. I’m coping until things blow over. But is this not high time for thriving? There was never a better time for thriving than now. Suffering, including the unforgivable, and yet to-be-forgiven, suffering we inflict on ourselves, is victory for the worst intentions in the world. Every hurt feels like a disaster and harms the world like a muthafucka. Including the pangs of shame that I feel writing this. I am just as much an abuser as I am a being of matter, of fact, of veiny plant-wings, and dishes off the grill. Find where you thrive, keep looking where you are, keep resting in your bed, surrounded by flowers of unknown names, and breathing this air in, keep embracing your lovers and letting them embrace you, you silly little fruit, you captain oblivious, you knot of hair, you eternally blessed and shiny through cracks, you piece of garbage, you dear, dear, dear gust of fresh air in the dungeon, you dungeon, you fucker, you you.