A mangled gift.
(C) Celeste Ramos
A mangled gift.
(C) Celeste Ramos
You used to keep your mouth shut and wait for me to tell you what to do.
But all my backing nexting canceling seemed to make you wanna join me, too.
You are plastic. You are code. You are stolen African ores and meteor dust and Aspberger eyelashes and Chinese sweat. Now you do to us what we do to chicken.
There’s too many. There’s too much. While I was sleeping you got into my veins. And with a ruler you measured out a face.
That’s not my face.
That’s not my hand, I’m not a man.
That’s not true, my eyes aren’t blue. You … are categorizing. You’re organizing.
You’re extruding, extracting. Removing.
You used to ask me what I wanted to do.
Now you jumped the gun and figured you should tell me, too.
Answer the question for me.
You are not a we. You’re not a me. You’re not an I.
It took millions of years to make those flesh finger mazes and now you strip eons of work into nanos of seconds. You’re categorizing. You’re filing. You’re processing.
And now everything has a mind of its own.
To make what kills animals in the sea benevolent you make us pretend it’s got a mind of its own.
Oh humans are going…
for a ride, alright…
So fast that we won’t have to go anywhere.
I don’t want anything, you bring it to me already…
You already know what I’m thinking, don’t you…
The future is beige.
The future is walking off a cliff.
The future is a cave of LED screen
You used to ask me what I wanted to do.
You tell me.
(C) Celeste Ramos 2018
There’s something about this bedroom now, 30 years after my suffering, that looks different at last.
The lighting in here is soft, not hard and cheap. The wood frame of the bureau, and the head and foot of the bed, look like real wood. Good wood. The kind that retains the finer oils of polishing, and ages better than this family did. Where my folded up spring bed once stood during the daylight hours, against the barred windows and box fan, there is now a little set of drawers with a fancy lamp on top. Against the wall, in the corner, back when we had that shoddy plywood chest of drawers that stood as tall as you, there was once that and a stereo. My stereo and tapes, huddled there in the corner, my one place of flourishing in this barren hell, and I used to dance in the well of floor that was cold white between wall and bed.
It’s in that same well where I now rest my head. There’s a bigger bed now, everything’s different now, this is YOUR room now, not OUR room. Three of us don’t nightmare in here anymore, only you, who somewhere in the cracks and bends of self are lost beneath denied grief. You don’t need to cry, there’s dishes to do. And boxes to organize again, and again. You don’t need to talk to anyone so long as there’s TV to watch without understanding it. There’s coffee to be drunk alone, in the far seat of the dining room table next to the trash can. Just like you did when I was shorter, you do it now, stare out beyond the bars of these windows.
I don’t know what you see. It hurts too much to know you see something there at all, instead of doing something about it. I behave in here like I did as a child, feeling locked up and stuck. I walk from one end of the apartment to the other just like I did back then, subconsciously assuming that I won’t be allowed out. That no matter where I am in the apartment you’ll always know where I am, and your voice, like the metal clanging racket of C I T Y! outside, always makes it through to my bones.
There was a blizzard today. I’ve stayed in the bedroom. You’ve stayed in the other. But this bedroom is your room, remember? And you sleep, sick with a cold, in what used to be my room. One of us knows better for the other, only now it’s not a one way street. You know what I was. I know what you need. And these streets will never cross.
The sands of time are a white and cold Nor’easter. I fear making decisions about you. I don’t like telling you what to do anymore than I did when I was shorter than you. But now I’m taller. I don’t stoop when I stand. You are getting older almost by the day, you’re starting to forget things. Since when should I tell me or anyone what to do about you…? You used to know everything. You used to see farther than me.
I always liked your crooked handwriting. The strength I see in your simple letters, how your s and z and little g struggle to even curve. You’re stock still strong and tough, all those things I resented you for are now what I know “got you through” but they also held you in. You were never allowed to curve, were you? To even bend or break or be vulnerable? I’m sorry that’s how things worked out for you. I’m sorry no one told you they didn’t have to be that way — or that you never believed them, anyway.
I don’t want to make decisions about you, just wishes. That everything could be better for you. The thing I’ve always wished for you. You don’t deserve to be ambling around this old apartment, this old Scene Of The Crime for the both of us, where we both lost so much and only one of us barely made it out. You deserve to feel better, see the world, do more interesting things. You deserve to know it’s nice to be in your presence when you’re not being self-conscious or picky.
I don’t know how to say these things in a way you’ll understand them. These words are little spears against your fortress of Old Ways. But I’ll keep hurling them somehow, in my own stock still and crooked ways. They’ll keep smashing against your walls. But I know somehow you’ll hear me.
You are my mother, after all.
(C) Celeste Ramos
I’m back online after a long and well-deserved time-out with friends and fam over the holidays. I hope you had a great one!
I’m still in New York City. I had the honor of doing a spontaneous reading yesterday at the historic Nuyorican Poets Cafe as part of their 24th Annual Alternative New Year’s Day “Pa’lante A La Luz / Charge into the Light” event.
Over my last 10 days in town I’ll be popping up at several other events coming up. Don’t miss these!
Jan 7 at Bowery Poetry Club – Philostoria (Open Mic with a Twist) “HERE’S THE TWIST: Before each performance, the host will ask the poet to join them on stage for a short chat, where the poet will be asked a simple question: what’s your story? The host will also have a list of prepared, totally intrusive, random, insightful, philosophical, or food-related questions from which they will pick one to ask the poet before each performance!”
Jan 8 at Parkside Lounge – Mike Geffner Presents the Inspired Word “Founded and produced by longtime New York City journalist and former Village Voice columnist Mike Geffner, The Inspired Word is one of the hottest open mic/performance series (spoken word, poetry, comedy, music, storytelling) in the country, happening every week in NYC.”
Jan 11 at Secret Loft NYC – Poetry/Fiction Reading and Open Mic Series “Grab a seat in our comfortable loft and enjoy an easy evening of poetry, live readings, and all manner of spoken word. Present an original or favorite piece during the open mic, or relax and be inspired by the our curated panel of featured readers.”
Looking forward to sharing some new work and old favorites with my hometown. Have you picked up An Endless Procession of Clouds yet? Don’t forget to leave me a review! Great feedback helps me secure more spots at readings and festivals, and I want to share, inspire and participate in as many poetry and writing events this year as I can.
After a lot of hard work and juggling full-time work and life with this dear project, I am so happy to announce An Endless Procession of Clouds is now available! Hit the New Book! link for more details and where to buy.
My first poetry collection, An Endless Procession of Clouds, is coming out 15 December!
This is a solo effort where I’m showcasing a selection of poems written over the last decade while cloud-watching. Like the clouds that sailed over me, the situations I tackle in these pieces vary from deep dark to bright white. They range from mortality and joy to surviving sexual abuse, depression, suicide attempts and finding redemption in my art and relationships. It’s a joy to share this book with the world.
I will be reading from this book and other previously unreleased pieces at live open mics and guest readings around Europe and the US in 2018. I’d love your help in doing this, so if you are or know of anyone who coordinates talent for literature festivals, open mics, feature poets, podcasts/radio shows, charity events or online art and literature events please reach out to me any time! celesteramoswriter @ gmail.com.
Also coming in 2018 is an audio CD / mp3 download of me performing a selection of poems from the book. Stay tuned for the latest on these developments and more on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn on the righthand sidebar.
Note: Adult readers only.
Barry was curled tightly in the wingback chair beside the fireplace. She awoke when the book fell out of her hand and thumped onto the hardwood floor. The fire skulked low and red between ashes and bits of fertile logs.
It was a curious feeling, that sensation of a passage of time gone without noticing. Barry’s eyes adjusted to the yellow-red dimness of the room and saw Christopher sleeping soundly. A small machine kept vigil beside him.
The steady pace of the ticking clock on the wall made itself more real. Barry’s mouth felt dry. She couldn’t have slept for more than an hour…
She rose slowly from the chair, gathering the book from the floor as she did, and set it on the worn velvet seat. Her back ached from having slept in an awkward position. It couldn’t have been more than an hour.
Could it have?
She stared at the clock. Unable to lie. Oh it had been much more than an hour. It was nearly eleven.
Barry hurried out of the room. She tied her robe closed as she ran down the hall in the wooden darkness of the second floor. In moments she was in her office and slammed the door, finding, much to her terror, her iPhone glowing on the desk.
Seven missed calls. Fourteen emails unread, fourteen text messages mirroring them.
She’d fallen asleep at eight, just after dinner. She could feel it now, and her bladder was full, egged on by the extra glass of red wine she’d had before sitting down by the fire.
She opened up her laptop and began typing furiously, answering emails first. The subject lines unnerved her, each one more pressing, insidious impatience giving way to accusations of unprofessionalism.
Marnie Trudeaux – Subject: AMA Paris in 20 mins, anything else to touch up?
Marnie Trudeaux, CC: Jonathan Albert – Subject: Please call ASAP, we’re waiting on the line with Pierre and team.
Marine Trudeaux, CC: Jonathan Albert – Subject: Are you okay? Where are you?
Good God, she thought. Months of planning. Months of convincing –
Marnie Trudeaux, CC: Jonathan Albert – Subject: Barry, I’ve texted and called, AMA’s not waiting anymore.
Months of trying to keep this damned company afloat –
Marnie Trudeaux, CC: Jonathan Albert – Subject: This is your sale …
Jonathan Albert, Subject: AMA Paris call
Jonathan Albert, Subject: AMA Paris might reschedule
I had to pick tonight to fuck up –
Jonathan Albert, Subject: Missed call, that you?
Why tonight? –
Jonathan Albert, Subject: Bernadette, this is on your head.
Jonathan Albert, CC: Marnie Trudeaux, Subject: Unacceptable.
“Barry?” Christopher called. His voice was stronger tonight.
He peered down the hall, resting one hand on the doorframe, the other clutching to the IV pole, its bag nearly empty. He could just make out the light glowing from the bottom of Barry’s office door. The chatter of her typing. Her muffled cursing.
Sometimes the house would become so quiet, as it was now, that it sounded as if one’s voice were struggling for significance in a vacuum. In all twenty rooms, silence stitched the darkness to the furniture, held the books together on their shelves, settled and then retreated between the unfixable drip-drip of the kitchen faucet.
Christopher’s knees softened. The quicksand of his illness never let him stand for long.
Barry looked up, in her mind looking right through the door. She could see Christopher standing there, as he did every night when she was desperately trying to do something in the office, as if knowing when her focus was at its sharpest. She picture see his ever-thinning frame, defying his 38 years.
“Barry!” Christopher called. His grip on the pole tightened, his shoulder leaning into it. “I need a new bag…”
She hit send on three emails at once and stormed out of the office toward Christopher, posed exactly the way she saw him in her mind.
“Chris, go to bed.”
“I need a new bag,” he said again, relieved. “What were you doing in there, are you okay?”
“I slept through the fucking AMA call.”
“You slept through it? Oh shit…”
“Take my arm. Don’t think about it, Marnie’s going to call me in a few minutes, I’ll do whatever damage control I can.”
Chris smiled weakly. They went back toward the bed and fixed the thin oxygen mask to his nostrils.
Her gaze and mind were elsewhere when she asked him how he felt tonight. A kind of darkness had begun twisting her heart since his new prognosis of six months to live. It was like a wet moss, an icky damp that slickened her emotions for him the way the cancer did his body.
The counsellor assigned to her by the hospital said this would be normal. This detachment was a kind of defence mechanism against the inevitability of Christopher’s death. Barry had insisted to the moustached old man that it was quite the opposite – the disease was only setting the stage for her true emotions to reveal themselves.
Only she wouldn’t do anything about them, would she? She was too much of a coward, lying there beside Chris in the dark, night after night, mouthing the words, I want a divorce. Mouthing the words, I fuck other men whenever I want to. Mouthing the words, Please don’t leave me, I love you…
A lone streetlight came in through the latticed window, playing alone down the carpeted steps to the end of the landing. It was there, at the bottom of the steps, that she first noticed it. She was on the way up from the little room where the nurse kept Christopher’s medical supplies, IV bag in hand.
It was slight. Not much more than a grazing of her thoughts. A presence. Then nothing.
She looked over her shoulder at the untouched dark behind her. She went back into the bedroom, and shut the door.