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March 10, 2010 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2010-03-10

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4B The Statemnt / Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 // The Statement m

{i sit before mr.e.e.cummings}
i sit before mr.e.e.cummings
as one sits before
any a who-artist:
nervous(ly smiling.)
"paint me," i say,
"paint me a poem
on your white canvas
waiting in your
waiting as i
for your
he tries a line(tickitytacktackclick)
heaves a sigh:
"can't be done!
it must be mud-
is jumping forward
too fast!too
old! my
heart does not
unless there is Rain."
rising with a shaking head
he leaves me (my performance concluded),
with my
i think an artist can never love,
never see colors in real time:
never look past their
to see things in the now
(they say life is so
pale, because it too is a mortal

They've been sitting back there for years,
Clear glass containers filled with brine. not
(Make new friends but keep the old, they said, . Fu ncerais a gre iAn ppropriate
And who am I if not one to comply with aphorisms?) .Pla ces to Im agine Priests in

I drive slowly and steadily, and am so
Careful not to turn right on red or
Accidentally speed through intersections or
Change lanes without signaling.
I stop for school buses.
I brake for animals.
I'm a model citizen.
I'm just terrified
that the jars will
tip over, crack, spill, and stain.
And paranoid that I'll be pulled over.
Worried that while I
fidget in the front seat,
nibble nervously on my nails,
watch the reflections of flashing lights
in my rearview and side mirrors
Mr. Officer will run my license
for outstanding warrants,

Bunny costumes, ana utner

By aby ar ten
nsteadoffeelingexcited whenev-
er anyone announced that he or
she had adopted a new puppy or
other infant pet, Ruby immedi-
ately felt a pang of sympathy, for
her first thought was never of the
happy life that the owner would share
with the animal, but rather that the
puppy or kitten or domesticated rodent
would die one day. She thought of how
sad the owner would be if his puppy
were to be run over by a plump middle-
aged woman on a rainy day driving
home in a car with failing windshield
wipers, or how devastating if, when
the owner goes to the vet for an annual
checkup, hefinds out that in its old age,
the pet has jaw cancer or is blind in one

Likewise, whenever a new romantic
relationship began, she allowed herself
only a fleeting moment of happiness
before accepting with grim stoicism
that the relationship would inevitably
fail. In turn, she stopped beginning,
and, for that matter, ending, relation-
ships altogether, and found comfort in
meaningless nights with men whose
last names she never knew. For such
nights freed her from the pesky bur-
den of having to care about something
that would eventually become a man-
gled, distorted, disappointing version
of itself. Her acute awareness of tem-
porality pressed on her, and resulted
in unbound cynicism and a paralyzed
gaze that constantly focused on end-
That day, seated in the second row
at her grandmother's funeral, sur-
rounded by relatives who were more
like strangers, she listened to sadness
and mucus rhythmically bursting
out of the noses of those present,
and much to her surprise, discov-
ered a piece of dried oatmeal on
her scarf. She reviewed her most
recent clothing choices. It was
early November, which meant
she had not worn the scarf since
approximately late February of
that year. The scarf had hung
neglected in the back of her closet
during the spring and summer, and

the oatmeal had clung to it for those
months. She admired its loyalty, and
realized she had never stuck with any-
thing that long. She wondered if the
scarf had felt the oatmeal's presence,
like an itch, and if the oatmeal had felt
lonely and confused as to how it had
ended up in a place so very different
from its intended location of Ruby's
digestive tract. She picked at the oat-
meal, and after a bit of difficulty - the
result of a lifetime of incessant nail bit-
ing - scraped the crusty remnant off
the fabric and absentmindedly brushed.
it to the floor. She was certain that
when she had poured that unremark-
able flake of oatmeal, one of hundreds
of flakes in a blueberry flavored packet
that came in a Quaker's Instant Oat-
meal Variety Box, into a microwave-
safe bowl with three-quarters of a cup
of milk seven months ago, the piece of
oatmeal in question never would have
imagined it would one day end up on a
funeral home's carpet amid salty tears
and the mysterious white dust that bil-
lows off of Kleenexes. Ruby thought of
all the places she had ended up without
intention, and realized she had more in
common with the piece of old oatmeal
than she felt comfortable admitting.
She refocused her attention on the
frail minister who was delivering a
vague sermon about pain and loss, and
to pass the time, she imagined him
dressed in a bunny costume, then won-
dered if that was disrespectful. This
was the third funeral she had attended
since her own birth, and at each, she
became progressively more troubled
by how little emotion she allowed her-
self to feel. While her younger sister
lost close to six ounces of tears that
day alone, Ruby's eyes stayed obnox-
iously dry, even though she had many
more memories of her grandmother
to cry over. She attributed this to
the fact that she had known this day
would come since she became aware

of human mortality at a very early age.
For as long as she could remember,
when she found herself in big crowds
she wondered who would die first out
of everyone present. It wasn't a dark
or dangerous curiosity, but a matter-
of-fact acknowledgement that life is
Ruby lapsed into phases of appre-
ciation for obscure animals, notable
historical figures and celebrities or
academic subjects, and she obtained
the Funeral Plans notebook during
her Pug Phase when she was ten. She
adored pugs, and three weeks into
her obsession, had made five visits to
the pet store to gaze at them, though
she never held or touched them out
of an unspoken fear that they would
uncontrollably urinate on her cloth-
ing. She had drawn several pictures of
them on pages secretly stolen from her
brother's sketchbook, and choosing to
ignore her father's fur allergy, wrote
an official petition for the adoption of
one into the family. She had asked each
of her fourth-grade classmates to sign
the petition, though only three actu-
ally did, and along with a scribble in
red crayon that indicated her three-
year-old sister's commitment to the
Pug Campaign, the meager five sig-
natures she presented did nothing to
cure allergies or convince her mother
to replace her father with the pug.
It was then she documented her
funeral plans in the notebook, where
they remained long after the Pug
Phase had morphed into the Gnome
Phase, which became the Regis Phil-
bin Phase. She tweaked the plans
periodically. For several years she had
wanted her funeral service and burial
to be televised, with coverage by at
least three localnews stations. She had
wanted her funeral to be a raving party
after sitting through her great-grand-
father's painfully boring service, and
at one point had willed her entire life

savings to PBS. Only one aspect of her
original plan remained, and that was
for her cremated ashes to be placed
in an hourglass. The intended recipi-
ent of the hour glass had changed over
the years - in fourth grade, it was to
be inherited by her best friend Katie
but after Katie had lost Ruby's favorite
pen, the one that didn't write very well
but had other redeeming qualities like
feathers attached to the end, later that
year, she furiously crossed her name
out and replaced it with a question
mark to indicate her future firstborn
offspring. No matter upon whose man-
tel the hourglass containing her ashes
would one day sit, the most important
thing to her was that even after she had
left the earth, she would still be able to
remind the living that their time was
running out.
In the stuffy, crowded room that
contained a body that had been living
only days ago, Ruby was reminded yet
again of how quickly things change,
as she often was in elementary school
when she spent hours laying on the
trampoline in her backyard, watching
the clouds and the trees transform.
Convinced she would one day be an
Olympic gymnast, she would jump
and flip tirelessly on the magic elastic
blacktop until her muscles were on
the verge of collapse. When she could
barely breathe, she lay on her back and
focused on the tree branches above her
head, the ones she could never touch
no matter how high she jumped. She
noticed that everything in nature was
constantly redistributed in a care-
ful balance. In her earliest years, she
thought that leaves had a monoga-
mous relationship with trees. She
imagined that they would fall off for
a while to explore - to see the world
their rooted home didn't allow them to
experience - then return to their des-
ignated branch, refreshed and green.
The hours spent staring at the shifting
world convinced her at an early age
that time was not linear. She believed
instead that life is one giant moment
that perpetually rearranged itself.
She thought of the hours she spentat
her grandmother's home during child-
hood. Her grandmother picked her and
her brother Ollie up from school every
day, and Ruby liked the routine of such
afternoons. She would scramble into
the back seat of the beige Taurus that
always smelled like combinations of
soil, fresh green beans, newspapers,
mold and old people, and her grand-
mother would roll the window down
and ask if there was "too much air."
Ruby hated the open window, and the
air that rushed in loudly and tousled
her hair and stung her eyes, but never
once did she complain. When they
arrived to her grandmother's home,
Ruby ate a snack - always Club crack-
ers with cheese and a very ambiguous
"orange drink" - then she and Ollie sat
at the kitchen table and wrote stories
and drew pictures until it grew dark
outside and their grandmother would
wander in and express her deepest
concern that they would ruin their
eyes from straining to see the paper
and colors before them. The lighting of
the room never troubled them.
One thing that did concern them,
though, was that their grandmother

changed names, changed stories, changed lives,
or maybe he'll search my trunk and
discover my dirty little secret.
I had nowhere else
to hide the bodies.

Ruby ... realized she
had more in common
with the piece of old
oatmeal than she felt
comfortable admitting."

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