Two Flowering Shrubs of Natal and a Trogon (1882) by Marianne North
It’s a suspicious time. Loose limbs raised to the sky, who wants you to stop, who wants you to be less you? A man put a heavy arm around me and I pivoted to shake it off, assuming he was hitting on me when he was really just telling me to move. I’m here with my sister, he said, like I had fucked with his sister just by existing. God bless you, I said in parting, a private joke between me and his dead god.
I’d forgotten about men like that, with heavy arms and angry eyes, who always feel crowded but greet strangers by pulling them closer, who believe they’re your father (he’s dead) or empowered by the Father (also dead). Fathers like that are the walking dead, grim expressions, forceful cheers, faith is everything, family is everything, do what I fucking say or else.
I was careful but I wasn’t afraid. I felt sorry for his sister, for his wife, for the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, heavy arm draped over her shoulder, listening to what she’d have to sacrifice to be seen as pure.
It’s a strange time. I was trapped in my head for a while, but I think I’ve finally slipped out of the tide pools and into the waves, I can’t hear what they’re yelling from here, it’s all cold sea and crashing symbols, salty soup swirling in a giant bowl, filled with innocent sentient foods, toes dangling past sharp teeth, this is how I love you.
I can’t tell what they’re waving their arms about back on the shore, they look upset, dark shadows under the water, steel gray clouds, the air turning cold and the waves turning warm like broth. Floating on a cloud of seaweed, I remember that when I first rejoined the world, I was worried that I couldn’t matter to anyone anymore – too much, too little, too late. But now I remember, the pressure comes from mattering too much to strangers, the way they want more than you can give them, the way they need you to engage on their own terrain — schemes and conquests, collecting and revising, defeated or deluded. You’ll never be pure enough for anyone who’s secretly looking for salvation.
Peace is the sudden rush of wanting less than you ever have. That’s when you remember that you don’t have to work so hard, you can speak or remain quiet or float away like an innocent seahorse, a thoughtless starfish, a zen guppy, nothingness your new address. Extract yourself over and over again from the traps of measurement, reaction, responsiveness, amiability, likability, compatibility.
That’s where we found each other again, remember? Two tangled bodies, damaged but still aligned, effortlessly just right and right on time, drifting in sync, untethered and unashamed. Now I remember: You were never like other men. I mock you and you laugh and no one else gets it.
How do those birds stand on that pointy tree? I ask.
Birds are weird, they weigh like an ounce, you answer.
We’re light, super light! I say in a bird voice. (My bird has a southern accent.)
We’re dinosaurs, fuck off! you say in a bird voice. (Your bird sounds pissed.)
We’re so light, you can’t imagine! my bird says. Y’all are heavy and made of juice.
Love is a sudden rush of peace. That’s when you recognize that you don’t make adjustments, you don’t measure, you don’t clash, you don’t bite. Everywhere you go, you’re just relaxing at home, warm and floating, toes dangling, and everything you say is welcomed. Be wretched, be rancid, be disappointed, be sad, be flinty, be dirty, be stubborn, besotted. Nothingness is our new address.
You don’t have to please gnashing teeth or heavy arms. We are innocent sentient food. Danger is always looming but that’s okay. Float on your back in this salty soup and surrender. Float with me and whisper: We’re light, super light, you can’t imagine, god is dead, we’re happy, we’re doomed, you can’t imagine, we’re dinosaurs, fuck off.