Toti O’Brien: Alterations of Inner Atmospheres
Image: Unsplash, downloaded (https://unsplash.com/photos/JfreQ9ybG50) 11.12.2021.
JOAN OF ARC, 2
So, what did the forks say, she was asked.
Not just forks, she replied, but all the silverware.
Perhaps, forks in particular. Problem was
she couldn’t make out the words, and it didn’t matter.
She could not because the voices were distant.
Somehow loud, but remote. Simultaneously shrill
and soft, those voices were turned backwards,
as if speaking of something that occurred and
she should know about, perhaps she should fix.
The voices seemed to beg. Rather helplessly.
Sharp, insistent but small, trapped among
the prongs of the forks like hair stuck on a comb.
Those voices had long hair, corkscrews, curls,
floating ribbons moved by the breeze
across distant skies filled with swallows.
Voices, like the voice of the swallows.
She was asked, what did the swallows say?
She couldn’t hear words, just the exhilaration.
Swallows, she knew, talked about the future.
Future plans. Departure. Return. Mother leaving
and coming back, said the swallows, picking up
fragments of what the forks (all the silverware)
said already, as if echoing rhymes of a song
played by an obsolete radio set. Maybe
an advertising for milk. As if they (the swallows)
recalled an old tune and screamed it out loud,
louder, louder, drunk with spring and sunshine.
I decided to say goodbye to the bedlands
with their dull song of litanies
and myth making,
with their pious images of mastectomized
virgins who used to bear my name,
tall paintings in dark frames
vanishing through the ceiling.
Bedlands of brass hand bells
the master used to shake, one stroke
for the maid, two the wife, three
the teenage daughter. Headboard
of golden globes the maid polished
so hard that no lamp was needed, even
when all the drapes where hooked closed.
Golden globes, one of them indented
so deep, a knuckle must have hurt it full force
while missing its target, or else bitten
by the long teeth of an angry nightmare.
I decided to leave when, crawling
under the bed as I chased my slipper,
I found the tiny lid of a trap
leading to the basement,
climbed down a few steps
crossed a subterranean expanse
paying no heed to sharp whistles
and lugubrious wails trying to mystify me,
uttered by old daguerreotypes, broken toys,
unborn babies, sad kittens.
I run towards the grate I saw atop
the armoire, firmly intending to reach
daylight, bathe into crisp air, sunbathe
head to toe.
Goodbye to the bedlands, their witches,
werewolves, skipped heartbeats,
susurrus and murmuration.
And those temblors causing the curtain
to shiver and curl when no wind,
not even the slightest breeze was around,
alterations of inner atmospheres
only bedlands could nurture and host,
those temblors, those temblors, were gone.
About the Author: Toti O’Brien is the Italian Accordionist with the Irish Last Name. Born in Rome, living in Los Angeles, she is an artist, musician and dancer. She is the author of Other Maidens (BlazeVOX, 2020), An Alphabet of Birds (Moonrise Press, 2020), and In Her Terms (Cholla Needles Press, 2021).