a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
After decades of having a job, of having a license, I found out the final reason Danny could not live by himself was not his trickster ways but was because of his dementia. It is always the little forgetfulnesses that do us in. One day before leaving to go shopping he had started to run a bath then forgot to get in and left his apartment. He didn’t turn the water off. The water reached the top of the tub and overflowed and kept on going like something from a State Farm Insurance commercial, before it flooded the apartment and ran out into the hall. The fire department came and broke the door down and shut the water off, but the apartment was ruined. After that his case manager said he needed to live in a home, he needed someone to care for him. In Danny’s room at the residential house was a row of clocks, each set for a different time. When I looked at them, I wondered what elegies arrive for us with every passing minute? Danny, your clocks are all set at random different times, doesn’t that drive you crazy. He looked at me and said, no they are set for every time zone at sunrise and sunset around the world. We’ll I’ll be. Whether this was true or not I did not know. He was a trickster. He liked to make up things. I never got the chance to check if it was true. I think at the time I was only half listening, trying to surreptitiously find another resident’s size 10 sneaker that had come up missing in Danny’s giant pile of shoes.
somewhere to get what she needs.
I work with a man with a brain injury who suffers from anxiety. P is small and overweight and has wounds on his face from where he picks himself. The first time I saw him have an attack, I told him his laundry he had left in the laundry room I had folded but put into another man’s room. Both wear lots of camo. He rolled his eyes then let loose a litany of undirected profanities, motherfucking this and that, he was so angry. Later a staff told me this happened before, and his clothes had gotten mixed up. I wondered if P was picturing his clothes mixed up with the other mans. He did not think how his name was written on every tag. He was picturing not having any clothes. He was thinking too, how do they not know my clothes? He felt invisible. He walked outside away from me cursing and lit a cigarette. He had learned to walk away. The wave passed. Days later I sat with him on the smoking benches outside and told him, I am proud of you. We spoke of how he was angry at me. I said but you walked away, that is a good way to at first handle it. He said yes, I need to let that big wave in my head come crashing down, and he lifted both his hands high over his head then let them fall. Then I can become calm. He took a drag on his Newport, watched the cloud of smoke hang in the autumn air. But I was mad at you for a long time, he said. That will pass I said, that is the residual anger in your muscles. it can last long. The trick next is to learn how to walk away in your head, you are getting better. I want to get better he said, I don’t want to be that wacked out dude with my hoodie pulled over my face telling everyone to get the fuck away. He pulled his sweatshirt hood right around his head and scrunched his mouth and eyes up and crossed his arms. He looked like an angry injured elf, I start to laugh so hard I fell sideways on the bench. He paused and asked, why are you laughing. I said, that is funny, didn’t you know how funny you can be? He beamed, I didn’t know. I said, now that is something to work on. Let yourself be open like that. Your physical gestures are magnificent. He looked at me as if I was completely daft. Then said, my whole life I have always feared people laughing at me.
Who isn’t? There is nothing close to shame. But then we learn how absurd it all is anyways. My wife is doing a load of our youngest daughter’s laundry. She must be the most functional drunk on planet earth. She folds our daughter’s tiny shirts so perfect, each one lined exactly on the edges. She doesn’t hear me in the hall. I watch her stand and look at the piles of perfectly folded clothes. She doesn’t move, admiring her work. She works slow and precise. She told me once she is always scared of failing. Who of us doesn’t constantly fail? But the miraculous is all around.
Outside the light itself is failing, the grey sky of November. I submit this anecdote as evidence. The early dark is on its way. Our daughters are outside kicking leaves, when the oldest pushes the youngest down taunting her. She grabs her big sister’s legs and pulls her on top and they begin to roll and punch. They are both howling, rolling and wrestling, saying eat this leaf, eat this leaf like poop, shoving leaves into each other’s mouths, pushing each other’s faces into the cold dead grass, calling for help that never comes, I let them go, I let them fight and learn what a struggle love is, and then they are still, worn out exhausted, laying their arms out wide, side by side, staring up at the dark that settles over them like a blanket of blown leaves. And then they begin to rise, just barely off the ground. They hover there, like two oak leaves held for a moment by the rising wind.
Sean Thomas Dougherty is the author or editor of 16 books including The Second O of Sorrow published in 2018 by BOA Editions. He works as a care giver and Med Tech for various disabled populations and lives with the poet Lisa M. Dougherty and their two daughters along Lake Erie.