Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sodalis, or Jackknife, or Symbiosis...a first draft


I do not know what Sodalis means.

It puts me in mind of a combination watch/compass, some device that tells you where and when to go.

I envision it at the pivot of a double-bladed jackknife, its edges cutting their own stories into the air, setting their own beginnings and endings.

I am trying to edit a microbiological manuscript.

I have a four-day headache.

I grow distracted and look at an old story, the one about the two filmmakers who, face to face, shot each other.

It’s an irresistible riddle: how they managed to die together, one earthshaking grand mort.

I lie.

A play on words is kinder than the truth: how she swallowed enough drugstore pills to die, how he went missing a week later, clothes and wallet on the beach.

How many days alive without her? Six? Seven?

Too many to fathom.

I knew him by name. By face.

I see him in my memory, walking down Philadelphia Avenue by the Takoma Park Library, a ten-year-old curly-headed boy in a peacoat, so solemn, dark-eyed.

Going to bed early--did I play with him?--and leaving me, his sitter, to ponder his mother’s bookshelves, read the books the library wouldn’t let me have, wonder whether the thin, bearded man in the poster with “ZIG ZAG” under it was her single-mom, agnostic Jesus.

I lie again. Who thinks of such things? I remember

that he was an uncannily handsome child. That is a surface, and I never got to see anything deeper. Maybe in his art. Maybe in that final stroke of tragedy. Did he walk out like Virginia Woolf, or did he find some height

and jackknife into the waves? And what of where I started,

with Sodalis? “Sodalis glossinidius is a maternally transmitted endosymbiont of tsetse flies,” says Google.

I could make a metaphor, but it would mean nothing. A mother, who loved him. A lover with a sickness, who slept. Image after image of colors merging; room after room of the Winchester Mystery House,

the folly of a woman who lost everyone and built room after room, a maze to stave off the reaper’s staff. A bug in the gut of a fly that can be caught easily with an electric-blue net. How do I make it mean anything?

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