Mary Anderson Parks @2014


This is a cocoon that he has woven for me and I put in many of the threads myself. It is much more a cocoon than a nest because the bird flies away from the nest, but here in my cocoon I could be fast asleep for all we know, dreaming, and the escape is not for now. I do not know when it will come, the time to fly out from here, or what world I will find there on the other side.

There is a limit to what I can see from the window in this room where I pass my self away — a horrible thought — passing time, life, self. I used to read. I used to write even. And I think I was a social worker. Yes! I used to try to help people find jobs. Ex-cons. Imagine that! But after that man jumped on me in the dark and threw me on the grass, I was afraid of the clients who looked like him, dark as night, and they knew I was afraid, and I felt so bad about it. It wasn’t fair to them, but the fear wouldn’t go away and I had to stop working and then I felt useless and it wasn’t long at all before I  wondered how I had ever been that person who was so competent. Now I just look out the window at the garden. I throw open the window to lean out and breathe earth-scented air. I see flowers growing and blooming and the gardener, so strong and active, working patiently to turn the earth over and bring it water when heaven forgets to rain. That stops me. I had forgotten about God. What a big thing to forget!

I might venture out to the garden and walk in it, very gently so as not to hurt anything (did I once hurt someone very badly? Is that another reason I hardly leave this house? Is that why the back of my neck thrills with weariness from holding up my head? And something behind my eyes refuses to see what is there? Soon I will have to leave these parentheses behind and stop living in them. I wonder if I exist for my husband when he is away from me? He does not exist very well for me. My mind is too full of yearning and there is not room for him.) I was thinking of going gently into the garden to see if I can discover feelings there. They would probably be in the gardener, if I could get him to talk about them, but maybe they are in the roses, too, and all the green leaves and the dying ones also, and maybe the pain is too awful and that is why the roses bloom instead of screaming and the gardener digs and pats the earth instead of digging into his own heart. This is very hard work, what I am doing here. Though I may look to anyone watching (there is no one, you crazy woman) like a half-dazed zombie.

He no longer telephones, because I stopped answering. He knows that. Why doesn’t he know I mean for him to come home and look for me and take me somewhere wonderful where neither of us would be afraid? Why does he believe me when I say I am all right? Will you be all right, he always asks. Lately I just look at him, unable to say the words he wants or any of my own. He will not have to come home and find me in a pool of blood though. Or lifeless in any other way than I already am. I would not do that to him. He tries to be kind. I will not take my own life. Not unless the pain of the whole world overtakes me. Once a doctor came here and injected me with a needle because my husband could not calm me down — I owe him this life I have, don’t I? Because he has not sent me away?

Listen. The train whistle. What if I were to get a ticket and ride on that train forever? What would I say to the others at the table in the diner? I could tell them about my garden and how one day I stood in it until I turned into a real person, like them, who could travel. They might laugh and enjoy me and think I was sweet.

They would be wrong. Sweet is definitely not the word. Yet people call me that. Even now! He brought his sister to look at me. They called it a visit. She did look like a visitor, like someone trapped into doing something she’d rather not. All her clothes were in on the conspiracy. I laughed, thinking of that, and then she laughed, to keep me company. And I stopped laughing, because it was pitiful really to see how her highheeled shoes pinched her, and her pantyhose cut off her circulation and maybe her secretions, and her belt encircled her like a torture device and her blazer jacket was too small. She didn’t even try to take it off. She was probably sweating under her armpits trapped in those tight sockets. And her blouse was polyester. I wear only cotton in these times I’ve fallen into. And bare feet or sometimes sandals or moccasins an Indian friend made. I won’t think of that time when I had work and friends and give and take. It is too painful in the empty place where all that was. There was something else I had that is lost and gone. I won’t think about that either. Or maybe I will for a second. Was it children? My youth?

Innocence? No, I was never innocent. I believed in everything . . . God, Santa Claus, the tooth fairy . . . but I wasn’t innocent. One of the things I believed in was that I was capable of anything. Even of going crazy. Anybody is. I’ve always known how thin that line is. All I had to do was watch Mother, saying she’d be so scared she’d lock herself in her room all weekend if Daddy took me and my Campfire group camping. (We went anyway.) And her mother, my grandmother, poking with her broom in all the closets before going to bed. Was she looking for the dark skeletons my grandfather put there?

I am probably not crazy, though there may be differences of opinion about that. Ha! I love it when a joke pops into life. This isn’t so bad, you know, here in this room with the window, and the garden outside. The garden is full of life. That confuses me. Doesn’t it know the things men and women do to each other and to the earth? The things nature does? Why does the garden persist in joy?

. . . . . . . . .

Today it is cold and I am regressing. I am in my long India cotton dress, propped up on the couch with pillows, a knitted afghan over my lap and legs. I’m pretending to be an invalid. I had thought myself quite alone and at peace here and then he came on the scene with his briefcase and his paperwork and his cups of tea. Had he thought to keep me company? He saw by my reaction, and my words, that I want to be alone. Am I cruel to want that and to show I want it? I think not. There is so little that I want.

It is raining now in the garden, wonderful for the little reaching leaves and the flowers sitting there so prettily. Ah, I hear him smacking his lips and setting his cup on the table and sighing and turning pages. He has only gone to the next room. The smacking of his lips I can hardly bear.

The gardener has a holiday today. Nature is doing his watering. I see him brown and naked, gleaming with desire, in a warmly lit room with a fire glowing in the fireplace and perhaps even a few books, but he has no need of them. He is in bed, with the end of a sheet caught round his foot, and next to him in the bed, lying so softly in the curve of his muscled arm, is the lucky woman. She is really only a girl, I see. And she could be I. When I was twelve, I learned the meaning of the words statutory rape, and I thought, oh no, that is not fair. We yearn to be ravished, we maidens of twelve, we court disaster with every twirl of our hair in our fingers and twist of our hips. How wrong to punish the man who succumbs to our wooing and follows us. I know there is another side to this, but is there a bit of truth in what I say?

I have always been ready for love. Not for briefcases. Why do they give us tests and cram facts into our heads when it is poetry we want? We want not to read it but to live and breathe it and swim in it languorously.

It is quite dangerous to let young girls loose on the world. Look at the poor gardener, how ensnared he has become. And he loves it.

I wish I were not the lady of the house with so much dignity to uphold. Tomorrow when the sun comes out, I will find my wicker basket, the big one like a cradle with a handle (do I have one?) and I shall put my dignity in it very carefully and lower it out the window and empty it onto the ground. Aha! And then! I shall place myself, all arranged prettily, in the basket under the window. No one from the house will be able to see me unless they lean out, which none ever do. And the gardener will find me there and know, when I smile into his face, that I am a gift for him, a flower ready to open her petals and let him in.

He can pick me up in the basket and take me where he will.

I have not changed much since I was twelve.

The rain is falling harder. I wish I were under a roof with the hard soft gardener, hearing the rain with him, in the warm bed. Do you want to know a happy secret? I ran away with the gardener when I was young and now he is my husband and even more my beloved than he was then, and it is he with whom I curl up in bed and coil myself against in the night, our bodies warming and comforting. That is why we are still together, because we warm and thrill and comfort each other. No matter that when the harsh light of day comes we forget we are in love and forget how to love and instead we dance a strange dance around each other, keeping distance, jarring each other with words. Thank God for the nights.

And where is God? He is not on television. Much more likely to be in the garden, wouldn’t you think?

You won’t believe this but a little bird flew in and whispered in my ear, just whirred in for a moment and hung suspended in the air next to my head and then flew out without a backward glance. That same little bird, you know, that your mother told you about? I think my mother sent it, to help me. The little bird told me the cocoon is easy to break! Isn’t that exciting and scary? I might even break it by accident! No, more likely it will break open when I’m ready to come out, but I can make that choice at any moment!



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