Kathleen Jesme

 

 

 

Lives of the Saints


I began as a darkness and remained so. My life was lit by occasional flares toward which I groped unevenly. I had no mother and no father to speak of. Then you came and it was a big midnight into which the empty stars had been sucked. All that was left were the curved streaks of their paths sliding through space as we turned on our axis and turned around our sun, and turned around our galaxy and turned once more. There was no turning point. All was in flux. All was darkness.

*

I was a schemer. I lit lamps in unlikely places to attract night's insects. I knew nothing of the day. Words sunk in me like ships crushed in an ice floe. I nursed hiddenness. Took on meaning. Imbibed the sound of thunder. I waited for things to come by and trapped them. My father told me that wild things will not suffer containment. I learned by entrapment. I learned by the sound of my knees sliding through fall leaves. I entered and left by the smallest of holes, like a bat. I peeked when I was supposed to cover my eyes. I saw things I was not intended to see. I told. I didn't tell. I said. I didn't say. I hid in the least spaces.

*

I was most ordinary and began as a thing. You didn't know me. We missed each other by minutes—my coming, your going. I made up words to explain it. They never did. At 12, I found something that was like you but was not you. I began to follow it. It led me everywhere. I fed it from a saucer on the chipped linoleum floor. I kept it lit.

*

I was a great liar and told many tales that were true. I kept things in pockets that no one knew about. I had suitcases ready at all times. And nobody could discover what it meant. I followed anacondas and slipstreams. I wanted a vegetable but all we had were flowers. Sometimes I took them down. I tried to remake the noise. I sat for examination. I was full of puncture holes. Marks appeared on my body overnight, as if from dreaming. I climbed the ladder from Hell and crossed. My robe trailed behind me and caught in the slats because I was already not tall enough for it. You believe me, don't you?

*

I was a boy like other boys, except that I had murdered my sister. There was a lot of atonement required. I made up a past and a future. I visited wombs and their prisoners. I brought music whenever I could. The credo was one I decided to live by. They called me another name than the one I was born with. Then my name broke and had to be replaced again. I was one of the chosen. I went this way instead of that. I rejoiced in the lamb.

*

I was a product of despair. There was a river of dying, and I floated in on it. Others were leaving, and I was coming. There is no cure for that. I found pinpricks of light that absorbed me. I wanted to keep looking. I was through before I even began: I could see the finishing point right from the start. I could hear moles burrowing and squeaking underground; I thought I must be an owl, but I was not. I learned to dissemble.

*

Once, finding a hole in the ground, I passed over it. I was taught to call it God. My life has been the same ever since. It could not have been I who did that. I am more like a field than anything, although receptiveness liquefies me. I had a childhood once, and wanted to keep it. Everything else has been lost in the general conflagration.

*

Although I had parents and a family, I was approached by other orphans. I took what I could from them. I tried to build with stones. I emptied the enormity of my body. I found the other thing and tried to hide it. It beat me every morning with a stick until I submitted. I found that staring at the ceiling created a conversation I liked. I knew it was not-me, but I couldn’t quite believe it. I honored the muffled sounds of fucking that came through the wall. I kept a crow call in my dresser drawer for future needs.

*

I couldn't stand my insides. The stinking of blood and the fush of organs working. I stood along the railroad track wanting to crawl under the train. The star inside me grew larger and larger. It began to show through a mark growing on my leg and the white scars on my fingers from pocketknives. I learned how to penetrate numbers. I crossed the portal of time gleefully. I grew a row of nipples on my chest. That was how I became who I am.

*

I learned one thing and learned it well. I photosynthesized sunlight and procreated by scattering seedlings. I tried the patience of the gods. You and she, that is. I copied others. I came to the end quicker than expected. I died on a bed of apples. I could not retrieve a single memory, and became a large bank, but no one made deposits. I wanted to come back as a mother’s ghost. I wanted to see my tears. But it was late, and the lights had gone out all over the city. I opened my eyes without asking and saw them blink back on, one by one.