Joyland

Los Angeles |

Daughter (from Daughter)

by Janice Lee

It was insistent, the corpse, in the daughter’s careful execution of the process, as if the octopus was asserting its physical presence all the more that she cut into it.
Doctor, exactly how many autopsies have you performed in your professional career? I can only attest to my activities on certain days, communications with the dead often arise in memory gaps, and rather than involve myself in some ridiculous pursuit, I’d prefer to just say I’m usually making my way to church in the morning. When did you first observe the body in question? I’m not sure I can admit such things without contradicting myself. The environment around here, it seems to be withering. Can you feel a certain deadness in the air? What condition was the body in when you first saw it, Doctor/Daughter? I was in a state of hysteria. No, I was looking in the mirror, to better understand myself, to, at that moment of discovery, look into and understand my soul. I was furnished with words, so many words. There was a slight gurgling in my belly. I wanted to reach out a limb, but felt like a sinking ship, sinking back into the sand to take the place of the body. I paused and paused again. I could not find the subclavian artery, as if it had been ripped out, and for a moment, could not sense my own heartbeat. I muttered to myself, the objects of my mind like secrets floating on waves. I had thoughts, like a poet, mingling and habits imitating. I repeated and repeated myself, with replies only, something mean and menacing about the corpse in the sand. I was far from heaven, faith scarcer than the dark, a practicality keen on having nothing to do with life, perhaps, a mistake. I felt ambiguous, amorphous, needing clarification, needing clarification now. A dream of the open sea. A dream of silver water and tumbling walls. A dream of a good god, a shameless god, an exposure like floating in a hot air balloon. I may be confused, a flattening of my body areas, an absence of any reflex in the eyes when the light shone in them, a pronouncement of death, from above. What exactly did the autopsy reveal, Doctor? That two brothers stamp their feet before climbing the steps. That they stand in awe of numbers, but the octopus, at arm’s length, turns soft and drops. That squirts of holy water exiting from the funnel act like geometrical diagrams or maps, an hourglass full of sand, a traveler finding her way home. A daughter growing inside a belly, swelling like apple blossoms, the octopus is a good observer. A female, building a wall of stones to seal the entrance to her cave, strings of unhatched eggs hanging from the ceiling, squirting holy water to keep the eggs clean, what is the color of a fading language? Daughter, is there more? I peered into the body, the mantle, and saw my own hands reaching back at me. I peered into your eye and realized all this eye had seen is mine and more. I shuddered. This is all projected in the form of mystery or legend or a pair of friends and the deeds we perform, we or she or you or I, the sphere of consciousness, or perhaps, this all need not be documented here.
One of these days, we will all fall from God’s grace, his empty, suffocating, embrace. Daughter: If I translated this feat into sine waves, would that experience translate over into your head? Or we can invert the process and switch the peaks. Would you feel it accurately then, would you feel that inversion in your gut, that rolling back in your eyelids as I flounder around on deck gazing up at you? Reply: Are you my mother?
          Facts:                     -An octopus has been unearthed by excavation.                     -I am a skilled dissectionist.                     -The octopus, like flotsam and jetsam, belong to the finder.                     -It is possible to experience cutting and being cut open at the same time.                     -I am supple as leather, tough as steel, cold as night.
Were you able to form an opinion as to what caused these injuries? The world may seem more or less a fluid phenomenon within the stream of our own fantasy, where subject and object are undifferentiated and in a state of mutual interpenetration, yet like the legendary Hy-Brasil, bisected like two halves of a walnut, an illusory state placed on a map and copied without regret, carrying on a tradition, the hegemony of the eye. I cut off a small piece of the body, feel a tiny tingle run up my arm, out through my elbow, they say reentry is a critical and dangerous moment, and anatomy, which literally means dismemberment, would rest upon a disruption of the body’s ongoing relations with the world, the sand blowing into my face, and you will probably die soon but don’t be afraid, as these fragments are all a picture becoming clear. I eat the octopus meat, thick and chewy, a part of a consecrated body, sharing in the substance of God, yet the one primarily in need of redemption here is not the daughter, but the god, lost and sleeping in matter. Have I swallowed a piece of God here? I congeal, a quick lapse of memory, this depersonalization reported as “soul traveling,” experimenting a simple epileptic aura and I can hear the distant sound of heavenly choirs. A sneeze, a footstep, an echo. And she thinks she hears the voice of God, “You will be healed, your tears have been seen.” But it was not I who was cut open, but the octopus, stagnating, still, a lone long, drawn-out breath.
The best thing might be to live in a box, capturing that ocular view and letting bygones be bygones. Indeed, so much depends upon, which is so indicative, you, the weather, what good even means. Hit it at dusk, and let it live on as incidental, flesh as holding the same capacity for intimacy as the least flashy kind of metamorphosis, evacuated, twisted, fanned against a sliver of blank sky.
Going, going I sometimes hear, in some off shade of myself, the sandy beaches murmuring, orderly, even predictable. I stick my tongue in the water to taste the moment, a recollection of belief, may I be your past or future, will you be mine, I want to thank you for the stolen glances of another world, amen. The mountains are only barriers, and this experience is electric, my tongue on a grub, an inability to resist some of these temptations, contacting in the chilled air, hurt for a genuine recollection, might it taste like belief ? Around and around, a sound I recognize as moondust, I couldn’t have filled out this skin by myself, amen. I say say say and take myself by surprise, I was in love once, my mother holding nme against the sky, there are different sides to every story, but not mine. I scan the sea, disinherit the boat that brought me here, let my hair grow long, hear the echo of a hymn, I must still only be a child, a shadow, a monster. At least I still have a shadow, amen. This is not a myth, but one day it might be. Each incision, scar, memory, I wash my face after a hard day’s work. Honey, I met God today. / Oh, and how was he? / He’s a real charmer, though I’m not sure how long he’ll stay in the neighborhood. A zero, a zero, a zero. I go to bed, comforted by the face looking down at me, like a guardian angel, amen. “She is the image of her father.” An image or something else that aids a birth, a life, a death. Her sepulchre, her trembling compass, a shining shattered deadly, I was only given one face so must make due, amen. Before the closing of the day I pray to ward off the phantoms of the night, but if I’m a monster, who needs protection from whom? My body is not clean but neither is yours. My body is not mine, but neither is yours. I once took money out of my mother’s wallet. I have done this more than once. I do not wish tob confess my sins right now, only to make a wish and blow out the light, amen. There is a god here, but I do not know which god. The desert is full with sand, with sand, the pebbles underfoot, a shaft of compass, our bodies trembling against time, waiting for Him to speak again. Where does the light come from, if not from the sun? Amen.
The osmosis of identities, my map is not necessarily yours, I want to be careful about what I say around here, I feel as if someone is listening, breathing behind there or there. This isn’t such a risky merge, but I don’t have an antidote. Renewal is not the same as reversal. I once was a daughter with a mother, but she could not take the guilt or apathy and I could not take the fear or willful intent. She once tried to kill me and scolded me for her failure. She almost died once and when she didn’t, I was disappointed. I have a complicated relationship with my mother. Are you my mother? Are you my mother? I don’t know where she is now, my memory’s failure, and I don’t know how long I’ve been away from home.
A primordial companion that day by day grows into a great light, an empty darkness and an attempt at being, reddening. My heart beats with a touch, and perhaps, this is my lucky day. Do you feel the throbbing, yet obscure, yet sleeping. There is no time to sleep. And yet I must sleep, ripening within this space, a series of whispers, with myself, you a simulacrum of my former being. Or perhaps I have this all wrong. Perhaps this can not be explained in language, this thinking, mixed incessantly as part of everyone and no one. Perhaps I am the fictional character in all this. Perhaps you destroy the layer of my future, my being. Perhaps I want you to perish because I am selfish. Perhaps I want to live inside you, wrap you around my shoulders like a warm pelt, because I have a certain mass and I want to be loved. Perhaps I should be more precise, this integration of shadows has brought about a strange alteration of personality. Perhaps my agency is not autonomy is not independence is not. Perhaps I was swept away by the sea long ago and you are my evidence of that. Perhaps I can change color too and never had the need to until now. Perhaps this is my underside and not yours, and this is the center of my mantled body, outside the sphere of consciousness. Perhaps this all need not be documented, a rebirth, a becoming, becoming, but never being. Perhaps we’re just a pair of friends and you have left an overwhelming impression on me, and this is why I see your face when I look into the mirror. Perhaps this is the living effect of experiencing a higher consciousness, but sitting atop a cluster of arms, I feel you are harmless, swimming around new myths, focusing sharply. Perhaps my brain impulses can signal changes in texture and this texture is not of waiting or becoming but simply of me looking behind without turning your head.
Perhaps you live alone and I am shy and solitary. Perhaps you explore and envelop me and it is actually enjoyable. Perhaps, former neighbor, my eyesight is not what it used to be and this dissection has only revealed such abnormalities as a clouding of the cornea and pallor of the skin. Perhaps this is my pronouncement of death, my body entering yours, my arms turning soft then dropping. Perhaps this is you, the dead octopus trying to run away, meeting the outer limits of a distant potential. Perhaps this is my skin, my reaction to the mirror, my slow, whimpering motion across the sand, like a windshield wiper, trying to wipe off the reflection of a strange monster. Perhaps I am distressed, reflected, and refuse to come out of the cage. Perhaps, it is by looking, the octopus understands. Perhaps it is time to hatch, my choice, the survival and suffering of an unexpected shipwreck. Perhaps, in the end, it does not matter who is the monster, a daughter or an octopus, and there is only the sand, the daughter slipping through an infinite series of invisible cracks, the body of the octopus, horizontal and flat, and the sand again, always and again the sand, wavering, latching onto the undersides of your legs, and then, never letting go.
All hail Mary in the muckity muck, my primordial being continues to chuck. An inclination of growth, but who’s to say I’m still here in the flesh, and the blood of a birth, which after all is a only a death. Who’s to say I am what I say I am, having forgotten the reaction of sand, a stagnating memory, temporarily asphyxiated in the heat. Who’s to say that I’m anything you say I am, it’s crowded, we all wear masks, we’ve all read the account of the creation. Who’s to say I’m not God and I just don’t remember it?