The West |

Stop and Jack Bean

by Amanda Ackerman

edited by Mathew Timmons

Many problems still remain, but I am not angry. Why is that? I live in this room and that is all that I do. I should be anxious over my lack of achievement but am not. I do, however, make lists of what I’ve eaten today. I say: — I wrote this after eating an apple. — I wrote this after eating sawdust. — I wrote this after eating a dose of iron. — I wrote this after eating walnut jam. The world has not melted in years. It froze many years ago I suppose, but I don’t know — nor could I, because all I do is live in this room. The room is a tight fit. In any case, I think it’s a room because there are four walls and a window with a bronze-colored curtain over it. The world froze many years ago, so the window faces an open expanse of flat ice tinted a grayish blue, like a cloud turned inside out. But I am not angry. Why is that? And please do not mistake my repetition for a type of denial. I am truly emptied of anger. I just got tired of anger burning me up. I am not sure how big the room is in relation to others, nor even where it is in relation to other rooms, nor any other structures for that matter. In one corner there’s a socket with a humidifier plugged into it. There isn’t a mirror. There is no one in here with me. I also cannot sleep in stretches of more than ten minutes. If I do, it will be disastrous for this room, and me. To keep myself awake, I make lists: — I ate a dollar before I wrote this — I ate the leg of a chair before I wrote this — I ate a kettle before I wrote this — I ate sugar before I wrote this — I ate an apron For example, the other day while I was positioned at the window, trying to scrape a brand new glazing of ice off of the windowsill, I heard a voice say to me — Men dream, but women have fantasies. And I responded — I’m extremely tired of people who say men this and women that. To blot out this menthiswomenthat voice I make lists. I wrote this after eating: — a lemon — my nails (I bite them) — a carrot seed — a fish eye No one has proven to me beyond a doubt that I must make up my mind about anything. What satisfies me are the lists: — I ate a coulis — I ate dirt — I ate licorice — I ate salt and pepper — I ate a cataract The world is frozen, and has been for many years. When the first layer of ice came like a great wave and coated the world, the people celebrated. They went out and purchased skates and began to slide and drift over what used to be roads, parks, and areas of commerce. They twirled, made circles, fell, and bumped into one another. Couples and families glided about at night en masse. When the second layer of ice came like a great wave and coated the world, the people became frozen too. They rose like rocky protuberances out of the ground and did not move. I do not know where they are now. I hope I am not one of them but there is no way to know other than to look at my body. It appears to be fine, and so I hope I am not merely fantasizing, not idle in my observations and emotional reactions. If I stop scraping the ice off the windowsill for more than ten minutes at a time, the window will be sure to crack, an avalanche will surge into the room, and then layer upon layer of snow will start to pile up on the floor like heavy blankets. And the sound is awful. It’s amazing how the mind can take you into a corner, into a knot. What is it about the mind? About the thought process? Anyway, I’ve done it just now. I’m against the corner. I act as if I have an immense vantage point from where I can see the entire world. I imagine the world is tiered like a house. If the world were a giant house, on the first level would be the level of sidewalks and manicured parks or lawns, front and back doors and emergency exits, people moving from one place to another, dogs walking, forests, oceans, and occasionally places where people sit in one place, watch the ocean, sleep, or buy, repair or manufacture items. This level also contains methods for transportation, auto, locomotive, and otherwise. On the next floor of this house are people conducting their domestic affairs (like showering or sleeping or having conversations) as well as people doing executive jobs and those who are their secretaries or assistants. On the third level of this house, there are people doing what they do when they are not working; there are people waiting, and dining, and going in and out of elevators or escalators, buying items, or noticing the sky (remember they are all frozen), receiving dental treatments or having medical tests. Above it all the house becomes pure flight and below it all the house becomes a diving into the depths, or it becomes a submarine; the heights and caverns of the world could be the attic or the basement of the house. It strikes me that many problems still remain, but I truly do not feel anger. Please do not mistake my repetition as repression. I am truly emptied of anger, even as I hope for the world to right itself. But I am not yet able to articulate this. I can say: — I ate snow before I wrote this; — I ate baby onions (scallions) before I wrote this; — I ate grapes and shells before I wrote this; — I ate wine before I wrote this; — I ate burlap and potatoes: — I ate cauliflower then starved for a short while before I wrote this.
I can say:
I ate a cast iron pot I ate a palm leaf I ate marmalade I ate bread
I ate tealeaves I ate a vegetable stew I ate a casserole and the dish it was cooked in I ate metal I ate cantaloupe I ate a garden hose I ate paper I ate the roof I ate some popcorn
A dust, dustpan, a broom A watch A telescope A wiretap Endives Olives A marinade A mint leaf A holy relic A toothpick A document
And I kept it all down. The question is, am I the captain of this ship? Could I begin the world again and again? I have been angry, but I’m not. I am not angry. I just got tired of starving. I just got tired of hurting myself and others. Please tell me what it is you would like me to give you, and I shall not hesitate. I only want to be generous. I do not want that you should feel empty.