This is a guest post from M.J. Iuppa who contributed in response to the American Vignette call for submissions. The setting is New York. Enjoy!
Sitting in a small kitchen, in the swell of August in Astoria, you write your morning thoughts in a journal that’s handmade with pages of parchment and a cover that once was a golden sari.
Voices call over the streets and garden walls in a grammar of sound that echo emotion.
Who has received news? Is the woman’s voice crying or laughing? You slide your chair to the window to look out upon the rows of two story brick houses and the empty streets shimmering with heat. You wonder if the voices were real. You look back at your open page, at the last word written: pinpoint.
Later, in the afternoon, you walk along 86th street with your grown daughter to catch the train back to her apartment. The sidewalk isn’t crowded or noisy with construction, but it is warm and close—you can feel the air pushing against the small of your back. In a split second, your matched stride and conversation falls apart and you find yourself sprawled on a curb. Small bit of grit stuck to your palms. You look up, and instead of seeing your daughter’s face, you see the blue eyes of a Jamaican woman who is asking you if you’re alright. Alright, you say, rising up like a wobbly balloon. No, you’re not, she says, steadying your arm. You need to pay attention. They pushed you— the dead pushed you. Go home. Drink 3 glasses of cold water. Pay attention. You look away, nodding your head as you hold out your hand to your daughter who takes it quickly; then you turn back to thank the woman, but she’s gone.
There are only two steps in paying attention. 1. You must focus on a certain object. 2. You must block out other incoming information. The experts say this: We are only aware of what we pay attention to such as words, sounds, emotion, feeling, taste, places, physical touch. When we pay attention to one object, then we may not notice other objects or things that happen.
Dark blue eyes– bluer than the sea at night, you know the depths. The cold water you drink without question—to be on the safe side. You can hardly see the stars drifting in the sky’s gauzy net of clouds. Pinpoint: a precise measure. Light shines through either side. The dead are watching . Most of the time, we aren’t. Tonight, you still feel the weight of the woman’s hand on your arm.
M.J.Iuppa lives on a small farm near the shores of Lake Ontario. Between Worlds is her most recent chapbook, featuring lyric essays, flash fiction and prose poems (Foothills Publishing, 2013). She is the Writer-in-Residence and Director of the Visual and Performing Arts Minor Program at St. John Fisher College. You can follow her musings on writing and creative sustainability on Red Rooster Farm on (A)Stray: One Poet’s Conversation.