Katharine Weber
Keep your Secrets

In the room the women come and go, talking of Mrs. Angelo. She died last night at 93. Which one was she?   

I’m lost. Words stay in the house. I watch them. They are good company.  The words?  No, the wax-faced Madonna guarding my door. And the others, who come and go, or do I repeat myself, the horses that make plans while we dream. Like old dogs turning in a circle for no reason but their own good reasons, we are all here. Voices muttering retreats, raised in prayer and argument. I am holding a Lutheran hymn book, upside-down, but I am Jewish. Now it is gone, I have made a sudden leap while sitting still, and I hold a doll, a medicine ball, a large-print copy of the Reader’s Digest, now I am holding nothing, tight in my grip so as not to let it get away, the knitter without wool who knits and knits and falls asleep. The day begins and ends before it begins. Night rubs its feet. All things combine and recombine. Night rubs its feet again, another night? Would I like a back rub? Certainly not, we haven’t even met, I say to no one there. A dream, while sitting here, obedient?

You do not own me, and I do not owe you, in your cleverness and obscurity, all of you, I catch you if I can, your echoes that echo. You think you’re so smart. You are all holding back, keeping secrets, your crazy sentences holding hostage the meaning which is glimpsed and lost and glimpsed again, a memory of a memory for an instant – but no, this is not a bill. A hundred indecisions. Visions and revisions. Do I speak this language? Perhaps once.  It is familiar and complex, swollen with pollen. Scattered, what is left of anything? Thank God I can’t be arrested for what’s inside. The taking of toast and tea. Useless night.

We shall go to the library, then later to a film, says the Activity Demon with her bobble head. You are shrinking, Little Bobble. Begone. Gone. When I raise my hand it hurts the crops. All children must leave their dolls at the guard house.  That’s merely insane, has Little Bobble re-emerged? All I can do is droop. The idea that nothing exists crosses my mind.

If even the wood of the house can hear us breathe, are we ever alone? But this is alone. I am a woman with yapping dogs looking at me. I must sit still. A dream while sitting here, obedient. Words are tossed at me like salad. What did the mayonnaise say to the refrigerator? Shut the door, I’m dressing!  Open the door, sweetheart, so we can dress you. Too late for redress, she says it is time for my red dressing gown. Dressing down. That is not what I meant, at all. The latest fashion. Are there choices? When I raise my voice, it lowers my eyes, and there is hell to pay. I go inside. My arms and legs are thin. In a minute there is time. What is left of anything?

 The guests make a red circle around me. They grab my hair, my arm, chanting, my other arm, pulling, the tide goes out. And then I find myself again in morning sunlight, ages ago, and I have glistening red nails as never before; when I was myself I never had this. Is squoval really a word? She said it just now, popping her gum. Cherries in the Snow, sweetheart, your favorite!  It is? It is my favorite now. Is it now yet? Is it still now?

We never say die, we say celestial admissions. It makes them feel better, Puppethead, the one in charge of the other puppets, advises the new English muffin girl, who is having an anxiety attack – she said dead twice on her first day, and I am certain she thinks “a lot” is one word – while mopping up Professor Hollander and his Metamucil, that old man with gap teeth perched on a three-legged stool. Professor, try this gargle, the latest fashion indeed, and I close my eyes, and the rhyming goes away again, as it seems to have done all over town. The darker hues have nothing of quality to offer, shouts the professor, as if that makes sense at a time like this. Everyone is resigned.

A gathering swoon. An exhausted moon.  Or was that a moan? Or was that me?  She was a famous novelist, says Little Bobble, explaining me to the Music Nightmare, who comes with her flatted fifths and her empty bells and her clown’s demonic grin of hate beneath the music from a farther room. The inspector of stairs is on the stairs, oh my. And I thought it was Tuesday. That’s not mine, but I took it for my own. Wait – Was?  Am I remaindered, out of stock, backordered, out of print? A bit obtuse, yes, but what comes after the novels?  That is not all I had to say, at all.

Go on without me then. If I wanted to chase them I could. And how should I begin?  If I wanted to learn this language I might be reborn, unless I am too compassionate, and have shut my mind. This isn’t as complicated as it appears. It’s that simple.  Would it be worth it, after all?