sporklet 11
Wallace Ludel

[A way to start]

A way to start would be to say that as I was being born my father held a glass of brandy in one hand and a bottle of Pepto-Bismol in the other, sipping between them like a hummingbird between two flowers. Then the world arrived, full of objects and relations that tended to vanish as if behind a heavy rain. When his mother died he said, I’ve now seen birth and death, and I wondered, if emotions were measured only by weight, would I know the difference between them? When the sun clings to someone I love, I am grateful. When they hold the particulars of themselves, when I look at your hands and see only your hands, I am grateful. When the uninvited come into the room, I heed to my helplessness. First, there’s a blue dress with a red flower pinned to it, then suddenly no flower, then suddenly no dress.

[I text my mother, If you could be any animal what would you be]

I text my mother, If you could be any animal what would you be, she texts back, I’m at work I’ll deal with this later. Here we are, the two of us having long graduated the academy of mother & son. Days before her uncle dies we visit him and look over his sleeping body. I’m holding her hand, we are two adults holding hands in a room with a third adult who’s dying. We peer over his bed and maybe, if she’d been an animal then, she’d have been a beautiful egret looking on with her long unfurled neck. Then I’m 16, she’s picking me up from jail for the second time. And now, I’m smaller yet, tiny really, in some kind of playroom and I see my reflection and I think it’s another boy. I run to him and hit my head hard against the mirror. Now I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed for the first time.

[The night your mother tried to kill herself]

The night your mother tried to kill herself
we met up at a bar on my block
and you spilled a bottle of hot sauce on your dinner.
Your name was Tenderness
and my name was Tenderness too.
You learned to make a sound like a hollow pipe
staying perfectly still. Like a rock
once skipped by a child that now sits
at the bottom of a lake. You held your breath
longer than anyone else on Earth
and when you opened your mouth to speak,
all your teeth fell out.
Then we sat down together in the salty mud,
picking your teeth up and stacking them
on top of each other, making a tiny tooth-church
with a tiny tooth-steeple.
Then you spoke and the sound you made
was like the sound a refrigerator makes
when you notice it's stopped making any sound at all.

[We used to touch the bus seats to make sure the graffiti was dry]

We used to touch the bus seats before we sat down to make sure the graffiti was dry. Why not admit it, sunshine poured through the windshield and I was adrift. On the 217 a young man threw his Heineken bottle at a woman and I watched it miss her, bouncing first off the window and onto the floor, then up from the floor and onto an empty seat as if a passenger. We’re all learning new tricks. Dan’s daughter Ursula just turned one and he holds her while the three of us walk through the Botanical Gardens. She points in the distance and he says, Yes Ursula, those are our shadows on grass near a white fence with some tall buildings in the background where Ebbets Field used to be.

[It’s not like every time I saw you there was a grapefruit]

It’s not like every time I saw you there was a grapefruit, peeled and full of life, waiting for us. I’m not becoming a martyr to a grapefruit. I’m not a flightless bird either but more like a bird who isn’t very good at flying. My bartender suggests a chicken or a turkey, her coworker suggests a penguin. Penguins can’t fly at all, I say. Well shit, she says. There was never a room where I got everything I wanted and there never will be, but sometimes when I put my big ear to the mouth of the evening, I hear the apple core turning. The most beautiful sound. Which isn’t to say that other sounds aren’t as beautiful, only that no other sounds exist. There becomes no meaty grapefruit, no peach pit, no Penn Station, and no consoling to be done, only the lapping of the tongue of the mouth of the evening.

Wallace Ludel is an art writer and poet. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Artforum, BOMB, Narrative, No Tokens, Triangle House Review, and elsewhere. He recently received his MFA from New York University, where he also taught creative writing.