Diana K. Malek

Ode to Mr. Spock


He was a member of the tribe of Wolf

And he was partly of the pure blood

Which made him moody

And sensitive to the secrets hidden in the night.

And while he seemed to yearn so earnestly

For the love of small children

Their fat sticky toes

And wet chubby cheeks yelling “doggy!”

In those utterly desperate voices (as though

They had unexpectedly alighted upon, amidst this bland Earth life

Something very important that had been left behind

In that Other life from which they’d so recently emerged)

We couldn’t always trust him

To lick tenderly with his enormous ham slice of a tongue

Trust the harvest moons of his eyes

To always contain the steadfast, avuncular understanding

Of his more domesticated brethren.

And so in public his mouth was encased

In a clamp of plastic bars.

He hated it.

He was a prisoner

And we cried for him.

When he died so unexpectedly

It was clear

Simply clear

The secrets of the night had taken him.

The tribe of Wolf had reclaimed him

Seeing his unfitness for leashes

And the bristled little gloves we put on

Trying to brush his teeth

That gleaming set of white knives tucked

Into the dark velvet box of his mouth.

We buried him in the backyard

Letting ragweed and chamomiles grow

Like a wild man’s beard over the small hump of his grave.

When I had the vision of him, he wasn’t

A dog at all but a boy

With shining hair and brilliant, sharp white teeth.

And I watched while he scrambled angrily up

A steep, scraggly hillside and then dove, relieved and compelled

Into a green pool of water so completely lit from underneath

It was as if the sun herself hibernated at the bottom.

I’m not the only one.

My aunt by marriage—who is no longer

My aunt by marriage—

Had a vision of her sheepdog after he died

In a bathroom stall at Cracker Barrel.

She came back out to my uncle and her white gravy and grits

But she was never the same.

As for me I have taken the green pool

Into the deepest recess of my heart.

It has become my true north

A mantra, a meditation, a prayer.

There is no one to talk to about visions these days.

There are only projections, variegated forms

Of schizophrenia, sensitivity, difficulty fitting in and

Divorce. Artsy fartsy if you’re lucky.

You learn not to talk about the green pool.

Because the mind is epiphenomenal of the Brain. The Brain! The Brain!

But what else can you do with this pool once you’ve seen it?

I’d like to go to the edge of a field humming

With bees, a haze of golden flowers, and three black

Crows arguing over the eyeball

Of dead doe, her body near and pressing

The flowers to the ground

Crushing the petals so they release their brief scream

A fragrance of burnt cinnamon and bone.

I’d like to sit at a cracking

Wooden table eating

Pistachios soaked to softness in cardamom and honey

Have the old ones, who still know about the different worlds

Show me how to walk the path between them

Brushing brambles out of the way and teaching me

How to shake sticks at snakes

Our feet as quiet on this path as leaves

Or feathers

The sky and the stars and the planets

Falling about our shoulders like a quilt.



After Uvalde


I put the badge with the small photo of myself

And “Property of Enfield School System”

Up to the red light.

Some mechanism I don’t understand

Hums and clicks, the light turns green

And I go in.

There are cameras.

There is a police presence.

We are the lucky ones.

My morning email is a letter

Of solidarity and hope.

Forgiveness, for our grief.

I help a boy with a literary essay.

The TV that picks up old transmissions from outer space

Represents the character’s past.

When the character dismantles the TV

And uses the parts for an invention to help a friend

He is coming to terms

With his trauma, learning

To be a part of the now.

The boys says excuse me I don’t mean to be rude

But I think symbolism is stupid.

Sometimes I think I have an urge to save mankind

Because I felt, as a child

Soley responsible for my mother’s happiness.

I see the curling into small, dark places

And some mechanism I don’t understand hums and clicks

The light tuns green

And I go in.

Sometimes I think the same urge to help

Is a form of enlightenment.

These are the days I feel confident.

Lately there aren’t many of them.

More often it’s screaming at the top

Of my lungs in the car with the door closed

Where no one can see me.

I eat salted cashews for lunch.

A banana so darkly spotted it smells, gently

Of a cream liquor.

I sit by a girl and spell Europe.

I sit by a boy and spell didn’t.

I sit by a girl and spell product.

The air is quiet and dusty.

There is a near constant grind of pencil sharpening.

I work with a boy on his social studies project about salamanders.

The axolotl stares at us sweetly from the bright ipad.

It looks like a cross between a teddy bear with hands

And a cartoon baby fish.

The axolotl can even regenerate his brain I read in surprise.

The boy grins I’m going to get one

And bash his head in.

There is a pleasure in his voice. Strange and deep.

A mechanism I don’t understand

Hums and clicks, a light turns green, and I go in.

There is a place behind my heart, above my spleen

Where I’ve knitted together bursts of gratitude

For the crisp air of early mornings

The unconditional love of dogs, and a few paragraphs

From Carl Jung about energy and the collective unconscious

That make me believe, when I read them, in absolutely everything

And I’ve set this all on a slow spin

To Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto number 2.

I’ve strung up

Inside this slowly spinning web

Images of my husband’s face, smiling and whispering nothings

As he crouches, pushing plates of chunked tuna toward the feral cat

That lives under our porch.

I cut a slice of this web now and it sits

Slow, and spinning, and smiling, and whispering, and believing

In my palm

And I hand the slice now to the boy.

It’s not something that can be seen or heard, you understand?

But it hurts to cut it out.

It hurts to hand it to him.

He might not take it.

Probably, he won’t take it.

I do it anyway, that’s the important part.

Today it doesn’t matter why.

Somehow, what I do is part of the absolutely everything

And that is good enough.

It is good enough.

Today all that matters is the hum

The click, the light going green

The going in.



The Gift


The forecast said rain in the morning

So when I woke to the sun so bright

On the other side of the window shade--

As if mountainous hunks of rose quartz, all

Of America’s pawnshop’s worth of thin gold necklaces

And millions of pink peppercorns

Had been ground in a giant mortar and set ablaze

Behind a door made simply of words that said

Oh dear wait just a moment please oh dear oh dear--

I felt a surge of happiness

Lifting the shades and throwing open the windows

Breathing it in.

The unexpected gift, a perfect morning.

A tidy green tractor dragging

Her twirling set of metal spoons through the earth

Tossing worms and small rocks up from the belly of the field

And the birds now diving

For those small, jellied creatures, the worms

So stunned by their sudden awareness of the sun

They lie still, and nearly pleased to die.

The willows with their long unkempt green hair

Hippy women, gathering chamomile flowers

And tiny mushrooms by their rough, generous legs.

I stick my nose to the screen and suck in the coffeegrind

And rawhide of the fresh dirt

The grassy perfume of the chamomiles

The chins of their miniature golden faces tilted up

By the starched Victorian collars of their white petals.

I listen to the birds, shrieking in delight

At their fullness

Wings staggering under the weight

But they are diving

And diving again so it looks--

With the worms thrown up to the sky and

The birds hurtling toward earth--as if we have arrived

At the singularity

Courtesy of one early waking farmer

And his trusty John Deere

And I am breathing in this great gift

Of a morning

And of course it is a singularity

Courtesy of one man and a tractor, not just as if

But really, truly is.

And yet, I have an urgent desire

To stop.

Stop dallying.

Make coffee.

Run an errand.

I should wash my hair, it’s looking oily again.

At least finish that difficult chapter.

Update my resume.

And what’s worse I know

That when I die it is this gift of mornings

I’ll try to gather into me.

Giddy birds and trees

With their nonsensical amount of tenderness.

The smallest pebbles chucked up in grand sprays

From the cool deep ground, laughingly

Remembering that they too can be a part

Of this world

Even though they can do so terribly little

With their allotted time.

This gift will be the demonstrable essence

Of life.

And the countless hours I’ll have spent

Finishing tasks that indicate I’m the sort of person

Who would be very good at making rich men richer

And being punctual

And trying so hard to look like someone--nails filed, eyebrows combed--

Who finishes difficult and important things and is punctual

Will have been time that could have been better used

By the tiniest of brown pebbles, tossed

By a metal spoon into a brilliant sky

Still and humble and quiet and perhaps yes

A bit melancholy from having lived

So long in the darkness of dirt

But cherishing

Oh doing absolutely nothing but being himself and cherishing

His moment in the sun.



Vision


Did you hear about the water truck that flipped into a ditch today off Elm street?

My husband’s face is alive with excitement. Two broken arms!

It’s so like him to care

About these kinds of random dramatic events, and I think I disappoint

Him when I barely nod, or say uh-huh, my face stuffed in a book

Busy

Overthinking everything and developing

A pain in my back from sitting too long.

But he’s part of this world so completely it’s like his own arms are breaking.

Like he was driving that truck.

When he reaches for his coffee—and I can never believe this-- he is his very own hand, Reaching. When he takes a sip he is lips and then, a throat.

When I tell him, as he drinks his coffee

He is the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen

He laughs and says I’m pushing 50. You have googly eyes.

But I don’t have googly eyes.

My eyes work just fine.

Just today when I made my way

Through the tall grass in the backyard

Behind the old cottage and the willow dragging her luscious green hair

In the beetle-dotted dirt

I saw the enormous spray of hidden dandelions, hundreds of them

And I gasped

Because they were the tears of the sun

Tears of a joy so intense it was accompanied immediately

By an outstanding pain

And I saw that the bees about my feet

Kissing and kissing those tiny brilliant flowers

Would take that saddened yellow joy and churn it

Into an unbelievable sweetness.

And this kissing and churning would be the good work of their lives.

And I saw too that they were teaching us

Right there, right in front of me

Right there at my feet

The bees were teaching us

How to live.



I Point to the Question


Why did the author

Show Emily’s response to the piano player?

I tap my finger loudly on the word ‘why’.

Knock knock knock on the little blue table

But Jacob is erasing a wayward letter b, its bubble

Of identity having been erroneously flipped

Into an errant d

And a new pile of erasure is joining the loose mound

Of extant pink stubble

By his elbow.

He begins to form, slowly

With his fingers, the soft bits together

Until they form a lung-colored fortress

Of confused and killed thoughts.

And quite to my surprise a tiny princess pokes her head

Out a window of this pinkish castle

And she sings and her voice

Is a lithium coated poppy that the boy licks like a lollipop.


My rapping on the little table only a muffled irritation now

As he rises easily out of his body and follows her.

And they float, Jacob and the princess

Of confusion and killed thoughts, right out

Of the school building, past the swing sets and

Into the swarth of pine trees behind the athletic field, fed

By the bitter minted breath of those trees and pulling

Into their smokish swirling song, as they travel, small tufts

Of last nights dreams from random townsfolk

Forgotten names

Missed appointments

A damaged memory fermenting

At the bottom of an empty tequila bottle purchased

At Mike’s Hard Liquors on Tuesday and chucked

Unceremoniously into Pilch’s field from a swerving car.

Mrs. Avery, who has been struggling with dementia

For some time, in her entirety, right off her couch

Blue housecoat and all.

And Jacob is cradling and humming quietly to the souls

Of two raccoons run over on Elm Street early this morning

The souls gravitating with a natural ease

Into that opiated itinerant cloud

Jacob stroking the silken, musky cheeks

Of what is left

Of the two small beasts.


Yelling.

Yes, yelling sometimes helps.

When I first started teaching

I thought I’d never yell at kids.

But that was before I knew that even if you warned them