Remember q-tips? Paper towels? Make-up remover wipes?
Remember how we complained about the weather and used electricity to sharpen our pencils, dry our hair, say hello?
Remember how far apart we lived from the people we loved, from other people, from the forest birds, from farms, and factories, and fish?
Remember how impatient we became when a package, huffed by coughing ship across the world, conveyed by conveyor belt and exhausted hands, was delayed in transit?
Remember shoes with plastic soles and colored laces? Remember throwing them away, in a plastic can lined with a plastic bag to be crushed in the stinking jaws of a metal truck and buried unmarked in the dirt?
Remember cigarettes? Sliced bread? Blush? Hot showers?
Remember worrying about how to make rent? Student loan payments? Dinner?
Remember wanting to bring children into the world because the world was, for all its complexity, a place where children were living, large-eyed wishes, where a person might reach and aspire and relax and contemplate and enjoy a plate of imported olives and a glass of old wine and tomatoes fed with rich soil and ripened on the vine?
Remember fame? Hatred? Pigeons? Checkbooks? Violins? Couches? Caterpillars? Copper pots? Cellar doors? Computers? Canvas? Sweatpants? Snow? Pets? Lovers? Snails? Singing? Whales?
Wouldn’t That Be Nice
— from “It Won’t Last”
I amuse myself with alternative history, points of
Divergence, the noise of a conjured reality. For
Example: I’m very close with my father. He’s a great
Guy, super thoughtful, not an angry bone in his body.
Obliging bones. Blitzkrieg of a laugh. Gaze like the
Beam of a lighthouse. Since he retired we hang out on
Weekends, idle in the park, build things out of wood,
Drive to state parks, hike up mountains, fish, pick wild
Blueberries for my mother. He loves my mother so
Much he loses his train of thought when he looks at
Her, her aspect still bewildering, precious after all
These years. Their way of loving taught me everything
I need to know about being with other people, with
Myself. When I was little and bad things happened, I
Could go to him. He’d lay a warm hand on my head,
Understand everything. I felt protected and seen. My
Dad thinks I’m doing great even though I’m still poor.
He thinks the way the arts are undervalued in our society
Is an outrage, has never once told me to get a real job,
Helps me out when I can’t pay the bills. He likes my
Husband, who’s also a great guy, and didn’t mind at all
That we eloped. He found it very sensible we invested in
A piece of land, and is only too happy lending a hand when
We go up to work on the cabin. Without him saying so, I
Know he’d be over the moon if we had a kid, or adopted a
Kid, would just love being her grandpa, but at the very same
Time understands completely, doesn’t mind a bit, if we decide
Not to have kids. He gets that an artist’s work is its own being,
Which requires nurturing, time, all the things a kid needs.
Now I’m getting older, I think about what it’ll be like
Switching roles, becoming the person upon whom he can
Rely, offering a steady arm as we take the stairs, placing
An understanding hand on his warm head, which is losing
Some of its hair.
from “It Won’t Last”
A bell rings and everybody goes outside. Lights are
Out as far as I can see. No one’s cell phone is
Working. All engines and batteries have suddenly,
Finally died, their several arms folded like ended
Insects, peaceful and inert. Because it’s so dark we
Can more than see the milky white arc of stars spanning
The night like a spectral rainbow, we can make out its
Singing, a bright, an endless note just within human
Hearing, just an ancient door buzzer ringing and ringing us
In, just the night opening and opening at a hushed
8 hertz. We look around amazed. We’re too moved
To move. We’re speechless. The sound of the world,
Of bugs, breath, hands holding, leaves being born,
Birds dreaming, fish swimming, elephants, armadillos,
Giraffes, water joining soil is ineffable. We’re too astonished
To think of ourselves. Or we begin to think of ourselves as
One thing, and this thing is so daedal and exquisite that
We’re released from the dark integument of human shame.
We can see beyond death, beyond the need for power,
Meaning, and even love, beyond all humanness. And
In this sort of absence we feel pretty great even though we
Have no fucking clue what’s happening or why or whether
It will last.
Estelle Bajou is a French-American polymath with a BA from Bard College at Simon’s Rock, which she earned at age nineteen, and an MFA in Acting from The New School. Her work is featured or forthcoming in Heavy Feather Review, Broad River Review, SoFloPoJo, About Place Journal, The Closed Eye Open, and This Broken Shore. She’s also an award-winning actor and composer. Raised in a North Carolina furniture factory town, she now lives in Harlem with a bunch of houseplants. Visit her at estellebajou.com.