“Hello, this is your grandfather, Perry.”

Published May 15, 2018 by April Fox

There is no evidence that life continues past the point when the heart stops and the brain shuts down. The best we can hope for is that in the millisecond between here and not — if there is such a time — the mind mercifully conjures an ideal reality, whether it be constructed of memory or fantasy or some combination thereof, and as the light clicks off this becomes forever, by default.

They are not peering down at us from some cloudsoft perch, making us unwilling participants in the reality show of our lives, tracking us as we burn the eggs and check the bank balance and linger too long in the shower trying to wash away the pain of their nonexistence. There are no harps, no pitchforks, no rinsing out and recycling of the soul, as if that were even a thing… there is nothing, anywhere.

There is a space left, though, and the space is vast.

A few weeks ago when I visited my grandfather, he tried to sit up in bed. He struggled, and when it was clear that he needed more than just a hand to grip as he pulled himself up, I took him in my arms and lifted him. I struggle sometimes with the weight of the preschoolers in my care, but my grandfather seemed weightless then. His bones felt bird hollow and fragile, and his chest was paper thin rising with his breath against my heart. I remembered him lifting my daughter up to the window, admiring her red hair in the sun, red like his, and it was effortless then. In my arms he was as light as an infant and this is not the way it was supposed to be, lifting my grandfather. He carried me.

Under the blanket he was only a wrinkle with someone else’s old man face perched on the pillow, not the right color, not the right shape, not the right thing which was alive and he was not, he was someone else there and this could not be my grandfather in the box in the ground with the gravedigger leaning on his shovel waiting for us to leave while the red-haired baby’s red-haired baby finished her bottle and waved her chubby feet at the sun.

He was weightless, disappeared, but the space he left is so huge that it’s taken all the air away and the mask is on all day, eating chicken and salad, changing clothes, going to work, multitasking sending emails scheduling appointments making plans and on the way home when the sun hits the water on the window the space opens up and there is nothing else to breathe and I cannot.

“How are you?”

“Fine, and you? Let’s change the subject here.”

He used to call and leave me messages that all began the same: “Hello, this is your grandfather, Perry.”

When I left him there the last time, it ended the same as always.

“I love you, Grandpa.”

“Okay, thank you.”

He didn’t remember, most of the time, that he was my grandfather, Perry.

It takes two bulldozer buckets full of dirt to cover the thing that holds the thing that left the space behind. One man with a shovel to smooth it over. Six men to carry the box. 92 years to create a life that leaves the world devoid.

Hello, this is my grandfather, Perry. I miss him like you would not fucking believe.

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March. 

Published March 24, 2018 by April Fox

First storm of the season rolling in

I should have know that it was coming. 

Dragging in on the tails of the snow that fought the rain this morning, it demands

to be acknowledged 

as the rightful owner of the season. 

The echoes shake the mountains, thunder bouncing off the land and back again and the lightning doesn’t touch the darkness

that’s been building now, for days. 

The clouds were heavy all day, heavy under the weight

of everything and when it rains

(it finally started up again, just now)

it isn’t anything

but the voiding of the sky. 

Valentine

Published February 12, 2018 by April Fox

Hey now, can you keep me

under the radar, in that spot where the rain falls

heavy

Can you be the cloud that rushes me

alive

Hey can you keep me

tucked in your pocket, deep in the dark where your

heartbeat hides

Can you dance with me to the same tune

under the glow

of the dome light, box step back bend you lead

I’ll wait.

Breathe, can you stop my breath

for a second

Can you keep your shit together when I

falter, can you

keep your shit

together

while the fear leaks out your eyes

and pulls me back

Hey now, can you keep me

for a while

Can I have some of that blanket, can I tuck my head

into the pillow of your shoulder, can I press my

eye

against the bony knob

of your wrist and can you read my mind and tell me

what I mean

Can you keep me under the radar, in the corner of this planet

you inhabit, that you built

can you keep me under the radar, sifting through your fingers

like the sun.

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2017: Depression Ate My Brain

Published December 30, 2017 by April Fox

In 2017, depression ate my brain.

I wish the years were neatly separate, distinct like they are on paper

segmented like an earthworm you can tear apart and watch the old parts writhe and bleed

while a new one generates —

starting over, over, over

hard reset, the days would have an expiration date

live through this, and then you get to start again

with vocal cords that work and a mind that doesn’t will itself

into oblivion, just for the hell of it.

Social media’s a hopeful place, full of photographs of bubbly glasses, gold leaf and fireworks:

“Here’s to a better year, next time!” A dumpster fire, they call it, as if the ticking of the clock will put it out and we will Come Together To Make Things Better! and Make 2018 Awesome! and start fresh, resolution-bound and hungover in the morning

Happy New Year

but it’s not, when depression eats your brain.

I spent my days in the company of children, and the ones who cared for them also cared for me. I tied the shoes and bandaged the scrapes and explained a hundred times that cottage cheese is cheese, but not the kind you slice. I sat criss-cross applesauce on the big rug and read stories written by other people’s brains, the brains that worked. Shoes on, coats on, water bottles, line up: The routines that shaped their days helped stitch together mine.

I stayed put together and the year went on and it ate away a little more each day, and when people say Reach Out I don’t think they understand that all the things you’ll say, we already understand.

I know I’m not alone. My stuff happened alongside your stuff and her stuff and their stuff and it devoured us from the outside while we were battling the inside. The world was burning down, our heroes were dying left and right and everything seemed darker than it should. In the dark, it’s hard to see the things you should create. We are not alone, but that doesn’t make the aloneness any less.

I lost my voice, and my muscles atrophied; there was no reaching out because I know: The solid marriage, loving family, stable friendships, roof overhead wheels underneath woodstove fired up warm quilt wrapped around babies thriving sunsets starry nights and all of those things are real but the list is punctuated with the knowledge, too, that it’s all there in spite of me and there is nothing relevant

living in my bones.

Depression eats your brain and you can’t sleep or you can’t

wake up or you can’t

eat or you can’t

shower or smile or think

or hold a conversation past the canned fake plastic words you spit out on Facebook so that nobody

suspects there’s something wrong (because there’s not; it’s just your bootstraps wearing out)

You can’t do much of anything but follow the same old script but you can sure as shit argue

with the idea that there is something valuable

in you.

I lost my voice and people didn’t think I could, they wanted me to make them laugh, to mock the president, to say something sweetly vulgar because saying FUCK is trendy now and hey, what’s behind this song and hey, tell me stories that the music men told you and I just

stopped.

The words were stagnant water in my mouth. Nothing new could live there, nothing would come out; I lost the words and then I lost the chance to say

I’m sorry

Depression ate my brain

in 2017.

Losing October 

Published November 15, 2017 by April Fox

In my nightmares there is metal everywhere. 

The little one is hungry,

two-dimensional

I’m not sure if he’s real or a

creation of my 

imagination and the wires

the image projected flat

onto the glass —

The eyes are still the same. 

When he was broken, once

I carried him and had him cast. 

I am waking up and

waking up and

waking up and

not. 

When I finally sleep, I’m cradling

all the tiny things

Trying to keep the other ones

from tearing out their spines. 

Altar

Published October 4, 2017 by April Fox

Let’s make a little altar here

from the things that we collected

while we walked.

Let’s make a little altar

from the broken sticks,

the colored leaves, the tiny

stones

that pressed between our palms

like everything.

Let’s make a little altar

from the love notes

and the bits of songs

the promises and tears

the handprints on the glass

in the back seat of the car.

Let’s make a little altar

with the shadowbox we made

from torn up paper, old receipts

the endless coffee cups,

the rain.

Let’s make a little altar

from the nursery rhymes and fairy tales

the hangovers and lazy days

the emptiness behind the

captive audience, the rapt and

awed, the onlookers, the fans

the stick figures, the empty heads

the arms that circled close, the

time

the blackness left behind.

Let’s make a little altar, but this time

let’s keep it out

where we can see it

keep the floodlights on

the spotlight keeping lit

all the things that we’ve collected

tucked away

and dusted off

on a holiday like nothing

Let’s make a little altar

from the darkness

left behind.

Periwinkle Blue at 42

Published March 28, 2017 by April Fox

This is the age when I’m supposed to embrace myself,

to wrap my loving arms around my ego and my thighs and to

denounce the false ideals forced upon me by plastic fashion dolls

and runway models

built like I used to be, flat-assed, long-legged, stick limbs and a marked lack

of cleavage, false women who I heard

could not be real

and I was safe in my

imaginary skin.

This is the age when I should have my shit together

when I should have more than a pair of second-hand combat boots

and three more years to pay

on a car with missing hubcaps.

This is the age when I should walk

with confidence

full of all the wisdom

that I had at seventeen

head held high

wine glass in one hand,

the other reaching up to touch

my recently-trimmed hair

–I should have a girl who cuts my hair

and know the name of a restaurant

that accepts reservations

and doesn’t bring the food out

in red fake-woven baskets.

This is the age when I should pass

from weirdo to eccentric

when my t-shirts should be hip and retro

and not artifacts of life.

This is the age when I should know

what the fuck I should be doing, when I should

sleep

when people sleep and

feel

what people feel and know

by now

how to nod and smile and talk about the right things

at the right time

and my fingernails should not be painted black

for daytime and the kindergartener

swinging her legs

on the plastic chair

is grateful, perhaps

that at 42

she remembers that the best crayon

is periwinkle blue.

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