August, and Everything Before
"Dad might love mushrooms, you never know," you said. We'd been talking about psilocybin. "We could just lay in the canoe or something and talk about the Psalms."
I had missed you so much until this moment. For now, the chasm seemed far away. I carried this empty weight of missing you with nonchalance, but it was a fumbling performance.
"Well?" you asked. "What do you think?" One of your gifts was to create ridiculous juxtapositions. You paired unexpected elements together, and you saw possibilities. These were mischievous, exuberant moments when random ideas flashed through your mind. This picture of our father tripping on psychedelics was unforgettable. We hadn't spoken this freely to one another for a long time.
When I was small and you were still in the bassinet, I had night terrors where you would be decapitated or suspended by quivering arrows to a tree or smothered in a spider's web. They were gruesome tableaus. I was choked by panic. The ferocity of my fear of losing you was disturbing. I was too small to analyze my primitive fears, to see how I saw that you would be swallowed and taken from me. I would find out later that losing someone sometimes happens in increments.
"Awake, harp and lyre!" you said. Then, "I will awaken the dark . . . Do you think Jim Morrison was referencing this Psalm in her song?"
Awake . . . shake the dreams . . . my pretty child . . . choose the day . . . I knew instantly what you meant; thought of how we sailed across the desert in our pick-up years ago. How we almost got away.
I was about to say I doubted it, but wondered whether I was underestimating the rock star. Jim. With age I had become repulsed by details about pony leather and pissing on stage. Once a god, now dust. Still, his poetry did have something of the Old Testament in it, after all.
"And you?" I said. "Where do you stand?"
"I stand on a house of sand," you said and shrugged. You smiled that broken smile.
You went over to your turntable and flipped a record into place. The Stones.
"I don't know," you said. "Dad would have to give up his assumptions and prepare himself for the trip, you know?" It took me a moment to remember what we were talking about. "The trip couldn't be spontaneous if it was going to work. He'd have to go about it carefully and read up and stuff. But I really think once he wrapped his mind around the idea, he could really do it, he could go inside."
"He'd have to pray about it first," I said, and we both laughed. The moment was easygoing and I tried to cling to it, fearing slippery hands.
All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll . . .
I picture you and our father in the dark, paddles sluicing deep water, the psilocybin swirling through you like stars.
And so I asked, since tonight we weren't quite the hesitant strangers time had made us. I asked about our mother. You seized up a bit, you started to turn back inward.
"She's okay," you said finally, and something dark and oily flickered in your eyes. But then it was gone.
Deliver me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of evil and cruel men. For you alone have been my hope, O my God, my confidence since my youth.
"Forget it," I said then. There wasn't really much to say. I've forgiven her and moved on. You haven't moved on, and have not forgiven her. You cannot. One can only forgive things that are past.
To change the topic, I went back to where we'd started. "So what do you believe now?" I asked.
"Oh, I still believe," you said, and you didn't hesitate. I'd always admired your certainty. "It's different from how church described it, but it's powerful stuff."
I picture the two of us drifting through the dark, tossed by choppy waters. I pictured how it was, you the only one who could calm her, and how she used that like a leash.
It was amazing, really, how the storm of her, so intense, would abate whenever you came when she called.
Look, I remember thinking, with bitterness and a little envy, look, even the wind and the waves obey him.
Lorette C. Luzajic is a writer, artist and photographer living in Toronto, Ontario. Her poetry and fiction has been published in over 100 journals, magazines, and anthologies, including Modern Poetry, Poetry Canada, Every Day Fiction, Grain, Rattle, the Fiddlehead, Quarry Magazine, and more. She is the author of several books of poetry, fiction and essays, including The Astronaut's Wife: Poems of Eros and Thanatos, Solace Funny Stories bout Depression, and Fascinating People. For more information, and to see her mixed media collage paintings and photos, visit her at www.ideafountain.ca.