Christine Choi

Siri, the Deer are Kneeling

 

IN BETWEEN THE GLIMMER OF A BELIEF IN MAGIC AND THE BOREDOM OF A STORY LIES A GAPING CHASM.

On the cool shade of a summer’s porch, you buzz me with my own electricity, a fingertip entirely yours. SMS flares my only condition—a sensitivity to invitation and human complexity.

 

I’m in collaboration with a dead character who appears in perfect health to help me hoist meaningful objects from a break between a railing and a tall building. It’s 1997, and we haven’t yet met. You are still alive, your icy blue eyes gazing down the length of an oboe. Canada geese yet unmated. You know Rhode Island just isn’t in the cards for you. So you drink, walk back to campus with a sweet girl, and email me how much you like my green raincoat.

 

Cicadas. Black crickets. Blue wasps. I’m no flower, but a Ouija board slowly spells out in front of all my friends that I’m “a rose without a thorn”. You made that Ouija board with cardboard, pushpins, and a marker. We stay up round-eyed, texting phantoms for hours.

 

 

TWO PLAYERS: “YOU” AND “ME”.

EACH WITH AT LEAST ONE NOTABLE GIFT AND ONE GRAVE FLAW.

Your lack of fear qualifies as both. It’s winter of 1999, and I take a lifelong hit when you execute the worst exit strategy possible—hanging there a few hours, then absorbed into a New England boarding school statistic. News vans, circling like vultures. You bought me pancakes, invited me to your room to listen to the Beatles, then privately excused yourself, used your belt as a noose, leaving me sutured with a thread that feels wild, all puncture holes and loose ends. You untie me, then I write you in.

 

Climbing ivy. Wicker furniture. Fishing fantasies. Shirtless boys sauntering about in track pants. Cumulus clouds making a slow left entrance. Forget pet names. Forget the text that tore up floorboards with a crowbar, red with rust. Forget the path through the graveyard that’s a shortcut to the Science building filled with donated taxidermied birds. I would skin you, except your skin looks great on you. Two distant barking dogs, one motorcycle, and a Ford Mustang. Vitamins. Two maples lining an entrance. I want to tell you about the insect choir, but I deleted your number, and you’re not listening. Cattails, thistles, Queen Anne’s Lace. Porn magazines stashed in hedges outside schools. When a boy is done with it, he’ll stash it in a hedge for some other lad to find. It’s 2002, and I am heading up to the roof with my first love, only I haven’t cast you yet as such, carrying tea and opening windows.

 

 

“THE LANGUAGE IS SLANDERS LONESOME, IS LIES, THE LANGUAGE LONESOME HAS THE ROAD UPWARDLY IN.”

Translation is tricky, settling parameters that shift across distinct sets of grammatical logic. The dicey past clogs time with a slow gurgle.

 

Forgive me; none of those insane things I said are true. Show me your last paycheck and your pretty face. One-eyed Susans as tall as my father. Potted squash on porch steps. I sleep for days. I hear that there’s a war on. I think that we can climb inside. I intuit your pathos, strung up like a lefty guitar playing only dissonant chords. A war on guns. No, drugs! Half this city’s built on landfill. Ex-lovers from Europe who walk around wearing pants that are too short with a fly that never zippers. To view a map, you needed to have downloaded some software. Signal is patchy under the highway, aural sandstorms interrupting a transfer. We split—plate tectonics,

81 South to 92 North.

 

A golden plum from California; a Rome apple from New York. No one’s trying to rhyme “girl” with “bird”. From the corner of Bradley and McLallen, your frittering mythos pins 3,000 miles away in a shop, chain grease caked under your fingernails. Lily of the valley.

 

 

A PLACE: WHERE UNCLAIMED BAGGAGE FROM FLIGHT IS SORTED AND RESOLD—WEDDING DRESSES, SUITS OF ARMOR, A PICTURE OF MICKEY MANTEL.

Tragic machines. A techno-human condition. A pre-apocalyptic anticipation that’s infected this nation for decades. $4,000 to repair a severed nerve between the middle and ring fingers. $130 a night to rent a summer’s porch, shifting deciduous trees, and a carrot bread triangle. Had I a nightgown to wear, I would haunt you. But today I’d rather wear the same pants as yesterday and drink pale ale. Diurnal moths are courting. No, wait. They’re pollinating! You, unbuckling your jeans.

 

 

DICTION, RHYTHM, AND SYNTAX CRAFTING SNOWGLOBES, OR SURGICALLY PRECISE KNIVES.

In what world do I recognize your number from the first time I dialed it, doubting if the scrawl was a 4 or a 9. In what area code are there no mosquitoes in late July, only stone fruits and a hot, breathy breeze. Michael Phelps is on the radio. A reason to comb my hair and put on a dress. A beer because a porch. Clarity because prerequisite nonsense. Currency because of currents. Quarantine because infectious disease, coursing through a native civilization and then headed West like Gypsy Moths’ egg sacks attached to cars and outdoor furniture. My new neighbor’s father, panning for gold in Humboldt. My ex-lover’s laughter at Yreka bakery being a palindrome. The Summer Olympics. Dark humor that has no traction at check-in. Watermelon pieces. A whole roasted pig. Holy matrimony. I always loved your rock collection, and imagined my mother loving it too. I always loved your deer-shaped dog and imagined my father loving her too. The smell of band-aids and antiseptic. The sound of prerecorded alerts, sending electricity down a spine at every text received. You—reciting dirty limericks, putting out your cigarettes like careful sharpened pencils. Horseflies. Cicadas. Praying mantis. A couple dropping off aging parents at a bed and breakfast, weighted with silence. Tap water.

 

 

BUT IT SLIPPED INTO PAST TENSE THE INSTANT WORDS EMERGED.

What part of the brain distinguishes “strategy” from “tactics”, as though bass hand from treble hand? Different tools, same reptilian impulse, we’re at it again—a need to address iOS 6 impacts, availability of ever more kinetic weaponry, these lines of code you wrote that got bought by a company that kills terrorists. Limited edition bone cancer postage stamps.

 

A flash storm cools the day into submission. Last night, drunk lovers and their aloof photographer sat by a fire singing, preserving and reimagining tradition. Today, it’s fun to consider how we used to study paper maps and call someone for directions.

“That part of our brains will devolve,” I offer.

And we lay “linear” down beside “aerial”, then awaken moths wirelessly, consider proximity, or the weather, then shake the hand of someone’s friendly dad approaching in shorts. Were I to dislocate, I don’t know that I would do it alone. Admit that you hoped to cover up our wrongs, play a record, dance it away paired with light kindly imagery. But the scar stays prominently displayed. One girl thought it was a beauty mark. One girl thought it was the sauce from the pork. No one read it as a blemish—simply a mark.

 

CHRISTINE CHOI passes days puddle-jumping in matters of the heart, investigating human/animal/machine relationships, and producing unusual sounds, images, or texts. She holds an MFA from the California College of the Arts, and her writing has appeared in Paul Revere's Horse, In Posse Review, and Monday Night, and has been performed at NOMA Gallery, Soundwave Festival, POW! Action Art Festival, Bay Area Poetry Marathon, and Small Press Traffic's Poet's Theater Extravaganza. She nests in San Francisco.