IN THIS ROOM RESTS EVERY BRIGHT THING
7th November 2020
Words by E. Forbes · Artwork by Raquel Moreno
There’s this song, by this band Chastity Belt, that I listened to a lot when I was 20. And there’s this line, in one verse, that goes “I know myself when I’m by myself / but I’d rather be around you.” And I listened to that song at first with a kind of wonderment, unable to imagine both someone whose company could change me in some profound way, and the idea of ever wanting to be changed like that. I have typically been somewhat fiercely, angrily independent; I’m a Scorpio Sun with a Capricorn Rising, so perhaps I was just built that way.
But then, later in that year, I had the extreme good fortune of learning what that sort of relationship could be like, of learning how to want someone else in my life, how to make room for the kind of change these relationships require. And then, as time moved slowly forward, of learning how to navigate these connections as they also changed, as the people in my life changed, as we each began to move forward in different ways. This process is not a smooth one. And as I think pretty much anyone reading this can relate to, it has been made all the more difficult by the various pressures, the new constraints on time and physical space, placed upon us by the pandemic.
These poems, this small collection, serve as a way to reckon with these difficulties in connection, the idea that “I could do this, I know. I could like it, / if I tried. If I wanted to”, despite these constraints, despite the already extant obstacles involved in forging any sort of intimate relationship. They are, more personally, an exploration of both an imagined past and an imagined future, both as a way to navigate the present day, and to see a better one somewhere down the line.
Body as a Blue Little Engine
Thumb presses into back, says
you could do thisif you tried, you know,
you could likeit if you wanted, thumb
waves away worry. There is something
living, or dying, in my basement,
and I know it isn’t slime mold,
because I didn’t put it there this time.
Thumb presses into calf, pushes out
the knot, lets me stand back up again,
calf says sorry about that. Says
I will be better, I will, if I try. Thumb
does not care, knows better, will
do its work when needed. My back
was damaged, in the move, from
the nights spent on hardwood, from
the hours of standing and making.
I do not apologize, to or for it, though
thumb digs below shoulder blade, thumb
sings and sings of forgiveness, does not
say anything, not here. Not now.
Your hands on my neck, dutiful and kind,
migraine loose and grainy in the foreground,
I say I could do this, I know. I could like it,
if I tried. If I wanted.
Upon Trying to Get Out of Bed
There is a small room, in a small house, by the sea, -
dressed in blue and white.
Here my gnarled hand rests beneath yours -
my pinky bent rightwards at 90 degrees,
just like my grandmother’s.
In this room rests every bright thing.
My body, yes my body, is the place where I live.
Where I will always live, unfortunately
for you. But there is a bright place,
and someone by my side -
a hand, laid over a hand.
Not a consolation, no prize awaiting me
at the end of a life well lived.
Only an open window. Only the sea,
softly thrumming, indifferent -
in this room we sit and listen.
In this room we do not need to go
anywhere else at all.
Notes on a Constant Process
I run my tongue along the inside of my teeth, imagine
that I can taste the white they should be.
I love you, and I say this. I imagine
we can both taste it, in the air, like syrup.
Like cigarette smoke, like the acrid burning
of old rubber. I left my snot on the inside
of your coat, and you leave very little behind.
There is nothing I can say here that I have not already said,
and you know this, and you listen anyway,
our limbs twisted into trees, growing slowly,
roots mingled and unseen. I love you and let it sink
into the sharp scent of Pine-Sol, into the solid work
of arms and days and years which stretch out backwards.
You know this. You wrote it out for us to see.
Cucumbers in an Unknown Season
I’m thinking of driving to Pennsylvania.
I’m thinking of driving my poor self down
to that state park, in the snow, where my brother
was once rescued off a rock, his calf
bloody, the river around him indifferent.
Where I only watched, bruised, on the bank.
I’m thinking of the turnpike, of the Alleghenies,
of bouncing ecstatic in the bitch-seat, raising
my shrill voice in concert with anothers.
Yes, I would like to go walking in the morning heat,
to giggle over an in-joke I no longer know,
to wake once more beside another body
with no hesitation, only my own long hair
caught in my throat. I would like to drive myself
back to the place where I learned how to get hurt,
to go there and teach myself something
impossible and new.
E. Forbes is currently 22, and doesn't really like that. She's also a writer and student living in upstate New York who spends too much time thinking about words and an appropriate amount of time investigating storm drains.