Salamandrine, My Kid

From the Archives

From The Aquamarine Issue

The twittering machine lies in its crib, rehabilitating its connections. It nails up its habitation, darts up its habillement, it letters its joints, limbs, pistons, limpid injectors for easy filling stations, for stations of, for remote and E-Z filing. It files under ‘pay.’ It flies by night. It learns by rote. It rotors. It knocks the bars into its head.

It crawls out of the snake grass, snuckering.
It crawls out of the camera.
It pads the walls of the retinal box: remember?

I’m crawling over the carpet to demonstrate a torpedo roll. My kid hoists her kid belly like eight months of night-shifts she’s a kid Demosthenes and the pack of dalmations is snapping at her back. The episodic ice floes flow. Amid a mouth full of buttons and nuts, squirrely philosopher, around a mouth full of wuh, sorry, weeds, she winks her wax teeth at me. Her wheat tax. Eat lead, kid. That there’s the writing on the wall.

Every night the sun shows its negative side, it rolls over from China and sprays us with its lead gun and our heads just melt. I say, no, it’s not China, baby, it’s America, and then we both take a belt. We belt up our mouths. We mute it for different seasons.

Then we leg it over to the corner to chew on cords. We go over.

We go over like a lead balloon. Like a baleen in the punched-out mouth of a whale. Like one ounce of plastic in a healthy albatross’s gut, two ounces equals a dead albatross. Which is why
I’m under the pinchcrib looking for a sock.

I’m under the sock-muck looking for a mug. I’m looking for a warm-up and a pick-me and a tune. To pick the lock of a sleeping baby wearing its millstone of candy around its neck. Noone can slip nothing past me and my baby.

Or pull one over on us.

Or push us over.

Not noone can.

In which my kid proves a hero of the injection. Next stop a wrestly Mercury-mask, stops up the ears, stops up the nose, swims in the blood, sews painful wings onto those baby ankles, but they’ll thank you for it. My kid’s got her own pod of roll-up dolphins in her spangly blood, swimming and seiving in her alien scenes.

After the check-up, I see the doctor in the parking lot. Can she recognize my kid without her chart? I want desperately for my kid’s face to be recognizable; I wouldn’t recognize it myself if it weren’t tied on. I try to draw the doctor’s attention to us. I ring the stroller ’round my car. My kid’s dingle tires sink deeper into the tar.

In which the tar is mud. Girasol tamales, Parish of St. Bavo, Women, Infant and Children’s clinics all stipple-cell all sinking into the mud. No such lug today. Burning bright. Which makes the tar for melting. Which makes a Melchior.

Alchemist’s bauble or philosopher’s stone stowed on the shelf amid the unused Pampers and summer togs. Salamandrine, my kid

is burning in the back seat. Shit.

For my kid, I’m reorganizing songs by degree of scratchiness. Pod of whales in the developer bath: check. Voice of the buried ear-strumpet: check check. How she scratched at the earth from where she was buried. How she scratched at the box to come out.

It can only come through in negative, the math which is take-away, so feel it out. We’re two bats short of a deck. Two bats. A nighttime visit to Père Lachaise, a lifetime visit to Salome this veil of shadows, on the verso, hat-trick, hat-check, headless, consciousness, you have to boot up to port into it, please, boot up. I’m going to wrap you and then wrap you again and then the spirit will rap you and then you can throw up.

Throw out the grave digger’s song. Soil and response.

The arc with which it falls into the grass all around. The crass grass which clasps us all to its seedy boosum,

sang the seedy vegan, the scribal eunuch bending at his song. Oh, enough obscene adam’s apple. Obscene ‘adam’s choice’. Raunchy early Modernistic occultist, I’ve got a child, here, varmit. Ghost up!

In the cactile forest, my kid and I slouch the shadows. Bale the fence. Cut the current. Fray the forest. Barb the wire. Come on in. Long horns shift in the moonlight, it’s like a sea in your head for you to wrastle in. It’s like a tire burns. I wave her low. I wave her eyes closed. We look through cattle eyes, smoke through our noses, tags in our hairy ears. Our shoulders shift in ridges. Then we’re up on the ridge, we hunch through the eyes of six deputy-lawmen. We’ve got us in our sights. Then we close like the iron in the red in the ridge.

Slink out of sight like a species


you’re paid to change

now change.

I need to buy socks but which socks? What can the kid not kick off? And why won’t the kid sleep? I ask the mirror. It’s certainly nighttime you can tell just by looking in the mirror, the way it slumps and tries to shie away. The mirror is cracked from too many launchings and each launch is a foothold where my kid can lodge or sag but instead she’s fitful, insists on jerking in time to the jumps she makes in the quarter. In the quarter, in the quarter, just jitter and skitter on down. Catch a knife when it’s falling, drive the spittle into the ground. Find me a fateful woman if you can. Find me a fateful woman if you can. I’m clocked in junk, it’s a racket, it keeps the kid awake, I have to hack it, I have to hack it up. I have to empty out the junkdrawer of the grave.

In the quarter, in the quarter, in the nickel in the dime, in the cash drawer, honey, that’s where you find a real good time. Draw the ewer full of water draw the sewer full of lime, won’t you stay the same forever, won’t you ford that never twice.

My kid’s alive a live live wire like Lethe the nevermore. Skinny kid, for a baby, everybody says. How she jumps right out the window through the eye of the needle and into the eye of the grave.

The doctor says if the kid won’t start gaining soon we’re going to have to take measures. Since we measure her constantly I say like what. The doctor is half-corralled, half-wild, skinny in the face. She turns her back to me to write in a chart. Her little stool shrieks as she turns around. It’s freezing in here. That’s what my kid says to the sock it’s shoved in its mouth.

I’m in love with the doctor.

You should pay more attention to that kid.

Who has the money for that? We’re on a launch splitting over the sand. The wind touches everything, it’s making an anthology. The sand is making a blessing. It flies up to smack the launch out of the air. It’s a better parent than the launch. It cares about my kid, really cares. It sticks to all the bits and places in her plan.

As we clamber off the launch, the wind can’t resist, can’t let it rest, licks its blade and rifles my kid’s breathweight hair. My kid’s eyes split and tear. The ocean is feeling compulsive, whack whack whacking its head against the sand. My kid rocks on mini-knees, takes a step step then lifts its feet when it wants to get closer. Knocks itself down. Cuts feet face hands on the sand. Silica and rotwort, rotwort and slime-bladder.

Some girls make lists. Poets and witches. And botanists, botanists.

I scoop up my kid and go island maiden, swaying my hipswitch all over the sand. My kid turns and turns and makes a turbine I let her drill into the sand.

The drill needs water to keep it from smoking.

Water comes out to fill the hole the drill bites with its bit.

Polyps for polyps. Fishbone eyes. Knucklebone corset. The whole corpse. The whole corpus. Like a porpoise, but with a purpose. Anima o’ mine.

I gather up my kid. We’re on a cigarette boat. We’re on the moon which is the mom of the ocean.

The ocean, dumb like a kid.

The ocean is over and we didn’t even get a chance to fire our guns. I forgot, we’re vipers. I forgot, we’re snipers. I forgot, we’re on a big-breasted schooner which is also known as Death-in-Life.

Now we’re getting somewhere.

I have a minute to myself because my kid is sleeping. I leave the house. I stand in the driveway. The house is not a house but one end of a condo unit that hangs out on stilts over a useless hill. The decks were built by teenage meth addicts on a Christian recovery plan. Close-eyed youth. Chain smoking. Our end juts up asymmetrically in a way that is impossible to photograph. You have to look at it. I am. I am standing in the driveway. I have been away from my kid for six minutes. Now I am standing in the cul-de-sac. A praying mantis is actually also here at my feet, and it does bend over itself like a mildmannered classical music deejay. I get in my car and listen to a mildmannered classical music deejay who can barely bring himself to emit. I let the engine run, which eats up the air and makes it bad in the future for my kid.

Then I go put black roses on the graves at Père Lachaise. You can get them at Kroger, and the leaves are red. It takes petroleum, but you have to do your homework, as the girl standing on the back of the bike said to the pedaling boy when they got just nudged by a bumper. You have to put in some effort. As they flew into the air like a roll of quarters or a wheel of fortune or any kind of wheel. I go put black roses on the graves. Then while my lipstick is burning off my face I drink a diet coke and my teeth smoke and then I go back to my kid. It’s hot in her room and smells like diapers. I put her in her sundress, but then, when I take her outside, it’s cold. Her shoulders are cold. I’m hoping we’ll find her red shoe before her grandmother arrives. That would be my mother. We should take the axe when we go on walks like this, with our lips on.

My kid and I are vampires which means we’re not supposed to get any sun. Her father is not related to us so he’s not a vampire. I’m explaining this to the nurse who asks for our insurance card. Has any of your information changed. Yes I remembered we’re vampires. She takes my card and scans it. The scanner won’t take the image. The reason is obvious— we have no souls to photograph. We leave them at home when we have to go out in the day.

There are cemeteries in Mishawaka and the cemeteries are covered with the Chevys and Buicks of people driving across the grass to get to their fathers’ graves. Everyone keeps the graves real nice and hardly lets the little flags bleach out or the little black roses you can get at Kroger when you’re checking out. There is not much for my kid and I to do at these cemeteries except sit in the exhaust fumes and get hot in our black clothing. Black baby clothing: you can find it.

Your kid is not gaining weight what do you feed her.
Applesauce. Ivory. Buttons. Shoerubber. Newsprint. A toy dog.
That sounds fine that should be working but she’s not gaining. I’m going to ask you to keep this diary for a week. We’ll send a technician from our home health team to review your diary. If we can’t find a practical solution we’re going to have to begin a rather expensive round of tests.

I have to look at round things to catch what the doctor says. They have to collect. Stethoscope mouth, diploma seals, safety whirlwind, plastic cup, the stool she has to sit on to write up her reports, it must be mandated, stool only, big lolling wheels, my kid’s eyes with their schools inside and all the pupils shrinking in the light.

Thomas Hardy I’m thinking of selling my kid but not my wife on the Internet. Not my wife because I don’t have my wife on hand she left me, and by my wife I mean myself, and by my husband, my kid’s father, who is always pretending not to be a vampire, through no fault of his own, someone has to pay the bills and sleep at night and purchase the allnight Internet service. I’m thinking of selling my kid for some grog, because my kid is getting in the way of my destiny. Is it gruel or grog? Without my kid I have a better chance of becoming the mayor of casterbridge, and of grog, and of my destiny.

Seriously. When I look at my kid it’s like my flesh falling off my face it’s like aging many granite centuries it’s like being in sunlight. The gentle, corrosive enchantment on my skin.

My kid and I are trying harder. I’m setting the example, here. We consume a field of corn. It’s gold and burns the throat, all husks and sepulchres. When we see a harvester we duck into our car. The harvester burns by, of course like a harbinger, and like a harviture, indestitude, what’s that. It’s strong and paltry because defined, it moves its mass up and down the gridded field, the field is in fibrous layers like muscle but made of a husky matter, the combine’s bustle must burn to the touch but who could touch it but the huge exhaustive grainy investiture it tugs behind it like a shower of gold. Like a randy god that got too close got its toe caught in the mechanicals.

I got my eye caught in the mangle. I’m seeing mash-eyed. My kid is squinnying thru the marrow in the pork chop on the wide dull luck of the plate. The tabletop pretends to be wood for awhile. Font of life. It’s wide as a windshield, greased with love. We swallow a lot of bullshit about small towns, co-ops, steely cylinders of feed, pie, flags, groaning semis, a lot of bullshit about coffee, three-wheelers, quarters, American breakfast, trailers, hardtops, hair salons, a lot of peepshow about a motel. No semis here except bobtails. The fencerails and highwires are thick with bobtails, they perch their horseless cabooses in system-busting polygagging flocks.

American owned. Family operated.

Owe owe owe owe owe we owe owe we owe owe owe owe we owe wowed
Owe owe owe owe owe we owe owe we owe wowed.
Owened. Speedthrift. Windered, spedthru, spider wow.
Owed and wowed. Owed and wounded. Owned and windowed. Owed
and wow.
Wondrous wow. Wondrous eyed. Wondrous forehead.
Owed and owed, owed and opened
Fabled, vapored. Walking woman wove an oval novel vow.
O be wed.
O be done it.
Down and dusted.
Ode and wowed.
Ode and wowed and wounded. Oven-saw, that everyone has heard.
Sewed a windburn everyone has wowed.
Severed an ode owned ode crowed inlet winded crowd and wow.
Wined and dinedn’t, didn’t
owe woe, didn’t debit
didn’t credit didn’t wow
didn’t winded
didn’t ow-ow didn’t wow
145didn’t voodoo didn’t double
didn’t woah-woah didn’t wow
didn’t dixit didn’t vincit didn’t vow
then and now

the toe-hold is a lariat
loosed a loose noose over now

Robert Frost?
Kara Walker.

At Tar-mart, I buy my kid a pink hooded bone shirt. Now she looks like a fossile. Her bones glow green in the dark of the tar. Dressed as a deodorized death, my kid can ooze through the ozoneless truckwash like any other child bride. I have a rendezvous with destiny. Noone can stop it. Noone can know it’s Death-in-life, also known as waking-death, also known as potential, pessimistic, also failure-to-thrive. My little pony draws death by the noose, by the nose, she likes to grab my nose or pull my lazy hair while she’s nursing which waters my eyes and makes my crazy come out. But it brings death to noone, except me. Mine, the bit my kid holds in its mouth.

The councilman from Florida talks to the virtual mother about her virtual five-year-old Q. But what should I tell my daughter A. Tell her you found her a sweet boyfriend who will bring her presents. Virtual but not virtuous, non-present, bring her presence, bring her a decoy posed as a mother the five-year-old posed as nowhere splayed out in the lap of the eye of the councilman’s mind in snapshots of nowhere flat squares without vanishing points and it’s nowhere that’s so frightening the blank nowhere in their eyes.

My kid and I have rituals to decoy time we have a chalice, a red cloth, and a deck of cards. A tarot pack. I deal from the top. The little hand switches. The little doll barrel rolls with a spear in its gut, hiccuping, bubbles. The big hand rotates grave. The cat comes back: I sing to my kid while trying to recall the sign language from ressuscitation class. Of our future, the cards say this: a gas album, an albatross, a big ice floe, advancing double bear. A cloud furrows and grave inches closer. Make that a drowning bear, fear death by warming. The table shifts its legs restively, the pharmacy-themed bar hovers into view, opens its magazine, grins its staple teeth, its caplets, its buttons, only say the word and I’ll no longer be a capulet, a children’s chewable, an art-n-choke.

Ask the dead of the plot: how many square inches? I wave my hand over
a trove of blocks, a plaything, a conceit. A wraith materializes. Come
closer. Answer me.

My kid just materialized ten minutes ago. Ten seconds. Half a life. A half-life. A minuet. I’m doing the mathwork on the back of the form. We need to go on stamps. We need to fill out the fugal, slotted paper. My husband is working the graveyard shift—naturally. Religion? Blood type? I’d lost hope but now it’s only a matter of time before he’s a convert to our way of non-life.

At the farmer’s market, the working poor and the working poor face off over piles of sustenance. The working poor points at a potato, and the working poor says ‘dollar a bucket.’ The working poor picks out four peppers and the working poor shakes out a sack. Two bucks. The sustenance piles in different molecular arrangements, here adding up to a head of cabbage, and here of head cheese. Jalepeños not covered by stamps. Eggrolls not covered by stamps. One dozen, three bucks. The kids in tight orbitals are perambulated. Fifty cents. The crowd pushes by (like death-in-life, slim channels, alley of stalls), there are puppies ticking, little things have faster heartrates, no charge, everyone says to my kid hey bright eyes, he don’t miss a thing now does he. It’s a little girl, I say, deflating the exchange. The flow drags us along for awhile. My kid woofs at the pumpkins.

My kid and I are out of line out of whack out of order off the plot off the reservation in closed talks in tandem in negotiations in a thrilling star-studded race against time in which we play the stars and time plays the entire circumference of circumstantial evidence. We make waste and we make our case. The paper piles up around us, as do the guest stars.

My kid has blue eyes, I don’t know why, although my husband has blue eyes, that’s not a reason. That’s not an argument. This cold we’re passing back and forth ropes in my husband and now we all flop together in the Kiddie Corral like a bunch of half-dead cowboys without cows, without boys, without ropes, without hats, without songs, without nothin but a demonstrable exhaustedness which flattens us like a herd of hooves. My kid demonstrates the barrel roll and gets a rug burn. I demonstrate the torpedo roll but my kid won’t try it; it can be wimpy like that. I demonstrate salmon, flying skate, I display on ice with my fat eye clear and non-wandering. I once was lost but now I’m found and now I’m for sale by the ounce and the pound. I’m slender, spender, so it’s gloves-off while supplies last. Offer not good in conjunction with other offers and void where prohibitive by law. In the case of two, the lesser value applies.

I’m not bought. I tick nervously.

The home nurse sits on a couch sipping the diet coke I brought her. I ask her how is it and she tells me good. But why do you think your baby stopped gaining weight. The tests came back fine, she should be fine. In reply I wave my hand vaguely. Everything in this time zone enters and stagnates, turns over, is used and used up. The milk rots in my nose. The meat gels on the plate. The vegetables stain and corrode. I show her the refrigerator and it’s all there, cold, all the food you could want, in place and corroding. The problem is it’s not blood. The problem is all available blood comes from animals, even human animals, and that disgusts me. My kid and I need synthetic blood. Machine blood. I heard they have that for soldiers. Is it true? I ask the nurse. Now I recall that maple syrup circulates nutrients in the tree which makes it a kind of blood. Is syrup blood? I ask the nurse.

My kid has six teeth. The first two were a fine, razory pair but now she hosts a clunky array like family portraits smuggled out of the closed empire in the darned skirt of her mouth.

I give her stakes to chew, steaks, a bracelet, a bracelet of hair around the bone, a relic, the loose skin of my arm, my gaze, an epithelial reliquary where variety-of-experience used to lodge.

Night is swollen at the gum but pain makes the day grain through and accumulate in a frieze of severalness and stacked sufficiency. I strap my kid to my back and we strike our gaze into windshields and chrome detailing. The faces of flowers, the grate of a flag, the airplane’s loud belly, any hide with a face. We jump out into day clock-clad and waving our moveable parts.

We bury our gaze there like a bone.

The compound arrives. The home nurse brings the first month’s dose in her hatchback, packed with pamphlets and poorly photocopied check-lists I can barely make out. I can barely make it. I can dose my kid with a bottle or a port will be implanted in its gut. I have to fill out more forms to pay for next month’s and the forms crowd around me like an infection like an infarction like an epithelial farce.

Nightwatch in the cemetery. A searching, a scratching which is a cross-hatching. The engraving comes into view.

Dead stratified squamous, keratinized epithelial cells.

Even at night, we move around inside the dead parts of ourselves.

My kid is asleep in her carseat in a nest of sweatshirts. The moon is a hopeful zero in a nest of debt.

In my kid and in myself, mucous membranes are lining the inside of the mouth, the esophagus, and part of the rectum. Other, open-to-outside body cavities are lined by simple squamous or columnar epithelial cells.

A gust comes through the cemetery and it’s an idea, I can stand on knife-point on the edge of it. My shoes are off so I can feel my bones through the cold. Stasis, metastasis, tap tap tap. If the soles of my feet are pierced then nutrition will run into the grass. I jump back. The idea is nixed, then razed. Vines lock my wrists to the car.

The insides of the lungs, the gastrointestinal tract, the reproductive and urinary tracts, the exocrine and endocrine glands. The outer surface of the cornea are all lined with such cells.

Without ideas I call to my familiars:

Secretion, absorption, protection, transcellular transport, sensation detection, and selective permeability.

I wrest my wrists away from the livid plants and climb back into the car. Through the gunmetal doors, through the wind-braced windows, I snake the pedestal locks. Again I’m with my kid.

Endothelium (the inner lining of blood vessels, the heart, and lymphatic vessels) is a specialized form of epithelium. Another type, mesothelium, forms the walls of the pericardium, pleurae, and peritoneum.

You connective tissue. You nervous tissue. You’re fine by me. Fly by.

It’s Halloween. I shove my kid into a duck costume her uncle sent. I shove her into the car. Families are mustering in front of the town hall, its duct-shaped parking lot with a little numb flagpole ticking up across from the Wendys, the Arbys, the Burger King, and the Taco World. It’s five o’clock, seventy degrees. The traffic in the drivethrus is thick, digests wraiths and witches through lanes marked out with plastic guidelines and plastic characters fitted with speakers. Thank you for your order please drive around.

The mayor will hand out candy, but for now he’s caught in the peristalsis outside Wendys. He waves to the crowd from the cab of his stuck truck.

It’s five o’clock and a rank of men descends from the shelter with pillow-sacks in hand, only under and overdressed for the weather, in workshirts or sports-team cerements, with the raked-gaits of their former professions, artists and workmen and accountants, their bones and wrecked joints remembering. They mount bikes in a decomposed phalanx or stalk on in their buttoned-on fat, their hair shorn or furled stiff as conquistadors’ helmets, as upraised pikes and scythes, they course against traffic with their fused-socket gazes held high above our heads. They pass by with the purposefulness of the dead and glint off down the road like a ghost army.

The mayor is extruded from the Wendys, crosses traffic, the kids surround the smoking face of his truck which could part and birth a giant burger from its hood but doesn’t.

Someone puts candy in my kid’s hand and it chews the purple wrapper rapturously, dropping the melting chocolate buds onto the street.

I tug my kid out of the duck costume in the backseat of the car and cruise home with the windows down so dark can come inside. So dark can cool it

black like me.

Back at the complex, the kids ring the bell, scrape their carpals against the emptying belly of the plastic bowl where I’ve dumped damp sticks of gum.

Be safe! I hear wringing from the other doorsteps. Be safe! I chime.

My kid’s lying on the carpet in a wet diaper, coughing at a cartoon dad to get his attention. Be safe!

Then it’s real night and the bell is silent, the streets are silent. My husband is home and folded up in sleep, his work van parked outside like a plot device, one of those vans with the ladder on the side.

When the bell picks up again it wakes up Salamandrine. I don’t answer the door. An egg breaks on the window, nutritiously. The weathermap frays the tv. The counties jump all over each other. Then it suddenly clears and we watch some innings, unzippered by the storm, the legs of the umpire walking around with the head of the slugger over its head. Salamandrine claps her hands and the heads jump bodies, run bases headless, animated by the game.

When the sirens pick up we sit in the basement. We still have power but hold our flashlights anyway. The sound rolls over to one side, the light snuffs out and the storm heaves by.

Out in the morning light, garbage, paper bones, broken pumpkins, shattered sugar litters the streets. The mailbox is passed out in the gutter. Neighbors eat breakfast behind the broken windows, peering out as if the world were on tv. Egg yolks plaster leaves to the van. My husband hoses it down with a flood of curses. The ladder smiles like a punched out street.

The nurse is needed at the hospital and cancels her visit.

Salamandrine is growing!