Root of Mallows

by Philippa De La O

published April 4, 2014

There is nothing I fear more than the meandering pace of light, marking its celestial time across the lawns of our neighborhoods, yes moving also in crawling drips from our shoulders to our feet in the summer’s sticking dust that waves itself over everything eventually, in the course of a day. Some hemlock please, some quick choking here, in the bed across from yours. Brother I love you, for your skin, always soft and clean, you sleep, the way you breathe as you sleep. All the ephebes look at your hips in jealousy because they have never held bones so perfect. Your teeth, I feel them in your mouth with my finger, I touch the parting above your lip, hallowed by a spirit that has kept you clean, and young. I love you and so I cannot let anyone near you. My protection is not selfish, I promise, you are just too unspoiled, I will stay pure for you, will you for me? I will, when I bleed spread my blood around where you sleep to ward away all evil, and dilute my blood with my saliva in my cupped hands and make small marks on your face. A stain of purple hyacinth under the trampling herds of lambs, and marks over your eyelids which are frozen purple hyacinths thawing in the summer.


On the beach, we went yesterday and the days before that, after I came back from the green spaces of school we went everyday; in paths carved from long wheat and wild berries made by the tractor when it still worked, the one path marked by sinewy bodies of the wheat in its summer prime, bodies that were tall and deep with soft and fluffy heads, that in the night seemed like real walls, like they had linked arms and now made a shield that red rover could not knock over, but were a chain that softened in the dusk, that hour when everything is melted beeswax and where light clinging to the last bits of reflectivity begins to pull apart matter, the hour in which it is easy to cry while walking back to the house, looking back until the beach becomes lost and the wheat bodies begin to hum in deference to the pain of childlike wonder, that I had, that you might have had. On our way there growing by the wheat I took the wild berries and mixed them in between stones and then with saltwater painted the wood that had many years before us become the shack behind the wall of stones, where we changed our clothes and sometimes was also the dwelling in which we would find ourselves asleep. We walked here last summer, and the cold spring before that. You loved me then, you were so devoted to me, all my fears you cupped in your hands and poured outside, you bathed me, telling me to not look down because the water had made a bloody stream of me, and then lifting me out, placed my feet on the tile and cleaned the blood off me. I fainted after looking down, and you carried me to bed and placed towels under me where I was bleeding and you looked––in my true memory––worried but also amused, “That was an outright swoon. I thought it only happened in Victorian novels, not to real girls.” And now we are here; you are sleeping and the sunlight does nothing to take away the stale grayness of disuse and discontentment, and we are both confused, but at least my eyes are open and they face you. Last summer was so beautiful, wasn’t it? You remember, don’t you, how the light really did do something to my hair and we walked on the rocks out to the cliff submerged in water, staring down into the ocean that was unmistakably ocean, deep and scary, on the cliff where teenagers would jump off, which I did only four times in my life, for which you were there for only three? On the way there, to the cliff, from the beach we went through shallow waters that then suddenly became deep. We had to grow accustomed to all terrain; I made my feet bend around the edges of rocks which had silky backs but sharp edges, to grasp with my toes the seaweed which promised security, and then finding the beginning of the deep water letting my body go forward, a frog stroke that let me keep my head above the water, finally reaching the outwards growing cliff which became a large giant, that then became our large giant as we climbed it. On the shore we put things we found in our pockets. I wondered if you were just doing it for my benefit. I swam farther than you on most days, and licked my lips carrying the taste into dinnertime when we ate the things we made, laughing and rubbing food on ourselves, chasing each other, you know how to scare me and that I scare easily, but please don’t hide behind doorways, that really terrifies me, what if our fingers get caught in the hinges and we lose our fingers? You couldn’t even laugh because you were really having such a good time that it made you a little serious. But I grinned like a fool, the only way I knew, despite my nervousness and later dug my head on your shoulder, you patting me to sleep on the sofa, our book put face-down on your lap, thank you. Alone the both of us at night walks, us and our cigarettes, you know on the road lined by the smaller road that is the place where child-flowers grow and tremble in the nighttime breeze. As we pass by they are rocked to sleep, they say to me that we lull them.


You now smoke more than I do, this year, no one understands things as well as you, ever. I still surprise you, don’t I? Then why is it that this summer you just sleep, and spend your time away from me, only talking to me when there is nothing else with which you can reasonably occupy yourself? Always the piano, you bang on it hard or long, or both, and I grow tired of it and cannot escape it even in the other rooms, I just want to place my hands over yours and make you stop. I would rather not care, but it really does make me mad to be silenced by music. Or you write, I understand that, I do, but I haven’t felt that committed to something in a while, and it makes me bitter, I can’t understand why we can’t be occupied at the same time, it happens so rarely, so that it is the case that one of us is usually left to wait. We were so beautiful last year, endless grains of sand, how many kisses, how many? My skin grew white with the trauma of your lips. In meadows where horses have grown sleek among spring flowers, dill scents the air. The meandering pace of light, an old glass pane, on morning skin it walks its octopus limbs, covering my full stomach and I feel sick and dry, the light is not good, something is wrong. Waiting for you to wake up today, because it is not until you do that the day starts. It is a cool morning for the summer, so why don’t you love me today? We go to the beach and I lay there on the sand and read, I try to read, I am so mad at you, not looking or playing with me, not asking me what I am reading, not reading yourself. Since when do you play with sand, you aren’t very good at it, you should know you have no sense for those things. I haven’t been able to think very well lately. I feel upset but I don’t know why. I was so still at school before I saw you again, so the quietness you carry with you disturbs me even more, my head is so still, and yours so disengaged with what I am feeling, how did you still and quiet your mind, you selfish little beast?


     “It hasn’t been quiet, I have been thinking a lot, about the Greeks you know, and I have a complicated relationship with them. I just don’t know where to put them.”

     “But you said the things you don’t know where to put are the only things that interest you.”

     “You sound calm today.”

     “Don’t say that. Since when do you care about how I am? You slept with someone else, someone so very disgusting. She’s a slutty and fat whore.”

     “You are smarter than that.”

     “You don’t even like the way she smells, her smell is disgusting to you. It’s not like me, look at my face, you look for my scent, you told me you like being there, your head between my legs, you slept with her, that careless bitch––what about my arms and my stomach, which you have seen grow? Now they are here for you. I feel strange. I’ve told you I have melted. And you have been ignoring me.”

     “You fell in love at school.”

     “That’s not true, and if it is then it happened with more than one person––it happened with everyone. You forgot about me, even if it was just for a moment, it means you forgot about me for years in that moment; a whole world happening then disappearing, how could you? At night I try to tell you everything in my head, I eat imagining you eating with me, I just want you to be next to me always, it wasn’t my fault. Don’t feel atoned for your confession––I do not forgive you. When I scream it is not only for your attention and for you to hold me, it is because there is something that is hurting me everywhere, I have been so still this summer, I have not screamed. I have just been looking at things and everything has grown to be dusty, it has all stopped for a time, and I have been patient. You, if you hate me please do it strongly, please leave a mark on my body that comes from you, please don’t just be quiet.”

     “I needed to know what another body felt like.”

     “Fuck you. Of course you are laughing. You can’t take me seriously, as if I will never know you, but I do, I fucking know you, please just love me, even if you don’t love me because I am strange and sick. We have lived the same way for so long and I have nothing else but only that you love me or that I die.”

     “No, I just––see that’s exactly what I love about you, we can read the same things, we have lived in the same places, eat at the same table, have been born of the same womb, but we will never understand each other.”

     “That bothers me so deeply.”

     “It bothers me too, I just can’t show it the way you can.”

     “I don’t try to show it the way I do.”

     “Neither do I.”

     “You have lines starting to form on your forehead.”

     “I hadn’t noticed.”

     “They aren’t strong lines.”

     “It’s chilly tonight.”

     “Yeah, but it’s nice.”

     “Let’s walk to the end of the road and then go back to the house?”

     “Yes and then you can read to me.”

     Come on, like we did last summer. Our hands would twist, running through strands against what I had come to know as the ether. Things were humming, and I smell root of mallows, your lilies and violets and your hand tying them to stones has scented them even more sweetly. Clap your hands under grains of sand. We had exhausted ourselves, and sat on the broken tractor smoking another cigarette and smiling at each other before going back inside. I touched everything as we walked back and up the stairs. I held on to the memory of everything I touched including his face when I sat on the tractor and he stood beside me, I pressed my fingers with their deep memory on my head, I blessed the night because it had blessed me.