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 a collection of small things, first draft, thoughts?

Joined: Mon Jun 01, 2015 9:29 pm
Posts: 1
Mon Jun 01, 2015 9:32 pm


A Collection of Small Things


1. Cal, remember this. You lost your tooth. It fell from your gums like a dream and clattered on the porch. You were not old. You were not dying. We puzzled over its departure while your mouth filled with blood. It was strange, I remember, particularly strange, because only a week before you’d had that dream. It is a common dream, my students tell me, so perhaps not so strange. But the timing was so odd. The dream of the lost tooth, a week and then the tooth lost, another week and then.

            I turned into honey, all sweetness and stuck fast to your body. I wanted to get you ice or water or chai, wanted to call you names like piya and press my lips against your swollen gums, but you shrugged away my softness with arms rigid and dark. I picked up your tooth in my palm before it could slip through the slats and you motioned for me to throw it away with the tablecloth stuffed inside your mouth. But love, you must know I would never willingly part with a single piece of you. You are not something to toss aside. I keep your tooth now in a wooden box locked away with my undergarments. It waits for your return.


2. It is easy to lose small things. Teeth, Cal, you remember this. But other things too. They become so important to me, these little things. In my box I keep your tooth, I keep a wallet-sized photograph of my grandfather in the war, I keep a round stone my brother found for me at the lake. I keep the little brown stalk (...). I keep that because (...), you told me that you loved me for the first time. We were outside in the rain and the water was freckling my porch. Do you remember that, Cal? I forget so many things about the people I love. It is easy to lose those small things.

            I spoke to an old boyfriend from college, the artist, do you remember him? You met him once, I believe, when (...) none of us in love. You said he was brash, that was the word you used. I remember because I had never thought to pair that word with him and I thought it was such a strange choice. I met him for coffee in the Mission just last week. Don’t be jealous, Cal. Would you be? I told him about a portrait of my father I have begun to paint in oil. He laughed. You remember how I feel about oil paints. But I didn’t. I didn’t remember, Cal. It made me sad in a way, all those intimate details I’d once spent hours memorizing and fantasizing over. All forgotten.


3. We walked the murals together on Balmy, with dozens of lone white men clutching cameras. They put such an odd emphasis on subtlety, glancing around before they took their pictures. They seemed so guilty. It was strangest to see them from behind, their tightly clothed bodies projected against a painted sea of colorful, dark-skinned women.

            It struck me as both repugnant and necessary that the men take so many photographs. In an alley ever evolving I wanted to know someone was documenting the change.


4. My brother told me later I should have put your tooth in a jar of whole milk. It could have been saved.


5. I think I know that you are gone. I am careful, conditional, because I only acknowledge the truth of this on days not fueled by fantasy. On lucid days, I write it in capital letters on scrap papers, on coffee shop receipts: YOU LEFT. On these days, I cannot paint. I draw blanks.

            There are other days, they are fewer now I think, when I refuse to believe your absence is permanent. There is still hope some days. Even if you are gone forever, must you leave me so completely? Must I be denied our tiny moments just because we are not in love? I think a part of me will always love you. I used to think that was true for every one I’ve loved. I genuinely believed that some fragment of my heart would always belong to someone who had once claimed every chamber. I don’t think this so much anymore. There is no element of my heart attached to the brash boyfriend, though I think I loved him once. And there will be a time when I love someone who is not you, love them without chinks in my organs. But I promise to not abandon you wholly. I will keep safe our moments together. I will not let you become a forgotten thing.


6. I keep coming back to your body. Its brownness. And the lights, my studio lights, they grew a hundred shadow limbs from your torso. You were so magnificent with your many arms. You moved through my bedroom like some historical deity, commanding the space around you with an authority that made me shiver. Could you reach me from your city’s streets? Touch me with your thousand fingers? Would I feel it? Shadows have no weight, they only carry the light.

            There was a morning I woke up to your warm body painted in strokes of sun. The pale winter was sinking through the skylight, gathering dust. I stared at the values of your skin, the sharp angles etched upon your body. I wanted to bury myself there. I wanted to hide in your shade, in your darkness, and let you be my protector.


7. I remember this too. You, putting your rough fingers on my paintbrushes, splaying their hairs apart with your thumbs. You took a fistful and threw them to the floor while I sat on my bed in silence.


  1. Cal. I should apologize–


9. You used to tell me I was so imaginative, but what you meant was that I was a good liar. I don’t know how you failed to see the honesty in my art. Things are so much more complex and beautiful than you would ever let them be in your photographs. Than you would let yourself be.


10. I always liked to dress you up as a soldier in my grandfather’s army uniform. Do you remember? You would indulge me, making muscles in the mirror. You looked so powerful in the clothes, like a tree or a mountain top. I wanted to scale you. I’d scramble up your body, wrap my legs around you and cling to your frame. You’d stagger about my bedroom in mock exhaustion, but I knew you’d never let me fall.

            I slipped my finger below the underbrush of your eyes as if to cover you in war, in paint.


11. I’ve rebuilt you so many times. I conjure your likeness on canvas, rub your charcoal darkness into my palms, carve your muscles out in clay. I think that is how I like you best, Cal. A sculpture. The curvature of your spine taking shape beneath my fingers, your torso something tangible. Your body is red and thick and hardening under my touch. If I could only burn you into existence.

In every landscape I paint, you appear: a hard brown face in the spotted woods, a strong hand reaching out from the shore.


12. Cal, I would like to say—


13. I have dreams where my teeth crumble to white dust like Roman ruins.


14. Sita, you used to call me. You never trusted me once, always made pictures in your head of my body against some Ravana. I will not walk through coals for you, Cal. You cannot burn me into a body of proof.


15. Was it the baby? The lack of the baby that made you forget to trust me? I thought you knew, thought we both knew. I’ve never liked to keep things I create. I sell my paintings and the ones that do not sell, I give away. I do not trust myself to love something that came from inside me. I do not have the space for such largeness. I do not want to be strong for someone. Let me be. Wild and wonder and weak.


16. I am too much a child to be a mother. In bed, I would curl against your chest like a kitten and you would tell me stories. Do you remember, Cal? Won’t you tell me your stories now? Tell me again how you found the kitten in the fireplace. Calico. Tell me about the times you wished for snow. Tell me how your father never taught you Hindi. My father never.

            You told me how your mother died. You didn’t cry once, but I thought I heard the smallest crack when you spoke the word marrow.


17. I paint watercolors and wonder about the color of water. I am always so thirsty now. And it never rains.


18. Do you remember the roses you once gave me? They were bound so sweetly in your frayed shoelace. You walked home slipping from your boot. You held them in my doorway with such strange, tender hesitance—clutching them close to your chest–and for a moment I thought perhaps they were meant for someone else. But then you thrust your arm forward, planting the flowers in front of my eyes. They were dead. It was winter in San Francisco.

            I put them in a blue glass bottle by my window, where I could see them from my easel. I didn’t fear the dry flowers the way I sometimes do a fresh bouquet. They needed no care, I never worried about ruining them. They were already destroyed. It calmed me, I think, to see them so unmoved each day—a still life of dead petals.


19. Cal, I would like to apologize. No, I would not like to. I am afraid of this memory. You remember this. I was sick.


20. Cal, I would like to apologize. No, I do not think I would like to, I am afraid of this. But I think I must. You remember this.


21. Cal, I should apologize.


22. You have lived amongst chemicals. Is that why you fell in love with me? Was I just another chemical to soak your fists in when the darkroom was empty and locked? I don’t mind.


23. This is my favorite memory of you. I open my eyes when you tell me to. (...) Your sculpture body is draped in red silk, a sari my father bought me when I turned eighteen. Your eyes are grinning wicked, your stomach exposed, your arm covering your mouth with the cloth. You channel those vixens of Bollywood, shaking and swaying before me, bobbing your head about above your shoulders. You start to sing a song, but it’s just a jumbled slur of foreign syllables. You can’t pronounce the words. You look very beautiful.


24. This is what I should have said. I am sorry.


25. I was sick. You knew how sick I was. I think you thought you could keep me safe, that you were strong enough to hold me back. Or maybe you liked my madness, how it made me magic. I am sorry for how this happened. It was a week after the baby and everything was sad and dark and loud. I could forget this, but I will not let myself.

            I had a knife, a long one, the sort you use to cut fish. I moved toward you with it drawn. I felt like a ghost. Something had set over me, and I wanted to take you too. The baby, then you, and then myself. You didn’t fear me at first, you might have thought I had just wandered momentarily from the confines of the kitchen. But something in my step set you off. You got to your feet. I need to remember how this happened.

            I was shaking, I remember and maybe I said something I said I want to die but I couldn’t leave without you so I said come with me and I thought for a moment we could be water drops or leaves or pipes or berries. We could be so many things together if you would let me take you now. We could come back.

I don’t quite know how the words made it out but there they were, hanging in the air like spiderwebs with little drops of water fastened to their sticky softness and you were holding my wrists as if you were made of metals. As if I were precious.

            Then my hands were empty and I couldn’t see you. I was not blind; you held me from behind by my braid. I felt like a creature. I was howling to no particular moon, hammering my knees into the mattress. There were words too. I told you to hurt me. I imagined your face becoming a leather shoe, furrowed and stiff and brown. I saw, unseeing, your mouth contort as the knife sang through my hair. The tension was gone, and I plummeted into the dark of the sheets.


26. I awoke later to the silhouette of your body hunched at the edge of my bed. You were shaking. I remembered the earthquake. I could hear your breath, how it moved like Morse: a dozen short gasps and one long dash of air. You were holding the length of my braid in your hands. I touched my head. It was so cold.


27. I follow you on my wall now. I take scissors to the papers, rip you from magazines to crucify you on the board with silver thumbtacks. I imagine my neighbors think me an investigator, and you some clever criminal, from the way I have tracked the details of your life since you left.

            There are gallery openings, full-sized photographs in small, city magazines, elegant reviews from men with wing-tipped leather boots. Do you love New York like the tourists do? Wearing white shirts with thick, red hearts? Do you love its largeness? I could never go there, I am convinced this is why you chose it. You knew I would be too frightened to follow you somewhere so very big.


28. Your photographs are large too. Structural shapes of New York City—bridges, monoliths, greenhouses—lacking color, but saturated in strength. There is such a sense of permanence about them. You deserve that.


29. You can come back, Cal. You can come back to me. I am safer now.


30. I should like to put you in my collection of small things. You could be so safe there in the silence of my drawer, nestled in the wooden box against the silks and cottons. You would share quarters with your lost tooth, and the tiny harmonica you brought home for me last September on its brassy chain. The size of a thumbprint. You would trade conversations with the waterless carcass of the beetle that once made its way to my windowsill to die. It is so dry.

            I will hide the key away from everything, bury it in my own chest, swallow it even, to protect your body from the outside. You can sleep now, darling, in the darkness, in the warmth. You won’t have to play any part, won’t need to carry your own weight about your shoulders like a beaten bird. You do not have to be the word strength. I would let you be small there.


 Re: a collection of small things, first draft, thoughts?

Joined: Tue Dec 27, 2005 9:14 pm
Posts: 1714
Tue Jun 16, 2015 1:47 am

Hi inkymoth12, 


I'm the moderator  on the Write It boards and I just wanted to let you know what the (...) marks are in your post. They're places where I had to edit for content-- because the site is open to readers of all ages, we have to keep the content fairly G-rated, so those were places there was a mention of something too "mature" for the site. There is a lot of grey area in creative writing, so it can be a hard call sometimes. If you feel that it compromised the piece too much, please let me know and I can take the post down altogether. It's up to you. 


And, by the way: wow. Really great writing. i hope to see more of it and I hope it sparks some interesting discussion too. 



Write It Moderator



 Re: a collection of small things, first draft, thoughts?

Joined: Tue Jul 28, 2015 6:34 pm
Posts: 2
Wed Jul 29, 2015 7:20 pm

WOW inkymoth12!!!!



This is GREAT you are an amazing writer! Keep it up!!!

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