My mother has summoned me back to her home. Her home is a dilapidated shack set back amongst the cattails in a remnant marsh. The marsh is preserved wetland in the affluent community of Darien, Connecticut. My mother is not affluent. She believes she should be affluent, and this is why she struggles to maintain her decrepit existence in Darien. Darien was her past, as was Bad Homburg and Paris and Johannesburg. She tries to live in the past of those towns and cities, but it has trickled slowly away like the tidal effluent in this marsh. She is poor now and alone because of her drinking.
She has asked me back to help her prepare for the party. Guests will be arriving later and there are things that need to be prepared in advance. My mother is an excellent cook. She cooks like she does nothing else in her life, spontaneously, with an easy, comfortable fluidity. Her tattered oil and flour stained cookbooks lie around opened randomly to unrelated recipes, like family, like old friends here to chat while she creates. My mother seems at peace when she prepares a meal. She has disappeared into the house. I hope she has gone to cook.
Standing outside of the shack on the gray, weathered boardwalk, I take note that there are several haphazardly strewn objects that present a real danger to her Guests. Especially these Guests from Darien, who are all also drunks, or prescription drug addicts, dullards, mutes, suffer from paroxysms, fits of diffuse dilute devastating mood lability, profound lamentable attenuation of being. I remember them all, these people, this way, and I worry that they will stagger over the pile of broken weathered boards and tumble to sink forever in the marsh slime. I am worried that there will be moaning faces peering up from the murky brackish water. I recall passing through that circle of hell. How much more agony and torment can my mother, human or a shade, stand.
Listlessly, I start to work on the pile of boards with a broom – an absurd activity I realize and not the way to move a pile of boards. But, I prefer the absurdity of writing poems to the absurdity of not writing poems. Listless, bored, I sweep the dust and dirt, bits of the reeds and bracken, a snail shell, the body of a desiccated frog. There are live things amongst these boards also that scurry off with each swipe of the broom. I am overcome with a funny feeling, not amusing but odd, as I rhythmically sweep with the broom. It is as if this place expands out to the periphery from the center where I am – less like the ripples created by the frogs plunking into the marsh, more like the video footage I have seen of shockwaves from a large explosion racing across the land. I mean to recall the silence of the video with the sound turned down – the way the wave spreads with a perverse, awesome, soundless beauty across the valley.
I look up from my sweeping toward the side of the shack. My mother is still inside. I hear dinging of battered pots which makes me want to weep. Standing up against the outside wall at the bottom of the stairs are three rusted guns. I remember that these must be guns one each for myself and my two brothers. These were inherited I think because I remember not one of us has ever shot. I am sure I remember that not one of us ever hunt an animal to death. It is clear to me, that despite the rust, the lack of barrel oil, the forlorn lack of human hand, the three guns also present significant danger to my mothers' Guests. Someone should move them under the shack. I peer up at the window to my mother's kitchen and listen to the noise of the indelicate way she uses and tosses her tools, the staccato blaring of the feeble television with the coat hanger antenna, the broken sound of an occasional muttering outburst as she remembers some person who has affected the unforgivable upon her. And right around me is a saturated darkness; a shadow fades in the opaqueness of light before dawn; someone slips through the dark and light of an unlit closet between two sunlit bedrooms. I feel as if I'm to have a coffee with a few friends and then move on.
I carry the broom in my hand up to the shack and stand it up against the wall to the left of the three rusted guns. There is a rush of something, a wading bird's wings perhaps, as I let the broom fall from my hand, and suddenly I hear the joyful, menacing din of the living marsh. The cacophony surrounds and pressures me. I walk away from the shack into the marsh along the beaten boardwalk, and I can't tell you if I walk away from this awful place or deeper into it. I am sure it really doesn't matter.
About the author:
Henry Stanton is a writer of fiction and poetry living in Ellicott City, MD. He has recently completed his fifth book of poetry, Love and Fear, and is currently working on a book of short fiction, Brain. He has had fiction and poetry accepted for publication in (or on) Word Riot, SmokeLong Quarterly, Avatar, The Maryland Poetry Review, The Baltimore Sun Magazine, The Pearl, Late Knocking, and The Baltimore City Paper, among other publications.