Staging

Bradley D. Sheen
Dec 16, 2018 · 9 min read

When I was much younger, during the age where memory stabilizes itself rather than exist merely as some fugue state of adolescence, I wandered into a field.

There, I slipped into the grass, and having fallen backwards, I could feel the flora peck against the back of my neck, so softly, merely grazing. Having lay there for some time, I had begun to recognize that were only two types of grass in this field; ones that had been freshly cut because they had reached non-proper heights, and the smaller, lighter grasses that slept under their clippings. I looked at the tall sunflowers which loomed above me, shaking in their heights. They seemed gentle, but aggressive tendencies were of their essence; their movements screamed fighting words. There was no shade, only hotness, mucus now, dribbling down my top lip.

My eyes were puffy and I could barely see out of them. My body felt so unbearably strange. A hard, difficulty breathing. The air that entered my mouth left as short gasps, quietly scratching their way out, unnaturally warm and itchy in their seepage. My face freckled by the sun, felt warm, as if it were lifting, rising. Attempting to clench my hands into fists, I realized there was no feeling beyond my head and torso. My body felt maddeningly heavy, and I began to wonder, “Why am I here? In this sunny field of flowers?”

My mother had found me, the little girl suffocating in the field. Using both her hands, she lifted me from my back, and carried me as if I were a dead dog. I was breathing quite heavily, yet through my own breath I could hear my mother whispering, or was it humming? She just sounded so distant, so away. She had started to run. I remember my head bobbing, and I felt my face drooping, and saliva coming out of my mouth. She had carried me out from the field, back onto the I-70, the highway from which I had strayed, and holding that posture, my weight on her arms, she continued, fast, down the glassy black asphalt back to our home.

Our front door had been open, so she stepped in, softly kicking the ajar door. Her boots creaked against our wooden floor, she was slow when first entering, as she usually took off her boots when she came in, neatly putting them aside with the other shoes, boots, and slippers on the right side of the door, however she thought through her habituation quickly, and soon began moving with haste again. She brought me to the bathroom.

There she placed me in the empty tub. I began to hear the water flow from the faucet, streaming down, and behind me I could hear the slight roaring of the hot water that ran through the pipes, the ones behind our tiled walls. She pulled my shirt, and it slipped off from my right arm, my left arm. Then she took my pants, my underwear. She wiped the saliva from my chin. The hot water trickled past the soles of my feet, extending itself slowly, conjoined only with its added liquid mass that ran behind it, and it had begun to creep up, slowly, dancing to the tips of fingers. The water stung, so hot, pricking at my skin, tempering me, tempting me to move, to flail out and scream, but I was so wilted, I was so weak, and so what could I do but let the water surround me. I started to sweat only when the water began to reach the middle of my mid-riff, and there I finally heard my mother’s voice.

She said, as she turned off the faucet, “There is a myth about the creation of humans.” Beads of sweat formed at my hairline, and slowly began to slip, falling, some hitting my eye, and because I could now breathe, although it was the hottest of air, I was much too appreciative to wipe the stings away from my eyes. I listened to my mother.

She said, “It is said to be in history, that the first creatures of the Earth were Bear and Tiger. To test the fidelity of each, Mother Earth asked both to starve themselves, a fasting in appreciation of her creations.”

She reached in to the tub, and grabbed my hand with hers. She lay her two wrists on the exterior of the white tub and my hand rested within her palms. She leaned in closer, to my ear, and continued almost in a whisper, “However, Tiger, being much smaller than Bear, passed away within a few days from starvation. Bear, pushed beyond the point of exasperated hunger, continued to survive, but succumbed, and ate a garlic plant; bulbs, green and all.”

She took my hand and placed it back above my hip. She leaned back, crossed her legs and said, “Mother, in respect to Tiger’s devotion shaped her soul with clay from the mudbank, creating woman. Bear, who ate the garlic, was not granted anthropological form by mother, and so he lived continually in his large form, in caves secluded from community. Mother said: Bear, he is not to be trusted, Tiger, she has no fault of her own.”

Then my mother left me, silently, standing up and leaving the bathroom. Alone, in this empty room, I lay panting and sweating feverishly more than I had at any time before, as if the expulsion of the dirty spirits within me had reached a peak. I look back and ask now, “Is it not that my soul-less body which had attempted escaping its bony chattel that is now being bullied to return to its bound corporeal entity? They, with the ropes in their hand, waiting to dock the vagabond ship, yell, ‘Return, you are captive. Return now.’”


The second time I ran away, I was much older, and had decided to simply hide in the washroom in the long warehouse where my parents kept the extraneous supplies and non-backorder items for their store. There on the third day of my hiding, I looked at the long mirror, and began undressing myself to bathe.

I watched my hair fall down to the upper half of my biceps, and placed my hair-tie onto a sink, as I felt it not necessary to occupy any part of my body with something that wasn’t organically myself. With my hands, I held my breasts. I split my fingers so that my nipples peered through my middle and ring fingers.

The sun shone in, and the thin, vellus hairs of my arms brighten in a meek field of strands, and my noticing of it made them stand up sharply, a cooling feeling, an internal one, despite the sunlight feeling hot on my skin. Through the mirror, I admired my form: my legs, my arms, my hair. The complexity of my face, how the bridge of my nose dips before meeting the forehead, and how my cheeks dimple out during smiles, the angular linearity of beauty coupled with the curvaceous nature of eroticism.

Oh, there was so much love! Love for myself and the symmetry of body, and the unbound feelings of lust, intimacy, and yet confusion. Bundles of confusion. How much my face looked like my mother’s younger visage, and how much my body looked like a boy’s, oh, how I loved it all though, and how much it seemed that I loved myself through the eyes of the dead hearth, crusted and black from ash, as if stained by the smogs of vain fires. Is it not sin? I delude my thinking, as if it would mark it away. What is it not but the perpetual questioning of some somatic illness, or perhaps it is one artificially planted there by some godless messenger, one with airy white feathers and the heavenly gaze bestowed by some synthetic eternal light. Narcissism is the ephemeral look that betrays its self-evident nature and allows itself to occur infinitely.

I gripped my head, and shut my eyes. Blindly, I left the washroom, and started to walk quickly down a lengthy and dark corridor. I wasn’t sure where the lights were located, but there was some brightness, as I saw the tight flesh around my eyes gleam orange. It smelt musty but also pure, like stretched canvas with stains of linseed oil. I was walking, and then I was running. The switch between the two actions unable to be demarcated, as it was the natural progression of speed. The sound of bare feet slapping the cemented floor rang throughout the warehouse. I felt as though I wasn’t running because I was scared, or because there was some urgency. I was running because I could, and the faster I could, the more the lights seemed to respond. I could tell now, that the bulbs hung from the interior eaves of this hall and as I sprinted past them, their lights strobed, pulsating with intensity. I began to yell, to scream. Shouting out the vivid details of a sequence from a memory. Paintings. Nudes of a couple enveloped in darkness, covered by the thinnest summer sheet. It’s the terror of bodies foreclosing language, of misunderstanding becoming shame, of guilt becoming lived. I am weighed down with the moments from the scene, and it effects the way I run. I begin to falter, and I stumble. I remember pushing out the door and falling out onto the dry soil, hot and rough and coarse and how textural and ashy it felt on my body as I fell onto it. And as I looked up, I could see my mother, standing and gazing upon me, drinking something, taking sips from that glass of hers, watching me, her unclothed daughter lying in the baking soil of July.


Now I am at my mother’s wake.

Do people ever notice how the body incorporates experiences? I’ve realized this is in living bodies: the way the body walks has always been influenced, formed by moments of past. Sometimes by experiences of the sensual, such as how the senses are fulfilled, rejected, or violated by external actors, but also by the self; it’s all reflected in how people move: their pace, if they look down at their feet when they walk, or whether they look at the telos, the direction in which they are going. Whom do they smile at, who are the ones they wave at? Their conscious movements.

Sometimes the past seems more direct, like the thought of nausea, the feelings of fingers pushing into mush, my headspace. There are also those waves and momentums, ones that sway the entire soul. Why did I almost cry at the store today?

“Well,” I think, and yet what is there to say, but that my mother is dead. Perhaps all these people, all these only fractionally familiar folk in our home want to see me cry, because once I stop, it means that grief has left, and the people will question if they too were just the miserable clowns that performed their parts, packed their suitcases, and drove off.

I want to dance. I want to listen to music loudly, but through my headphones. Personal is personal, and I’d like to keep it that way. I’d like to dance with the music player grasped in my hands, and allow my body move, not to the four to the floor kick, but to the fluidity of the melody, I need to hear the shiftiness of the sound, to let my movements mimic the intangible feeling, the queerness of music, feel a state of being. Yet here is an inappropriate place to dance. In this room of stolid countenances and veils. They have come at such an unfortunate time.

To me, being aloof feels good. To be mesmerized by the moment. Past the bodies of the wake-attenders, I look at the potted plants that line the windowsill. Cells. Many cells, lined boundlessly to create an existence, to be purely lived in clay pots. Past that, chipped white paint, unclean glass. Farther, I drift across to the yard outside, where an elderly Magnolia is rooted. Water-painted pinks hold the hands of whites enveloped in a looming bud.

“Flora!” I whisper, “Flora my honey, you are the seasons speaking: each unfolding flower bringing us the birth of Spring. Lower yet, I look at your stems. The bark is old man skin, burned and blistered to rotting browns and grays. But you are hardened and damn it, you are tough.”

Selective attentiveness is the genesis of poetry. Somehow, I am reminded of garlic buds. Perhaps it is through the linkage of thoughts concerning plants and their ability to bear some semblance of fruit, and although garlic may not be fruit, unintentional misconceptions are often commonplace and become the seedy branches that connect our musings.

Bradley D. Sheen

Written by

I’m going to try and write everyday.

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