It’s like that episode of Agents of Shield. When
Fitz and Coulson and Ghost Rider are sinking
deeper down into the darker dimension and
Robbie thinks it’s Hell — is it? I mean, it is . . .
but is it?
The closer together my feet become, the more
I tend to lose my balance and slip as I grip
on to the nothingness railing this emotional
carnival. I’m riding The Depression. Stuck on
cycle spinning in an un-washing machine.
A carnival. Filled with concrete picture frames
and fun-house mirrors made of transparent
stucco. Transient reflections. Carnival.
Carnivorous coasters eating each other away
to nails and steel and wood, stucco, mulch
— is it?
I hide my wrists behind me, walking hand-cuff-like,
and, my hands are tied, I lie. This mind
is sentenced to an immutable mourn and heart
shackled against the colored cave walls of our
history, but these wrists remain bare. I’m there
— am I?
I’ve never been to the top floor of this Titanic.
Never waltzed among the gowns of glory, of
success . . . wealth. Women I knew wore water
jewelry, suspecting they’d drown in this ice Hell
holding on to their bitty children. No need to pass
down the wedding ring; it melted before I could
breach. I reach for it, dissolving behind her.
— did it?
The room is burning; the classroom; the bedroom;
the locker room; her room; everywhere my
sadness touches. Torches crown my braided head, dutch,
so I duck beneath every doorway, hoping to prevent
death. Your methods are helpful: Breathe in. Breathe
out. Breathe in. But I breathe fire and the more I inhale,
the less time there is for Papa and Anthony and me.
— is this?
My teeth chatter, knees buckle, as I stand stilling
with the last grenade in hand. It seems I have ten
frozen seconds to decide whether to chuck the damn
thing across the courtyard or clutch it to my chest.
I’m outnumbered. Outrun. Overcome. Facing an
army that expands with each exhale. An enemy attack —
arial, naval, name it — beseeching surrender against my
toenail polish and pleasure reading. Promising retreat
if I exhale on their command — I’ll never join Hydra.
— will I?
I’m only half of what was ever. Half of what she
said I’d be. Half-hearted. Half-interested in anything
that’s not her voice. Half my head is screwed on
straight . . . half is just screwed. I trudge about half
human, half demon, half happy, half lying. They’re
all the same half. The other half is half dead.
— is she?
I lived this life wrong. Apologies were candies,
feeding my young self fully. Cavity-inducing.
Sunlight was vitamin D. Work was money. School
was what she always wanted. Dance was boys.
Friends were necessary. Family was sticky.
— isn’t it?
Now I travel through dreamworlds, tiptoeing
across the clouds and lava patches and sunflower
pillows careful not to wake me. The nightmarish
visions rest my sleepy head, but disrupt this worldly
slumber. My heart sleeps in the kitchen where she
spent ninety-percent of this family and I watch her
shuffle the morning slippers all day forth and back
from the stove to the sink. She never kisses me.
— did she?
Reality is the nightmare. An imagined universe
created by the unjust fingertips of a power
that isn’t explanatory. Waking up to an above-ground
Hell, a court case calling witnesses to
stand only to dismiss every word spoken. I’m
told to trust and under-react. To believe this life
is judgmental, determining our final destination.
But who decides to take a mother away from a
growing woman who still owns concrete mirrors?
— is she?
If I fail this test of morbidity and spiral down
a black tunnel, slipping down until the orange
light touches my skin, spitting me into a flaming
cell and chaining me to the corner in sizzling metal
bracelets, a hundred thousand million ways away
from her, let it be. Because I know that sizzling sun-kissed
cage, monitored by the horn-headed warden, isn’t Hell.
— this is.
My name is Desiree Brown. I’m a college undergraduate currently working toward a degree in English at UNC Charlotte (University of North Carolina at Charlotte). “Krystal Clear” was inspired by my mother’s near-death experience in 2010 (I often think of what it would be like without her) and John Mayer’s Greatest Hits. I feel as if my poetry would be a great addition to The Scene & Heard Journal because I often create poetry that people can relate to and that fights for something.