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Close Your Eyes

03/28/11 5:00AM
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This week's piece by Bridget Iverson, a senior at Mount Mansfield Union High School, is about those early morning moments, that time between sleep and not-sleep. Iverson first performed this piece at one of the Young Writers Project monthly poetry slams held at YWP's offices in Champlain Mill in Winooski. For more about YWP Slams and more work by some of Vermont's best young writers, go to youngwritersproject.org

Close your eyes. Close your eyes. Watch those patterns that only you can see projected just above the screen of eyelids, shapes and streaks in purple, yellow, white. Watch them play out and watch them fade. This is a dark you visit every night, the dark that stays with you, clings to you, and shreds itself into milliseconds every time you blink or think of stars think of stars think of fires by the side of the fields by the side of the road where the glass glitters where the glass shatters where the glass reflects.

 You drew patterns on your arms with charcoal that you crushed with your fingers, still warm. You painted your lips with it, licked it from your hand, and left streaks of black on the skin of anyone you touched and even through the flicker of light on smoke you could still see constellations.

Sometimes you can stare at nothing much and see those shapes, see a two-second clip of some memory distorted by recognition into something you can still understand. Sometimes you try to capture that, remember it, but it turns into the next thing someone says or the song that's playing in your head or the rhythm of your own steps across the floor. Sometimes you don't care. Sometimes you tug at your earlobes, or chew your lips, or hook two fingers round your lower jaw and pull just to see if it comes off and you end up biting your own hands in self-defense. Sometimes you stare at yourself in the mirror for minutes, trying to equate your view with those eyes, those eyes, those eyes that move. Sometimes you lay still and count your breaths and wonder which one of you is real, the one that's doing the counting or the one that's doing the breathing. Here's a hint: you lose count but you don't die.

When you think about sleep it doesn't come. You almost like the hallucinations that arrive with three a.m. You can't keep your balance and you don't know if the floor is real, and if you fall you barely notice because it doesn't make a sound. You think you can hear music or someone calling your name but it's just the hum of the refrigerator or the water heater switching on.

Once you helped a friend look for an earring but you found her whole life instead and when you turned around to give it to her she was gone. You never read horoscopes in the newspaper but you read the obituaries sometimes and their predictions are always right. You pretend the columns of text are trees and the pictures are Technicolor canopies and the occasional little headlines are birds just lighting there for a moment before they fly away and turn back into the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The ink smudges your fingers. Like charcoal.

You wonder sometimes about the patterns blood makes on bones because you're used to just skin, or skin that heals. And you're not all there. You're not all there, you're transparent, you're fading, you're not all here, you don't remember the last time you were anchored to earth pressed down to the floor with the force of gravity, something you could feel on the soles of your feet and the top of your head and the slope of your shoulders rounding down to hands loosely grasping something real.

This is real. 

Remember this, this is real. Close your eyes.

Now wake up.

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