Cortázar tells the story of a man staying in a young woman’s flat while she is away. Writing to her, he confesses that he vomits live rabbits—averaging one every few days—and that they are slowly destroying her pretty European parlor things. At the end of the letter, he tells her—this Andrea—that she may come home to find them on the street, flattened on the curb—having dashed the bunnies one by one and lastly himself, out of the high window.
He is what it means to be lovesick. Italics are how I heart these old-timey words. I’ve grown so old in love now as to have learned silly things in language.
I met a man before I read this story. In earlier days, I held long conversations with him in my head. I wonder how long it’s been since he’s called his mother. I talked to mine yesterday and I expect her to be on the phone to me in an hour, while it’s late afternoon here in California and before it’s all the way dark in Florida.
it’s not broken baby try to stand baby look what I
brought you bring me baby
“They’re running rabbits,” my grandfather used to say and all us little girls would scream—them tugging, me limping, running to the couch to fling ourselves back and throw up our sandaled feet so that we wouldn’t be gnawed on by the long-eared horde that was about to rush the patio. My grandmother rolled her eyes. He said this because years ago, he misunderstood ‘running rampant’ and continued to use it as a threat to keep granddaughters in check. He’d click his tongue at his wife, wink and say, “It’s true, baby.”
baby where did you why be careful baby
My mother said never wear your good underwear when you have your period. Thirty years old, I still think of this when I select the pink sheer, the pale green thong, and the high-waisted 1940’s black. It was too much for her to have said to me at fourteen—a child with swollen knees, night sweats and fevers; they carried me across parking lots and backyards. I resented any advice about a fecundity I was only tenuously guaranteed to have.
I just want
small attenuated explodings
over and over again
When I first got to San Francisco, I fell in the street. A man bounded over and said, “Baby, are you hurt?” I am not a feminist or a scholar. I want sex and language only for their beauty. Doubleness—just what my weakness has won me. Come loose, bouncing from the interior of illness, between two b’s.
By this he means not little girl, crooked parts—but a tensile leaning towards. Because he can see, with me there beneath him, that I can have will held hold my own.
“Can I carry you?”
don’t be baby pull it tighter baby did brought you
something baby have trouble going to the bathroom baby mean to me
“I’m sorry,” my mother said, “I was being a baby.”
The day before, I’d come home from school to find a note slashed out from her. “You are a selfish brat, you never think of me. You knew I had time to read but you just had to take the book to school with you.”
Like warring siblings, hoarding our share of one Watership Down. Between her bedroom and mine, a warren whose denizens loved deeply and sometimes tore each other apart, ear from ear.
I reasoned she didn’t need it; she could spend her day off with her boyfriend. And I would have the book to myself in the high school library where I ate my lunch alone.
“Fuck like bunnies,” one of the girls outside the cafeteria said.
In her apology, mom admitted to be meaner in her hurt than she’d intended. I, for my part, never owned up to being just as mean as she believed. In these fights, her teeth were always sharper, but I had my dark and waiting, hiding holes.
That may have been the week the boyfriend left. That week, I lay in bed thinking of tight dens and male and female rabbits; how there was barely room in the struggle and the rush of blood. I could lie still. Damp and frenetic like that to wait.
baby wash dark with lights baby in the pan baby do you like
was I baby snoring baby please
“Unfold your arms, baby. You look like a little rabbit sitting like that.”
My grandmother took my wrists and gently pulled down on them. I kept my elbows hooked up around me out of habit, so I’d be ready to shove myself to some other place, to give the high wheels of my wheelchair a little push. I hated her for saying what was true and thought, one day, she would be dead and my mother too. Who in the world would unfold me then?
Two round syllables
as several accounts
to raise the hand
The professor said that line about your mother is like a flashlight turned on. I understood he meant for its clarity, because I had managed to say one simple thing. I heard it as a beam shined up a hole. Bleeding from another entrance, different than mom imagined. If my nose twitches at that, it’s still necessary. To say underground and hard-won. The sensation of rough confession,
[I think about how TV shows love Anne Carson for all the wrong reasons. Did The L Word never read those lines I did? One part bending the curve of a Sappho fragment into her own shape and the next part on hands and knees, offering a rogue academician the red tulip of her anus, one last time before he leaves forever. It’s all an act the act of curling up and thrusting out to try and catch the I. This trash about the tulip is approximation.]
the success of which comes only in the inclination.
whole days baby
you take them
The first time I fell asleep with him, I dreamt of buying bunnies for my mother. 3 p.m. tropical thunderstorms and cars crashing death war disaster. We stood in the middle of a Florida mall while it went black against the lime kiosk light, quietly turning a wire carousel. This one held postcards, with real, fuzzy bunny heads sprouting out of them. She took them by their ears and pulled them lightly off the rack. My body was full and thick and then when the world started to crack and it was earthquakes in San Francisco (because that was what all my family worried about—not reckless MUNI drivers or AIDS) I filled my mouth up like a pouch with all of them—my mother, my grandmother and my grandfather and the bunnies they’d picked, haunches pumping to race them out of the crumbling mall.
in your mouth
Easter Sunday, we took the man’s niece to Dolores Park to watch The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a band of decadent, lesbian nuns and some gay guys dressed up like bunnies. His brother’s wife only spoke to the little girl in Spanish, so this is how I narrated things to her. In my halting, mangled Cuban slang. What I could remember from when my great-grandmother spoke to me this way before I was old enough to go to school. Mostly, I was trained by Mercy to demand, “Dame un besito!” and when my great-grandfather got near me, to scream and twist my head as La Meche whisked me away from his offered kiss, laughing through her cigarette smoke.
He sat me on the grass (because my knees had, after much effort, unfolded years ago, but now, did not fold up sufficiently as to allow any crouching) and put the little girl on my lap. In front of us, a man with pink hair and a big fat man were assuming their bunny heads. Just to our left, a homeless man was peeing against a bench. I glanced over, hooked my arms around the baby and pointed at the rabbits, “Mira! Mira las cajones!”
He leaned his mouth into my ear. “Conejos, hija. Rabbits. You just told the baby to look at that guy’s balls.”
I hate it when you pull staples baby out with your teeth baby OK baby don’t stop do you need to spit baby?
“That’s uterus!” my grandfather scoffed, and no one could stop laughing long enough to correct him.
to touch my place where the words come out
this name, a shaped space that fits
I can say this man gave me calla lilies, they keep their long throats clean, but there are story parts I shouldn’t show my mother. Like holding his little rabbits and how I had to blow my nose. At the same time. Instead, I tell the part about how we both got colds soon after we started. A litter of crumpled tissues, I find them lovely white in the morning, munching dust under the bed.
everyone and rendering each
speaker as a container
brimming in the utterance
It’s about peeling the paper up and putting the rabbits back in it again. And I’ve met another, very actual man. When he undresses for the evening, he belly flops from the heights of comedy by shrieking, “Eek, a ma-an!” A damsel a la 1950’s animation, mortified by the carrot-waving rascal in her boudoir. I call my mother all the time and tell her such stories. As if she were my baby. She hears them to sleep.
| nothing but
| made you small
| in the sameness outside
||inside your name
| your name
||to carry with me
in this instance
the soft parts
the hard parts
bring us into
Amber DiPietra works as a resource specialist at the San Francisco LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. When she is not talking up the marvels of ZoomText and JAWS for the newly unsighted, she enjoys tracking the body in real time, thinking about disability as formal innovation, taking P.O.D. (Pigeon-of-the-Day) photos, doing restorative yoga/Alexander Technique, editing/blog curation for Kelsey Street Press, and publishing the blink zine with co-creator Alexis Brayton. You can find out about more of her projects at: http://adipietra.blogspot.com. Her writing also appears in Make, a Chicago literary magazine, Mirage Period(ical), and Five Fingers Review.