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  • Reminder to My Past Self in Which I Employ the Scientific Term Drunken Forest, and: Past Life Evaporation Riff, and: I Sip an Herbal Tea Called "Gypsy Cold Care", and: Accidental Theft: Crazy Quilt
  • Anna Journey (bio)

It's like that time I blew a holethrough my right eardrum while scuba diving. Sixteenyears old. One hundred and seventeen

miles off the Texas coast, I got stuck justtwenty feet below the ocean's surface—couldn't clearmy ears because of a head cold. I've been reading

all morning about the polar ice caps, how the frostthat covers an Alaskan lake now meltsand bubbles with methane released

from ancient carbon. The decaying plants haven'tseen sunlight in thirty thousand years, but they've begunto thaw; and in the past, which holds

my younger self underwater, my head nodsand turns from side to side to releasethe pressure. As the rise in temperatures sizzles

frost into lakes, the black spruces slump and crossinto a drunken forest. I discover photographsof the leaning trees in the New York Times,

the fractured Alaskan lake. I imagine my oldselves crossing, slumping, as my uncle leansalong the rail of the top deck of the dive boat. [End Page 196]

He'd coached me: ask the dreadlocked scuba instructorwhere we can buy a bag of weed. My pilotuncle with the weak ventricle who couldn't pass

his last health exam and so could no longer fly,who got us certified for diving. As I triedto rise toward the water's surface, I heard a whistle

as my right eardrum split, as bubbles pouredfrom the rip, as I waited, as I pulsedin the middle of the sound. I imagine the sound

of the ice as it breaks, now in the north,is the same note I once heard as I roseto crack the Gulf Coast's surface, vertigo shaking

the boat, the hands of my uncle as he tugged meup the ladder. Later, I found my pillowcase pockedwith wisps of blood—the dark spider-marks on cotton

twisted like spruce roots. Two more nightson the dive boat without antibiotics, I felt my ear festerand fill like a lake. Though I couldn't hear

from my right ear for months, in my nightmares there wasthat terrible whistle that could split whole landscapes,could dizzy and drown a whole forest. I'd wake

from the sound to find my bed in the bottomcabin of the boat still shaking. A kind of quiet so thinone sucked-in breath—let out—could break it. [End Page 197]

Past Life Evaporation Riff

The scent of the jasmine comes in heavyas a past life. Like the one you left

after three and a half years in Houston. You've crackedthe window now so you can sleepwith a breeze. You could never

sleep with the windows openin Texas, or you'd let

in the swamp by degrees: the muscadine'sclusters of hard violet, the sunflowersseared bald, socketed to the red

sides of the dried riverbed. Even the armadillostongued the cypress knees, foraging

like sleepwalkers. You often feel the swamp'shot marrow inside you as it growshere in this dry Southern

California June, as it bloomsthrough your pillow. You feel the dragged

ghost of its humidity tappingthat code you can't break. Those daysyou'd wake in Houston, too late in the afternoon,

after daring the last night's weather: You sippeda heavy red on your front porch

instead of white. When you wokea steep hangover tunneled,deep as mirrors. Your sleep, years later, [End Page 198]

in the West Coast, still builds shrinesto the stunted relics of Texan magnolias:

those blunt budsthe shriveled hands of martyrswithout a church. They'd thumb your half-

parted lips. What's leftto worship? Not the summer

idling like a white pickup. Not the drunkwho hit the side of your apartmenton Ridgewood, took off with a limp

through the backlit oleanders. Not the oleandersslick...


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