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July's Selections:
Stacy Muszynski


This month's lit section showcases the literary stylings of longtime contributor Stacy Muszynski. In her tenure at, she has done everything from the travelblog Italia, been a fearless and insightful movie critic, and been the better looking half of the Dining Duo (sorry Vince, but it's true.) Stacy originally came into contact with us through her submissions to our fledgling fiction section some years back, and somehow we put her to work doing other things and never showed off her writing in our lit pages. Stacy leaves us this month, for an MFA program in creative writing out west, but we're pleased to at last share her words with you now. While we're sad for the loss of her regular contributions to these pages, we wish her nothing but the best as she embarks on this exciting new path. Thanks for all your efforts Stac, you'll be sorely missed. (Note, she also takes meat-eating, fast-talking Vince Cavasin of the Dining Duo with her as well. Vince, your humor and advice was also much appreciated and we will all be the poorer for your absence.) — Nick Sousanis

Mother-brown Eyes and Tilted Lips
(three part harmony)

Part one

Silence is wholly creative. Propagating, expanding from the center. Beginning as a droplet, it spreads as in a wave, enveloping me in its deep, fluid warmth. My mother taught me this.

No words. A soft current, lucidity, in the eyes I remember. I close my own to see more clearly. The edges are not crisp but remind me instead of an old photograph: muted.

The vision is more real than what I can reach out and touch with my fingertips. I cannot caress it lovingly, but I have no need since the image is part of me, my creation and connection with her. I impose no restrictions as I watch the reel unwind in my mind. I am not an artist but an observer, here only to view what my mind creates in spite of me. The image of her, an impression within the folds of my life much more than letters on the pages of a well-worn novel, perused many times, never exhausted.

The single frames click by faster, gathering speed, and coalesce into a sea of flashing motion. My mother. Feeding my blood, flooding my heart…

Flowing, her hair fanned out and soaking in each of the sun's delicate lapping rays. No vestments necessary in this natural ceremony. Body undulating in slow rhythmic pulses. No violets suspended round during this winter season. Her vast casket paints her with shades of blue as they share the same temperament. Death of her physical body dispels neither her dignity nor her mystery.

Silence like this, without boundaries, mesmerizes me, makes her mythic. Sacred. I forget that I interpret her. Create myself through her. Become what I internalize. There really are no words to explain. It happens quietly, fantastically.

Somebody, perhaps a jogger passing along the lake's edge, tosses an almost-forgotten pocketful of crushed daisy petals in the water. "Because she is so peaceful, so pure," he would say. And rather than rush away in anxiety or fear, he would sit, watching the current weave between my mother's limbs, and wait for it to carry the petals along with her, gently away from arm's reach.

The boys I have ever loved have her eyes. Each with a degree of her omnificence. Narrated with swirls of brown, deeper than a gash. Honest eyes. Those that hold buckets of laughter sloshing in their depths, materializing in that off-handed way, in streams of tears.

I remember a time when I was much younger, when I played at being grown up. We began at the water's edge, the boy and I. He was a bit older and surer and wore her crooked smile. We giggled to ourselves and shared peanut-butter sandwiches. Often we rolled down the scratchy dome of grass at the edge of my block. I don't remember his name though I'm sure he told me. I remember his mother-lips best when I eat peanut-butter sandwiches, dangling my feet in the frigid wavelets.

I have not become frantic for words. The hectic, bustling importance of them. To search for the perfect insidious ones to describe my boy-lover and our wordless, worryless affair. Sounds that could bear the zooming weight of a merry-go-round summer I had with the one with the lopsy-lipped grin. There are none. Utterances, white noise, don't concur with the reeling images that jut up like jagged-craggy rocks, that loll and roll around in my head like uneaten jelly-beans. Syllables that bubble up through the mouth-vat are contrived. Formulations. Spoken for an audience. I have none. Only a partner from time to time.

I would be out of my element in the log-jam of word traffic. I stay near my mother and soak in all I can. Oscillating scenes go-go unfiltered. No prying ears and desperate, prattling mouths.

The only ones who approach me and my rambling picture-thoughts-the winding, windy creations in my head-are those who have lifeless, deathless eyes, sparkling, energized, honest. Nothing spoken. Only a limbo similar to mine to share.

A while ago I woke to spot a few loose petals fluttering in the languid breeze, over my head, dancing toward the glassy surface of my mother's tomb. The jogger?…

The commodity of vocabulary rarely bothers me. But when it does as some interruptions are apt to, I no longer wake, choking as if on a dusty rag, with an impossible name or sound stuck in my throat. It hasn't been long. Perhaps years. I am still learning.

Another boy or maybe the same earthen-eyed one from the green summer slope slept here with me recently, forever ago. The corners of his mouth lifted solemnly. No words. No judgements. Hands held: one sweaty palm inside the soft warm other. I don't recall when we stopped meeting, but I am quiet smiles.

I awoke today to the soft padding of feet sending vibrations through the ground to the reel in my head laid upon it. Rolled over, laid my arm across the bed of grass as it was still warm from his escaped body heat.

I can intuit the calm footfalls and the clean breaths in the distance. Fainter and farther away. Daisies without stems float near my toes while summer floats away, unbound, colors becoming indistinguishable.

I don't know the jogger's name either, and it does not tug at me.

I slept softly last night as I will again, dreaming a river of snippets and stutter-stops. Similar stretches of floating photos in his head, I can see them slipping around, unexpressable. His mother-brown eyes the only window to that world.

Part two

my fists on sticks, my arms, attached to a log, my body. the heart, beating inside it all. slowing beating. slowly slowlier….

these are the things you wake up to when there's nothing left to wake up to. these are the things you wake up to when you wake.

the sweet deep agony of after. not of after, of motion. of moving through and through, whence we spring and whence we continue to spring. moribund, to be no longer moribund. like the simple and forever reflection of the human hand. its riffling veins: their source and tributaries, their reason and their race, toward the sea of the heart. the sea of the heart. whence the sea we are born. the sea we become….

half moons resting in beds of nails. the palest coral ringing the tender perimeter, hiding without hiding, beneath translucence, beneath clouds.

the knuckles, fallow, accommodating flex and bow so the fingers can hunt for themselves. a strangely cultivated land unseeded for a spate of growing seasons. as unsung as the skin of a sapling, wringing wringing mundane cargo from needle in the grasses to dizzying height. accommodation in return for nourishment. with a drop of its seed, its sigh burrows into the earth, yesssss.

the rambling of the palm, the print of every second, every thought turned deed etched on its surface. living scars formed from next to nothing, testament to fingers grasping life by the neck, in anger, in desiring consolation, in shame. oh what secrets they share when they face the skies, naked. press yourself to me, the palms whisper. join me, you who are so slightly not me and yet…when they press together, fold into each other, the illusion of distance, of difference, disappears like a raindrop into its puddle, its lake, the wordless sea. swallowed whole and altered into eternity.

the fingers open, Alive in defiance, smash in freezing and freezinger wet whump whumps at drowning heavy, heavier car roof. they fold water bug tight, demanding to know better of what they already, only know. they thrash Thrash against what they cannot control, a kind of flailing struge of a raindrop in the open sea. their fingers separate, attack as single-minded soldiers, scrape Scrape at scornful slippery cement walls, algae black with living things. fists press Press, palms pull Pull, slipslide across these newly familiar living things, sharing secrets, sharing selves. altered into eternity.

these are the things you wake up to when you wake. knee caps break from crawling up what will never be crawled up. fingers break from clawing at what can not be clawed down. these broken things signal a truth beyond truth. broken is a state of transformation. the motion of motion compels. energy begets energy. something may go away, but Nothing Goes Away. these are the things you wake up to when you wake.

busted hands and beaten wrists limp without limping, weep without weeping, they lay in exhaustion. they hang from ropes, from sticks, my arms. attached to a log, my body. and the heart, beating slowly slowlier inside it all. and while i wake, i sense the sea bearing me up, my arms up, my palms up, and i sense the body's release. yessss. in the sea, into the air.

Part three

alarm bleating 5:59 5:59 5:59 5:59 gettupgettupgettup and i am body getting up somnambulist feet into briefs tights shirt shirt shirt windbreaker slow coming out of slumber sinking into today my life heady winter cold feet into socks shoes and easy stretch hamstrings calves back and waffle steps down the driveway and into the opening day iam…iammyself…i am…myself. fingers i have i am feeling fingers. gloves where here on. i put my gloves on running.

old knee injury ticking under skin, clicking warning, clicking warming up. you are so selfish she said before dropping off, dropping into sleep, dropping into me my unconscious, i am so selfish i am so selfish i am so selfish with every footfall. clearing my head i am so clearing my head i am so clearing my head. recalibrate. think of nothing. breathe. breathe. breathe. think of nothing. think of nothing. but her voice…you are so…and therefore i am…so…one half mile done and the knee stops clicking, hands beginning to warm.

up at six to work at eight home after dark…how am i selfish. a wife a child a four bedroom home…how am i selfish. the vacation the mother-in-law church on sunday…how am i selfish i deserve the occasional cigarette the bottle in the closet…i have been selfish in my younger days when it was okay to be selfish but now…one mile done and the knee begins again. a broken record. think of nothing. look at the water look at the sunrise look at something. think of nothing.

baby in diapers first grade high school. car keys late nights what about college what about the future what about the future. what about today. what about tuition commuting paying for gas in your car, kid. what about giving your mother and me a break what about living up to your potential. what about showing some responsibility what about becoming a contributing member of society. what about the future. new shoulder pain sting. legs moving moving feet shoes crunching silent crunching silent knees high snow. one mile and one-quarter gone.

and her voice your son thinks you hate him. and his voice your son needs to learn some responsibility. and her voice you are so selfish. his voice i do it for him. her voice no you worry and you work you do nothing for no one not even yourself. think of nothing. run. run. run. traveling. traveling out discovering world orange sun limping rising. breathe. traveling in and around blood and words moving around. i am myself. my knee does not hurt. i can control. i am feigning control. what control. one leg the other. one leg the other and on. you are so…his voice he needs to gain experience in the world. her voice he needs a father how else will he really learn anything stop being thick you are his hero but you don't see. breathe run think of nothing. traveling, we shall come to the center of our own existence. her voice you shut him out. you shut him out. his voice i make everything possible the school the sports the ridiculous tennis shoes. her voice you kill him every time you shut the door every time you travel away. breathe breathe kill the cramp. think of nothing. and words bubble up anyway. hero selfish hero. we have not to travel alone. no idea no thought but there it appears. all the heroes of the world have gone before us. from where does it appear. invisible heaves from lungs huhh huhh huhh and rhythm visible. her voice your son is alone while you are with the world. his voice he is never alone. he has his own world. her voice don't play dumb you know what i mean. hero selfish hero. think of nothing. legs feeling nothing nothing nothing. three miles done. think of nothing.

and him. hey dad. and that is all. hey dad. her voice you don't hear you stopped hearing. his voice and what do you hear do you hear me or only him. do you hear me since him. and her tears. you are so selfish. four miles done. five miles done. no hero. time to turn around. i am no hero. her voice seeps from under curlers and coldcream. no you are no hero. and silence. five and some miles done. edging around corner the lake footfall footfall footfall just no hero and sweat one layer wet one two layers dry. mercenary hero.

and more blue black lake water water lifting sun footfalls. ice in the water. ice no not ice. breathe. run and look. ice no not ice. breathe. run and look. closer. ice no not ice. breathe and run faster. closer closer. not ice. not ice. his wife. his son. not ice. his wife his son. not ice. and where we had thought to be alone we shall be with all the world.

© 2002