The Quietest Place On Earth/by Ellen Welcker

Instead of writing any poems, I deconstruct a Band-Aid box and draw four diagrams of four chords: A minor, F, G, and C. I slide a tab of the box into the glove compartment and secure it there, so I can practice my ukulele. It’s out of tune, but that’s the least of my problems.

The Rock is a legitimately talented dude. I feel a strange kind of allegiance to him, like, he made a poor decision: to become a WWF fighter, when he could’ve been anything. This is one of the ways that we’re alike.

When we sing, “I know it’s a lot: the hair, the bod…” all of us mean it differently.

As opposed to the villain Tamatoa’s message, which cannot be misinterpreted by the young. A powerful vim rises up in me. And something like assurance, which villains always have.

In the book I’m reading, everyone’s memories are lost to them, all their joys and sorrows, their deep-seated hatreds and their most tender bonds—gone. Do you know what lingers, though, what can’t be erased and is therefore stronger even than these powerful emotions? Suspicion.

It lodges in memories, even the lost ones, like a splinter. It festers too, I think, in concepts like “tolerance” or “diversity training.” Tainted and hollow.

Call it openness. Call it anti-racist, anti-sexist; call it what it is. Euphemisms—and that is what these words are—allow the sick splinter to fester, unacknowledged or hidden or secretly nurtured.

Bam-slunked it, the child says. I bam-slunked it. Off in the distance, a baby falls into a fire.

Mud is cool and squishy; gravel points and says, hey! Sand and rocks all have their textured communications. We’re dull with shoes on. When we walk barefoot, our brains light up. We give ourselves the moss treatment. It’s so wet here that tree branches believe they are roots in the air, their arms dissolving into fingers, fingers into tentacles.

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A map of my scars reveals the dog bite, the other dog bite, the bird-shaped time I danced a glass into my knee, the smile-shaped time I skateboarded my face into the sidewalk, some chicken pox, a gash from an oar, and hidden under my ring now, the tender blast of stovetop blister squeezed to bursting in the grip of my best friend’s hand. The boys were about to get us, after all.

Someone thinks the word is “barnit” and everyone laughs. Barnit. We say it and say it.

Another bam-slunk.

Another baby gets dropped in the fire.

Then someone barnits for real. It had to happen.

Sea anemones hang ponderously, sexually, suspended under an outcropping, mussels dangling from their mouths. Dentata. Barnacles creak and snap, talking to each other. Here I conceive of a beautiful idea for a pendant—a nurse log. That’s what a mother is: you fall over and a cacophony of life erupts from the wreck of you. Get on it, jewelers.

The cigarette-burn where a wart once was, the angry veined lumps of sun damage in the whites of my eyes, the hairless spoonscoop on my head where a beam landed, the continent on each knee gnarled through forty years of the Falling Down Problem. Where the barbed wire pierced my thigh and pinned me to my jeans in the neighbor’s old barn, the tear—third degree they said—where the first emerged, fist out front like a narwhal, or someone fighting for her future.

Notes:

I have a memory of hearing or reading that there’s a place deep inside the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park that is considered “the quietest place on earth.” A quick Google search will show that this is title is much disputed. Hoh Rainforest doesn’t even come up.

We learned the lyrics and sang a lot of the songs from the Disney movie, Moana, while in the car on the way from Spokane, Washington to the Olympic National Park. So catchy! It’s a long drive.

My 4-yo thought the word for vomit was “barnit.”

 

 

Ellen Welcker’s books are Ram Hands (Scablands Books) and The Botanical Garden, 2009 Astrophil Poetry Prize (Astrophil, 2010). She is a recipient of a 2016 GAP grant from Artist Trust, for her manuscript-in-progress, The Pink Tablet, and chapbook of these poems are forthcoming from Fact-Simile Books in 2017. She lives in Spokane, WA.  

Ellen Welcker’s books are Ram Hands (Scablands Books) and The Botanical Garden, 2009 Astrophil Poetry Prize (Astrophil, 2010). She is a recipient of a 2016 GAP grant from Artist Trust, for her manuscript-in-progress, The Pink Tablet, and chapbook of these poems are forthcoming from Fact-Simile Books in 2017. She lives in Spokane, WA.