Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Notes from the Underground

to Leslie

There's an underground passageway where certain mothers or those like them go. It winds down and down and then along and perhaps up and up because the metaphor isn't always about ground and earth and dark but sky and cloud and light. (But that's later). So maybe not underground except as it is in sleep, deep. The women wear thick loose gowns, silk, thick cotton, stiff from another time, an eternal time, their arms bare their hair long and they leave their glasses on bedside tables because they see in the dark. They lie beside children and grown children who moan (from) the dark for no reason at all and they wipe the hair from their foreheads and press up back along the knobs of the spine, steps from the base to the base of the neck. They straighten an arm and roll the palm flat the body a series of reflexes the moan becomes just breath. They lie down always an outside spoon. Later. A poem appears in a lighted box. Another woman in an underground passageway in Seattle is making jam and cleaning up her husband's dying shit the fluids. The passageway is toward the present, the woman (me) sees (dark). Lying in (to) (by) the present.

Here's the poem:

Advice to Myself

Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend. Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don’t keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll’s tiny shoes in pairs, don’t worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don’t even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don’t sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we’re all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don’t answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in through the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don’t read it, don’t read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

Louise Erdrich


  1. You, this post, that poem are astounding.

  2. Fierce. That is the word that comes to me. So fierce as to be on fire.

  3. Thank you for this delirious savage beauty.

  4. Gobsmacked. You, the poem. The whole truth of it is right here.

  5. "...always an outside spoon." The beauty of your writing Elizabeth, swoon-worthy.

  6. you conjure up dream like states...that are only too real. love the poem, too. i am currently reading "Future Home of the Living God."

  7. I like the poem and the paragraph. The paragraph feels like a dream and no, we never stop being the mom, the hand, the shoulder, the heart, the voice, the love.



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