BellaOnline Literary Review
Korean Dogwood by Lisa Shea

Table of Contents

Non Fiction

Nothing and Nothing and Nothing

Sally Houtman

And then I am pacing, arms at my sides, and I am cursing, sulking, brooding, pleading and I am tired so tired, because I can look but I canít find them, and I can reach but just canít grab them, all those words, those shackled words, those handcuffed words, those black dots floating in a paper sky, and I am trying, trying, trying not to connect the dots between bad moments, but they just go on piling up and piling up, because I am bound and gagged, the words I seek, so distant, gauzy, just beyond my reach.

I call out, but you canít hear me.

Is there anybody there?

I am here, but yet Iím nowhere. I am homesick, shipwrecked, run aground. I am a spade plunged deep in foreign soil.

I am lost and you canít find me.

So let me tell you who I am. I am fingernails on chalkboard, fingertips on keyboard, screeching, screaming, calling out, demanding to be heard. I am a mixed-case manifesto, sharp angles digging flesh. I am the child left on a doorstep, the girl, the woman, with her nose pressed to the mirror, the one whoís searching, the one who canít stop searching for her motherís face, and I am the wink that hides a truant smile. I am the lie in believing and the end in befriend, and I am all of the youís mocking all of the meís, and I am nothing and nothing and nothing, and yet Iím still alive.

I am caught between the streetlights. Drowning in the dark.

And just when I have had enough, had enough of waving, enough of shouting, canít seem to flag a single passing ship, it is then my daughter comes to me and in her plaintive skip-rope cadence asks, Is your life hard, and she is pointing at her eyes and I am on the lip of something high and steep because all I want to do is give to her the gritty, sooty truth, but instead I smile and thank her for her thoughtfulness and I assure her, Darliní, donít you worry about me, and I puff out my chest and I poke out my chin and I remind her, as I so often do, that if she ever sees her mama fightiní a bear sheíd best go help the bear. And when she says that she will always, always, always fight for me, I am breathless, sideswiped, tumbling sideways, freefalling into a place so vast, so deep I fear that I might drown.

And I am found.

I am on my knees now, her chin cupped in my hand, and I am looking at her, at her perfect eyes and her sleepy smile and I think to myself, I made this. Me. Little loser me with my toxic genes and my messed up eyes and my crime-scene style, and I cannot imagine how something so scarred, so damaged, could make something so complete.

And it is this, I see, this day, this moment, it is every passing moment, built atop the wreckage, placed amongst those ruins, that makes this what it is. And in that moment I am the breath that stirs the ocean; I am the hand that hoists the sky. I am the melody and the harmony and the hammer and the bell, and I am the kick-ass seismic thunder of the rumbling tribal drums and I know that nothing and nothing and nothing will define me because I am exactly who I am. I am erosion and evolution and I am beauty and decay, and I am fearless, scuffing, and unafraid, to reach my hand into the sooted ruins, to find the truth that lies beneath.

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Reader Feedback:
Amazing. I understand that spiraling, out of control, downward descent and the rescuing touch of that tiny hand. That a hand so small can be so strong is awesome. So well written.