WHAT RESEMBLES THE GRAVE BUT ISN’T - Anne Boyer
Always falling into a hole, then saying “ok, this is not your grave, get out of this hole,” getting out of the hole which is not the grave, falling into a hole again, saying “ok, this is also not your grave, get out of this hole,” getting out of that hole, falling into another one; sometimes falling into a hole within a hole, or many holes within holes, getting out of them one after the other, then falling again, saying “this is not your grave, get out of the hole”; sometimes being pushed, saying “you can not push me into this hole, it is not my grave,” and getting out defiantly, then falling into a hole again without any pushing; sometimes falling into a set of holes whose structures are predictable, ideological, and long dug, often falling into this set of structural and impersonal holes; sometimes falling into holes with other people, with other people, saying “this is not our mass grave, get out of this hole,” all together getting out of the hole together, hands and legs and arms and human ladders of each other to get out of the hole that is not the mass grave but that will only be gotten out of together; sometimes the willful-falling into a hole which is not the grave because it is easier than not falling into a hole really, but then once in it, realizing it is not the grave, getting out of the hole eventually; sometimes falling into a hole and languishing there for days, weeks, months, years, because while not the grave very difficult, still, to climb out of and you know after this hole there’s just another and another; sometimes surveying the landscape of holes and wishing for a high quality final hole; sometimes thinking of who has fallen into holes which are not graves but might be better if they were; sometimes too ardently contemplating the final hole while trying to avoid the provisional ones; sometimes dutifully falling and getting out, with perfect fortitude, saying “look at the skill and spirit with which I rise from that which resembles the grave but isn’t!”
I have been thinking of the ways we tell people things. My father’s hands shake, but he holds the phone up so I can watch the video from six feet away. My mother emails me the recipe of her beef stroganoff at 6 in the morning with the comment - woke up and didn’t want to forget to do this! On the highway, we sing so loudly my voice grows hoarse; on the beach I sneak nice rocks into people’s hands so they have something to hold; on the floor we all sit quietly in the same agreeable silence. We are all saying the same thing.
My friends say “Oh you know, keeping busy.” This means they are having a hard time but making themselves survive it. I ask them to help me walk me dog; this is me telling them it’s okay sometimes to just be present and talk about young adult fiction. When I cancel again because I can’t get out of bed, she tells me she’s on her way with cookies.
I point out the sunset. She shares her fork before I ask for it. He calls me at 1 AM just because I’m on the road alone, we talk about stupid shit. She waits for me to get indoors safely before driving away. He says - nah, forget it, I’m happy to do it for free.
People are saying it, you know? They say it often and loudly. Sometimes, you know - you just have to be listening.