When the hopeless is rawest, ask:
“1) What did the wound teach you about love?”
————It’s a glossy fire truck parked in front of a building screaming with flame. The ladder is broken. It will not extend any further; it’s been hacked off at some point past the middle. The sound of many people breathing is like a single heart-lung machine. The sky is cyanotic and big. Whoever is in the building: Freedom. This is not postmodernism. Not spirituality. No lesson. This is just what happens when love is the injury.
————There are thirty seconds left. Mend the ladder, rush the sagging staircase?
“2) What did the wound teach you about the body?”
————It floats. Easier facedown, but then what to do about breath, the engine of (bodily) flotation.
————I have one. One body. I didn’t know for years. This is why my neck – the spot where it gives way to right shoulder, the site of my still older injury – hurts. Because I have one. A neck. A wound. Perhaps the body is the wound.
————I have not learned from you and that is why you still hurt in a way I don’t want to reject.
“3) What did the wound teach you about silence?”
————A leaf, autumn red, early, falls onto a little lake in the mountains where I’m from. I am having a coughing fit and I feel in control of nature until I stop. Then: thunderheads of silence, ravaged by light.
————Maybe I still learn: silence is fine. Okay. It perhaps is more the way to get what I need from life, you. It is more than struggle and arranging and anger and beaten-up stories. Maybe, though it turns to stone, silence is where to start.
When it is red, ask:
“4) What did the wound teach you about fog?”
————Christmas trees smell dead when they are wet, their scent stronger when they’re drying. It fogs up the eyes, stings them like tears.
————The first hike I enjoyed, owl songs burgeoned in the air like fog. The huge knocking on a door I heard was trees’ bodies hitting together, or groaning on their own.
————Tears scream so loud as they mount their escape they obscure the child’s face, but you know that it’s yours.
“5) What did the wound teach you about circles?”
————They are not safe.
————You are driving in a car with handicapped controllers. You cannot drive this car yet because you are not the one impaired. I know how to get that way, though, which is more and more the start of that roundabout of indecision that looks like headway.
————That’s what’s dangerous about circles. They feel like progress in their beautiful, intellectualizable delay.
“6) What did your wound teach you about salt?”
————My dog flips over her bowl, the metal on tile fracturing the space between me and the new puddle. She’s been panting for hours; I’ve refilled her dish eight times. She will not drink. Her panting slides around the house like hourglass sand.
“7) What did your wound teach you about fire?”
————Wearing the red dress will make you more comfortable; no one will look up. I want you to want to want this. Especially because the sparsely Aspens will fail to nab all the wind.
————You’ll whisper to me, wish them timber, that they’ll snap their spines on the way down. That way, they’ll be like me, except I’ll still be able to move – limp. Then, you’ll whisper hate them.
When it fades deep, ask:
“8) What did your wound teach you about freedom?”
————The orchestra waits, missing its last row. The principal violinist stands, skirt aswish and pauses for a few beats – she counts them with her torso – before dropping her bow on her violin’s strings four times.
————We need so many cellists.
————Oboe and bassoon emit dark, fruity groans.
————This song could be so fast, could start so soon, could have already started, and go so strong if only silence counted.
When it feels like not you anymore, quickly ask:
“9) What did your wound teach you about seeds?”
————I want out.
————I want out.
————I want up.
————I have always loved brown eyes. They are the brightest lights I have seen.
————The eyes of my therapist, for example. And they are beautiful. Beautiful, beautiful seeds.
“10) What did your wound teach you about beauty?”
————I want to rescue a cat from a very tall, slender tree.
————I want to help no one. If I want to ‘let my life speak,’ so to speak, then what I am is seeking help. I deny it. Big, black doors all around. But I try every one; I cannot find all of what I look for anywhere.
When it is itself, ask:
“11) What did your wound teach you about engines?”
————I am never at a gas station. I drive a big fire truck with a broken ladder very, very slowly. The engine gargles constantly. It never dies.
————I have a hundred bleeding people in the back, stretchers for days. I want to show them all how rude it is to cry with their damn mouths open. If they heal, my big, broken fire truck will die.
“12) What did your wound teach you about dust?”
————A tumbleweed the size of a person.
————Popcorn, coconut oil singeing those little white bodies back to the size of kernels.
————Two songs playing at once but not together.
————Water banging on the air.
————Longing for an obsession.
“13) What did your wound teach you about spirit?”
————This is still a mystery. It animates the wound as soul animates body.
————I don’t want it back as much as it wants to keep giving it back to me.
————It always hums.
————It is the gauze all emotion must pass through.
“14) What did your wound teach you about song?”
————The hills are still red when we get back. They are hot on our heels. We burned gas across the entire state of Colorado and have almost nothing to show for it. You have to start somewhere.
When it names its own name, say:
1) Your wound taught me about love.
————The body is the broken ladder but love is neither the water nor the flame. Love is the building. What is the truck?
2) Your wound taught me about the body.
————Thirty seconds of a beaten up story. Then there are all new people on the planet. Do we come with our senses?
3) Your wound taught me about silence.
When it files for divorce, say:
4) Your wound taught me about fog.
————Impaired air. But trees, mountains, breathe with ease. If fog is blanket, how long does is take for a mountain to fall asleep?
5) Your wound taught me about circles.
————My dog walks me around a traffic circle in the snow. Cars flip over like the street is a skillet. Does the fire engine have a roll cage?
6) Your wound taught me about salt.
————I can preserve myself. Still, it is up to me to prevent ice. Do I get the dancing partner, light?
7) Your wound taught me about fire.
————Fire has an engine: secrets. Can I not find them even in the brightest brown eyes?
When it wants you back, say:
8) Your wound taught me about freedom.
————Hope is unrelenting disappointment. Saturated-red leaves fall for thirty seconds. Then it is summer again?
When it wants you to rain, say:
9) Your wound taught me about seeds.
————Lately, I cannot plant meals in me. At the outdoor concerts we never went to together, there is food. Dancing?
10) Your wound taught me about beauty.
————I want to be made to hold my breath again. To tumble like an engine. Where do I go, what do I look at?
When it asks you for the last time to dance, say:
11) Your wound taught me about engines.
————Music, horses, promises, love. I fell asleep in the skirt I wore to walk my dog in snow up to the heels of my hands. Who does my dog think I am?
12) Your wound taught me about dust.
————And dust taught me about accumulation. It is bad when it’s resentment, thoughts, dreams. Hopes?
13) Your wound taught me about spirit.
————Get down to the kernels of people. Do it before you make commitments, aside from the ones it takes to get to the kernels of people.
————Where does it keep the will?
14) Your wound taught me about song.
————It does not have to know you to move you. It does not ask to be let in. Are you waiting?
MEGAN WILDHOOD is a creative writer, scuba diver, and saxophone player working at a crisis center in Seattle, WA. Her work has appeared, among other publications, in The Atlantic, The Sun, Yes! Magazine and America Magazine. Long Division, her poetry chapbook ruminating on sororal estrangement and strategies for meeting the challenges of growing up, was released by Finishing Line Press in September 2017, and she’s currently working on a novel. You can learn more at meganwildhood.com.