By LILA MATSUMOTO.
A thing may not be equal to itself when it is carried into some other room – Charlotte Mandell
A ball rivers into view, carrying a meridian whiff of passings and doublings. Gifts for children: a cylinder, a cuboid, a sphere. Its smoothness reflects my panic on its brassy surface. An impossible smoothness, tight and fleshy, but metal – it has no give. I hide it behind a door, and later between the cushions of the sofa. Always in the frame of my own scrutiny: my hand reaching to cover its insistent mirror.
My language is a room I sit in daily. The sweet pea fragrances the room. I am addicted to its candy smell, the unfurled earlobe pink. It possesses an odour that can’t be captured or remembered and must be refreshed each time. A tight bud of possibility, clenched tight, not yet awake.
There is a woman I am familiar with from childhood. She wears her hair in a bun. She is wearing clothes that are allowed to get soiled, because no doubt she is the cook of the household, and the cleaner too. I see her in the house, late at night. She is sitting on the ground; her back is turned. I can’t see her hands but from the slight rocking of her back I imagine she is busy folding, packing, tidying up. She suddenly slumps as if deflated. Bringing her shoulders up to her ears, her head lifts off her body, supported on a neck that begins to lengthen. The neck is a thick and smooth noodle, curving left and right like a dancing worm. The head upon it is rather still, as is the body underneath, the hands resting calmly as if nothing extraordinary is happening above. Only the neck is animate, joyous even, growing longer and longer, probing the space. It finds the doorway and curves out of the room down the darkened corridor.
A line is drawn somewhere, between the perimeter of the lake under the sign of the hotel, and the writhing blind voles emerging from the soil under my raking hand. The line wobbles but it always holds sway.
My mise en scène: a little room 8 feet by 10, a bed at one wall, a desk at another. On the desk, a glass water bottle filled with sweet pea. A rickety chair with a hole in the webbed backing. A closet, with two trousers, one skirt, two blouses, one cardigan, one coat. A breeze billows the curtain out.
Up on the hill I saw a red car traversing the landscape. It reminded me of the other times I saw a car like that, a little red bug crossing a two-dimensional, hazy scene. To feel profoundly still, flat, and monochromatic – while the insectan vehicle investigates a contour, declaring an alien movement and intuition.
I stretch my ear. Voices are arriving, coloured cherries. Yellow, black, orange, and purple, hanging loosely like whims. A cold, delicious party, an open river syllabub given late in the evening.
Tears are so leisurely, candying the face. Thanks to this surrealism, the image becomes unfalsified. I come to know grief as a kind of taste, a new conversance with otherness like a tree trying its shadow for depth. I try to pray. You are a tree moving its leaves, thinking of the breeze.
A ball sails onto the gridded blue floor, hits the adjacent side wall, makes a tight or narrow angle to hit the floor again. Memory moves always to an unexpected space, in consequence of the intention but missing wide the original direction.
Lila Matsumoto’s publications include the collection Urn & Drum (Shearsman, 2018) and the pamphlets Soft Troika (If a Leaf Falls Press, 2016) and Allegories from my Kitchen (Sad Press, 2015). A second collection of poetry, Two Twin Pipes Sprout Water, is forthcoming from Prototype in November 2021. She plays in the band Food People and teaches at the University of Nottingham.