Best Worst Year: Episode 51 (Or, Of Straight Razors and Subconjunctival Hemhorrages)

A tiny capillary ruptured in my right eye last night at the gym. A micro pink nebula surrounding my iris, a flare of blood diffuse in the sclera. I had been pushing harder than normal, heart pounding in my neck. Like I was being chased. Or was chasing. Or was just trying to push against an unnameable inevitable. According to my heart monitor, everything is fine. I’m normal, but the flutter hasn’t gone away. So I work harder. I push harder. Lower my head. Ignore the fire slowly consuming my legs. Knees reduced to cinder and ache–volume goes up. The Stooges’ Fun House album gets louder. Iggy’s sneer adopts my profile. Guitars tangle around my heart. Scott Asheton’s drums thump against the walls of aorta. I am untethered. Focused. Force amplified by speed and divided by a stationary horizon. For a moment. It all vanishes.
Clarity in exhaustion. Clarity. Brief. A blink of acknowledgment.

Then just exhaustion. Tired. Clouds roll back in to cover the tracks of sunset’s dead sky flicker. Lava cools in my legs. I’m already back from wherever I went–the world rushing in to fill the vacuum. I stare into the bloodshot half moon that’s my right eye, a gradual slide into soft blur. There’s an eyelash in my contact. It’s a black slash swimming in contact solution. I fish it out of the case and balance it on the tip of my index finger, waiting for old habits to be forgotten. A wishless flitter and it’s washed down the drain.

The corner of my eye is a deep reservoir of red, like rain collecting in the low spot of a parking lot. Slight pink halo has already begun to dissipate, leaving twin brush strokes seeping into a scarlet pool. I lean into my mirror. Close. Press my forehead slightly against the cold. The sink’s running. I am holding a razor. Steam rises, coats the reflection. Close. The mirror leans into me. I am watching the weather pattern in my right eye. I see a cosmos of blood and viscous fluid slowly vanish from the white of my eye. A tear wells, slightly overfilling the teacup of an eyelid. Not sad. Just anticipation.

I shut off the tap and let my breath be the only thing which clouds the mirror. The glass squeaks slightly. I have pushed past a point the mirror is willing to push back. The door dislocates from its track. Slightly. Close. Force anticipates search. A blink. I tip the tea cup. Bow my head.

I retract from the mirror just enough to stare into the vanishing halo of breath and steam. When we would wait for our ride to Sunday school, the neighbor boy and I would press our foreheads against the window to fog them up. I was struck by how quickly what I wrote in the fog would vanish. A brief message to no one. My first poems were probably written this way. I still write tiny poems to no one against cold glass on winter mornings, or bathroom mirrors. Nowadays, it’s less a fear of not being heard and more about being aware of the temporary. I think that’s what I love most about radio–your voice is carried on a frequency in a signal which fades with distance. At best, you are speaking to strangers in their familiar spaces. The car. The commute. The living room. The bedroom. Your voice is a bloodshot exclamation of impermanent rupture spilling into the space between all of us which only seems to get larger every day. It’s our willful push for clarity, to find that space between the shifting focus and inevitable blur of the day to day which unearths hope. Promises a glimpse if we dig deeper. Push against ourselves and the momentum of hours and lives in a stationary universe. Our first poems were remembered this way. Razor in hand. A good tired calming the pulse in our chest. A crimson halo relaxes its hold over our stare. Eyes adjust. We trace invisible letters in the mirror not waiting for them to evaporate.

Jim Warner is the Managing Editor of Quiddity International Literary Journal and Public Radio Program at Benedictine University and the author of two poetry collections Too Bad It’s Poetry and Social Studies (Paper Kite Press). His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in various journals including The North American Review, PANK Magazine, and The Minnesota Review. He lives in Springfield, IL. Follow him on twitter @whoismisterjim.

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