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  1. There is a mathematical formula   {  R = e– t/s}   which  plots the erosion of memory over time where  Retrievability  is  Euler’s number  to the negative power of  Time  over the  Stability of memory. They call this the Forgetting Curve. 

  2. What this means is that memory fades. 
     

  3. Red is —

 

                  3.1       the dim goading of an Outback Steakhouse

 

                  3.2       the color of the scarf wrapped around Isadora Duncan’s neck                               at one end and entangled in the open-spoked wheels of her car                             at the other. Je vais à l'amour, she said, before snapping                               her neck in two.

 

4. Color blindness afflicts men at a rate several times that of women. The most common      form is dichromatism, the confusion of red and green. Dichromats have difficulty          distinguishing a Braeburn apple from a Granny Smith, the grids of a tartan plaid, a      green from a red light. 

5. (How unsurprising is it, then, that they have such difficulty distinguishing    

   between stop and go?)

 

6. My mother wore Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Pur 7, a waxy magenta lipstick that swiveled      out of a 4-sided gold tube like an art deco rendition of an Egyptian talisman. She was    always late and so it was only in the seconds before exiting the car after a mad drive    across the city that she would smear rouge over her lips and dot it across her cheeks,    frantically smudging the pigment up toward her temples to paint that startling pink      streak so emblematic of the 80s. Sometimes she’d do the same to me, turning me into      the same garish creature that I would spend the next 20 years trying to shed.

 

7. In 1986, a 65-year-old painter wrote to the late neurologist Oliver Sacks complaining    of total colorblindness after a concussion sustained when a truck rammed into the side    of his car. In the months that followed, the world receded. Azure sky and white clouds    flattened into a dull grey, tomatoes a dead black, his wife’s flesh the color of a        rat. Painting became impossible; sex, revolting.

 

8. Blood splashes a lifeless black on cyan, the vivid blue-green of hospital scrubs. This    is no accident. At some point they’d decided that splatters of red on white were          tawdry.

 

9. In the beginning of our courtship, he sent me a photo of an arteriovenous malformation    that he had operated on that day. The dark tangle of veins, whose rupture earlier that    month had nearly killed the 23-year-old patient, sat flatly on top of the brain. I        marveled at its fatty pinkness, framed by the bony white border of skull. The scalp,      peeled back and pinned down, was visible along the periphery. A friend asked if this      was the neurosurgeon’s equivalent of a dick pic. I said probably—both brain and dick      are pink, soft, and full of the same blood that splashes a dull black on cyan.

 

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  1. Retrieval-induced forgetting is a process by which retrieving an item from long-term memory impairs subsequent recall of related items. This is to say that the more we remember, the more we forget. 

2. Sometimes I saw it only in memories, in the lonely light of looking back. That was        blue, I'd remember— that yellow house was blue, as if an affliction of a reverse color    blindness of blue.

3. When I was 3, my uncle taught me how to operate the VHS machine in my bedroom by          counting the buttons: 5 from left was PLAY, 4 was REW, 3 was EJECT. I spent much of      waking life as a toddler watching and rewatching my small collection of Disney            tapes: Snow White, Bambi, Pinocchio, Cinderella, Lady and the Tramp, Alice in            Wonderland, The Sword in the Stone, Fantasia—though this one I seldom watched as I       hated those menacing brooms dancing in formation. Alone in my room, I watched my          tapes from morning till night.

 

   My favorite among them was the one who pricked her finger on a spindle and fell          asleep for 100 years, the one with hair down to her waist and a long, narrow face that    even then I understood was beautiful. My own hair was kept very short like a boy’s        until grade school. Even now I recall the rage of seeing little girls everywhere with    long hair. That rage never left me.

 

4. 3 weeks ago someone told me that my hair looked different. I knew what he meant          because I’d noticed, too, because half of postpartum and post-abortive women report      some degree of hair loss; because I’d been having anxiety attacks about it, staying up    until all hours of the night peering at my scalp like a lunatic. Moments when I          snapped out of the hysterical daze and saw my horrible reflection in the mirror —        mouth agape, eyes bulging, fistfuls of hair in each hand — I thought: Medusa. Medusa,    the woman raped by Poseidon then punished for it, transformed by Athena into a            creature so terrible to behold that her mere look turned men to stone. Because it was    her hair and body that tempted him, it was her hair and body that were condemned. What    injustice wrought upon her, betrayed by her own body! Medusa, that awful face of          feminine rage looked back at me, night after night in the bathroom mirror. 

 

5. And so every day I slipped that tape into the VHS machine and followed Aurora from        birth to childhood to her fateful 16th birthday when she pricked her finger on that      spindle. I watched her sleep in a high blue room. I watched dark vines spread over        her castle in irreversible nightfall. I watched Prince Phillip hack through brambles      to kiss his comatose beauty. I watched all of this, every day, just to get to my          favorite scene at the end: Aurora and Phillip, now married, waltz across the palace      floor as it dissolves, giving way to a blanket of clouds. The 3 fairies, Flora, Fauna,    and Merryweather, look on from above, waving their wands to the beat of Tchaikovsky’s    “Grande valse villageoise.” With each triplet, the clouds and Aurora’s dress change      from pink to blue and back again, and on and on for 30 seconds until the animation        miniaturizes, descending neatly into the background as a leather-bound book-cover        closes shut. This was how I knew the story was real.

6. Color blindness can also be acquired from a blunt trauma to the head. 

 

7. ​And so for two years, I lived with, loved, and submitted to someone who told me,          repeatedly, to stop thinking so much, to leave the gray for the green. But then what?    The present is little more than a fleshy hologram which distorts on sight and            disperses on contact: an insipid flicker, a noon shadow.

8. One August morning I stepped out under the harsh glare of Teutonic light to a searing    pain in my left eye, as if singed with acid. I collapsed onto the pavement. At the        hospital, the ophthalmologists chastised me, grew angry when I apologized for what I’d    done to myself. I stayed in a lightless room for the two weeks following, the curtains    drawn, as my eye healed from the corneal abrasion. 

 

9. When Joni Mitchell was 9, she contracted polio and was quarantined in a hospital,        strapped to a bed and immobilized as it was believed that any movement might cause the    disease to spread. She remained alone in that room, stiff on her back, for several        months. Was this when she began seeing blue?

 

   That summer I found myself playing Blue in my car over and over not because I liked      her shrill voice but because I didn’t know why I did, until one day I heard the          words  

 

                  I am a lonely painter  

 

      and suddenly I understood.

 

 

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  1. There are memories of specificity and memories of multiplicity which bleed into one another like an endless film reel, flickering to an unknown rhythm. Ghosts tripping the wires, the vague dread of standing at the curb long after all the other children had gone home. I can recall clearly looking down the open road, how the sky at that hour so quickly darkened from blue to black.
     

  2. Darkness is the balm, that which softens the world's hard edges. Out the window, our stalks of amaranth shot up like jeweled bullets. 

 

3. There is a name for the color seen by the mind's eye in perfect darkness, that off-      black of an almost-absence. They call this Eigengrau:

                  

                  3.1       An austere life of hard rules and dry complexions set to                                 minimal techno and a strict schedule of sandwiches on hard,                               dry breads.

 

                  3.2       He said this was his favorite color.

                            I said you’re a pretentious fuck.

 

4. In 1999, a man named Nicholas White was stuck in an elevator for 41 hours with no        phone, watch, or water. Consider that humans can expect to live about 3 days, or 72      hours, without water. At 41 hours, he was more than halfway to death’s door. Whatever    happened to him inside that elevator led to the loss of his relationship, job,            apartment, and all of his life savings.

 

 5. Do They Know That in China:

 

                  5.1       a yellow movie is a pornographic movie and— 

 

                  5.2       only members of the Imperial household could wear yellow,

                            the color of royalty and 

 

                  5.3       the first emperor was called The Yellow Emperor and—

 

                  5.4       the last emperor, Puyi, was carefully raised with only yellow                             objects surrounding him as a child? In his memoirs, he                                   recounts, It made me understand from my most tender age that                             I was of a unique essence, and it instilled in me the                                     consciousness of my “celestial nature” which made me                                     different from every other human..

 

 6. For the 7 days following my abortion, I boiled 7 dates in milk nightly until their       bodies distended and dissolved into a curdled ambrosia, tinged yellow by a spoonful       of turmeric. Alone in my apartment, I stirred this sludge with a wooden spoon and         drank it with the formless conviction that some would call hope. I'd wanted               something more, you see—something esoteric, something pagan. Looking back, I wanted       something magical.

 

 7. At some point, I'd begun to see blue where it did not exist as it was. First I saw it     in burgundies because I knew that the mystery of its purply scarlet was borne from a.     tinge of blue. Then I saw it in whites simply because I knew it was there. I saw it.     in black when it shimmered to a near navy in sunlight and in the striations of wood.     because I imagined that once a blue-eyed woman cast her gaze on it. I saw it in the       concrete slabs downtown which hid hundreds of people inside wearing blue as if blue       were something they could take off.

 

8.   Cavafy asks, 

 

                  How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?

 

9.  After the amaranth, chive blossoms sprouted in their place, little heads of               periwinkle peeping from the window box. I didn’t remember planting them, or I             didn’t know they'd bloom. We shouldn’t have. It was a mistake. 

 

    So I let them die, too.

>> 

Bluish dusk of a new millenium and I loved him though I knew better than what I thought I didn't know, in that I might have loved him for who he was—or wasn't—how was I supposed to know? The origin of primal ooze was nowhere to be found. In history class there was a crying girl whose mother worked in the Twin Towers. We watched her vomit on the linoleum floor before she was taken away to the nurse. The rest of us didn't know how to act or that George W. Bush was a hobbyist painter. On the television, a newscaster's lipstick bled in tendrils across her face. Twenty years later, a boy in a shirt that read DRINK WISCONSINBLY raised a fleshy palm. If someone's not doing anything with his life and honestly says he's happy, who is Aristotle to say he's not? I couldn't tell which subreddit had blighted him or whether he looked thirty-five or ten. I text a friend two thousand miles away to say that I miss the good old days in California, where we ate chicken nuggets and applesauce, then ran onto the blacktop screaming, how we shot our arms into the tetherball's vortex, trapping our fingers against the steel pole, hands pulsing hot and bleeding as we watched the O.J. Simpson trial in class.

 

 

 

 

How many permutations of first cousins none removed could there possibly be? I asked the photographer if time were a string or a bowl of pearls because I happened to think of it actually as a beach, its blond baubles crushed and raked along the coastline, Zen garden of relativity. When I understood that she did not understand me at all, I left and pornographically cried in the terracotta-tiled bathroom, the door to which did not open onto a moonlit balcony where a handsome man stood smoking a cigarette, with sex appeal and feeling. I re-entered instead into a scene whose great distance from my adulthood I give daily thanks but in which I was, at the time, condemned to for eternity. I was wearing a long dress. The night's stars were hidden by a blond babel hovering like the false ceiling of an office building. I sat at a long table of people whose way of life I mutually did not respect and whose index fingers did not point correctly down the fork and knife which split open the meat. I opened my third eye in desperation. I took three small steps in the direction of the North Star before resigning to my seat where I pressed an imaginary finger to my prefrontal cortex and rubbed furiously in small circles to the thought of running away until I achieved orgasm in front of everyone I hated, the burst brilliant and adamantine as diamonds. Once a spiritualist whom I met on a dating site told me that one orgasm on the astral plane is equivalent to ten thousand orgasms on Earth occurring simultaneously in every cell of your body. How could I believe him? How could I not?

At a stoplight, I witness a man in jeans cross paths with another on his morning
run. After a brief bro-down, they run off together into the San Francisco
fog like two golden retrievers.

Not a block later, I pass a red van loudly inscribed with WHO LET THE DOGS
OUT? in the appropriate typeface.

I almost take a photo but cannot summon that thing which moves me to act.

My analyst asks when I first noticed the pattern.

What pattern, I ask, before I realize that he means my pattern of misfortune.

How nice of him. I’d always called it fate.

Well, I say, Tibetan Buddhists believe that preceding a person’s birth, the soul
wanders through an infinite plane of naked couples copulating. It stops
when it finds its match and then, presumably, steps between their genitals
and—

A human is born, into the fate it chose.

No—I meant pattern. Yes, I first noticed the pattern late last year when I sus-
tained two car accidents in as many months. But really, I say, it began in
that infinite plane before I was born, and—

Yes, I can see why I chose this pattern, why I chose to spend my child-
hood alone, watching cartoons from morning till night, eating bowls of
Grape-Nuts in nothing but water, the little seeds cutting into my 4-year-
old gums until finally the sun set and my mother woke up.

My analyst tells me that I must learn to mother myself but I have already begun
talking to my houseplants.

On the way home, I stop to pet two dogs in hopes of activating a triplicate canine
synchronicity.

Later, I have a beautiful bowel movement and recklessly sage my apartment,
nearly setting a blanket, then a book, on fire.

Say I chose this.

I strip naked in front of a window in darkness. I turn over a mousetrap to look
at the dead body, its white belly soft and distended beyond proportion. I
wanted to touch it.

In the distance, the Golden Gate Bridge arcs toward the hills of Marin County,
where two friends once cast me as ‘Feral Spice’ in a music video. They
drew red scars down my cheeks and gave me a baseball bat wrapped in
barbwire.

You’re half feral, half domesticated, they explained.

I ran through thorny acacia bushes in a dense machine-generated fog, swinging
the bat at the sky.

What if I said I touched it—

What if I said I waited all night for another to snap.

I've talked to trees, had long-winded conversations about thrownness with Japanese maples,
talked to redwoods about hydration, macronutrients, love languages, relatives down South, how                 
             some trees miss me when I'm gone and 
             some trees shiver like a spineless creature, dickmatized, and 
             some trees glitter in the dark, leaves like gold sequins, silver sequins, red sequins, orange sequins     

Once I swiped left on a man who wrote I love rollercoaster, fresh-squished orange juice
I was youngish then, eyes unopened to the world's hidden glam
Eight years later I lie in bed fantasizing about what he didn't list, 
             how he likes his martini, his handjob, his pizza, the permutation of his linens, 
             how he'd misspell strudel, Nietzsche, Mississippi, Klingon, onomatopoeia,
             how he might have loved me but

It was more difficult that year to hear I love you than to say it, words kneading 
like the angry knobs of my grandmother's massage chair where she sat every night, upright 
as the handsome older woman that I cannot stop myself from becoming 

It isn't that I'm mad about being flat-chested, more like gracefully annoyed 
with the procedure of mammograms, my small breasts flattened like paninis every January,
the technician groping my chest with the torque of a bleary-eyed, open-mouthed lover who rolls over 
after the small fireworks of anonymous sex while at night I dream on Egyptian cotton
of dead elephants suspended like dried flowers from the ceiling of my mother's bedroom

My Jungian analyst says that a part of my heart is dead and this hurts me
I conjure a colorless sky and this calms me until I look out the window
where a blue curtain hangs spherical from the firmament 
             Why am I still scared of demons and loud noises, of my reflection in the mirror?
             Why am I every age at once, each part of my body frozen in a different time?
                            Babyface, grandma hands, toddler butt, teenie tits

I didn't know that my mother had 36DDs when I sat alone in the waiting room
popping reams of bubblewrap while a radiation machine zapped her breasts
That year I was six and loved dolls with a selfless desire,
             the way dogs love humans, unconditionally and without interiority
             the way I loved my mother, unconditonally and without interiority

She tried to lose me but each time I found her
One second I was fingering the hairy back of a peach and the next she was gone,
the cloud of her absence a ghostly imprint between the jars of soy sauce and peanut oil,
the branded void into which my heart would drop when I realized she was gone
Each time I was ready to end my little life, to follow her into whatever darkness of her condemnation

The first time I heard my mother called a psychopath was like a hit of cocaine, a flash of white, 
a reel of film where every character from every life I've ever lived 
rushes back into the brain, packing the red carpet of memory's ballroom into which I emerge, 
a debutante, twirling down the coiled staircase with the garish ceremony of childbirth 
             Hello! Here I am!  I say, my teeth smeared with the lurid pink lipstick of 1985

I was born in November, a Valentine's baby, Scorpio monstrosity,
Chinese fingertrap, overweight first-born, hirsute mandarin, 
small-mouthed delicacy, Hunan princess, sentient Bratz doll,
boba dowager, purebred powerbottom, moonfaced cowgirl, 
             doomed to lie, doomed to cheat, 
             doomed to steal, doomed to die

I think I'm in love again with the only man who ever loved me 
He was named for a saint, first of the apostles
I couldn't imagine ever loving him again but suddenly I found God and in Him I saw something,
             something old, something new, something borrowed, 
             something—

Once, under a bright blue sky, she left me 
I counted gummy bears in the clouds, sang Disney songs to myself
until the white stitch screeched and pulled apart, begat a bloodied black dome, pulsing
I cried to the trees but they couldn't help me so I sang to the trees but they couldn't hear me,
the straps of the carseat sustaining my little body like the tubes of a ventillator

Does something remain ill-fated if it has already met its fate?
Does the sickness abandon course or does it live on like a phantom limb, atmospheric, 
like a virus on a ghost ship where immortality is less a paradise than a human zoo 

Again I wake up as if there were no possibility of dying 
Again I scroll through political news in bed, open my email where still shelved beneath his name 
            in Gchat are his final words:        I can't sleep
Again I dress myself, feed myself, carve sex appeal into my face so that when a beautiful man looks at me,

my skull floods with the histrionic strings of Vivaldi like a drug yet
                      still I'm afraid of looking behind me  
                      still I'm afraid of closing my eyes 
                      still I'm afraid of the past, present, and future, but
                              
She was always there 
             a hundred times
I was ready to die
             a thousand times
Each time she saved me
             a baker's dozen million times 

An angel, ghostlit fantasy, appearing in the final dark.

We learned the word

for holiday. We went around

the room each naming one.

I said Chinese New Year.

Someone said Halloween.

Then someone said hayrides

at the pumpkin patch

and I imagined myself

on the back of a truck

at dusk, a little drunk

and laughing, knocking

into the side of the wagon

as it swung around

bales of hay. Gold filaments

in the sky like rain.

Who is this small child

at my side? I look at her,

intently because she looks

like me, then at the man

next to her whom I no longer

know. Moonlight binds

our hands in a straight line

from heaven to Earth.

Someone says Thanksgiving.

Someone says Christmas.

Christmas with your parents,

Easter with your friends,

says the teacher. I have friends

I don't spend Easter with,

parents who don't know

my name. I'd never dreamed

of a family before, of a lover

and a child in the same scene.

 

First we installed a tall white cabinet

and filled it with books, records, a cracked vase

we found in Crete.

You said you liked things the way

I did. So did I.

Quickly we added a table, chairs, lamps, then a desk

until there was no more room for a sofa, but I supposed

we weren't sofa people anyway.

You agreed. I took your hand

as we stood on the curb and watched the sky

turn from blue to black.

 

In that certain light I can see again

all the base configurations we attempted

as we tried to think our way out of this

and then that, one lightbulb burning out after another

until it was noon again.

 

Neither of us knew what to do,

so we sold the cabinet

and bought a sofa. It's been months now

and still the books lie open on the wooden floor,

the pages sailing out like moths

in the dark.

 

Because it was April, the tree bore fruit.

I moved picture frames from room to room,

then back until the sun came up.

I closed my eyes and counted to five, then

it was June and the street was littered with apples.

We stack some squares and call this a house.

Celery, milk, bread, and cheese.

Summer fades into fall.

An old woman stops me to ask the time.

I like when old women are like Chinese almanacs.

I don't tell my mother about any of this.

I watch myself from a tree a little longer,

rustle the leaves until you look.

 

I have no housecat, no TV, no lover

I can touch. I sing a song

in a house inside my head and imagine

children sitting around me,

watching in the dark.

 

Some nights I'm scared

I won't be able to sing.

No song but the whir of a fan

half-circling in the bedroom corner

where in my dreams

 

I’m in a valley looking up at the sky,

alien angles of a desert sunset

sparkling violet and bright green,

the line between that world

and this one invisible as an ending

where pain would be not punishment

but reprieve.

 

I have not been visible now for a while.

 

I slipped between the hours, barely touching

the surface of my life.

Time chased me, passing audibly

in the winter. Scratch of an ice skate

circling over the neon buzz

 

of the Hy-Vee. I was trailed

by a beer can in a lake,

shadow of a plane over cornfields,

true blue beauty

 

of a midwestern sunset, landlocked

and unburdened by freedom.

 

Reeds swaying on the bank

as though it were some other place.

 
I was seduced through a window one night
by a man in a large black headset, miming a waltz
in an empty gaming parlor. Rain fell
as I huddled under the frame like a stray,
waiting for a world to open
through a door.

For five minutes, I could work for free
in a sandwich shop, a pet store,
or a pizzeria, which I chose by accident
as he placed the headset onto me,
tightening the straps and asking
if I was OK.

I was OK, but possibly unprepared,
something for which I am prepared due to a life
of frequent relocation, general misfortune,
and poor choices in love…

There was a pizza shop on Geary
that gave children little balls of pizza dough
to knead to pass the time,
clumps of dampened flour

soft as actual angels
in my hands.

From that day on, I craved
its supple pliancy, how it yearned
for the empty spaces
between my fingers.
I dreamed of its meat, its sweetness
in my mouth.

Years later, when I came home,
no one remembered such a place, dark and narrow
in my mind’s eye, dusted in the fine flour
of memory’s electric powder.

There was no photo, no witness,
no evidence to burn
because nothing is real here
except me.

It was summer. We were young,
or at least I said I was, though I wasn’t,
and hadn’t been for years. I thought

I wanted someone young, a new love
to breathe into me another chance at living.
I wanted to feel. I wanted more time.

Out the window, a red bird. A white cloud.
A wedding party exiting a low building,
the bridesmaids in dresses of aquamarine.

The world a gilded box of jewels.
I couldn’t take it, couldn’t stop crying
on the bus. Why are we different

from the rest? That night I recited
to a roomful of strangers a poem
about a younger me, an older heartbreak

from a time when having a job
still seemed like fun. The next morning,
I stood in front of a seventeenth-century still life

of dead geese, cabbages, a quince
arranged in what the curator called
almost mathematical harmony.

Next to it, the decapitated head
of St. John the Baptist on a golden platter.
I was whelmed. I couldn’t think.

I was despairing over someone
who said he saw no future with me.
Why did I even ask?

I walked through galleries
of moody photographs
and marble statues, stopping at a bronze shard

encased in a podium lit from above,
my face reflected in the glass.
“Fragment of a Vessel,” it read.

In the next room, I took a picture
of an impressionist painting, newly moved
by the sentimental strokes of pink and blue

churning against the sunset about to fall
over the city. I followed the light
toward the atrium, low din of footsteps

and chatter growing nearer
and clearer, like the rustle of a new lover
stirring awake beside me in summer.

My mother lives in hotel rooms amidst
unopened boxes of perfumes and creams
and purses, the shrink wrap glinting off her face
like glitter on a child’s. She sleeps among her towers
of Chanel, Celine, McQueen—she has no other lovers,
only me who used to call her. Now I get
no answer. The phone bills pile higher.
On Christmases she gave me plastic bags
of drugstore loot: dishwashing gloves in pink
and purple, blue nail polish with a glimmer.
I wore the gloves as soon as I returned
from school each day. This was how
I loved her: devotion to a specter.
She loved midnight runs to Walgreens,
leaving me alone and frightened.
Now I’m thirty and still fearful
that a man will come at night
but I don’t blame her for my fear of sleep
and dreams without a mother.
Mornings I’d awake to bags of booty
at the door. I can see her drop them
in a hurry, evade one mirror then another,
run to sate her shame with pills which put her out
before I saw her. I have no memories
of this mother. All I wanted was a mother.

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