poetry

Why You Might Want to Use Russian Stacking Animals in Post-Rape Counseling. {poetry}

 

My therapist brought out a set of Russian stacking dolls in our session today. She’s my teammate in post-rape counseling.

Her dolls weren’t little women housing other little women housing other little women. My counselor isn’t that type of woman. Probably the idea of creating mirrored images of women in the maternal role over and over again would spark a great conversation. About what it means to nurture. About what it means to be a woman who is coded with the identity of being a nurturer.

That’s a highly coded image, isn’t it? The baby taking care of a baby taking care of a baby, and so on ad nauseam.

Anyway, no. My therapist’s stacking dolls aren’t babushkas. They’re animals. Animals she identifies with, all housing the tiniest being — the inner child. She uses them as a conversation starter… but she’s fluid, I’m sure the conversation always changes.

We got deep into the conversation of using animals as healers. As teachers. As signposts for identity. For where you might be on the path you’re walking on.

Shit! Look down. If you identify with a fox, you’ve got little paddy paws. If you identify with ravens, you don’t walk so much as hop and often fly. If you identify with porcupines, please be careful of your neighbor. But own your porcupine body, okay? You’ve got every right to feel spiny and thorny.

This is the first time I’ve giggled in my rape counseling sessions. Crow cackled.

As I was leaving, my therapist pointed at my bag, bought in a hip counter-culture black-costumed clientele coffee shop in London, called Blackbird Cafe.

“I like blackbirds,” she said in her beautiful chime-sounding can-save-the-world voice, “because they’re these sort of twilight animals, and they flit in and out… and their call…”

“Do you know about magpies?” I asked.

“No,” she said, “Is it a story? I love stories.”

“Yeah!” I replied.

“Next session?” she said.

“Okay,” I agreed.

There are stories of course, all throughout mythology and folklore. Especially here in England.

One for sorrow, two for joy…”

But I don’t actually know a story off the top of my head.

My therapist tells me I’m progressing rapidly. That I’m working hard.

She laughed at my Yoga mat when I came in, and in military voice said, “Get to the mat!” It’s a joke that could only be shared by people doing really grimy tar consistency emotional work. Or Yoga addicts. I’m both.

She told me I’ve been working hard. She told me to go get an ice cream or something after my session. Rest.

But I’m writing a story about magpies’ stream of consciousness instead.

Cheers to totem animals in healing, they’ve become quite hip in the New Age movement. But there’s a reason why we glean lessons from animals: their actual physical body is more often than
not making contact with the ground. No padding. No Nike shoes. They just do it.

Ouch, that was a bad joke, porcupine.

Animals don’t hide when they’re wounded. They roar or growl or snarl.

This writing has been unedited in the hopes of being closer to the ground.

Magpie

“One for sorrow,
Two for mirth
Three for a funeral,
Four for birth
Five for heaven
Six for hell
Seven for the devil, his own self.” ~ Michael Aislabie Denham, Proverbs and Popular Saying of the Seasons (London, 1846)

1.

The magpie had been experiencing a rather uncomfortable thing lately.
He sometimes woke up and found he was turning into a man.
Eww. Yuck. Smells bad, this whole being-a-man business.
Too much synthetic and too much plastic.

Today was one of those days. Sigh. Tuck the few remaining feathers that had stuck around away. Pull out the jar of vaseline and smoothe them down over the arms.

Damn. The magpie woke up and found he had feet. Looked down and he had feet. Damn.

He walked to the mirror. It was as tall as he was and he could see all of himself.

He stood in the mirror looking, curious, critical, with eyes so black they were like coal. But when he thought a thought, because he was curious, so that was often, the coal lit up.

Little nebula-white stapricks in the corners of his eyes.

He watched himself in the mirror.

Got a little bit frustrated over the fact that even as a mostly-man, he would get looks of utter fear from strangers as he walked down the sidewalk.

Holy Hell, do I have to signal constant catastophe? he wondered.

He opened the attic closet.

Every time he woke up as a man, he found himself living in this same steely gray Victorian room. Attic room.
Spiral staircase. Triangular cupboards.

Airspace to feel the wind chap his lips if he wanted.

He opened the attic closet and pulled out one of the seven suits forever and always hanging in the closet.

A black-and-white penguin suit. Real slick.

He pulled it down, he put it on. He looked in the mirror.

Mentally prepared to spook perfect strangers as he plodded down the stairs and opened the door.
Oh, bloody sorrow. Here we go.
Can people really be that terrified of looking certain moments in the face? he thought.
Out the door, no time to waste.
There are curled up smiley lips to twitch.
Turn that smile upside down. And frown.
It’s okay, he thinks.
It’s okay! he wants to shout.
If your cat just got hit by a car, he thinks, you should be sad.
Down the road and off to work.

Time to bring people face to face.

2.

But when he’s made enough people cry into teacups,
He’ll meet… her.
That other one.
Corbae who woke up today as nothing other than magpie.
None of this balancing act.
God, human skin is so disgustingly pink, he thinks.
Couldn’t I have woken up as a beautiful black man?

He sees her.

She sees him.

She’s high up in a tree,
Preening herself,
hopping on one foot to and fro,
from here to there.

She looks black-and-white,
but she’s got these other really sexy iridescent sides to her in certain lights.

They’ve known each other a long time.

They spy each other and down she flies,
to land on his shoulder.

Her claws don’t quite scrape him,
but they don’t quite gentle up either.
“Hi,” she mewls.

“Hi,” he human-voice articulates.

A little old woman has been pulling herself across the sidewalk,
her walker first,
then herself,
her walker first,
then herself.

She sees this handsome strange beaky man with a magpie on his shoulder, and she finds herself overcome.

With teenage urges,
With thoughts of champagne and riding a bike in her penny-pushers,
With remembrances of her best and dearest friend recently deceased,
With the taste of laughter,
and suddenly it’s pooling out of her.

She’s laughing laughter in cacophony,
It’s coming out of her from she doesn’t know where.

The bird and the bird both stare at her quietly.
“What’s gotten into her?” the fully feathered one whispers.

3.

When the old woman’s friend died, she thought a lot about what it meant
to be alive.

When she encountered the man on the sidewalk,
she oddly clocked herself in the masterpiece and scene.

One man,
One corbae Magpie,
One old woman.

Three. More often than not, she had been a twosome.

As she got older and more and more people died,
she was often a one.

And now three.

We are here, she thinks, as three.

Cart, then myself, cart, then myself, cart, then myself,

she keeps walking on.

4.

A baby is crying above them.
A window is open and the tiniest mews are floating down from above.
It’s like the baby is an animal,
and it’s trying to figure out how to be a human.

The old woman remembers watching her firstborn,
Remembered the morning she became acutely aware that she was a co-creator
in this little being’s
experience of experience.

Suddenly it was like she had a magnifying glass
that close-up zoomed
on things like
goosebumps and rashes
and air quality
and cadence
and all… and all…
and all of the small things that make the big things.

The sound is enough to send the magpie up off the shoulder of the man,
to cause the man to stop and stare at the old woman in front of him,
to make the old woman suddenly, for some random reason,
feel like life was starting all over again.

She thought she had politely evaded ever feeling that again.

Nice pantyhose, thinks the corbae.

The swelling in the old woman’s ankles decreases by an amount not visible to the naked eye.

Puff of smoke.

5.

The magpie loses a single feather that falls quietly without sound, in conjunction with the baby whimpering, in conjunction with a woman being born child, and a man shifting bird.
Oh Heaven,
Reverie, this feeling of beginning anew.
There is no catalogue keeping track
of all the things that flew.

6.

Until the mind clicks Fast Forward on the whole thing.

The bird flies off,
The woman is suddenly spooked by this brushstroke with something like magic,
Foreign and unnerving.
The baby falls asleep.
The man is on the street alone, in his suit, laughing over the predictability of it all.
He walks home,
sort of unevenly and with a bit of a limp because
He’s still not used to this whole foot thing.

7.

He looks in the mirror,
spies himself again,
in the attic room.

He walks back to the triangular closet,
He pulls out a set of children’s play angel wings.

He puts them on.
He nods in approval.
Tomorrow he might wake up as a bird again.

***

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Brittany Connors

Brittany Connors

Brittany Connors is an actress, writer, and general life enthusiast based out of NYC. She is a lover of story, text, and all of the various expressions we find to make sense of ourselves and the world around us. She believes all expression is a celebration of this breathtaking existence.