“A: Another Biography” by Caroline Fernelius

Painting of red melting ice cream and blue drops of water on a yellow background

A: Another Biography

Strange now to think of you while I walk on the sunny pavement of the arcade winter in Michigan clear winter noon and I’ve been up all night, talking, talking, reading Walt Whitman aloud listening to Miles Davis blues shout blind on the phonograph the rhythm the rhythm and your cold cracked hands in my head as I barreled through the triumphant stanzas aloud and wept realizing how we suffer1

Ten o’clock in Mexico City and I cannot get over Allen Ginsberg and the boys on the metro how
they fan their blue legs in the heat one after the other an accordion of youth and attraction
spelling sex Texan oil reserves the fine print of becoming and you mommy waiting in the south
for what hand gripping pollen soaked table and picking alternately at the cuts at the knee purple
radiance your eyes trained on the back door (for what) and thinking now of San Antonio of bars
with green plastic awnings and the shootout you stopped by virtue of your very red hair (you
said and I said) 

Dear mommy, I did something bad but I did it for you took an antique hatchet to the woods
behind my house destroyed in a singular motion the notion of Midwestern Americana took it to
bat with my coffee hands and then it was Sunday and I rested
And then it was Monday and I rested some more 

(Strange then to think of you in Bologna my ears swollen from a trip to the supermarket prepaid
phone card back on the apartment desk and black heroin alley on the way back)

Strange then to think of you in Paris my collar coming undone on the Rue de Rivoli and a yellow
haired woman on the television baring her tiny pink breasts
my copy of Lucien Febvre’s Life in Renaissance France an omen you returned unread
(O mother I should have known) 

Strange then to think of you in Boston my hair short and wet in February snow dairy free
artisanal ice creams by the bay and a post-it note you Fedexed to my hotel containing simply an

Read this you wrote and I wrote in response surely 

Strange then to think of you in Durham the hair on the back of my knees dampening and yelling
ghost in the basement of the Social Sciences (SS) Building 
the fire escape up top structurally unsound a metonym for glory and the heating unit drip drip
dripping itself into fugitivity the opposite (not the undoing) of sound

Strange then to think of you in Charleston (on this I have nothing else to say)

Strange then to think of you in New York piss drunk at the Gramercy Park Hotel and my dying
conviction that red velvet curtains could save the world plush negotiators of time and space that
bind and bend my companion said no 
and I hailed the first cab I could get the entirety of Lexington Ave a single brush stroke then of
steelredsteel (scrambled city) seven o’clock in the morning and I felt the tail end of tipsy
triumphant really fucking sad for the crows (this was the first time I had ever really thought
about them) 

Strange even to think of you in Cambridge 
o holy, holy night 

Strange to think of you in LA sad sad city city of duende city of hysteria-born sugarspun
centerpieces and the ink 
the ink leaking everywhere Huntington Beach with its freaks and the fire hydrants stomping out
all dissent across the rues and the boulevards 
(A mortal city revealed then in the string of drunken tail lights across from the Hollywood Hotel)

Mother mother, they should have known. Dipped their work boots in sheep’s butter and thought
the holy land more than idea only gave it more than idea only gave it their coins their cracked
craftsman hands thick vials even of their wives’ menstrual blood took a hatchet to go and you
don’t need me to tell you that when they got there everything was all yellow. 

1 Allen Ginsberg, “Kaddish,” (1957-1959)

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Caroline Fernelius’s writing has appeared in Your Impossible Voice, Storyscape Journal, Burningword Literary Journal, White Wall Review, Faultline Journal, The Decadent Review, and other venues. She lives in Ann Arbor, where she is a doctoral candidate in English at the University of Michigan and nonfiction editor at the Michigan Quarterly Review. She Tweets occasionally @CLFernelius.

“A: Another Biography” is excerpted from Yellow Things: A Family Operetta, a finalist in Wax Nine’s 2021 Chapbook Contest sponsored by Koyama Provides.

Felicia Douglass is an artist and musician based in Brooklyn, NY. She produces her own solo project and plays in Gemma, Ava Luna, and Dirty Projectors. She has done visual work for artists such as Bartees Strange, Video Age, and Talib Kweli.  You can find her at www.feliciadouglass.com and on Instagram or Twitter @feldou.