Death Holds My Ficus Tree, etc.

Cover of Planet of the and dog....

What I wouldn’t give to return to the past. You know the myth. So many stories…he goes back in time to prevent a war. But now I’ve changed my mind. It’s pointless. When you go back the ones you love aren’t there. Death’s real estate doesn’t open. You’re simply in another age standing in a thicket.

The personal past is like a garden, it’s different from the scenario above. Death is there alright, but you can hand him a potted plant and tell him to stand still. The one thing death hates more than anything is being forced into a tableau vivant. I pose him at my mother’s burial. He holds a ficus tree. My mother who died horribly because of a botched operation, whose graveside was unattended by anyone really, and then the undertaker appeared and handed me a black trash bag–a fucking Hefty bag–and said, “these are her personal effects from the hospital.” Her nightgown, a teddy bear. And death with the decorative tree. In my little garden death has to hold that thing forever.

Yes of course the personal past is a joke. If you go there it’s like sitting in an armored car without money.

We love the mythic trans-personal utopian past. Zip back in time and prevent the dictator from being born–ha! Mrs. Hitler goes for a walk in the park because you’re there selling balloons and Mr. Hitler, well you know, the Onan thing.

So this trans-personal past visitation theme is also a joke. This is why we love lamps at the windows. Reassurances in the dark! Wanna see my mother’s teddy bear?


As a disabled kid this was always the way of things. I remember the day a substitute teacher (who must have been all of 20) made fun of my blind eyes in an eighth grade math class. “Who are you looking at?” she said, with what today they call “snark”—and my “Lord of the Flies” classmates burst into laughter. I got up and fled the room.

I sulked. All alone. I knew a good place in that school. In the bomb shelter. I wept among empty aluminum water cans with radiation logos stenciled on them.

The crippled kid’s past is without equilibrium.

Your past is also unbalanced.

The writer has to fix this or admit it in just the right way.

I remember rather liking the fact that the bomb shelter was filled with empty cans. I thought: where did the water go?

Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

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