The Children of Passivity
By Ken Poyner
It is the wife’s job to replenish the monsters in the closet. Her balance is better than mine.
They get out at night and go roaming asunder like underclothes in a tornado. Mornings when we cannot get them all back in I am off running through the neighborhood in my shorts, looking for closet monsters, or even the leavings of monsters. You can track them by their scat. Or by the warmth they leave in morning air, like the impression an old fashioned fire place iron leaves in modern cloth.
I can occasionally round up one, seldom two, and the others are gone: superseded, vaporized in the early air of practicality and the silly science of ordinary sustenance.
And so the wife replenishes them. It does not matter the manner of monster. She stuffs the closet with any generic monster she can find: monsters escaped from other couples’ closets, itinerant monsters, monsters temporarily down on their luck, monsters caught unaware. She knows our tenuous humanity is the sum of our emotional fears. I think that is why I married her.
It is true, about our emotional fears. Look it up if you fail to believe me.
All day the closet monsters stay in place, playing cards or cribbage or listening to pornography on the small radio we let them keep. They gamble, tossing dice against the back wall where our dress shoes usually mingle and mate, cherishing their privacy. It is not a bad closet during the day. The door seals out all but a tinkering of light at the floor sweep, just a hint of contamination.
They know the drill. The wife and I drift into bed and, after any hair pin lustful gymnastics, pull the sheets up under our chins. We look like potatoes in aluminum foil, ready for the straggling coals that have already shot their best into the seduction of the main course. Our eyes are as wide as the headlights of container trucks: spots of reference that can both reveal and blind.
And then the tapping from the inside of the closet door begins. At first an occasional rap: and then an effervescent execution of mixed patterns, as constant as a point between two idle lines.
Usually, the wife fetches the first glass of water. Soon after, I get the second. And later it is a story, an overly drawn tale of when monsters were not relegated to the closet but had their own kingdoms and ate the bones of rivals, and trawled the night for Darwin’s rejected victims, and made blue smoke whenever they wanted to.
When stories end, even I am surprised these lustful shells can be tamed with a snack of pretzel sticks, or sour-cream-and-onion potato chips.
We do our best to be efficient keepers of monsters confined; yet, invariably, one or more slips out of the closet: distracted, one of us leaves the door ajar; or they wait for us to turn the ever glittery knob, and then as many of them flash through at the first crack of light as can crowd into line. There is no need to search for them in the over filled night. For all their mainstream ineffectiveness, being part of the night is what they are bred for, what still remains intact of their sad realms. They blend in like flies in a herd of geese migrating west: you see and hear the geese, you note that they are headed west, but you would not pick out a hitchhiking fly.
I don’t know why they want out. All of us - including the complete, emasculated tangle of them - feel better in possession of a closet full of diminished monsters. Any escape lessens us. If we cannot drag them back, the monsters themselves end up living under the Sixth Street bridge: trying to frighten bums out of a secondhand bag of fries; or spinning dark gravity behind a mother with a grocery sack, hoping for edible spillage. Now and then they apply at the relief organization and you might see a closet monster raking leaves, for not much more than the price of a lunch, outside of the girls’ winsome dorm at City College. I take them back when I can find them. I let the wife make them a good offer. We get them again to be sterile and happy, if only for just a while.
Don’t think it our charity. We at least have monsters in our closet, even if they are undeserving, boring, and taken to ambling off into the night. How many people have no monsters at all? They sleep secure in their beds, the pathetic evenness of their dreams as expected as waking the next morning, as expected as sleeping soundly the next night, as expected as the calculus of their mutually unremembered sex. Who could want that? At least for us there is hope that one day we will have a monster in the closet whose smile is just a bit more than bare testament to his mediocre disutility: that one day his escaping the closet will be no escape at all, but a method of relevance. Living in the possibility of that day makes this drudgery against ungrateful closet monsters worth every sleep abandoned minute of it, worth the investment of our effortlessly rare hope.
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Ken Poyner is planning to do an e-book, “Constant Animals”, to most likely the eternal consternation of the literature illuminati. After 600+ poems and 60+ stories out there in the published world, he would like to clatter a few pans and fry a few bowling pins and perhaps neuter a brick wall, and doing an e-book might be the way to accomplish it.
Labels: Ken Poyner