Folie à Deux
In the zoo of blue, children stare at no sky, their eyes dead as disco balls. The children sit on their jellied rumps and sweat from lack of effort. Sometimes they do not seem to be aware of one another. Sometimes, they huddle together despite the heat to writhe like maggots.
During one of these pornographic displays I turn to my sister and ask, "What do you think they feel?" Estie is gray from neglect, not mine. She leans closer to watch their pasta bodies pressing close and twisting round. "Weren't we like that?"
"No," I say, "Never like that."
"But I remember the blind rubbing," she insists. She is right, naturally. There had been blind rubbing. There had also been apathy and rolling-overs and seeky behaviors of a hundred types. "Yes," I admit. "There was some rubbing, blind." The difference though, I tell her, and try to make her see the profound nature of this nuance, is that ours was back then and in the dark.
In the dark one retains plausible deniability and history is, of course, malleable.
My sister Estie knows me to be smarter-than-she, but she is the one, of the two of us, who knows why smarter-than-she is how to say it. Grammar is just another trick of the obscurantist. More dark. I insist that she correct me. Over and over I insist on this. I am committed to our education. It is why we have come here, to the zoo.
We hold hands while the children teem and knot. "What a great horde," Estie whispers, and her squeeze of admiration courses through my knuckles.
We like the same things, Estie and I. But we are not the same. I find this interplay endlessly fascinating.
When the day is over, I leave some quarters for the children. The signs say not to feed them, but quarters are not food. Estie and I watch some of the more adventurous toddle up to the bars and slip the discs into various slots. We laugh, they are so funny. My sister says, "What goes in..."
I say, "Must come out—"
We finish together, as we are wont to do.
We are the same, Estie and I. We are on the outside and the world is nothing to us. Distantly, I am aware that one thing we cause might be called pain. In boats it is the wake; a wake is also a kind of funeral. It can mean the very nearly opposite of dream. Estie and I do not dream. Pain comes in those—and pain is something only to deliver. Once I told Estie how children are born, but she wouldn't have it. We may watch, one day, a birth. Such intensity might pose a thrill. If I faint, my sister will have salts. We have passed each other out before and then resurrected, but the headaches upon re-reaching life are not trifling, so it has been a time. We have been in one of our phases: science without art. There is no doubt that we will once again move—from audience to zookeep to kept, from subject to object to abject, from liver to spleen to gall. This is the only way we have found to maintain interest, and we try to let each new shift surprise us.
Today, when we return to the tip-top of our skyscraper we look through the wall which is glass. If anyone else were up where we are, they would see us. We would be in their zoo. But there is no one, and so we fit priceless nothings into our nothings and grow empty. The purpose of consumption is to increase the size of the orifice. Our eyes are so big, Estie's and mine. We see and feed and see.
Kirsten Kaschock is the author of four poetry books and a chapbook: Unfathoms (Slope Editions), A Beautiful Name for a Girl (Ahsahta Press), WindowBoxing (Bloof Books), The Dottery (University of Pittsburgh Press/winner of AWP Donald Hall Prize), and Confessional Science-fiction: A Primer (Subito Press). Coffee House Press published her debut speculative novel-- Sleight. She teaches at Drexel University.