Metamorphosis: Leaving the Narcissist’s House
This story begins at altitude.
You, after the years of silence, loneliness, learn
to navigate by the senses left to you. Fear gives off
a rotting smell, but there’s also joy, which comes
in fleeting whiffs and smells of lilac trees.
The thought that something grows here sustains you.
A feeling of rough unfinished walls chafes against your skin,
but also there is cool at the spot in the floor where you press
your head those days when it’s about to split open.
The eyes still detect shadow. The walls haven’t blocked everything
you’re sure. At night the shadows become monsters;
some mornings they are dark calm places. You think
how everything tastes like dust – still, you remember honey.
And once in a while, above your head, something starts to crack.
Infrequent to the point you’ve often doubted
that you heard what you heard. But the sound is in the ceiling –
or on it – coming more often.
Something in this room, a space you’ve outgrown, starts to give.
He used to say, ‘No one feels the way you do’
and you couldn’t find a soul to refute what you knew to be false.
He’d blame you for the changes in mood, the hopelessness
in his expression, the ache in his knuckles.
Some will say he locked you here and while he may have
been the reason – you came here to preserve what was still alive,
pulsing below the surface in the dark spaces.
Today the cracking sounds grow frequent, a quickening drum
beat of wood beams splitting, of plasterboard pulling
apart and turning to dust. The thought of climax terrifies you
who’s noticed no more taste of blood, no shifting of teeth,
no swelling, no pushing out behind the bones. Invisibility –
you wondered if it was your superpower. But what could you do with it?
You could find space to find the things he told you didn’t exist.
The cracking noises are faster now. When it happens it hurts –
so much you shield your eyes. The light pushing through
a pinhole, focused into such a beam it might be cutting into your mind.
Then, something softens. There’s a warmth you don’t know,
a crack big enough you almost see what’s on the other side.
Someone maybe is breaking through. But no – it’s just you,
alone, outgrowing your container
Born at altitude.
You think you hear laughter in the distance. It’s been so long.
A circle of people dancing in the distance. It’s laughter.
Or maybe it’s screaming. How do you tell the difference.
You will. You will. No one is around to tell you differently.
You peek over the shell of your old life, scan the surrounds.
Everything dry. Seems dry. But there are specks of life. An alley cat,
ribs showing, finding food on the ground, daring to live.
It’s matted frizzled hair. A sunflower rises from a crack
in the ground, there’s still some green and gold.
Your gaze moves closer. And you see him. Looking much the same
as the last time. In front of the mirror, stone like. You wonder
if you touched him now if he’d turn to dust.
It only saddens you for a moment and then you see.
Past him and in the reflection. Petals shine like gold. It’s you in full bloom,
feet still searching for steady ground, but alive. Born at altitude.
Everyone you believe eventually leaves, taking their answers with them.
They haven’t taken your answers, sprouted from the bones of the old.
From here you can discern, what supports life what doesn’t.
You can see you’re not alone. You can feast on the residue of myths
crumbling beneath you, beginning as you are, at altitude.
D.A. Gray is the author of Contested Terrain (2017) and Overwatch (2011). His poems have appeared in The Sewanee Review, Grey Sparrow Journal, The Ekphrastic Review, Comstock Review, Still: The Journal and Wrath-Bearing Tree among others. He holds Masters Degrees from The Sewanee School of Letters and Texas A&M-Central Texas. Gray now teaches, writes, and lives in Central Texas.
The Ekphrastic Review
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