“The Frame of a Couch Is Not a Couch” by Karen Skolfield
The bricked-up fireplace doesn’t even pretend. We could start a fire on the hearth, but then what? In front of the Hotel Lewis and Clark, the Walk sign’s stopped working. For ten years I haven’t seen my father. Every public building has an exit plan. He forwards emails: “The Grandmother of All Blond Jokes.” Heidegger said we must abandon logic to understand the nature of Nothing. The Blond: always a woman. The therapist I dumped said an abusive parent is still a parent. The fear of Nothing is angst, while the fear of Something is smarts. The heat in the hotel’s so high that the windows tremble with it. In coaches’ training, a video on power and predation in sports. We learn: predators spend months preparing a child and, more importantly, the child’s parents. Grooming: sitting in front of a mirror with a favorite brush, and also. There’s a little crack of blue in the sky, clouds without the protection of mountains. Another email from my father: “How To Stop Domestic Abuse,” a joke that includes beer and Southern sweet tea. At 10 degrees the snowflakes form stars; at zero, hexagons. The wife tells the doctor her husband has been clobbering her. The doctor tells the wife to swish with sweet tea the moment her husband comes home. At minus 10 degrees, triangles within triangles, the world’s smallest yield signs. At minus 20, snow columns shaped into billy clubs or baseball bats. “It worked! she tells the doctor. “I swished and swished the sweet tea, and he didn’t hit me.” The doctor says, “See what happens when you keep your mouth shut?” At minus 30, miniature pyramids of ice which even the mummies have abandoned. A friend said that calling an abusive parent “monster” does a disservice to real monsters. At minus 40, the threshhold of no precipitation, no matter how heavy-bellied the clouds. Truth, Heidegger believed, is always both concealing and revealing. One to two feet of snow expected between here and Tennessee: the whole of the eastern seaboard, covering up.
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Karen Skolfield’s Artist Statement: Karen Skolfield’s book Frost in the Low Areas (Zone 3 Press) won the 2014 PEN New England Award in poetry. New poems appear in Boulevard, Carolina Quarterly, Crazyhorse, Guernica, Slice, Washington Square Review, and others; Skolfield is an Army veteran and teaches writing to engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.