Between the Lines

Five-Minute Visit in Tokyo

Clean, clean, clean!  The white sheen! Always new!
Without shadow! What’s inside it? What enticed us to its perfect

totality? There was nothing to see. Yet it drew me closer. A room
asan absence of color.  Egg white. Newborn eye. Cumulous cloud.

“Doctor” in a lab coat (Always new!Without shadow!)entered
the scene. Clean, clean, clean! The white sheen.A door clicked.

Tugged a cloth-screen on hooks. A screech. A narrow box.
White as a face under streetlamp. A milky wedding dress.

A Risperdal calendar on a wall:  the nuclear family parade,
clasping hands in a row through a field of daffodils.

Bedsheets that hissed and dripped on asphalt mid-afternoon.
Tableclothsspread atop long tables. Folded napkins. Swans.

A clown face in the lesser third ring. “You’ve seen Rainman?”
That dish full of lollipops on strings was missing. The shell

of a boy’s breathing beneath his distant regard. No touch needed.
A mid-day traffic stop. Tokyo taxi driver gloves grasped the wheel.

Cicadas screeched train’s arrival and departure. A promise
of definition, of a label, of explanation. Clean, clean, clean!

The white sheen! Always clean!  “He could become one of those
institutionalized for life.” A celebrity of sorts. My beautiful

two-year old son, without sound, sat bare chested on a table.
“I’ll send you Ritalin in the mail if Japanese doctors refuse.”

White noise. My head tolled like a bell, no, no, no. His white coat swept
us out the door. He asked us to leave through the hallway quietly,

down the back stairway, to leave no trace, as if we were thieves.
From his ledger of those who visited him, he erased our names.

 

 

How to Save a Soul

The experts teach how to save his sad soul
since he acts in ways rarely seen on earth,
in that he laughs so loud, without control.

Sometimes even diamonds turn to coal
if doctors stare too long at one boy’s worth.
Experts teach how to save him. This sad soul.
           
My eyes weave in and out a buttonhole:
Who’s right, who’s wrong, what’s right begins to blur
sight of my son who laughs without control.

Teachers watch him as if he’s on parole.
They eye him and are strict, silent, and terse.
As experts, they know how to save a soul.        

Whom he meets,good or bad:a random dice roll.
Some emphasize his weakness, cite the dearth
ofhis ways. A normal mind and body could control

itself in such circumstances. Cite the great toll
their watch takes on the quotient of their mirth.
Experts are trying so hard to save his sad soul
fromthat laugh. It’s loud and beyond control.

 

 

Remember This

Note to self: Get ant poison. The colony invaded weeks ago. They swarm underfoot in tight frenzied units, glomming onto any stray crumb or juice splash they find.

Our son draws ant-sized drawings of ants on his homework sheets. He shouts “Dirty ants!” or “Ant City!” He doesn’t talk like most kids. He draws pictures in the air with his fingers. I am always asking what he’s drawing. Once it was his school’s elevator. He’s allowed to ride it on Tuesdays when the speech therapist takes him to a small room. His passion for riding the elevator and his devastation of it being denied taught a lesson, “Sometimes yes; sometimes no.”

Once he said he was drawing the neighborhood, so I gave him a piece of paper. He drew out the windows, doors, house numbers, and pointed out which ones had “tall chimneys.”

One week he peered into the neighbor’s kitchen and kept darting outside to tug at their front door. Finally, accompanied by Dad, he knocked on their door and asked what we taught him to say, “May I come in, please?”  

Through the side window I watched him zigzag through their house, his face terrified with joy. He stopped short at one window, facing me. We stared at each other across the distance between two houses.

Our son leaps like a rabbit at dusk while I tug a bed sheet over cucumber blossoms. What part of the human soul allows him to be so happy, so free?Tucking him in one night, I asked what he was writing out furiously with his hands. “I will save the earth,” he said.

When the next expert expounds predetermined destinations for him, I’ll remember this. I’ll spell out each word with my finger in front of their resinous faces. I’ll spell it out over and over in the startled air between their open mouths and my own toothy grin.


Rebecca Dosch Brown lives in Minneapolis with Andre Brown, a.k.a. Pranatronic, an electronic composer, and their son, whose name is “sun” in Japanese.  She has taught creative writing at Japanese and American universities and as poet-in-residence in Detroit public schools. More writings and her art can be found here.