While Watching Ice Dancing, I Contemplate Mortality

German ice dance. Image courtesy of Library of Congress.

We must endeavor to be our pastoral selves. I am looking into
the refrigerator. I am thinking of Mr. Rogers. Before bed I listen
to him being impossibly gentle through my headphones. I wake up
thinking of my friends and their great powers. Ministry of the absurd.
Ministry of sleep. Ministry of living very close to mortality, of
races on wheels close to the ground. I sleep, when I sleep, in two
halves most days. In this way I resemble my medieval forebears.
In most other ways, I do not. My food is packaged. My lambs,
figurative. If I ice danced, I’d dance to that Aimee Mann song
that goes, Call the cops, call the cavalry. I would be on my game,
but only my witch friends would notice. I emerge from my room
two hours before school pick up. I tend to my face with sea salt and kelp.
Here I should mention my curious childhood in order to break the bourgeois
spell of the lyric poem. But I’m late to pick up my antidepressants,
then almost late to pick up my child. He is small and Edwardian,
in his green t-shirt and jeans. What was the delay? he asks.
I went to the pharmacy, I say. I got you Goldfish. He is satisfied then.
His world is as simple as getting to hold the whole bag of Goldfish,
of getting a children’s magazine in the mail. Really, at breakfast
he looked at his father and said, Are you black? They discuss being
mixed. A long, long time ago, when Martin Luther King lived,
black people were not given rights, and white people were given rights,

our son explains. We tell him what a short time this long time ago was,
tell him his grandparents were alive. He is stumped. He watches cartoons
after school, and I lift an aromatherapy package to my face and wonder
about the word camp-horous. How mysterious. Camp Horous. Egyptian?
I will cleanse the psychic field. I will be fresh, foresty, and camphourous.
We must skate our routines while we can. Time is short.

Joanna Penn Cooper is a poet and essayist who is the author of The Itinerant Girl’s Guide to Self-Hypnosis (Brooklyn Arts Press) and What Is a Domicile (Noctuary Press). She lives in Durham, North Carolina.
Explore Related Content