What Is Done After All The Undoing

I wouldn’t say what I wanted, when I wanted things, which was rarely. So the not-wanting brought me here, where they used to prepare the dead to be buried and now try to prepare the half-dead to push themselves out of the underworld. It is a maze of doors & wainscoting, this high-up place. Sparrows trill lies, mercy, lies in the five maples the undertaker planted for his long-dead daughters—when the clients lay down & didn’t fight back. Grates set into the floors to conduct liquid away from bodies. Each door here opens to a room with walls somehow tilted sideways.

All day, the radio clatters along, plays the same JCPenney commercial every twelve minutes. Mornings, we half-dead walk to the clinic alone. We walk back to our rented beds in a cluster, arms swinging in tandem. We do not talk but we share cigarettes. Sometimes, going home, we wander through the park like the undertakers’ daughters would, thread our limbs and hair between the elms.

Imagine being trapped, being responsible; imagine knowing which is which. Imagine all past damage being undone through talk, through liquid and food being threaded into bodies. If you talk, heat comes out. If the vents are cleaned out, they won’t smell like dust & heat. If you eat your cereal piece by piece, it will last longer. Doing this is a way of making time talk back & spin. We had been walking for a long time, before. We’ve lasted longer than we thought we would. We learn to knit, so that at least our hands can move.

On the couches, we wait for time to move, or God, or lunch, whichever comes first. Behind our sternums hunches a place where wet linen’s been twisted for the last drops of liquid.

We breathe two colors in the morning, blue & yellow. One means acquiescence to restoration, one means a talking-to. The nurse fits the plastic hood to come down over each of our faces, like a sheet over a birdcage. It knows from heat how our tides swarm & break, how much water in each cell. Linked chains of carbon measured for mercy, for glucose.

Static cuts in when someone crosses in front of the radio. Static under our skins, wavering in the mirror, read in the machine. What is done after all the undoing? Does the wandering stop, even if one’s body no longer strays except to rattle around the same six rooms? I want something to be done that isn’t, that can’t be. I’m not sure what it is. I know that there is nothing behind me to restore me to. I want to say: don’t cross me. Untie your hair, your mouth. Turn the radio off. Start walking. Start talking to someone else. Someone who’s not here.

Nina Puro’s work is forthcoming or recently appeared in cream city review, Indiana Review, Harpur Palate, Jellyfish, Pleiades, Third Coast, and other publications. The recipient of an MFA from Syracuse University, she lives in Brooklyn, works in publishing, and is bad at thinking of clever third-person quips to put in places like this.