Caledonia’s Boxes
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Caledonia’s Boxes

 David P. Press
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 David P. Press
Caledonia’s Boxes
by David P. Press  FollowFollow
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David Press lives in Milwaukee where he has taught, run an educational publishing company, sold battery-operated Santa Clauses, and authored...read more six young adult nonfiction books on abolitionists, environmentalists, and such. These days, David writes genre busting micro novels, risky sequences of overlapping, contradictory and non linear nano episodes. Some of these may be read in Fiction Fix, Fringe, Crack the Spine, Cobalt, Burdock, Red Fez and elsewhere. He counts the Brothers Grimm, Bob Dylan, and David Milch among his posse of influencers. Press also writes thirty minute, theater of the bizarre plays, most recently a one act dialog between Psalm boy David and the disembodied head of Goliath. Too, Press enjoys collaborating with musicians and visual artists, most recently a project with photographer William Zuback (http://pen-lens2lens-pen.tumblr.com/) featured in February, 2015 exhibit at Inspiration Studios. Press loves the Fez and its editorial growl. Active in the Milwaukee arts and open mic communities, Press lives with his wife, Petra, an art teacher, printmaker and book artist whose works are exhibited nationally. They have collaborated on a series of ‘zines and a post card novel. See his web site, www.languageliberationfront.com.
Caledonia’s Boxes
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THE WRITER IMAGINES himself writing. At a table. By candlelight. In a small room. In a stone turret. In a castle. At night. The candle is almost burned down. Wax covers the candlestick. He looks up and squints out the arched window. He decides to add a gargoyle, no, make that two small gargoyles to the outside of the window at the corners of the sill. Pats himself on the back. “Nice touch.”  He squints out the window into the moonless night forest. Lights flicker with menace through the trees below.

“Goddamn villagers,” he swears.

* * *

Bacall. Bacall discovers Caledonia in the ghostly arms of Joseph Cornell. She hurls a furious spell and changes Caledonia to a plant. “Take that, you bitch.”

* * *

The boxes.  Box #1: a bird’s nest, a key whose lock is long forgotten, a little shard of broken mirror. When he looks at this box, he sees his own face inside the box.

* * *

Caledonia.  Caledonia awakens from a deep sleep into total darkness. She feels him hover above her. She feels the heat of him. She hears his breaths and feels them warm, slow and wet. The ghost of Joey Cornell cups his hand over her mouth and pushes hard. It forms a seal. Caledonia can not scream.

* * *

Box #2: two inches of barbed wire from Auschwitz; a button from a sailor’s coat, a buffalo nickel and a corked vial with three dead bees inside. He weeps.

* * *

Box #3: little tin milagros; el Corazon burning with ecstatic fear; stories only the tortured oreja can hear and pins of truth to pierce los ojos; love and death in the loins of el toro; and la mujer de arrodillamiento with desperate prayers to find guile in terror and inspiration in constraint.

* * *

The ghost. Bacall changes Caledonia to a plant. For all his powers, the ghost of Joseph Cornell can not reverse the spell. But he can do this: he gives Caledonia tiny flowers with a sweet smell and botanical magic to pacify the liver and embroider dreams. Then the ghost of Joseph Cornell presses her flowers and puts them in a box.

* * *

The writer looks at Caledonia’s boxes. “They are all I have left.”  This one has egg shells, an empty box of matches, and the El Boracho card from a Loteria deck. And this one is unfinished, but is wrapped with a map of Venice singed and burned through in places to show shell casings and a swatch of rich brocade within. He hears commotion, sees light flickering through the trees. The villagers advance with bloody intentions.

* * *

The ghost of Joey Cornell cups his hand tight over Caledonia’s mouth. He puts his mouth close to her ear. “Your cunt is a box,” he whispers. “It leads to the inner box of your womb. Your mouth is a box. It opens to the box of your mind. Your left fist, clenched to hit me, is a box that flows from the box of your raging heart.”  

* * *

It was warm but she was cold. She wore blue flannel pajamas. He ripped the bottoms off and crushed them into a ball. He put the flannel ball in a small compartment of a small box. There were other compartments in this box, the box of the ghost of Joseph Cornell. In one compartment was the head of a doll. A wolf’s tooth in another. He put his hand over her mouth so that she could not scream. He whispered to her about boxes. Then he raped her. She was raped by the ghost of Joseph Cornell.

* * *

The ranks of the villagers have swelled to 179. They take up torches and advance through the dark forest against the writer in his imagined turret in his imagined castle. This is a bad story, they shout. You are a bad man, they shout. You use vulgarities in front of children. You equate artistic inspiration with sexual violence. We will stop you from telling this story. They shake their fists.

* * *

Caledonia awakes from a dream where she is locked in a box. One side of the box is glass. She sees out. The ghost of Joseph Cornell looks back. She is tiny.

* * *

Look at this one carefully. This one shows a lock of hair and a clip-on earring with green emerald chips. And here, see this?  It’s the torn corner of an envelope with a cancelled postage stamp. The stamp shows Jacqueline Kennedy and Flannery O’Connor with their arms around Cornell. Their arms are turning into vines, their faces into tree bark. Bacall’s shadow, her arms akimbo, enters the stamp from the lower left corner and spreads to the upper right like a pool of blood.

* * *

No moon, no light, the room in total darkness. Caledonia awakes and feels cold. A curtain rustles. She sits up, pulls the covers to her chin. “Who’s there?”  She sees nothing, but feels hot fertile breaths on her face. Your cunt is a box he whispers.

* * *

The ranks of the angry villagers have dwindled to, oh, about 17. Their torches are burning down. Many are cold, tired, and hungry. To many, the whole thing seems stupid now, and they just want to go home. And there are others who think: you know, this story is not so bad after all. Kinda reminds me of Ovid’s Metamorphosis, Leda and the Swan, you know, shit like that.

So, if they make a movie out of this, maybe they’ll need extras. And who do you think they’ll sign to play that enigmatic writer in the tower?  

* * *

Caledonia disguises herself as Bacall. Her hair waves at the shoulder like Bacall’s hair. Her lower lip is full and red like Bacall’s lip. Her chin and nose and eyebrows taper to points just like Bacall’s, and her face is hidden in half shadow like Bacall’s face is hidden in half shadow. Her voice turns husky, and the deception is complete. She is a dead ringer for Bacall right down to the star burst scar on her mons veneris, the spot where the ghost of Joseph Cornell so loves to rest his cheek. “Joseph,” she says, “you know how to whistle, don’t you, Joseph?”  Her finger curls like a serpent as she beckons him.

* * *

A sepia postcard, cracked and torn, showing a circus sideshow tattooed lady; twigs; a pencil stub; newspaper clippings about fires; seeds.

* * *

I am reflected on the mirror inside her box, and so become part of the contents. And from inside the box I tell stories, stories of escape. This story is a box. It is a painted coffin inlaid with pages of illuminated manuscripts. If you listen to my story, carry a concealed poem. To shoot your way out.

* * *

Caledonia prays: Help me make boxes in the dead of night. Help me to box the unboxable. Grant my boxes the power to draw blood from this rusted bottlecap of miscarriage, to turn broken glass and yellowed sheet music to screeching lust. To turn despair into inspiration and constraint into art. There. See that shadow?  That’s the ghost, the ghost of Joseph Cornell.

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