May 1, 2012

Erik Campbell

Genesis 2:19

Work wouldn’t have understood his mission’s delicacy,
and why he needed to be naked on Monday instead
of at the office, buttoned-down and pressed, in order
to play Garden of Eden, to be The Gardener, weeding

out words that just didn’t fit. He decided to call in sick
last night, after his wife slammed the door. That is
the sound of hope losing its feathers, he said after, aloud
to the hallway mirror which insisted on underscoring

his wrong. The door sounded nothing at all like slam,
he thought. Perhaps thak. And when the mirror ended
up smashed it didn’t surprise him that the glass didn’t
make the sound of succor. But when he later labeled

his cat Meow before bed things seemed a bit better,
the very air made windy with honesty. Renaming things
naked in his kitchen the next morning the phone kept
ringing, but he hadn’t named it yet (he knew ring would

be small, cliché) so it couldn’t be answered. Although
rechristening nouns in his cupboards and drawers took
all morning (turning on every appliance and listening
for verity, dropping each piece of flatware on the floor;

so many silver sounds, he thought, compounding this
crucial list), the concrete nouns were nothing compared to
the abstract—although he did manage to successfully rename
“justice” phoosh while drinking coffee, just after “cook”

became siss. And so softly he progressed through the audible
afternoon. The coffee soon became brandy, which shortly
became shllip. By 4 PM she still hadn’t returned (although,
he surmised, she may have phoned). At 4:30 he struggled

to give “pathetic” more precision and failed. At 5 he decided
to call his office (having momentarily dubbed “phone” ring
for utilitarian, not honest, reasons); his secretary answered
the ring with an easy hello, followed by a deep sigh, sibilating

through the receiver. “How did you know it was me?” he asked.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “Who’s calling?” It was almost enough
to make him go upstairs and get dressed, but the stairs were still
nameless, dangerous; he hadn’t a clue yet where they might lead.

from Rattle #28, Winter 2007