Clairvoyance by Kimberly O'Connor
Tracy Haack on today's bonus essay: Kimberly O'Connor pairs unexpected images to simultaneously grow and shrink the world. Her writing slows time to give the soul a moment outside of the body, a moment to look back and see what we have done and what we will do. O'Connor invites us to ask: Were we right?
It Is Dizzying To Have These Eyes My friend who is learning to be clairvoyant says the soul’s greatest hope is to enter a body. When a soul enters a body, it’s thrilled. It’s like the best thing that ever happened to a soul. My other friend who is an accountant doubts that. She says it’d be better for a soul to be separate. Why would the soul want to deal with a body? A soul can’t drink wine, I point out. We are at a wine bar. The soul can’t run and jump, see colorful leaves, etc. She’s not buying it. But I believe. My friend’s friend who owns the wine bar brings us more wine, for free. Pear, she is saying, and honey.
A Hundred Dead Bees The world we cannot heal, that is our bride are words from a poem by Alicia Ostriker that I have written on a Post-It above my desk, which is another way of saying everything is everything—the soul returns to the one, my friend says—but it made me feel better. The poem, I mean. About not being able to do anything about the bees, about driving past people with signs saying Anything Helps without giving them money or even waving. How lucky, to be me instead of them.
I Become Myself I am telling the story of visiting my friend’s clairvoyance class to our other friend. It’s a real class, one I would like to join. They did a reading, not of my future, more like my present. My auras. Were they right? she asks. Well, they said I had a lavender rose, with one leaf. Leaves correspond to number of children so that’s right. They also said I had an outdated belief that women can’t be powerful. Is that true? It probably is. Around the same time I had a chance encounter with an Indian fortune-teller. Like from India? Yes. And she said in the fall I was going to get a new job, but I had to think big. Don’t think about being in a fishbowl, she said, think about being in an ocean. That was first, before I visited the class. And at the class they said I was swimming in scuba gear. And I was frustrated because I wasn’t getting anywhere. Because what I couldn't see was that I was in a fishbowl. This is a good story, and true, but she looks skeptical.
Violence That Trespasses I tell my other friend her hair is beautiful, and she gasps and covers her head with her hands. It’s—she pauses—well, thank you, but we’re going away next week, and after that there’s my presentation, and I need to make an appointment. In the light of the wine bar, her hair looks like gold. This was before my friend said that about the voice of the soul as the voice of God. Maybe if it had been after it would have been different.
A Very Small White Cloud It’s difficult, to love the body. It’s difficult to live in the world. Already today I could tell you a hundred sad things. It’s not true that in a firing squad, only one gun has a bullet. It’s only one gun that doesn’t. This year one of my students has a bruised face. I hope his soul is still happy to be with his body. I hope his life gets better so he can look back from the end and be happy. Like looking out the window of an airplane. The world growing smaller and bigger at the same time.
[Author’s note: The italicized section titles are from Andrea Rexilius’s Half of What They Carried Flew Away.]
Kimberly O'Connor is the Young Writers Program Director for Lighthouse Writers Workshop and was Lighthouse's 2013 Alice Maxine Bowie Fellow. Her poetry has been published in Copper Nickel, Colorado Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, Inch, Literary Mama, Mountain Gazette, The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume VII: North Carolina, storySouth, Tar River Poetry, THRUSH Poetry Journal, and elsewhere.