Liz Scheid


We think parts of the brain used to actually perceive an object and to imagine an object overlap
Live Science, November 2004

Say I’m: [hyper] 1: above: beyond: super. As in: there’s someone knocking on my door, no it’s knuckles cracking, a distant thumping, walking. They’re wearing boots, all of them, how many are there? 2 a: excessively hypersensitive: One of them is peeling paint from my hallway to keep as a reminder, a speck of blue dust inside a sealed jar. And three are talking, their voices are closer, further, here now: their breath seeps through the crack of my bedroom door. I heard one of them say it, he said [vigilant]: watchful. As in me, acutely aware: my daughter’s hair, fine thread between my fingers. And there are two ways out: a window or door? Rehearse: once outside: run toward back fence: slip through broken board. Remind yourself: she might resist, flail her arms and legs, unknowingly. It will be dark. Point to stars. Tell her: there are pine trees on the other side.

I’m aware of my [paranoia]: A psychosis characterized by systematized delusions: distant sirens that aren’t really ringing, a voice not really calling out my name. Referring to the epigraph above, a later sentence states, the key to remembering that something was imagined, when we recall it is the context surrounding the memory: my lover sleeping next to me, the fan blowing in monotonous circles, or the point at which I sipped cold water, clinking the ice inside the glass and thought: this could be my [imagination]: the act of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never wholly perceived in reality: at which point I snapped my fingers and said, this isn’t real. Almost simultaneously, I also said, but it could be. And as it turns out, nobody knows for certain which is which. All I know is what I retained: the sound of fingers tapping wood, a soft humming, a guttural whisper, and a conflict in my head whether to move my arms or legs or fall asleep, both of these desires overlapping.



All month I’ve been drawing lines between nature and myself. Usually I’d keep my windows open to let the smell of wet grass drift in. Lately I’m sealing cracks, shutting blinds, not letting anything pass through.

Last night I awoke to something touching my wrist—a slight whisper, like a scratch or a loose strand of hair brushing against me.

Perhaps, I should have begun with the closet. There were cobwebs, it was dark and it smelled of musty clothes. Really I don’t remember this. What I know has been told to me by my mother. When I was five, a neighbor, who once carved her name in our porch, would babysit me and push me into a closet, placing spiders on my arms.

It’s easy to think in beginnings, to speak in terms of reflexes. Often my husband describes our relationship as such: give and take, he’ll say. He’ll lightly scratch my back until I fall asleep if I rub his temples first. This equals that—

The truth is: I’ve never trusted equations.

I’d like to know what happens before someone snaps. As in: the mother who filled the bathwater too hot for her own fingers to touch, her body arched over one side, her toddler calling in the distance.

Or the 12-year-old who couldn’t swim, and stared at the lake, its water gleaming like black glass before her, and imagined her body slipping through.

At 20 months, my daughter is afraid to go under water. She hasn’t learned how to hold her breath, to let her head fall under, close her eyes and surrender to water. In the bathtub I show her how to hold her breath by blowing lightly into her face, how to move her arms in wide swoops against water. When the water goes up her nose, she gasps and cries after. I want her to see the line between beauty and danger, how blurry it can be but how defined it also is.

What I remember are hallucinations: waking in nights, swatting at spots in air, my skin twitching, shadows crawling across the floor. My mother would pin my arms down and say, It’s not real.

My daughter touches her finger to the light bulb and pulls away. A red blister appears.

Yawning, for instance, is innate. First, you’re watching the branches sway, clouds split apart, and the sky opens with light. Then your head tilts as your mouth opens to yawn.

People often define a mother’s love as unconditional. Her body splits open, releasing her newborn, covered in fluid and blood. Suddenly the mother is holding her child, its body slipping between her arms.

The truth is: black widows don’t bite unless disturbed. Their webs are like strings on a violin. If you bump them, they’ll feel a vibration.

Which is how I would describe the sensation on my wrist—a slight vibration.

What I want is an ending but sometimes it’s not clear what I know until it pulls me inside, forces me to the floor, to the moments when I held my head in between my knees and waited for the sound of a door opening.



On HYPERVIGILANCE: In general, I’m hypervigilant. But really my hypervigilance surfaced when I became a mother. One night, I documented my fabrications & delusions to the point where I didn’t know what was real & what wasn’t. The form was inspired by Jennifer Sullivan’s, "Bedroom," in Issue 7.2.

On RECIPROCATION: I watch the news too much & become too emotionally involved. This poem attempts to try to understand human nature—how some things seem inevitable, some things seem learned & how blurred these lines can become.