Anxiety of Ten O’Clock by Miriam Goodman

1.
There’s a cloud of noise that’s taken up residence in my head. I bat it away constantly but it refuses to dissipate. I feel like everything is going to go wrong, and I try to tell myself what M. told me earlier during the wee hours: do not die. Then, deep breaths. Count three things I know. One: Patti Boyd was once married to George Harrison and Eric Clapton. Two: it is possible to snap your fingers using your thumb and ring finger. Three: add a marshmallow to the container if you want to keep brown sugar soft.

2.
Before I painted my nails red I was counting the number of polishes on display: sixty-five, twenty of those with glitter, one in matte, and ten ridiculous shades of pink. These are not mine, by the way. But the following are: three pairs of brown shoes, one wooden cat on my desk, and one blue blanket with stars on it. Also, things M. said that are not my fault: bad chemistry in my body, falling apart at the most inopportune times, and what I’m feeling right now.

3.
Last year I chose the exact same seat on two separate planes. When I go to the movies, I am always on seat 19 on the left side, row J. I try to pay all my bills at the start of every quarter, and I mostly clean my studio on Sundays. In some ways this is exactly who I am, and in some ways this is just a part of who I am. I get goosebumps when someone who doesn’t have my permission touches my scalp or the tips of my hair, and I sometimes feel like drowning when taking a shower.

4.
I don’t understand, I say. How will I function, I say. Keep calm, I say. All questions.

Anxiety of Ten O’Clock
Miriam Goodman

Account for all the work.
Do the arithmetic: this much finish
day by day. Feel better. You feel
you’re holding cats under a rug.
You balk, refuse your own assignments,
stalk reunion with your other,
lazy self, this one harnessed
in a soggy woolen swimsuit, body
doughy under puzzle straps. She asks
her one repeating question as if
what you have said definitively were
still unclear. In different ways she asks:
always a but, always a what if.
Always impossible to finish.

—

This is from Poetry, published by the Poetry Foundation, August 1993.

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