The Aleph Bet Gimels
I wrote fifteen different kaleidoscopes of words. People all over the world sent them fluttering back, even though I typed each one in12-point Times New Roman, double-spaced them, and added a header. Then I read what Pablo Katchadjian did with Martín Fierro and “El Aleph.”I decided to alphabetize the American Ladies; the Small Cabbage Whites, I fattened. Of course, no one would get the joke if they hadn’t first read the originals. But I liked them, and Dominic says that’s what matters.
When people sent my kaleidoscopes back, they humanely used the word “declined,” but it was rejection. I looked up “rejection” because Ursula K. LeGuin told me that if you know the name of a thing, you can make it your darling. But the dictionary told me that “rejection” means
“No, thank you, Laura.”Since rejection already knew my name and had made me his darling, I just kept scribbling, scrabbling, and draggling on as before.
I grew desperate: I considered submitting my kaleidoscopes as creative nonfiction. Otherwise, I’d be late meeting Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and N. K. Jemisin on Buttermilk Channel. Instead, Dominic suggested I magic up a micro-kaleidoscope every day on a story that never ends; the idea was Borgesian enough to tempt me.
SoI wrote a seawater-soluble kaleidoscope about blue whales praying the prayer of examen. Then came kaleidoscopes visible only through a microscope in which dark-haired little gentlemen asked, “Is it yesterday? Is it right now?” The last, visible only through a telescope, was about Dalmatiansgetting in the way of jokesters. With wild hope, I mailed them in a box marked “LIVE EASTERN TAILED BLUES,” but The Housefilk Review, Thermophile Magazine, and Union Suits! Quarterly rejected them—my beloved, my be treasured Borgesianismos.
Now I’m not sure what to do. Neil Gaiman and I prefer story-shaped things, but it doesn’t always work out like that. I need to figure it out soon: Russell Hoban’s on his way. When he passes the pink and white concha house, he’ll quote my son: “I think it’s getting late. I think I have to do question marks.” What will I magic then?
I hear my son singing the aleph bet gimels and it hits me: Katchadjian was telling me to zump much more than a kaleidoscope; he was telling me to alphabetize my mind, to fatten my world.
So I magic all myBorgesianismo kaleidoscopes together by their wings so they tell a story about that One Sentence of six words, the Uni Verse. All of us onThe Fair Lamb’s Path are only on the third or fourth word of that Sentence (scholars disagree), and we wonder what sort of punctuation will end it. It makes sense in geologic time, but something is missing.
Dominic says, “Why don’t you put it in a dream?” and that black coffee epiphany solves everything.
Laura magicked this Pipevine Swallowtailkaleidoscopewhile her son jounced in his crib.
See, I told you it was creative nonfiction.
Sangangüey Princessing the Nopales
La Reina arrives in Bayonne and I put out my hand to shake hers, and we shake. And she says,“A woman can circus your continent in one word: mixed. Tell me about Nayarit. Tell me about Euskadi,” but she is so loud I can’t hear her. In xochitl, in cuicatlher fires generate is an alarm for my kind, which is humankind, and my brain, the Zócalo of my dreams, obsesses over her. I have to see her hum and hear herring every night.
She speaks again: “Tell me about Nayarit. Tell me about Euskadi.” And even though she is so loud I can’t hear her, the dances of her stellar flares communicate with the skin on the palms of my hands and the shapes of the letters N-A-Y-A-R-I-TE-U-S-K-A-D-I pilgrim up through my veins, up through my heart, up through my arteries into my brain, the Zócalo of my dreams,and I dream awake about the old world which is in my language that I haven’t yet learned with Sangangüeyprincessing the nopales and her little brother Ceboruco singing couplets downstairs, and I dream awake about the new world which is in a language I didn’t know I knew with El Río Oja stirring herself like intxaursalsa in a saucepan with her big brother El Río Ebroswimming his body like a blue aingira, singing themselves up through my veins, up through my heart, up through my arteries into my brain, the Zócalo of my dreams, and I reply, “But will that make me any more Náayeri or Wixáritari? Will that make me any more Mexican? Will that make me any more Basque?”
And I reply, “Does it matter that Nayarit birthmarked me en mi cuello and Euskadi en mi hombro izquierdo? Does it matter that Nayarit birthmarked my son en su pie izquierdo and Euskadi en su esternón? My body knows something I do not but who does that make me?”
And I reply, “If I am that woman—which I am not—who can circus my continent in one word, then there is one more word: lost. What came before Santiago Ixcuintla? Nobody knows.”
I think I’m answering myself but I’m answering La Reina, who within hours will sing the same in xochitl, in cuicatl to a woman in Tepic and who hours ago sang the same in xochitl, in cuicatl to a woman in Artziniega, but she is so loud they can’t hear her and they think they are answering themselves, and every night when we see La Reina reclining over JFK Boulevard, over Calle Miñión, over Ametzola Hiribidea, we wish that we could hear her.
Laura Arciniega holds an MDiv from Beeson Divinity School. Her work has appeared in Rascal Journal, Saint Katherine Review, is this up, FIVE:2:ONE Magazine, and elsewhere. Laura lives in Southern California with her husband and son. You can find her online at lauraaliciaarciniega.wordpress.com and on Twitter @LauraAArciniega.