What I Have Not Done

by Brit Mandelo

Trans-temporal realities‭
are‭ ‬simple.‭
Think of two sisters walking parallel.‭
On each fifth,‭ ‬seventh,‭ ‬or eleventh step
they bump hands,‭ ‬jostle elbows‭;
pushed together by a crowd.
Think of them in a shopping mall‭—
the day before Christmas.‭

I work,‭ ‬am working.
The chop of a knife
(getting a bit dull‎)
through a bunch of carrots,
peeled and laid in a row,
echoes.‭
The kitchen is empty.‭
There is a piece of celery
escaped underfoot
(don’t forget to pick it‎ ‏up‭)
and the counter is littered with
potato scraps.
The sizzle of butter browning
shifts
wobbles,‭ ‬warbles
clarifies into a steam-hiss
and I have‭ ‬slid.

It’s‭ ‬basic:
what I have not done,
I‭ ‬have done,‭ ‬somewhen.‭
The second sister in‭ ‬the analogy
‎(‏remember the crowd,‭ ‬the shopping mall‭)
is this.

I work,‭ ‬am working.
The soft woosh of the burner,
turned low‭; ‬there are no vegetables here.
The worktop is strewn,‭ ‬but
neatly strewn:
cultures labeled in my blocky
clunky,‭ ‬unladylike hand,
and a sugar solution,
and pipettes
(tag on the wall reminds‎
do not use your mouth‭)‬,
and a clock that reads‭ ‬7:34
in bold red numerals.
I close my eyes,‭
smell chemicals,
the sharp clean scouring stink.
As I,‭ ‬this I,‭ ‬think,
timer’s missing,‭ ‬where’d I put it,
I reach to the left‭—
and slide.

The butter has burnt.‭
I move the pan.

And then I sit down on the smudged tile floor,
hands between my knees,
the ghost of me lingering.

Trans-temporal‭ ‬realities are,
as I’ve said,
quite simple.
They are sisters,‭ ‬but
they are not the same‭—
one is a doer,‭ ‬a real smart woman,
and‭ ‬the‭ ‬other’s got nothing but dreaming.‭

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