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Caryl Pagel

(But wait—dream / children aren’t real— / right?—unless they’re a vision?)

It Is With a Pattern as With a Fortress

The waxy strip
peeled back discloses a patterned sticker meant
for pressing gently
to the wall’s dull skin while smoothing
out each irksome
wrinkle by hand (a thumb for precision
along flawed edges—
palms for flattening vast fields of budding
bubbles) the goal
being to line the sliced side of
a lavender or
grass-green leaf’s edge with the brink of
the next such
that one wall of the underused upstairs
bedroom blooms into
a tranquil space—aquatic maybe—underwater woodland
scene or site
of several bright watery gems—an enchanted
backdrop that could
only balance (it seems) the other objects
present: a Moby-Dick
board book whale mobile and pink Himalayan
salt lamp supposed
to—so claims O—expel negative ions
into the air—
a kind of lung care you’d never
have thought of...
This fashionable modern online-orderable boutique wallpaper arrives
in sticky ribbons
that can be removed with minimal effort
when one’s (inevitably
someday) sick of the pattern their old
self picked unlike
the enduring glued designs still observable in
many a grandmother’s
home or most of those that line
this Cleveland Heights
road replete with hundred-year-old “charms” as evidence
of another generation’s
domestic “character”                        The pattern before you is
purple lime blue
periwinkle and navy creating a vertiginous dizzying
effect (one might
claim psychedelic) when accumulated en masse causing
you to recall
all at once the sweet small child
who materialized unbidden
in your dream last night and wonder
if this kid—
(his name was “Winter” like the current
season)—would enjoy
a similar image to contemplate each evening
before plummeting into
his own private slumber...               (But wait—dream
children aren’t real—
right?—unless they’re a vision?)                One should
remain open to
strange repetitions                    Strange repetitions like when last
week you found
yourself mesmerized not by the nursery’s wall
but a small
room of William Morris florals tucked into
the center of
Cleveland’s steamy (in a blizzard) free art
museum—Morris’s show
showing that a single vine carefully rendered
can occur again
and again (and again) (and again) in
what one imagines
must be a text—or textile’s—new
context but really
it isn’t                      It’s just the same shape
re-seen and you
are by now (which is actually then)
a little different
but by now’s now you know the
image clearer or
at least with clarifying bewilderment—eyes scanning
inked pattern in
search of variance—minor mark or error—
sign that the artist’s hand can’t draw
flawlessly the exact
petal twice (thrice) (forever)                        It turns out
of course he
didn’t                     Morris printed—a template preventing haphazard
traces of impatience
in the wooden block’s precise pressure on
layers of etched
leaves—the leaves relying on accurate color
matches stamped in
the correct sections—connecting each stem’s bend
to the next
in a series—the series prioritizing no
individual form but
instead the strength of a group’s union
like—for example—
a Bruegel might—every citizen as irrefutably
relevant to a
bucolic tableau’s panorama as their neighbor is
Some of Morris’s
prints became wallpaper—others are represented in
the deliberately mismatched
outfits of hipsters or on the adorable
(boring) front of
a newborn’s romper because in infant fashion
all patterns are
perfect—perfect as a baby learning one
sound (da da
da da da
) before the whole word
(world) comes stumbling
out                       At your shower you received shirts
blankets wraps and
onesies with a single distinct printed image
(skull boat anchor
or fern) reproduced over and over (ugh
why are breeders
so derivative?) again forecasting the inevitable truth
that soon your
days too will ensue such that the
same thing happens
at the same time—like a predictable
rhyme (pleasing with
little surprise)—the goal being to generate
a collaborative sequence
of habits that feel organic (a way
of behaving consistently
that’s also thrilling) like one who plates
painted flowers in
the same way—day after day—or
measures lines in
units of threes and sevens to reflect
the age at
which they first became the author of
another (a mother?)
as if accounting could provide a protected
path—as if
a poem broken open could sufficiently reveal
the circumstances of
the rowdy doubting mind that wrote it
like the rings
of an ancient pine or the stamped
tiny tiny line
of a new fingerprint’s signature                      The image
of vines and birds—strawberries and thorns—
sketched from sight
on site—like Morris’s—are unlike how
you came to
know of honeysuckle marigold peacock or ivy
which was primarily
through the corporate mass production of pastoral
patterns in fashion
as now Winter will learn of his
namesake through hearsay
and research—stories of six-foot snow drifts—
illustrations of ice
floes on plastic bottles—capitalist tragedies—rumors
of the moods
of the coolest polar vortexes via literature
and experimental film
(or his parents’ whims)—Winter (not presently
in existence)—will
soon snooze to the low hum of
a white noise
machine’s subtle lullaby as opposed to the
messy orchestral cacophony
of backyard crickets—sonic density growing scarce—
noise scales muting—
the strata’s data demonstrating abnormality’s prominence over
previously reliable historical
pattern...                        But don't wreck this room (yet)
with prediction                      Just
stare without purpose at the wall for
a while...
                                               at the wall...
                                                                                               for a while...

Caryl Pagel is the author of the forthcoming book of prose Out of Nowhere Into Nothing (FC2, fall 2020) and two collections of poetry, Twice Told (University of Akron) and Experiments I Should Like Tried at My Own Death (Factory Hollow). Pagel is a co-founder of Rescue Press and the director of the Cleveland State University Poetry Center. She teaches in the NEOMFA program.