the basement at nautilus teachings

call me 720-2215
call me 720-2215

1960’s-The dusty charcoal, basement is torture spot number two. My brothers do not ever push me down those hard, slate grey steps. Thank goodness. They decide the damp room at the bottom of the cracked, cement steps is scary enough.
The eleven hard, cold steps to the basement are grey cement and smell moldy and are dusty, dirty, dark and damp, like the mud on the jungle floor after the stampede has passed through on a wild hunt. The switch for the light is at the bottom of the steps. The door at the bottom of the steps does not lock. It creaks and is made of old wood and has a latch handle that is black.
The door is painted light grey and much of the paint is chipped away from age. These missing paint pieces reminded me of dead, crinkled rust colored leaves. No matter how much fresh paint put on it, the wood still resisted the brush stroke, just as the fall leaf resists further nourishment from the sparkling rain drops because it is time to die.
When you enter the basement it is filled with the screens and/or storm windows depending upon the season. The basement is as big as the house. The whole basement has one tiny light bulb that is turned on by a white, woven string hanging from the water colored grey ceiling. It illuminates only the burnt orange washer and dryer. In front of the washer and dryer is a bright yellow rug. Each time I am forced down here it is the only safe and clean spot to sit. They are a piece of my mother which shines so brightly and lets me know I can touch it and feel her healing hands.
On a rare occasions my mom will call me to help her carry the laundry. At these times I am never afraid. I run down the steps two at a time and jump boldly into haunted corners only to race to my mother and place my cheek upon the top of the warm dryer. I grab the softly scented, hot fabric and breathe in happiness. I feel the colors nourishing me and sense new blossoming bouquets sprouting from my tippy toes to my finger tips.
Call me, my mommy
To come and to play
Amongst all your colors
For I want to stay
Beside you forever
I don’t want to grow
I want to keep secret
I don’t want to tow
Around all my sadness
And one day die in pain
Oh mommy
Keep calling me
Please let me hear
Your voice oh so soft
I have nothing to fear?
2009-Studio-The colors of seedling and scallion green; make up the stirring salt water grasses which completely cover the back ground of School’s Out, my 3’x 4 ‘ painting. I chose these because of the warmth I feel when I gaze upon them.
They are
my mother’s arms
waving to me
“Sheri, you are safe here,
come here my love.”
My strokes in this painting are long and smooth. I dip my brush into the silky cool lemon and marigold yellows and allow my lines to flow in wavy curls and wispy fragments which represent the golden sunshine reaching down to breath God’s love into me. There are hundreds of tiny periwinkle blue minnows swimming up towards the light. They are each portions of me mixing with my mother and blending to form the sunrise pink lips and dandelion yellow and shamrock green fins. I stare at the collection of colors and am warmed by the memory of my mother wrapping me in giggles and warmth of the freshly cleaned clothes which rolled out of her dryer and into the squishy basket as we opened the door. Satisfied, I inhale and reach for my dirty brushes. As I twirl the myriad of colors into the clear water it turns into the image of a greasy train wheel. I slam the brushes to the side and hear the screech of metal against metal and smell the smoke of locking brakes. I am in the basement.

only faith saved me
only faith saved me

1960’s-My brothers tell ghost stories in the deep, dark back of the basement; Like the depths of the ocean where all the sharks live with no light, no food and no air. They charge neighborhood kids a few cents to get in and scare them out of their filthy, wholly blue jeans. One day they persuade me to join them.
Despite their behavior, I desperately wanted them to like me. On some occasions they were kind to me.
I wanted
to be able to
color outside
my lines
to be able
to break down
the harsh black edges
and show them all
my colors
my chocolate filled
Easy Bake oven self
willing to be their friend
if only
they could love me
I wanted to tell them
about my multi-hued
sea grass filled ocean
where all my
rainbow fish friends
swam around
and played games.
It is never like that though. I fall into their endless darkness as easily as a mouse gets caught in the cheese chunked trap.
There are a few neighborhood kids and myself. The story is scary enough but I know it is all lies. The demon finishes the story and everyone starts to leave, myself included.
When I stand up the older one grabs my wrist, starts twisting it with his two hands until it’s red and throbbing. He holds me back saying he wants to show me something. I fall for it. I sit back down and soon it is just the demons and I. I already am fighting back tears from my wrist pounding. They start telling me I am going to be part of their group now if I can keep the secret that they are getting money from the neighbor kids for the stories. I say o.k. We all spit on our hands, shake and the deal is done.
Little did
I know
I was just
Their pawn
In the game
Of games
Who could
Call me
The worst name
Make me
And better yet
Pee my pants
I was their
Sick muse
And I
Did not know
How to
2009-Studio-I quickly picked up my large, round tip bristle brush, dipped it in the bright yellow paint and brushed it vigorously down from the upper left hand corner. I needed air. I needed light. I needed God to hold me again and sing me songs to take away my fear. I brushed the remaining paint across the upper left thigh of my ripped, faded jeans. Streaks and blotches now marked me, the same way new paint lies across bulging veins in the old cracked window pane.
It is a fresh bandage that when ripped off quickly reveals the cavernous, dim scars of yesterday. I am simmering with anxiety, as I drop to my knees and began the mantra of years gone by, “please, please God, make me a fish so I can swim far, far away.”
I open my eyes and the wise old Mr. Hawksbill is smiling at me from across the room where he lives upon the undersized canvas. His huge colorful shell and inviting caramel brown face encompass the small world below and raise me up to the glow of light radiating from the upper left corner of the canvas. My breathing slows as I return to the musty basement underneath the angled closet, beneath the red, wooden steps.