Parisianne Modert: Zero Degrees–a temperature or a measure of separation?

And the beat goes on...and the Howl

Literati, I asked for each writer to dig or dive beneath the surface. This piece reads like something spoken out loud in a coffee house in Greenwich Village in the 50’s, with smoke obscuring the reader, and fingers snapping in approval.

Zero Degrees

by Parisianne Modert

Looking up at lemon streaking rain-lighted, dagger-sky, wooden-staked lamppost, my eyes cried ice droplets down my face. I stood, black pavement numb, icicle pink girl astride her cherry boy’s bike.

 

Zero degrees.

 

Turning, wiping my un-hooded, shaved head, I saw bare tree limbs crackling, swaying crystal knuckles black transparent, stabbing disgraces. Alone, wishing pneumonia, the wind winnowed me from my youth.

 

Zero degrees.

 

Self-abandonment from our sandstone facade home and my mother’s womb frosted me. The dim lit, picture windowed drawn blue curtains offered prison not home. Inside my father slept, my mother wept from the stroke which did not claim him.

 

Zero degrees.

 

I felt repulsion when seeing my father’s vacant, once natural, humorous, intelligent, sweet eyes. I forgave his bicycle purchased bar between my legs declaring me his son not daughter, but not myself.

 

Zero degrees.

 

College, privilege, social standing, groomed to pick up my grandfather’s scalpel, lost. The broken yellow-red stain glass refracted black pavement shards lobotomized my skating-on-thin-ice soul to a flat-lining.

 

Zero degrees.

 

Frozen, stopped hospital clock, only two doctor’s declaring the time of my death, I remembered my mother’s hand, the day the stroke struck my god. There my father laid, still on my grandfather’s bed, surgical recovery floor, with opened door. “Say goodbye Peter, your father may die today,” my mother whispered.

 

Zero degrees.

 

Summer’s green leaf storms, fall’s stripping winds to tree colors and grayish crunch laid decaying on the ground. Three months without parents passed until I say them at his St. Louis, Barnes Hospital bed. She held my eleven year old hand, “It’s your father. Don’t be afraid.” My father’s half-soul, slurred speech shocked me. Am I a monster or is he I feared, while hiding all our unspoken fears with false smiles?

 

Zero degrees.

Closing my yellow stained eyes, frozen numb, clinging to the silver handled Schwinn, hope departed unable to take a step towards the lit fireplace of pseudo-warmth inside the once carefree home. I remained catatonically, false-faced, clinically depressed for the next 50 years.

 

Zero degrees.

17 comments

  1. Parisianne Modert says:

    This set of vignette verses of lyrical poetry are all true as to what befell my family in the summer through winter of 1964. My immediate family are all deceased, may they each rest in peace. Zero degrees as used is meant as the point where one both faces truth, yet is frozen into clinical depression by the emotional overloads that hold no hope. The day, my father had his first stroke, the world fell apart for me as an abandonment leaving no safety or guaranteed future. We became a “Beneath the Surface” family of “Zero Degrees”.

  2. Parisianne Modert says:

    My Grandfather, A.W. Modert and his two sons, Dr. Jean Modert, my uncle and Dr. Alson W. Modert, Jr., my father were general practitioners and surgeons in practice together. Their clinic where they practiced medicine was in the hospital where I was born and my father had his stroke. My grandfather actually lived in a suite of rooms on the surgical recovery, 3rd floor of that hospital.

  3. Parisianne Modert says:

    The answer to the Editor-In-Chief’s question is yes to both spirtual temperature of inner despair and a non-seperation from the losses of childhood innocense, hope for the future, faith in divine providence and assured happiness in life.

  4. Monica Brinkman

    Paris has written of life through various stages of life and in few words. I got it! No explanation was even required for your writing said it all, the poetry flowed and does life. Enjoyed this very much. Finely written.

  5. Parisianne Modert says:

    Thank you Monica. Depression due to hidden secrets of shame and/or fear of abandonment often times are laying beneath the surface of the human beings we meet. They block the natural flow of life. These trials for some including myself are self-life threatening if gone untreated. If anyone knows or suspects someone suffering from depression and/or clinical depression, please be the friend who pleas with them to seek counseling.

  6. Parisianne Modert says:

    The phrase, “There my father laid” means laid to rest as in a funeral viewing. The phrase, “Three months passed until I say them…” was a Freudian slip and/or a typo I couldn’t edit for the world. The intended word, “saw” would not have expressed the silence of isolation and abandonment as well. Both of these are ungrammatical and ackward at first reading, but powerful once understood in my opinion.

  7. Shawna says:

    There is such an elegance to your writing Pari, and this is no exception. The shared sensation of irrevocable scars and the unquenchable ache of losing those most important is pressing and profound.
    Excellent flow and poignant keening of the heart. You are a warrior in moody blue.
    Keep writing.

    • Parisianne Modert says:

      Thank you Shawna. My first roommate in college, David Franklin, who actually was mistaken for Jesus by some, introduced me to the Moody Blues and I still use their music to go to sleep more peacefully. Writing is a catarsis for me when it tells of inner turmoils which in the past have isolated me from society. Writing as such is freeing ghosts from my inner graveyard of despair, shame and morbid preoccupations rotting away my potential to be among the living.

  8. kyle katz says:

    The way you engaged the reader in your vignettes dropped my soul right into your heart of the matter.
    I paused to think as I floated on the poetry of your words. A string of pearls…yet to be polished. In displaying such intimacy along with your immense talent. When you hit the target… there are few that can match your emotions you passionately spread out like a banquet, wanting to eat every word. I know I did!!

    • Parisianne Modert says:

      Thank you, dear goddess and lady. “String of Pearls” – Glen Miller is playing as I write this. The vignette poem has triggered a set of epiphanies into my parental and other life abandonment issues, my love obsession illness’s original cause and I am as shocked as the world was when Glen Miller’s plane disappeared. The polishing of pearls, sweet soul, swings my life notes from blurred impressions to the front page of my mind where denials from the past disappear in bold type face truth. Your words of praise blossomed my “Zero Degrees” barren soiled soul within to a field of sunflowers. Namaste.

  9. Parisianne Modert says:

    I am deeply honored by your praise, dear goddesses, but none of my offerings are for competition ever again on AWWYP. They are love offerings only. My victory is that this piece began my discovering what started my depression and days later my obsessive nature. Being sweet with manners isn’t enough if one doesn’t respect others to be themselves which I have too often failed at. I do have real hope of becoming a lady worth socializing with soon. Yours and your mother’s own brave and intimately vulnerable, co-authored story, inspired me to release the poem above. Releasing this poem to screen was brutal, but has begun overdue healings of the ugliest parts of me. I am grateful to both your mother and you. Namaste.

  10. Parisianne Modert says:

    “Zero Degrees” is hopefully part of the autobiographical story that many have asked me to write, but it is only a 50 year prelude to an earlier posted love letter of appreciation called, “Dear Sister of My Heart”. If you are truly interested in my strange life, then I recommend you find this story in the AWWYP archives and read it for the first time or again, remembering how my life before was “Zero Degrees”. Thank you.

  11. Diane Cresswell says:

    Between heaven and hell – zero degrees. Your words carry such a profound effect in the psyche, tortured yet redeeming in the recognition of essence. A masterful mistress of words, feelings, depth, and redemption – zero degrees.

    • Parisianne Modert says:

      Thank Diane, but “Zero Degrees” is a Scandinavian version of Hell without mentioning the rare marbled specs of love and joy which the next 50 years (age 11- 60) gifted me. My psychologists of the past all agreed I am a “lifer”, “clinical depressed”, “suicidal”. Each one fired me as a patient, because they saw no hope for me. “Zero Degrees” is about facing myself alone, because others couldn’t or won’t. My current therapist screams at me in frustration to become far less emotionally cognitive-reactive, but he is fighthing for me. My writing is not redemption, but a day by day survival (e.g. “One-way Ticket to Pluto” was a suicide note).

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