Like a fledgling, you'd stumble-fly day and night over the blind and ticking fields, intent on that tendril of scent calling from beyond. Most of the time, you are fickle; perhaps, others think, even unfaithful. But if you believe the name carried on the breeze addresses you and no other, you will follow the snow- dusted tracks, cross bridges of fog. Forests might crackle in the night, and towns burn to the ground. Even if you'd heard it only in a dream, you listen hard for the voice you know you would recognize, almost as if it were your own.
How can you think of melancholy as only weakness, as only the stain in a row of perfect windows radiating cathedral light? Whoever invented beauty understood: what moves and lifts us beyond ourselves, shows us too that vaster space whose edge, whenever we've tried to approach it, seduces through apparitions. And so, where we imagined the place we'd fall through space, we inked monsters: sea pigs and leviathans, sirens, pythons in whose gristled mouths whole basins of stars could drown. We don't pull sadness out of the air; its molecules live there alongside the brighter atoms of expected happiness— Isn't that the way bodies learn to adapt? Never absorbing more light than they can use, treasuring what glows even as it disappears.
Silver-haired, slight-boned: a circle of them in wheelchairs whenever the sun shawls the garden in some kindness. She is the one in the phone video recording who breaks into song and beats time valiantly with her hands. You don't know if your mother, in quarantine at a care home with other octogenarians, will live to ninety or a hundred. Or if one of these days, a text message will appear on your phone, bearing news of her death. Pine trees rain dry needles over the ground, loosening even in the absence of wind.
On the great subject, that is,
time— Out of which others
carve monuments, hammer
long planks of wood into men-
of-war, each with three masts
and voluminous sails; launch
complicated quests that with good
winds and fortune might return,
after years of scurvy and tossing
on the seas. But we have only
ordinary tools—whittling a little of it
at a time, we pretend at saving; defer
fulfillment, wait for the rain to unglue
the lips of envelopes, break rust-
weakened hinges. Whatever its love
language is, it isn’t supplication.
Empires roll themselves into scrolls.
The dead, wrapped in scarves high up
in the hills, count the breath of stars
exhaling millions of years before us.
The skin of fruit, glowing under its neural membrane: how one's mouth closes around the webbed strings, the casing, the pulp— It isn't the knife that is the enemy. I had been saying for some time that we cannot choose what to feel. None of it, all of it: one burns just as fiercely as the other. All of it is ours. What goes through you as a great hurt— is it indistinguishable from other stylets that found their way beneath your skin? Sharps, they're called. Needles. A catheter. A probe. Something that knows exactly where you are most tender.
How the foundation is not separate from the world, but is held and present inside it. How, like you, I've wondered where the time we thought we were building or collecting has gone. Every bird a bright stripe: flocks of them, arrows releasing what we read as purpose into the air. I've learned to anticipate the specific murmur that means the hour bends to rouse our bodies so we can offer them to whatever emptiness needs to be filled. Perhaps I haven't thanked the earth enough; nor you; nor the water that still holds some love for us despite its moods and temperament—from it, I learned the gesture for cupping a face in my hands.
One or the other child was always picking up pebbles, chalk, bits of shell. In a stone, the dream of a hollow. A dream of hard darkness giving way to something not rooted in loss, no longer grieving. I think of them touching asterisks of sea-glass; in the folds of a pocket, an accidental constellation.
How do we come to know anything about a body, or how it must leave itself behind in order to travel somewhere it can't imagine either? With great reluctance, after the last hard rain that fell a week, the water that pooled in the yard finally ribbons into the ground. We're told there will be nights at year's end when four planets will follow each other across the sky's dome. From here they will look so close, like pins someone reached up to tack in a thoughtful line onto a board. In the morning, all along our fence which is also the other side of the neighbor's fence, a stripe like a gray horizon, still damp; measure of how much, how high.
How to precisely describe the condition
of being cloven?
In the past participle, this word might resemble a weed
we hunt in the grass, its fourth leaf brimming
with the old myths of childhood, with the promise
of being the one a hand might pick
out of a hundred nearly identical copies in the field—
And is there a word for the new
scar inflicted by your silence? for how it’s fallen
on a threshold where we’ll walk, knowing
every other door is barred from within? In this world,
the cold, hard bread of the moon leaves
a trail for the broken to follow: they come to the water
looking for a thistle, a lily; silver shoots along its hairline.
Who knows how long it will take. Who knows if by then
we’ll remember the sound of each other’s voice.
In response to Via Negativa: Personal Growth.
Far away, a rooster crows and crows, unsure of the time of day. It's the end of another year: early dark, frugal sun; red-green veins of poinsettia unsettling the usual blankness of the yard. The future is the tiniest blue-gray wing, flicking through the canopy; I cannot see the color of its crest, nor the white bars striping its back. When we light fires in the dark, some words return to our mouths with such tenderness; I can't tell them apart from the double-noted calls going in and out of the leaves.