Pull the strings and set the paper disk into rapid rotation— so the fish leaps into the bowl, the bird grabs the fish with its feet and flies around and around forever. The eye and the brain hold on to the vision even after it has disappeared from view, the same way your image keeps flickering behind my eyes.
The dictionary explains: not all pauses are preludes to a tapering off or an end. And pauses are not always instances of hesitation. Some pauses are brief stops on the way to an intended destination— the stop simply provides some kind of rest, relief; a chance to refuel, after which the action that came before the pause comes into play again. Regular traffic pauses to let a funeral cortège through: hearse after hearse after hearse, seemingly without end.
I confess my fears to the dark as it rapidly descends— how I imagine the paralysis of a world that has lost its capacity to regenerate. So sad, cries the bird hidden in its nest. So sad, even as it's pushed out and it hears the air murmur reassurance.
To ban is to summon, command, or proclaim; to send someone away, as in exile. Skeletons of hydrangeas in the back garden, the vacant arms of the fig. Almost everything has left or is leaving. Soon it is the winter solstice, when the sun stands still and the folds between dawn and dusk shorten. In that story of the girl's going to the underworld, we know more about the seeds than about the mother: how they glinted with color, fecundity, increase; moon-drawn shedding. Of course we imagine a god in his dark kingdom of the barren. Perhaps she wanted none of that other future: the body swollen with its own heaviness, the curve of another spine pressed against one's own. No one is the villain, not even the mother. Not even when she shreds all foliage from the trees and forces the earth to harden its heart. White is the color of blame- lessness. Or is it the color of death, the color of truth, the color of forgetting? Perhaps one day, we'll return to everything we thought we hated, which could also be what we once loved before it was relinquished.
Somewhere in the course of a day, I try to find ledges on which to rest. Yesterday, I brought out bookbinding tools and a box of ephemera— things that caught my eye or were part of something else once important, but it was the seemingly inconsequential thing I wanted to save. The lettering on the side of a pasta box, a piece of vellum from an envelope; a rivet case with a pull-out tab like a drawer. I wish I could call my daughter in what people used to call the old country. Or rather, I wish she would answer my calls. But here it is, another year-end approaching. We are all no longer young. I have troubling dreams where we lie down on a road stretching from the front yard into the dark blue distance. Who are all these people crowded together, their shoulders touching, waiting for some kind of sign?
It used to be a military camp and air station for the Americans in colonial times. They named it after the Secretary of State who called the Spanish-American war a splendid little war. In that war, the US defeated Spanish forces in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. When I was growing up, my father liked to take us there for breakfast on special occasions. His favorite was a restaurant called The Nineteenth Tee, overlooking the golf course. He pointed out the clipped bermuda grass and the clean sidewalks, saying this was what made it look like "Little America." Later I realized the menu was just basic American cafeteria fare: burgers and fries, chipped beef on soggy toast, milk in cartons, apple pie. Now, it's what the city calls a multi-use development: forest watershed, chain stores, Starbucks, tourist cottages next to call centers where any of the agents of global corporations will put you on hold before taking your customer service call.
In a woven basket I keep a garland of brittle strawflowers. They smell like something incapable of revision— and yet one touch dishevels the entire garden.
Three days of high wind—the row of pines out front rains fusillade of dry needles on the yard. I tell myself, perhaps one day I might muster the daily kind of industry I see the neighbors apply to this everlasting disorder. But they are armed with leaf-blowers, leaf-collection chutes, lawn edgers, as if the sky won't last longer than any of us. I go out with a bent-toothed rake and gather dry leaves into piles, though what I've read is they're better laid on a landscape bed as mulch instead of stuffed in bags that end up in landfills. While the season is busy with dying, it's also true that nothing dies. Though it's hard, I try to remind myself that every change is not merely a vacating. The sky will last longer, almost a kind of love.
Because she always falls asleep last, she regards the nape of the man beside her in bed, the outline of his leg, the slant of either moonlight or the motion- sensor light on the deck coming through bathroom blinds, then coming through the door. She remembers where they keep one fire extinguisher (at the bottom of the stairs nearest the stove) but doesn't know where the other one is. In the event of an emergency, says every ad that leaps out when they watch the late night news or when she's scrolling idly on her phone. She wants to tell the man beside her about her friend's husband who probably has more than two dozen fire extinguishers throughout their one-floor apartment. When she visited in April, they were pointed out to her so she wouldn't trip on them in the dark. His trauma, her friend explained: how an arsonist set fire to the safehouse he was hiding in and he got out, but not his other activist friends. Now she finds herself more watchful sometimes and amazed at how many things in the world are shaded the color of fire or a burn.
Undulant as banked blue asperitas clouds, bright as the film around a fish's eye— which is how you can tell it's fresh, so you can harvest its life. It's funny but sometimes the dead seem to communicate better than the not yet dead. Back when you were a child you took a pink plastic hair band and taped a length of twine to each side. Then you looped the ends together around a hairpin and punched connections through a paper switchboard. Do you still hear that vast humming beneath the surface? Fields of seagrass scarred by boat propellers; mangroves collapsed in stagnant water.