Nothing Else

How do we carry out our solitary work?  How do we live in just one body, be in just one place, with so much wild possibility spread out before us, urging us to leave our withered husks behind and investigate the effervescent.

Where is the cat curled on the hearth?  The mother, the rising voice of her bread finding its way from oven to counter, the father with watering eyes and handkerchief, the children with their tiny toes, guarded by shepherds until deemed self-sufficient.  Gone from here, you and I to follow – what else?

The silky flesh of an avocado for nourishment, a blushing apricot for astonishment, hot tea for purification.  A trio of stocky, red-breasted robins eat a breakfast of insects in the rain, knowing nothing of coats, hats or umbrellas. Is there anything else?

No small town sitting with hands folded in its lap, where change is slow to occur, where it’s easy to listen and record what is heard. No vast city arching its back, inviting temptation. No slender valley sitting in the sun, rubbing its feet together like two lamps containing dormant genies.

Nothing to miss out on, nothing else, nothing to do, blind in one eye and deaf in the other.

May we carry out our solitary work, be of some use.

 

Intersection

A swirl of motion disguised as effortless.  Notions innumerable, channeled by a single consciousness and dismissed.  Pandemonium, orchestrated as if by grand design.

Sirens, horns, voices, shoes, wheels, engines, commerce, commotion, patches of persistent quiet.

A rich harvest of information passing through the needle’s eye of a moment’s fraction.  Another wave breaking in the audio-visual department, undertow corroding the bodily equipment.

It all sucks in a sharp breath and repeats itself, falls in on itself, as a wet blanket is pulled from an oven and thrown over the world.

On a nearby oasis amidst mortar, steel, concrete, glass and trash, orange poppies sway their bodies as if they got high at a music festival.  As they turn their paper Mache faces toward the sky, the subway rumbles – a whale passing below, carrying minnows who will soon join us up here on the surface to brave the storm.

 

Genesis

Good morning swollen and veiled moon, trees whose blossoms are about to erupt. Good morning sun, disc of fire piercing the place where stars froze and crackled in monumental quiet only moments before.

Good morning to the owl’s hushed song sliding outward from a deep pocket among the boughs, to the banshee-wailing of belts beneath the hood just after the key is turned.

Good morning to beets and barley, to salt and hot liquid, to nuts and apricots, to the mottled memory of cloves, cardamom, dark chocolate and red wine.

Good morning to the engine of life on earth, its whir and hum, its clatter and bang at counterpoint with a stillness too vast to contemplate, to certain death and the inexorable quality of passing time, to the eternity of now, the inhale of a day pinned between all that came before and all awaiting their uncertain turn, the exhale of night in its thrilling position as a frame for things that hardly seem possible in the day.

Good morning to the flat concrete jewel of glistening pavement, to the staircase with fingers sliding along its banister, to city apartments and country homes, to dresses and neckties, rickety old elevators, one-night affairs and decades of longing.

Good morning to those who never leave us, to those who never stay, to those who never come to us when we want them, then come unbidden in some secret hour with vanity and thirst, desire and hunger, tired hands, worn-out knees, blurry vision.

Good morning to rain, smoke, wooden tables, the cosmic weight of ourselves that we drag with us everywhere, inflammation, air pressure, fish and mango in a bowl, burning torches, the smell of the sea, meteor showers.

Good morning to our bodies drawn close together, to you tough as mountain-bones, to me with my carved face, to Spanish moss along an orange clay road, to shoe-boxes of old photographs, to hope and surrendered dreams, to love pursued or left alone, fulfilled or unrequited, to the lullaby of a train going any direction you want it to.

Here

I am here, partly cloudy morning, café window next to me, floor to ceiling. Man in corner adjusts burgundy necktie, looking haunted by the money game. Tall young woman changes tables. I can’t help thinking of a gazelle as she crosses the room, brings book in front of her face and taps foot. Panhandler outside is shackled to the world, smoking fat rolled cigarette in jean jacket, moves eye-patch from one eye to the other. I think of pirates, how they did this down in the bellies of ships when they turned from firing muskets across bright water to see into the dark surrounding them.

We are here, striving to be left untouched by the world, or just naïve, we float across the street this morning, all birds and salamanders and rhinos and piranhas on their way to everything. We are axles turning our wheels. We’re a science project, a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. We are by turns significant and insignificant, as the owl in the hollow, as the mossy creek bank, the huckleberry bush, the woodland path cobbled with stones and woven with roots, the whale that breaks the surface and chills you to your fingernails.

You are here, in a future decorated with foreign accents, moist heat sticking to your skin, rice in a bowl, the expanding and diminishing circular sound of cicadas, the bark of trees curling back, paper-like, on the shores of lakes that listen when you speak to them. A future phone call, a voice saying “he can’t walk anymore, I don’t know how much longer”.

You are here, in a past of two people getting to know each other, of bucket lists both predictable and depressing, of stolen glances, blondes and brunettes, life on the run.

You are here, in a present of thinking the world is for the young and beautiful, and feeling you are no longer either of these things, and where have all your obsequious flatterers gone.  Yet you are learning to hold all your ideas – every thought running through your mind – in very little importance. And in this, arriving just where you are.

 

Now and Again

Now the giraffe-like lily, turning its head to look northwest out the window in graciousness.

Now the blackberry – summer’s thimble – is incubating, its exquisite shape perhaps philosophized over at a celestial seminar where Father Sun and Mother Moon are merely attendees, two out of ten-thousand apprentice magicians. The fruit will not be on a bush beneath a tree in some faraway land, but here, now, staining my skin with its potent nectar, nestling among the tissues in my hands, softened by enough olive oil to last many lifetimes of a home cook.

Now the argumentative weather, now the three, four, five, six (no, seven!) hawks circling overhead, descending as if taking a circular stair. Now the clean birth of plants, not the messy one of animals. Now the mystic light whose source is unidentifiable, falling – like you – into the category of mysterious beauty.

Now and again, the contemplation of time and how it doesn’t exist, confused by the human mind with earthly cycles and a construct of our own devising. Now and again, the world seen as a poem.

Now the sound of the woodpecker seeking his morning meal, same as an egg frying. Now the grain of the wooden beams that are the rib cage of this house. Now us, the heart of the house. Now us, always at ease but still wrestling with everything. Now us, always going to new places without ever leaving the room. Now us, rocking gently on calm waters after the typhoon.

Now the ghost of the cat returning, following me from room to room, both of us always eating, sleeping, always doing the dance of sitting then standing then sitting again, always looking out the window, he in graciousness while I just try for it.

Now we return to the lily.

 

Late January Things

The cardinal, for one, content to go about his business.  The fox, for another, at ease in his auburn jacket.  The groundhog, still putting off the errands she needs to run.  The soft gaze of the doe regarding you, not for long, yet seeming for a brief moment to consider you as a being of great importance.

The frozen arteries of streams drawing lines to the lake that is the heart of this place.  A cascade of water stopped dead in its tracks by earth science.  Snow turning almost blue just after the sun slips behind west hill, like that framed photograph of Sweden in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, its top edge dusted once a month to the barren sound of an occasional cough, the next name called exactly as the last name was, a clean copy of how all future names will be called, unless the ratio of consonants to vowels tips the scale too far in a given direction.

Standing beneath spruce boughs watching snow flakes fall, unhurried, particles of ash or feather.  Standing in close to the heart of the tree while wind sways the limbs, as if you have been welcomed aboard an evergreen ship charting an imaginary course up to Canada, or Nova Scotia.

Another storm warning issued, another mug of hot liquid slurped, welcomed into a body cocooned inside many layers of fabric, some woven by hand, some by machine, another silent halleluiah spoken either way.  An obsession with time and temperature, forecast and calendar, with saying we know the new year will be a great one – this last among so many other unfounded claims, clothed in a largely American propensity to keep one’s chin up.

 

Raise Your Spirit

Autumn comes quickly to the north, casting its line without effort into the deepest parts of the land, making ripples where the summer was, coaxing the world to the threshold of intimacy. The golden glow that suffused so many skins will fade away like a promise made in June, a fling had in July, a perfect peach eaten in August.

Those who turned their faces faithfully toward the sun, flower-like, must now consider the surface of the earth and step in frosty dew. Those who slept naked among the stars and woke in pools of celestial haze must now return to the world and – sadly – cover themselves.

It’s as if the cycle of seasons has me living two lives. One is soft, warm, easy on the flesh, taking a little sting out of gravity. The other is rough, unyielding, ages me faster. I tremble before each change comes, shudder with expectancy of heat and light and what it gives me, or in dread of cold and dark and what it takes.

The border dividing seasons is easy to miss, coming, as it does, in a moment specific to each of us. My summer does not end with yours. Your autumn begins on a different day than mine. So raise your eyes from your screen, your book, your thighs, the floor. Raise your head from the pillow, the noise, the smoke of your days burning.

Raise your spirit up and witness how it feels to be forever in the moment – the moment containing all things, the moment empty of all things, the unmeasured moment of all eternity, the one passing moment of your whole life.