These words have been fully formed since October, but I felt they needed a little extra time to incubate. As I walked the streets of Edinburgh a few days ago, I spotted starlings coalescing over rooftops, swirling in shapes and mystery—there for a moment and then gone. Quietly, strangely, I knew it was time.
“To love God through and across the destruction of Troy and of Carthage—and with no consolation. Love is not consolation, it is light.” -Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace
The two small children, boy and girl, screech in glee as they race each other across the grass. Their mother follows behind as they raucously, inevitably, stray too far. They are babbling cheerily and pointing at the towering buildings as bees rustle in the flowers. The mother takes their hands, leading them away from my perch on the stone steps and the book I’ve glanced up from in enchanted interest. She smiles apologetically, “I’m sorry. I hope you didn’t come here for peace.” I smile and try to reassure her that all is well. I want to say: No, I did not come here for peace at all. I’ve seen enough of that.
Second rain. Is there a word for the drops that fall from trees, belated and too soon? When the clouds have parted and drifting passerby are caught unawares. I cannot help but flinch as a cold droplet falls upon my head, betrayed even as the sun peeks through truant autumn leaves—these boughs, a vessel of shelter then exposure. I think of how God must feel all of our suffering first—how He has and did—ages before it reaches us and again when we meet.
It spins like a wheel inside you: green yellow, green blue,
green beautiful green.
It’s simple: it isn’t over, it’s just begun. It’s green. It’s still green. -Richard Siken, “Meanwhile”
Illness. Ache in the chest. Do not bend, do not speak.
Listless, in bed, a return to Plath’s “Fever 103°:”
“Love, love, the low smokes roll
From me like Isadora’s scarves…
Darling, all night
I have been flickering, off, on, off, on…
I am too pure for you or anyone.
Hurts me as the world hurts God. I am a lantern——
Does not my heat astound you! And my light!
All by myself I am a huge camellia
Glowing and coming and going, flush on flush.”
If I am sad, I can walk in any direction and find a bookshop, a church, a sculpture, a garden.
Praise God for bookshops with interminable hallways, slanted stacks, and mysterious basement catacombs. Praise God for conversations on Woolf and contemporary poetry. Praise God for all of the friends I haven’t met yet, for a family that can be hinted even in a day. Praise God for the grace in offering a teapot, a cup, the everyday mercy of honey dissolving in tea. Praise God for and through the hardest no. “It’s a shame as I’m sure you would have been a great success.”
“How privileged you are, to be passionately / clinging to what you love; / the forfeit of hope has not destroyed you. / Maestoso, doloroso: / This is the light of autumn; it has turned on us. / Surely it is a privilege to approach the end / still believing in something.” -Louise Glück, “October”
to desire / to turn
“Instead of ‘desire,’ [Katherine Bushnell] preferred to translate the word in Genesis 3:16 as ‘turning.'” –The Making of Biblical Womanhood, Beth Allison Barr
[Middle English desiren, from Old French desirer, from Latin dēsīderāre, to observe or feel the absence of, miss, desire : dē-, de- + sīderāre (as in cōnsīderāre, to observe attentively, contemplate)]
The original sense perhaps being “await what the stars will bring,” from the phrase de sidere “from the stars,” from sidus (genitive sideris) “heavenly body, star, constellation.”
Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things. -T.S. Eliot, “Ash Wednesday”
In the dream, I am a filmstar and the scene begins and I don’t know any of my lines, never knew them to begin with. In the dream, there is a murder to solve and a house of many corridors and something lurking in the shadows. In the dream, we are slow dancing in an empty room and tears begin to fall silently, abstract on your shoulder.
“The train to Aberdeen is delayed. This is due to… a person being hit by a train.” The automated voice ricochets, repeating its dirge over and over at intervals, bluntly, blindly. “They really don’t need to say that every time, do they?” the older woman next to me murmurs on the platform. As strangers, we exist in the shadow of grief, a forlorn obituary for the unknown traveller.
Siken’s “Scheherazade” plays often in the background of my mind, pure autumn notes:
“Tell me about the dream where we pull the bodies out of the lake
and dress them in warm clothes again.
How it was late, and no one could sleep, the horses running
until they forget that they are horses.
It’s not like a tree where the roots have to end somewhere,
it’s more like a song on a policeman’s radio,
how we rolled up the carpet so we could dance, and the days
were bright red, and every time we kissed there was another apple
to slice into pieces.
Look at the light through the windowpane. That means it’s noon, that means
Tell me how all this, and love too, will ruin us.
These, our bodies, possessed by light.
Tell me we’ll never get used to it.”