chimera, subdued

No one ever leaves me. On the street, almost daily, I pause for a second glance. Even in this city an ocean away, I see lookalikes of old professors and classmates and friends. My heart skips. Often, I want to call out, wondering if by some miracle their name might be the same. How heavy, how wonderful this burden. This is a tale I am telling myself.

***

Walking through the valley of snowdrops, the forest looked so much like childhood. Moving among wilted leaves and fresh shoots, our guide was singing in French: Bois epais redouble ton ombre / Tu ne saurais etre assez sombre / Tu ne peux trop cacher / Mon malheureux amour. (In English, “Somber woods, double your shadow. You cannot be dark enough. You cannot hide enough my ill-fated love.”)

***

“The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much [manna], some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed. Then Moses said to them, ‘No one is to keep any of it until morning.’ However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.” -Exodus 16:17-20

A lesson I will learn someday: when a good gift is kept beyond its intended time, it rots.

***

It’s Tuesday. I’m in the city, and I’m alive. I repeat this internally to the beat of my footsteps, without knowing why and without ceasing for blocks. Placement. A sense of orientation. Where am I in time, in place, in light of eternity? Richard Siken’s words, singing: “From the landscape: a sense of scale.”

***

With my students, I try so hard to explain, distilling wonder into theories and graphs. It’s as if the earth itself is a magnet. It has two poles, right? North and south. When you use your compass, you tap into this magnetic force, this relationship already existing. You navigate with what comes from the earth’s core, but it’s all around you. Powerful and invisible, sensed but not seen.

I miss the little girl who once asked me how each flower receives its color.

***

Glancing up from my laptop, I see a fox in the dark of the garden, its nose almost pressed against the glass of my window. Dully, thinking of London, my brain murmurs, “I didn’t know they were here too.” As soon as our eyes meet, it is gone—its tail a flicker in the night. I am terrible at endings.

***

“Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back. / At fifteen I stopped scowling, / I desired my dust to be mingled with yours / Forever and forever, and forever… / The paired butterflies are already yellow with August / Over the grass in the West garden; / They hurt me. / I grow older. / If you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang, / Please let me know beforehand, / And I will come out to meet you / As far as Chō-fū-Sa.” -Li Bai, “The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter” (translated by Ezra Pound)

“So, which line is the decisive line?” Her gentle gaze meets mine across the table, “The final one. She loves him without losing herself. She says, ‘I will love you, but only this far.'”

***

“It’s good to remember how to forget. I’m interested in the oral tradition: what keeps the poems alive is a little forgetting. In Homer, you get the sense that anything could happen because the poet might not remember.” -Alice Oswald

***

“Two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath… Joseph named his firstborn Manaseh and said, ‘It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and my father’s household.’ The second son he named Ephraim and said, ‘It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.'” -Genesis 41:51

In all my terror of remembering and yearning to be remembered, I forgot forgetting can be a kindness. Forgetting as a harbinger of fruitfulness, as a mercy to the body and mind.

***

“My body / able to respond again, remembering / after so long how to open again / in the cold light / of earliest spring— / afraid, yes, but among you again / crying yes risk joy / in the raw wind of the new world.” -Louise Glück, “Snowdrops”

I am trusting in dividends beyond what I can see.

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