celandine green

“It’s all with me,” I think. Nothing of necessity has been left behind, despite the phantom fear of loss. Four trains later, Cambridge. Squinting into the sun against my hand, the act creates a tilting plane; devoted light, travelling far, flows around and through.

***

“Life has suddenly become overcrowded. Too many people I can care for are swarming in and filling up my chest. Too many things I want to do are rushing headlong into my new life for reasons unknown to me. All of a sudden my new life is like a field overgrown with strange flowers and exotic grasses or the shimmering, starry sky of my unbridled imagination…” -Qiu Miaojin, Last Words from Montmartre, 30

***

The child tilts forward too fully, face pressed to the daffodil without restraint. His mother laughs and laughs, and I chuckle too, mere passerby to the scene. A robin perches along the path, assessing me from its twig, and I want to reach out, could almost bridge the distance, but I know the gesture would rupture the magic and I would lose its intelligent gaze. I would miss what it might dare to call to within myself. I feel such a well of love towards such things, towards the small woman with the cane in the gallery. She enters and her phone begins to ring, a tinkling music box melody. When she answers, her voice is surprisingly strong and merry, and I glance up from Woolf’s On Being Ill. The division of body and mind, illness as opening a place of interiority. “You’ve caught me at a very good place,” the woman says.

***

“Spring, summer, autumn, winter: / each season brings / its particular birds, whom I feed with crumbs. / …I am alone, I write nothing, / I thank / the gods for this great breadth / of empty light.” -Denise Levertov, “The Poet’s Late Autumn”

***

Regardless of season, the river keeps rushing, and my life decidedly means both everything and nothing. It is the greatest mystery and boundless act of hope. There was ice here before, in that other life. Winter. I remember a tender breaking, the musicality and abstraction of pools divided into fractals. Upon them lies no reflection, no finite substantiation.

***

“God hid himself so that the world could be seen / if he’d made himself known there would only be him / and who in his presence would notice the ant / […] love that is invisible / hides nothing” -Jan Twardowski, “The World”

***

In the atrium filling with shadows, I set down my teacup with a clatter.

Jià 嫁, meaning: to marry out of one’s home.

Gei 给, meaning: to give, given.

Qǔ 娶, meaning: to take a bride.

In Mandarin, men take a bride; women are given, poured out, no longer belonging, a farewell.

“After the ceremony, the bride’s family empties a pail of water as the couple departs,” she explains.

“Why? Is that a form of purification ritual?”

“No, no. It’s a very bittersweet moment. The water from the pail can never return.”

***

There is something even about bitterness that is sweet to me now. Is that what growing up means? To begin to savor all, praising a thing precisely for its absence, realizing what it is not and that this opposite has already been yours in a myriad of ways. The juxtaposition had its joys too, its shortcomings. After years of shunning espresso, now I make the pilgrimage to my local café and order a flat white or a latte and sit, expectant. Last time, the barista, mug in hand, winked at me across the room rather than shouting my name, and I smiled. It was not even the promise of something; it was the assurance of being seen.

***

“This earth, our only / This four-cornered honeycomb / Flooded with nectar and tombed / Foolishly, as bees drown / Tipsy on the sweetness of our little apocalypse / She spoke the Lord’s words without looking / Sound of sandpaper and butter over heat / Sound of butterflies landing / Sound of sweet pea and peony” -Sarah Beth Spraggins, “Crescent”

***

National COVID Memorial Wall, London: Along the Thames, the painted scarlet hearts stretch onward for blocks amid wilted bouquets, tealights, and Sharpie scrawlings: Always in our hearts. Darling. Loved and missed forever. Mum. I’m sorry you died alone. I miss you every day. Grandad. Rest in peace. An extraordinary man. In loving memory. No matter what. Remember them. A year after its creation, so many hearts are empty; so many are full.

***

“Near the wall of a house painted / to look like stone, / I saw visions of God. / […] Love is not the last room: there are others / after it, the whole length of the corridor / that has no end.” -Yehuda Amichai, “Near the Wall of a House”

***

There is a softness I know / and another I might be— / this is an endless parting.

***

In the crisp evening, shivering beneath my coat, a book nestled beneath my arm, the thought arrived. I was unprepared. I had been waiting, mesmerized by illuminated windows.

I’m going to write a novel.

***

By the river, your fingertips rest upon my shoulder, and I am so thankful. To be here. A friend.

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