solstice, binding

You’ve picked quite a time to come visit. The weather ripples unseasonably warm, overzealous June heat usually reserved for dog days of August and July. Dog days: a phenomenon concerning stars and ancient Rome more than panting caninesthe transit of Sirius, brightest star after the sun. This fickle summer arrives in solstice and swelter but has already been felt over and over, already sweat out through every pore.

***

[a small breath prayer, composed in motion]

Inhale: You are a great mystery, God.

Exhale: I do not need all of the answers.

***

Each day, I glide among constellations of my own making, webs linking others through mere perception; gaze and assumption operate like twin heartbeats. On the street, I construe, construct, and elude: passerby seen as best friends, father and son, a couple. How many times am I wrong? Naming for convenience, weaving fables in the absence of piercing truth. I do not want to build my life on such inaccuracies, these minute adjustments and formulas. But what else is there? In what other way can we know the world?

***

“I am content because before me looms the hope of love. / I do not yet have it; I do not yet have it. / It is a bird strong enough to lead me by the rope it bites; / unless I pull, it is strong enough for me. / I do worry the end of my days might come / and I will not yet have it. But even then I will be brave / upon my deathbed, and why shouldn’t I be? / I held things here, and I felt them. / And to all I felt I will whisper hosanna for goodbye. / It is sweet to think of myself, alone at that very moment, / able to say such a thing / to all that was my life, / to all that was not.”

Katie Ford, “Psalm 40”

***

On the bridge’s arc, past flickering golden hour and pavement’s radiating heat, I felt peace with tender step come knocking. I said, Come in at last. I said, I am so very tired of fighting.

***

“I lay out under / A separate sun. Both of us are fine / With this. We picked our place / Under the lid of god and we shut / Our eyes to it every night. That’s what it means / To have loved goodlyto meet / Fate in a lavender hall and walk / Right past it, the white train quivering, / Nostalgia in your wake” Camonghne Felix, “Why I Loved Him”

***

I am gazing at the meadow where little cousins sought fireflies, my fingertips raspberry-stained. I am half-sun and half-shadow, twisting away from insects—the ants that infiltrate the kitchen but shun cinnamon, doggedly swarming up the wall. I am reading words I have read before, knowing they will mean something else now. I am turning the page.

How lush the world is, / how full of things that don’t belong to me—”

***

“it might be years / before you turn and stop, startled / by the sweet and sudden smell of sheets snapping / in the sun, and the drunken lilac, prairie purple, / blooming, by the doorway, because you planted it” Marie Howe, “Keeping Still”

***

Ammi: known as false Queen Anne’s lace or bishop’s weed, a member of the carrot family, a cold-tolerant wildflower, that which constitutes the field; when its unassuming sap meets human skin in sunlight, it can scar and blister for months…

***

“even / a small purple artichoke / boiled / in its own bittered / and darkening / waters / grows tender, / grows tender and sweet / patience, I think, / my species / keep testing the spiny leaves / the spiny heart” —Jane Hirshfield, “My Species”

***

One day of sun, and the world is pure again—it has aspirations. My tote bag crunches rhythmically, the spoils of a picnic grocery run shuffling for space. I am here and here and here. I am far from where I envisioned; I am exactly where I started; I am where I am meant to be.

I am a shadow, moving. My presence here evokes an absence elsewhere, and I see my silhouette bob along the leaves and friends of weeds, across from the cemetery walls too high to climb.

***

“But this morning, a kind day has descended, from nowhere, / and making coffee in the usual way, measuring grounds / with the wooden spoon, I remembered, / this is how things happen, cup by cup, familiar gesture / after gesture, what else can we know of safety / or of fruitfulness?” —Marie Howe, “From Nowhere”

***

On the pier, we nibbled snacks like unanticipated communion—a punnet of blueberries and a delicious orange olive oil doughnut, drawn and quartered. One of our napkins blew into the lake, scarcely a lake but a sea, though I soon leaned over to fetch it as we laughed and a watching man on the shore gave us an enthusiastic thumbs up. I have a theory that perhaps the world awakens at sunset; regardless, we were thinking more than ever of color then. You said I am the grey-blue of my eyes, notes assuring calm and clarity. You are harder to place, the effervescent orange and fuchsia of hibiscus and California poppies. Life is but moments: moments destined to end, moments destined to be lived a hundred times over.

***

Words scribbled, prophetic, in the beginning of May: “May something come of my emptiness. May the Lord make more of my emptiness than I could with my fullness.”

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.