starling murmuration

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 leavesthese boughs, a vessel of shelter then exposure. I think of how God must feel all of our suffering firsthow He has and didages 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.
Your body
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.”

***

Solace:

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
we’re inconsolable.
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.”

nouvelles fleurs

nettle (n.) – in floriography, signifying pain

Its scientific name, Urtica dioica, comes from the Latin word uro, which means “to burn.”

***

Without another word, the woman at the farmer’s market sliced the block of nettle soap and pressed a portion into my palm. She refused to take my coins. A gift.

***

“There is a willow grows aslant the brook / That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream; / Therewith fantastic garlands did she make / Of crowflowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples.” –Hamlet, Act IV, Scene VII

***

Pressing in my quietude, in my waiting, in my waking, glimmers of You.

***

“Everything will be forgotten / And either I am too alone / or I am not / alone enough / to make each moment / holy / […] And I have heard God’s silence like the sun / and sought to change.” -Franz Wright, God’s Silence, 88

***

It is twilight, and the heron is a fixed sliver of loneliness, poised to strike. A breathless observer, I stand, palms pressed against rough stones, and wait, gazing down at the sea as he lets the tide swell around his feet. We are in contest with one another, wooing stillness, and in my heart the knowledge crystallizes that there is so much that goes on, that will go on, without us.

***

“I hate everything I’ve done… the desire for glorification after death seems to me an unreasonable ambition. Mine is limited to wanting to capture something that passes; oh, just something, the least of things!” -Berthe Morisot

***

“Mum-my! Mum-my!” The little girl shouts in bifurcated syllables, running across the courtyard with her younger sister. They shriek and giggle and toddle across the grass. That was on the sunniest day, when I wandered into the quad and sat with my book, waiting patiently to be revived like a wilted flower. And I watched them, whirling like a pinwheel or a gust through prairie grass, and glanced back at the page before me, an essay on Morisot’s self-portraiture, how she was never not engaged in the act of looking. Her paintings and her daughter, her great loves, her creations, never able to be extricated from one another. Julie’s sketched form, dappled in sunlight, and these girls just above the printed horizon, settling down to a springtime picnic.

***

Margaret – meaning “pearl” or “cluster of blossoms”

***

The woman stays for a long time, alone. I serve her a scone, tea, and two caramel shortbreads. Her reading glasses are broken, but she doesn’t seem to notice. “Are you a Christian?” she asks, her face tilting upwards. I smile and nod, “Yes, I am.” She begins to beam, “Look at God go.”

When I slipped off my new shoes that night, my feet were covered in blood. I couldn’t help but think of Santiago and stigmata in The Old Man and the Sea. I’ve always wondered what delineates stigmata from other regions and variations of pain. Is it divinely inflicted? Is it accepted without relief? Can wounds be holy or only what lies beyond? Dickinson’s “Heavenly Hurt, it gives us – / We can find no scar, / But internal difference – / Where the Meanings, are.”

***

It is thought that over 80% of stigmatics have been women, including St. Catherine of Siena.

In botany, stigma is the part of a pistil that receives pollen during pollination.

***

“lushly clinging / and growing / around the / house twittering / darkening / everything / I will come to you memory shining” -Franz Wright, God’s Silence, 78

***

“What might have been and what has been / Point to one end, which is always present. / Footfalls echo in the memory / Down the passage which we did not take / Towards the door we never opened / Into the rose-garden.” -T.S. Eliot, The Four Quartets, 13

***

Wandering down the street I had traversed hundreds of times, with thoughts clouded by worry and absence, I looked up suddenly and noticed all the trees were budding green—had budded, would blossom.

***

“Walking home, for a moment / you almost believe you could start again. / And an intense love rushes to your heart, / and hope. It’s unendurable, unendurable.” -Franz Wright, God’s Silence, 5

***

He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” -Ezekiel 37:2-3 (NIV)

***

The radiant poem etched in my mind for days: “I longed for spring’s thousand tender greens, / and the white-throated sparrow’s call / that borders on rudeness. Do you know— / since you went away / all I can do / is wait for you to come back to me.” -Jane Kenyon, “The Clearing”

***

She turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” -John 20:14-17 (ESV)

He says to her: noli me tangere—touch me not, do not hinder me, cease holding on.