dewdrop architecture

It is the weather for dreaming, for forsaking obligation,

for hiking one’s skirt above the knees, for basking in the sun.

Give me my girlhood again, freckles and scarred knee, with calloused bare feet and eyes bright.

I’ve read the dictionary through, and, all things considered, I would rather be a rainstorm.

***

“And when they fly an airplane, they use something called a gyroscope,” the old man explains to the little boy. The canal is blinding in the sun, and two women are paddling a kayak, chatting about a garden party. I walk without a sense of destination, passing sunbathers in parks and small dogs. It is enough to exist on an unsullied afternoon, to drift in spite of self. The houseboats bob gently, and church steeples rise above the fronds at the water’s edge. Seated under the bridge, a group of men are speaking an unfamiliar language as they eat their lunch, and I rest in the words I cannot understand, in the sweetness of language as muffled melody, free from connotation. And the Word was good, the reversal of polarity guiding me homeward.

Precession – a change in the direction of the axis of a rotating object, as seen in gyroscopes

***

We stumble over the term, squinting in the sun. Désindustrialisation. Cognates, but the cadence is different between our languages. “Deindustrialization,” I say to her, noting the crisp rise and fall. Then, j’essaie in French, syllable by syllable. The ending is familiar, but, somewhere in the middle, the word becomes unwieldy in my mouth. The mind falters. We are like children then, laughing and puckering our lips and slowly pondering the unsayable.

***

When I desire to unlock my front door with the glacial key, I must unpack everything else first—the lanyard perpetually moored in the bottom of my tote bag. Rummaging, then removing: water bottle, books, wallet, laptop. These relics sit in scattered array on the ground as I fumble for a glimpse of Monet’s waterlilies, plumbing the depths of receipts and tissues. My Eiffel Tower charm is gone; it fell off weeks ago. And isn’t it always the same? Before entering every new thing, I have to remove the old, feel its heft, examine what is left and why. Who was I then? Who am I now? What do I want? What am I carrying? I know how to twist the skeleton key now, the proper flick of the wrist. A trick that took me ages. Can you tell me if there is any other way?

***

Tell me what you know of rot. The phrase births from nowhere and haunts me for days, demanding tribute. I am scribbling on the back of an envelope in the hushed library. My feet pounding on the pavement. I am sprinkling sugar over sickly fruit. Plath’s wedding ring is up for auction, and, in the case of unlimited funds, I would buy the letter she wrote Ted on her typewriter: “A clear miraculous guileless blue day with heather-colored asters, shining chestnuts breaking from green pods (I wait till after dark to collect these) and rooks clacking like bright scraped metal; I find myself walking straight, talking incessantly to you and myself… I have very simply never felt this way before, and what I and we must do is fight and live with these floods of strange feeling; my whole life, being, breathing, thinking, sleeping, and eating, has somehow, in the course of these last months, become indissolubly welded to you… I love you like fury.”

***

I shelter beneath the canopy of giant prehistoric plants, maneuvering carefully to avoid the barbs and thorns that snatch. I am chlorophyll-stained with light in the dress with the mended sleeve. “You’re green,” he says suddenly with a laugh, looking up from the camera. An unearthly emerald halo filters through the leaves, and I sneeze for the rest of the afternoon, baptized in pollen. Seek me in gilded gardens, vines unfurling like hidden ink in candlelight.

sea garden

The Lord God is a sun and shield… He will withhold no good thing.” -Psalm 84:11

Yesterday: one of those afternoons with glimmers of satisfaction, reflections of abundance that dazzle worn eyes, like those dancing upon a trout-filled river. Bustling home from the library, with books by H.D. and Rilke tucked under my arm. The bundle of daffodils (on sale) I simply could not resist, existing in scattered vases now. Brighten, rejoice, usher in. The cashier paused when she spotted them, cradling their radiance in her hands, and leaned forward to sniff–her tired expression easing into delight. We said so little but knew so much in that fleeting instant of tender human recognition. “Daffodils are my mother’s favorite,” I explained. “They’re mine too,” she answered, passing the blossoms to me for safekeeping. Shine, now, shine.

Scrolling, searching for olive oil cake recipes. With apples? Lemon? Matcha? I settle on one with crushed raspberries and orange zest. My second knitted hat: now complete, in a mustard yellow only Van Gogh has taught me to love. There was just enough yarn. I kept praying it would be so, calculating with every stitch. Please be enough or it will have all been for nothing. Ever afraid of the undoing, of fraying ends unmet. It was enough. What more can I say? It was enough.

Kindness in every face. Free vegan cookies from the man who always takes my coffee order: an oat milk chai with a dash of cinnamon. Talking with a friend about the places that shape us, about letting go. She remarks that she is in a phase of life where she has two paths for her next step, each leading to an entirely different life. She could be content with each, but they remain wholly different. Therein, she would be different. I nod and listen, understanding her ache more than I can express. Somehow, it all comes back to Plath and the fig tree, always.

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was… amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was… a pack of lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.” -Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

A bowl full of clementines, a bowl full of pears. My friend’s cactus, Bert, awaiting her return from England. The precarious pile of books by my bed: Impressionism, Fashion, & Modernity; Women Artists: The Linda Nochlin Reader; Letters to a Young Poet; Memorial; Every Riven Thing. These are moments I’ll never get back, and I wish I could fully live them. Sometimes I do. Someone said the other day that we are all trapped in “survival mode,” experiencing collective trauma, and we cannot begin healing until the trauma is over. After all, a wound cannot close with the knife still inside. Like Danez Smith, I pray ruin ends here. Let this be the healing / & if not let it be.

“Right when I first saw you, I knew you were a writer.” “Really?”

Stained Glass & the Sea

“All my life, so far, I have loved more than one thing.” -Mary Oliver

***

Typing away, then so easily distracted. Distracted by beauty, for always and always. I turn to my left, peering up at the stained glass. An image of Mary and Martha with Jesus placed between, a conduit of peace and token of abiding. There is such history here, and I am so small, and it makes me want to throw my hands in the air (to celebrate? to despair at the passage of time?).

***

Reading Audre Lorde while my mind is elsewhere, a page turning, an electric shock:

“To Martha: A New Year”

“As you search over this year / with eyes your heart has / sharpened / remember longing. / …places do not change / so much / as what we seek in them / and faith will serve / along the way / to somewhere else / where work begins” (46).

***

“But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’ ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.'” -Luke 10:40-42 (NIV)

***

“When the train stops, the woman said, you must get on it. But how will I know, the child asked, it is the right train? It will be the right train, said the woman, because it is the right time.” -Louise Glück, “Utopia”

***

The air by the sea surrounds me, clinging like a veil. The calm before the storm. I can see lights sparkle across the water in some unknown city. On one of my walks, a little boy screamed, “I can hear the Highlands from here!” And his parents laughed and laughed, “That’s a little too far away, buddy.” “I can hear!” He replied. His adamant belief does not seem so ridiculous in the suspension between twilight and darkness; it all feels tremulously close, close enough to embrace. My mind flits to what Beth said a few nights back, about baptism in the trust sense being immersion. And with each step I think, Remember, remember, this is now, and now, and now, as Plath did. This mist is baptism over and over, a cloying grace we are walking in and through.

***

“I taught myself to live simply and wisely, / to look at the sky and pray to God, / and to wander long before evening / to tire my useless sadness.” -Anna Akhmatova, page 26 of Selected Poems

***

The child gazes up at me, brimming with misplaced confidence and clenching his toy truck. “Mama!” He cries, not quite shouting but jubilant. I exchange an amused glance with his father and chuckle behind my mask. “No, that’s not your mama,” he says gently as they walk on. I wave at the child, and he looks back, looks back.

Every day, I see friends and acquaintances growing, encompassing worlds. Their faces are radiant, like saints, and I wonder what they know now, what Mary once knew. They have entered somewhere I cannot follow.

***

“I don’t speak with anyone for a week. / I just sit on a stone by the sea.” -Anna Akhmatova, 50

***

January: Reading the Psalms when I wake and before I rest, praying for courage, for trust, for solace. Earth has nothing I desire but you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again. Praise be to the Lord, our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.

***

Juggling my groceries, I am a sight as I march home in the cold, bearing a full tote bag and carrying a bottle of kombucha and a chicken breast. Up the stairs, to the fridge, bag emptied. Then, the buzzer goes off in my flat. The sound of a man, babbling in a thick Scottish accent, and all I can make out is “I saw a girl just now” and “gift” and “church” repeated emphatically. Bewildered, I let him into the hallway. We stand apart, masked, and he leaves a blue bag behind, thanking me again and again. The church was locked. No one there. He could not get in. He lives elsewhere. He is entrusting me as a messenger. Of what? A quick peek inside the bag reveals a cross, swaddled in tissue paper. And a note: To the Church. From Robert.

***

“I thrived. I lived / not completely alone, alone / but not completely, strangers / surging around me. / That’s what the sea is: / we exist in secret.” -Louise Glück, “Formaggio”

***

Anna Akhmatova, a prolific Russian poet who lived through the Stalinist terror, wrote that hope sings but remains “endlessly evasive.” But I think that, sometimes, hope finds us.

***

Lockdown Playlist:

Dreaming of what I can do now
To carry some kindness and love
And reminders that the pain will die down
I walk and I read, I spend time in the sea

-“As Alone,” Florist

She said I care too much these days
About my place in this ball of yarn
There’s not a lot that I can boast
I water plants and make French toast

-“Miss Misanthrope,” Jealous of the Birds

consolation of

It feels trivial to be writing about writing, but

here I am.

I am twenty-one. It is February. Neither of these facts feel true.

“Are you going to do something with your writing?” A friend asked me. I stared blankly. Surely, I already was. Surely, writing itself is an act and sharing it another. “Are you going to publish any of it?” My mind sputtered. “I don’t know. Maybe, but not yet.”

themes of childhood & womanhood, loss of innocence, pureness of vision,

seeking, pilgrimage, moments of religious significance

dreamlike. psychological insight. elegance of diction. both strength & weakness.

“You are so brave.” Several people have said this, eyes wide, when I explain that I want an adventure for a life, that I cannot stay here, that I will cross an ocean. I do not feel brave, have never felt particularly brave.

There is no sun.

It is the longest cloudy spell Chicago has seen in over twenty-two years. I feel its weight.

My world is white and grey, bifurcated by dark skeletons of trees.

I’m reading Bluets. It felt so strange last night. I watched the Dutch Blitz cards flash and glasses clink, and I kept expecting someone to launch into a monologue on Boethius or Sharon Olds or St. Catherine of Siena. I kept waiting for wisdom. I have always abhorred small talk, but now I feel that I am ruined forever. Especially after Boston. I sat; I ate my gluten-free cookies.

I wonder what my color would be.

“My consuming desire is… to be a part of a scene, anonymous, listening, recording—all this is spoiled by the fact that I am a girl, a female always supposedly in danger of assault and battery. I want to talk to everybody as deeply as I can. I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night.” Sylvia Plath understands. She understands many things.

A prayer I barely remember writing:

Spark kindred joy in me and gift me a gaze that sees the good in all things. Provide me with an inner elevation of the mundane. Give me the courage it takes to consume my daily bread, to rise once again, to creep through the opaque winter dawn and put on my woolen socks. Beg me to join the dance and make me come alight. Fill in the gaps, O God, and meet me in my unbelief.

 

Rue for You

“I am learning peacefulness, lying by myself quietly / As the light lies on these white walls, this bed, these hands… / I didn’t want any flowers, I only wanted / To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty. / How free it is, you have no idea how free——”

Fragments of Sylvia Plath’s “Tulips” came to me today as I laid, supine, in the dim office, full of waiting. My body was humming. I became an itch. It was hard to breathe.
There was a vial in my left hand, and the other arm, outstretched, was draped like Ophelia’s. There must have been something to its geometry for I stopped, agog, heart quickening, when I noticed the likeness — transported back to the Tate Britain.
It was her portrait I lingered at the longest in the gallery dedicated to the Pre-Raphaelites, and I perched nearby with my eyes scarcely departing from her frame. I attempted to sketch her but could not do her justice. She was so vivid. It was a Millais.
I had written a paper on her suicide — well, on how it wasn’t really a suicide at all yet was, subconsciously — and Hamlet was fresh in my mind. I could still remember the symbolism behind all of the flowers and herbs in her garland. Daises, rue, rosemary, violets, fennel.

“It is what the dead close on, finally; I imagine them / Shutting their mouths on it, like a Communion tablet… / The tulips are too red in the first place, they hurt me. / Their redness talks to my wound, it corresponds.”

Ophelia did not know death was coming and yet, deep down, she sensed it all along. I am sure all of Shakespeare’s characters are haunted by that sense of perpetual morality, aware somehow that he could, in an instant, scratch their name from the script, blot their character out.
I didn’t know death was coming either and yet I did. I felt it deeply, primitively, fearfully.
I think that I always, to an extent, feel it, fear it. La même chose. And here it appears, garish, in the most unexpected of forms. Now I mourn the loss of the things
I did not cherish in their proper time, and the tears are bitter — full of Gatsby’s longing.
I think that his life will end tonight, but I pray that he does not leave this hollow world alone. I hope an inward part of him is soothed, guided, surrounded, comforted. Once of one stubborn mind, united in motion and quickness of being, in freedom and play, I mourn the death of an extension of myself. I hope he is able to greet the midnight hour when he quietly bids farewell.
Until then, the night is pregnant with untrodden paths and unspoken words, and,
alack, I drown, singing — desperate to fill the years of silence.