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.

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?”