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Leslie Srajek Feb 2010
“I’m unraveling,” she said.  
“Where’s the thread?” he asked.  “I’ll pull it.”

Pull a thread and this dense fear
spins out and away into gales
like bits of flying paper
like cyclones
like breathlessness.

Then my life floats down
in a clean white line:
a declaration
a direction.
Exhaled, unraveled.
©Leslie Crowley Srajek 2010
Leslie Srajek Feb 2010
In the breath
of the forest
by the roots
of a linden
I say your name
to the wind
and my longing
gets wings.
Copyright 2010 by Leslie Crowley Srajek
Leslie Srajek Feb 2010
“How important it is to walk along, not in haste but slowly,
looking at everything and calling out
Yes! No!”
–Mary Oliver, “Yes! No!”


The coils of this labyrinth remind me of the small intestine.  This vexes me.  Walking the labyrinth is supposed to be a spiritual experience, isn’t it?  Neither time nor place for unlovely images of the body.  The truth is that I dislike the labyrinth.  I find it too constraining, too tedious—all these looping, repetitive coils.  The truth is that I hate the labyrinth because it is pale and remote, and silently indifferent to me.  If I am going to engage with something, I’d like for it to talk back, please.  I have questions, you know.  I have some concerns.  And perhaps just one or two small issues with control, and delayed gratification.


“I think serenity is not something you just find in the world, like a plum tree,
holding up its white petals” (Mary Oliver, “Yes! No!”).


“Watch how we encounter each other,” you say, and we walk, slowly, separately.  Around one turn we meet, and you kiss me, and your tongue is muscular and wet.  Around another turn you say, over your shoulder, “Hello,” and continue walking.  It is hard for me to keep my balance even though the path is smooth and flat.  I feel like we are in a Magritte painting.  Your white shirt glows softly somewhere to the left of my awareness.  A voice not connected to your body says, “Do you like my hat?”  We are walking.  We are together.  We are not together.  


“Imagination is better than a sharp instrument.  To pay attention, this is our endless
and proper work” (Mary Oliver, “Yes! No!”).


So now:
Quiet, quiet—the darkness is full.
Your skin is listening
to the night air.

In the center of the labyrinth, someone has placed a gift.

Quiet, quiet—someone is telling you a story.
The oldest story in the world, and his body hums and pulses
under your fingers.

In the center, there is a gift.

Quiet, quiet—this is not walking.  
This is surrendering to the path, your body long and outstretched
against the stones.

In the center, someone has placed a gift.
©2010 by Leslie Crowley Srajek
Leslie Srajek Feb 2010
Midwest winter mornings
are about stillness that looks you straight in the eye.
Nothing fancy—
that belongs to Florida, or to the spring.

Winter is just plain stillness—
a gray branch with four drops of water suspended along its length,
a willow with leaves as pale as hay,
slight and stirring.

Look, they say, look:
This is what it is like to wait.
Copyright 2010 by Leslie Crowley Srajek
Leslie Srajek Feb 2010
Three of my gorgeous friends stood outside the restaurant
where I sat eating dinner with the poet
and made faces at me through the window.
They were wearing red, turquoise,
and pale green silk,
and with their ripe smiles,
they looked like goddesses behaving goofily.
Not what well-mannered women in their 40's do,
but they did it anyway,
and I laughed and he laughed.
He raised his fork to them and laughed.

I wanted to talk about "Moon-Skin,"
and poetry and courage and mortality,
and we did.
We talked about all of it.
We ate steak and drank red wine,
and if I noticed that his hair did not fall over his eyes in the quite the same way it had all day,
or remembered—just briefly—
the feel of his hand on my back as we came through the door,
or listened to the sound of his breathing as we drove back to his hotel,
it does not mean that I hadn't been paying attention
to all of the talk,
especially about mortality.

It just means that some part of me finally woke up
and realized that that the mind and body together make poetry,
and I wanted to apologize to someone
for taking so long to understand this—
that I am allowed to pay attention to all of it,
that this craft will not ask me to leave any of my senses behind,
that it will say, instead, use everything, tell it all,
and my God,
what have you been waiting for?

Yes, tell everything, even how he took the moist, red morsel of meat
from the point of my knife and put it into his mouth,
even this description—so flagrant and entirely lacking in subtlety,
I am allowed to say yes,
yes, it happened exactly that way.
Copyright 2010 by Leslie Crowley Srajek
Leslie Srajek Feb 2010
"What are you thinking about now?" he asked,
across the table,
over the empty plates,
into the silence of an unfinished conversation.

"Is it normal to be terrified?" I want to say.
And when will writing not feel like assembling a jigsaw puzzle
where all the pieces are gray,
or like being in a country with nothing but
out of date currency?

But no words come,
or maybe it was all the wrong words—
I don't remember.

What I remember is this:

With tired eyes and a precise, compassionate voice,
he looked at me and said,
"Fear is a useful diagnostic tool."

And then, when we got up from the table,
he took my wine glass, not quite empty of a good Chilean red,
put it to his lips,
and drank it.
Copyright 2010 by Leslie Crowley Srajek

— The End —