That summer in West Virginia:
washing myself clean
with brown water
from the Ohio river.
I saw gar sunning themselves
near the surface: fish with a thousand teeth,
fisherman’s nuisance. Like me:
take the bait and sink.
Matt takes us to the woods
and promises a surprise.
We slash brush for miles,
and I bleed. Thorns cut up and down
my skin. So easy to get lost out here –
multiflora rose so thick you can’t see
the sky. Crawl back to where you came from.
Plants move so slow, but I have patience.
Back when I could tell the birds apart
I held a dead wood thrush
in my hand
and it felt like air.
Eyes closed and tilted to the side –
because of the window, because a bird’s eyes
are not adapted to see glass. I wanted to bury it,
but instead I laid it in the grass.
For the worms: because we are all going.
We find the magnolias. No one is quite sure
how they ended up here, but they look exotic,
different from the pawpaws and oaks
with their shiny leaves and white flowers.
To be a bird in the magnolias – hermit thrush,
singing in a language too old to understand.
Voice of god calling out to say: come home.
If only I knew how to listen.
I saw two fireflies tonight
blinking above the storm drain
like lighthouses –
to say “caution”
before I came closer
and the sound of the spring peepers
gave me goosebumps,
or maybe it was the cold –
after the storm earlier,
lightning flashed in the sky –
not from the heat;
something more real
I met a man with seven children today
two with the same birthday –
when I stepped in the path of the truck
he revved the engine
and I was caught in the headlights
for a moment -
Redbud trees bleeding at the side of the road.
Must be almost May – the air is humid
and insects rise up out of the grass.
My steps move like a giant.
Every word I speak is the newest sound
in the universe, for a moment.
Or it’s too much pressure – I want to fold up
and be silent for a while. Say my solemn goodbyes
to the last two years and let go.
Maybe I’ll hibernate in the summertime
and come out in the cold. Or I’ll be like a firefly –
lighting up in the battlefields in June,
synchronize my glow in the Smokey Mountains.
Comfort in the sameness – we all are just blinking,
a figment in the pages. When I write, the only thing
I want to say is: I was here. I was alive. I was happy.
Maybe I wrote too much about it
and that’s why I can’t ever forget now.
I looked back at old pictures yesterday
and noticed that she squints her eyes in pictures
the same way I do. Like we both want
to shut out the world when we smile,
close our eyes to seal in that happiness of a moment.
I believe that some of our parts
were probably made of the same substance,
or at least at the same time.
Sometimes I feel like a seagull
in a shopping center parking lot –
so far from the place I was made to inhabit.
They gather in droves and shriek
and it sounds so loud
without the ocean waves to drown their voices.
Maybe I’m just too noisy for West Virginia
and one day I’ll be somewhere that makes sense –
where I’m the right volume, like starlings
in Europe, like kudzu in Japan.
Today we saw pictures of tunas
caught in nets – mouths gaping,
silver bodies thrashing. Somewhere
beneath that are fish adapted to live
in the cold, dark abyss – sometimes
I wish I could join them. Years ago
I wrote a story about a woman
who drowned herself by diving –
the great pressure, collapse of vital systems
in the deep. That image never left.
I used to think we would meet each other
halfway, but now I see we were always
just casting line in different sections
of the stream, missing the fish
in between us. I miss you
but I can’t say that yet. It’ll be years
before I consider you a friend.
Between cities I touch the bare earth
with my hands as much as possible.
All day I helped people find their voices
amid the constant din –
there are a lot of people in the world
and a place for all of them, I think –
probably even me.
I still check Craigslist sometimes
just to see what people are giving away
or trying to sell. Scraps of wood,
tires and furniture and pieces
of their hearts – so glaringly clear.
Sometimes the missed connections
are ******, sometimes just raw –
strangers stripping off their skin
and laying their bones in the streets,
to say – we never met properly,
and I miss you because of it.
Or longing – do you remember
the way we used to look at each other?
I want to love someone enough
to tell the whole world about it –
like that, private whisper into white space.
The bravery to say – we’ll meet again
one day, because of this,
because you feel the same
and would do anything to find me.
Or maybe it never works,
and all this is simply a semi-private performance
of grief, of oneness, of the in-between.
Yesterday was so good
that I forgot to write.
Even with the heavy gray clouds,
the threat of tornadoes,
and the skies that had already opened
when I left oceanography,
so I got soaked on the walk
back to my car. It’s spring again
and that’s all that really matters.
I talked to Carter on the phone
in the morning, about robots
in grocery stores and how
this is probably the beginning
of a slow replacement and one day,
we’ll have no use for humans anymore.
Maybe that just means we’ll finally
be able to do the things we want again.
I want to lay in the grass
like we did last Tuesday, in between
obligations, just to feel the sun.
Even on the cloudy days (and that’s all
there ever seems to be now) –
I don’t ever want to be alone,
and I don’t want to be anything but warm.
I still can’t sleep during thunderstorms –
I have to stay up with the light on,
until the lightning is over. But I don’t mind
having my bed beside the window –
sometimes the wind comes in, or the rain,
and I let it.