when i reached for the moon and fell out of the crib i was moved to lower ground. when i fell out of the tree and broke my ankle i said who likes tree climbing anyway. when i wrote a poem and you said it moved you i thought i could write forever. then forever became a mighty long time and somewhere i decided it was maybe better not to reach. or to climb or to write. because what if with falling or breaking or resting i could no longer move you? and what if not doing means not being? and what if the climber leaps?
i cannot say why it should be okay to have faith drawn out on a limb hanging mid air as if some sort of reconciling could warrant what's broken. there is no word nor sign nor even prayer that might at once undo the ruddy ache of having and losing and finally losing heart. what is terrible then is that we love. and our loving, like balloons in a hurricane, is torn from us - even as we covet the softest sweetness inside - where only his aliveness has touched you - where only he has been for you. i imagine though that he finds you - even now, through crooked slumber and honest despair - where if your eyes were closed you both could see and even if you did not touch you both could feel - there where your loving has allowed a living and a leaving - and both as honest as a thousand migrant winds - back and forth forever undoing and confirming what we think we know about life about death about love.
people are dying - and also there is cancer like a maniac bully breaking our hearts. i wanted to feel something - one time for itself - without another something to hold it up against or toward. but what's so is the tragic beauty of everything we love - dissolving in front of us as we become.
we have always liked to organize things differently. you file beautiful next to exquisite and lush and tradition - your systems become tasteful displays of abundance - while i like to purge and name the spaciousness something pretty. you bring the color while i remove the things that filter it. you have big soft hands and a warm heart and room to hold every little thing that is sacred close. my hands are dry from all the scrubbing and i try my best not to hold on to things. still, i will leave your home every time with my arms full of certain special gifts i could not have lived without. a poem clipped from an old magazine - an ancient alligator suitcase - the rusted locks and tired lining proof that you can stop time. and i would. stop time. i wonder how many times i have taken the fake poinsettias down - tripping over my own feet and the heavy curtains that line the closet - the ladder leaning against the wall like an old friend i have used twice a year forever. the string of christmas lights in a round hat box that i will not test this year breaks me. but i do not cry. only some of them would have lighted. and i would have wrestled them around the tree like i do every year, finding out a little too late that one string needs to be replaced, again. you would point out the holes where the light is not enough. where it is dark. we will fill the tree with color again - every year with your box of color - we will fill the tree to overflowing - all the sparkling glass balls and crystal boxes, the shiny bundles of red berries and intricate ornamentation - the precious hold-it-in-your-hand beauty - the loveliness of things made meaningful by your keeping. this time you say go ahead and give the poinsettias away and we act like it is no big deal. someday when we have grown weary of the attic i will ask you for the ladder. this is how she taught me i will say to make beauty worth giving away and memories worth keeping. i will have tiny clippings of poems and articles cut - things you saved and stored and finally delivered as if it were no trouble at all that you cared enough to save it. this year we'll get the tree early and maybe spill red wine on the sofa or not use coasters. we will have known better and that will be what counts. that because of you we will have known better.
i wanted to bring you flowers - lift the scent of jasmine out of the air or carry the wind with me - to where you were hiding, under the sleep-strained sheets and the empty bottles - to before pills and drink and men could destroy you. but you won't answer the phone or the door or the possibility of things being different - because, you say, there is no hope - inside these dark hours - these endless moments of grief - this constant feeling of loss. i say i have been there - have run full bore into the darkness myself - trying to get there before it could come get me. how i have buried myself also - under the impenetrable longing and the shame - and the elusive promise of forgetting. you still think i couldn't possibly understand, that no one can possibly understand. but we do. So many of us truly do. i once held the hand of a beautiful woman while she pushed a baby out of her body into the world. Two years later, I held that baby while we buried her beautiful mother into the earth. She'd been found dead - kicked to death in a crack house just outside of town. She was one of us - someone with dreams and fears and love and concern - a lifetime of new beginnings and loss. And it started with just one little pill. When i call you - which i will do - again and again and again until you answer, because i recognize that you are ill and not just a pain in the ass - i will say come outside and smell the wind, watch the morning unfurl with me - she how it just opens up quietly into the darkness instead of against it - until all signs of night are simply gone. and look how we are standing here alone - just you and me - and also a million other people inside their houses and their cars under their bridges and in alleys and parks. All of us watching the light open up - wondering how we will do it. what we will choose - while there is still a choice to be made.
i used to think there was so much beauty in the tragic - or such tragedy to be found in beauty - and now i realize everything, really, is just a stepping stone either towards or away from divine compassion. Off highway 5 at Livermore today, a lady held a sign on the overpass "I bet you can't hit me with a quarter." I gave her twenty dollars and pleaded please don't let anyone hit you with a quarter. she spilled a broken tooth smile and crossed herself and i could see in her eyes exactly who she was when she was eight. my husband asked don't i ever worry people will just use my alms for drugs? no, i told him, i only care that for a second they have hope - that they feel worthy of something. i have heard a lot of addicts speak about a "moment of clarity" - and never did the story take place while meditating in some cave somewhere. That twenty dollars may not have changed her life but she changed mine.