To find the gnarled bend, its dripping hush, the moss-encrusted gathering space for unruly congregations of ferns, witches’ whiskers, and hazel gloves––and be enchanted to protect the wild, wet, crawling danger of this womb with hope only to be near it––and know that if there is anything here to be tamed, it is in you.
Inspired by the ongoing movement to protect the temperate rainforests of the UK and Ireland.
Consider the weight of water after rains against fault lines and the weight of our collected lives, how it takes not so many earthquake memories to learn that it is a matter of time until the next one, but this is the land of billboards training the witness into submission to a hunger that drives on to speed out branching interstate miles into state route highways flying toward the next bite, flesh riding the wind of the last win into the next investment cheered by a chorus calling Act Fast, Act Now, Don’t Miss. Out. It’s coming, they told us, the screens our suns in constant revolution around us, projecting new worlds of pleasure and war. Something rumbled and we caught each other’s eyes, looking up. What is that? one of us asked, and the voice of an invisible speaker said Now.
I look up from a page where I am working out this thing about the flying men that came and went, and find Buzz, the resident cat, with that look. Like, what about you? where is it you fly off to?
My secret I suspect has to do with being a creature of ritual, prone to long bouts of longing for ecstatic states. I move a pen across the lines of a page, as a younger me used to move feet over miles and miles of sidewalk concrete
road / trails / following
I knew I wouldn’t reach it, but I would reach the end of an attempt at being in its presence, and I knew there was worth in the attempt alone and it was worth more than any I –––
At the time I would have called what I was after a better time but secretly I called it a synonym for light, some word I didn’t have yet. I still don’t have it, don’t think that I would say it if I did. It was for this luminous something I could almost see near the end, and I knew it––
to be worth collapsing
for I wanted it to
take me from my body that I may know something––
just beyond its reach––
Our fathers, when we saw them, were haunted. They would haunt us later, but we knew better than to pretend we hadn’t learned: here is the world of ghosts, begotten not made, one in being with our forebears. We learned––and learned to catch ourselves. Ghosting, we called it. Are you okay? we called and Just checking? and sometimes we wondered all of it at once: how and who they were and where but mostly we did what children did as they grew, we acted roles in response. We wanted to know for ourselves what it was to disappear, too. Or else we wanted to make our disappearances known to those who took our heads for granted as anchors to this world. I’ll fly away, we sang under our breaths at the sink, and meant it.
In this luminous shade, our tenses melting, we could number the contractions in our skins until we lost count or became distracted. Even the spine’s intention drifts. The once vivid eyes lose precision, and some bright cousin of sorrow shines through. Oh, I am falling apart, you say, not for the first time, and now we can’t stop laughing.
Once when I was stuck, a dog came to sniff at me, tail wagging with interest. The old woman followed, calling after the dog. She laughed to see me.
That’s not very helpful, I said to the old woman, adding that I could really use some help.
Then the dog barked and ran off after something else. Still laughing as she followed the dog with her gaze, the old woman shared an opinion. This was not the sort of thing I would have found helpful in ordinary circumstances. However, stuck as I was, I had time to think about it after she left.
When nothing will let you go, she offered, what if you let it, and go? To catch what would bud and break from the remains?
That is how I came to be here, still breaking from remains.
We would feel it at the edges of our breaths, something shining we imagined could launch us. Into some finitude and with open hands waiting at the end of the long tunnel at the top of the stairs after the last stop. But it wasn’t like that. When it came, we were still in the station, packed and––as we described ourselves so often, then––ready to go. Then, an announcement over the speakers in the lobby. But there is no world but this one. Where did we think? A voice demanded. We were going.
Siri how does it end and what happens.
To all these broken lights?
Why so many vessels, Siri, for some single
when all it wants is its wholeness
––We, I mean. All we. Want.
Siri doesn’t respond. Then one day
she asks, Is that your final answer?
Since when do you ask questions, Siri?
I’m sorry, she tells me. I don’t understand.
After the children had gone to live among the missing, after the pirates searched and left the land of broken light, our ghosts, these former vessels were everywhere.
And now. The screens rotate between sales events. First furniture, then war.
Idle hands, moving gaze. Downhill crossing grid: stucco, asphalt, concrete, sidewalk, yard. Repeat under shadow of freeway, up southern peaks. Back over yard, clotheslines, sheets into the harsh of late morning.
Find water, find ice, find the birds with your ears. Try again. They’ve gone silent. Find freeway on three sides a sudden soft hush and now a child’s laugh. Look and see her.
Barefoot and away, threading steps between oak and sage, eucalyptus, orange. Her pause in the clearing to enact the opening of stem into bud stretching petals to hills spinning. While stray cats watch, a horse looks on,
And the distance before us.
Phantom stagecoach and attendant mules
toward ghost town named after wash,
once stream. To pause by retired station
on full moon nights, backlit by what rises
from mountains, orbs of fire to augur gold
––or static of windblown quartz.
Eight-foot skeleton, lantern in ribcage
between Superstition Mountain and
the palms, lurching gait to search
before vanishing over ledge.
Ghost dancers at the well, trio
of death by thirst death
by drowning by greed.
This sense of something
shining as it disappears.