Almost Endless

For a Monday morning.

We all fall from our infinities. These landings have a way of knocking the wind from the lungs. After the crash, there’s a stillness before it begins again. Inhale, exhale.

Loquat, cypress, tire swing. Field mouse, damselfly, dark-eyed junco. Brush rabbit, baby, coyote. All of this before you even find your feet again.

What will you do without your delusions of endlessness? The unbound forever vanished, here is a beginning instead.

Breaking Silence

A tribute.

When silence is betrayal, when uncertainty mesmerizes, a calling to speak can be a vocation of agony––so rejoice as well, because we are here in firm dissent, a new spirit among us.

No document from human hands can make any of the persecuted less our brothers––sisters, hear their broken cries. They watched us poison water, bulldoze land, and the children run in packs in the street, seeking food for their mothers.

Family, village, land––destroyed. The initiative is ours now, to somehow cease this madness, to be prepared, with every creative protest possible. To challenge the young with alternatives, each by their own convictions.

There is a deeper malady here, and the answer so readily dismissed as weak is love––courageous, relentless against fear.

Let us hope. We still have a choice.

Begin. 

***

Exactly one year before he was assassinated, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his speech “Beyond Vietnam––Time to Break the Silence” at Riverside Church in New York City. Today’s post is a tribute to this moment, assembled from words and phrases in this speech. Found poetry is one of my favorite ways to listen.

Crossings

Keeping watch in the dark.

Hundreds gather beneath the remains of a bridge they meant to cross. They wait, watching the river, for the next chance to move. One, looking back, says the children are scaredthey are killing them over there. When a cloud of dust settles, some are still unmoving in the road, a dog beside them barking, and even David is shrouded in black now, to mark the deaths.

At the border, a woman waits for her cousin, traveling for days with children. The men are back home fighting, but where is home now? 

We are trying to get them out, she says, to save their lives, at least. Do you see me, cousin? She jumps and waves. A child runs to her, hooded in a pink parka. There is weeping all around and weary smiles of relief. It is calmer now, she says, and they move from the wire fence of the thin border between the known world and the next.

***

Details culled from New York Times coverage of events on the eleventh day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. With love and prayers for all who flee war and persecution.

Hope in the Dark

Against other constants, and at random.

“Everything I ever thought to be a nightmare is nothing compared to what I am witnessing.”

Voice of Diana Berg, Mariupol Resident, in “No Water, No Electricity: Life Under Siege in Mariupol”

I wanted to tell you, when we spoke last week, about the child returned to the swing before the bombed-out building where he once lived, lifting his foot to the sky anyway, before he can know the word for resistance; and also about the the women gathered close in a kitchen, by the thin window before it broke, passing cake around on patterned plates with good silverware, saying to one another Here, here. Eat––

but the conversation followed another line, and then time was up, and now the shelling is constant and at random and I don’t think the child is swinging anymore, and I don’t know what happened to the women with the cake, if they got on a train the next day, or went underground, and I don’t want to end with this––

constant

––did you hear about the babies born in the basement of the Metro station? Yes, there were several and you could hear the mothers’ screams below against the shelling above, but it is said they are okay now, these babies not because they are at home––and where will that be–– the shelling constant

and at random

––when this is done, 

when is this done? It is constant

but they are at their mother’s breasts and there is still milk even as the mothers are weeping, especially as the mothers are weeping, there is weeping constantly now and at random, and there are also the tiny fingers wrapped tight around a mother’s pointer finger, as if to hold her pointing in place

this

finger like a compass needle dotted with this row of little nails. Strong grip, people say, for some excuse to laugh, and everyone agrees, because this is here now, the grip of the newborn whose first days begin and end here, whose home is mother.

***

Inspired by the documentary mentioned above, featured in the New York Times, March 5, 2022 (Created by Masha Froliak, Ainara Tiefenthäler, Dmitri Khavin, and Sarah Kerr), in which Diana Berg also observes, “The shelling is constant and at random.” Also by stories like this, of births in the metro station. The title of this piece nods to Rebecca Solnit’s brilliant work, especially her Hope in The Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities.  

Exodus

It’s an old story.

There’s a chronicle, now familiar, which begins with the names of the dead, to announce how the land was filled with them before their children ripened and became more and mightier than those that had meant to harvest them year after year for profit.

The king got wise, orchestrated erasure of the boys first. But the midwives saved them and among these was one from the tarred basket in the river who once saw his brother badly beaten by a guard and was moved to kill and bury the body. Back into hiding, he was found again by a woman at the water, and because he helped her, she bore him a son, and when the king died it was time to cash a check in the name of the children.

So went the keeper of Jethro’s flock, to the mountain to witness a burning light. Take off your shoes, said a voice. Here is holy ground.

The voice continued: I’ve heard them, know their sorrows. Now you go, release them. The man asked for a name, saying they will want to know who sent me, but all that came was this reminder, I am.

He got the elders, and they took a lamb to the desert, and nothing was known at all but this command to go forth, and begin the work of ––don’t say freedom, because if salt loses its flavor what is the point? Say instead, not having to hide the babies in the river. Say instead, not having to hide the bread, or trade bodies for bread for hidden babies in the river.

Again, the voice: Take the serpent by the tail. Show them a sign with your hands. If they won’t see it, offer another. Teach your mouth, too, and leave me to the ears. 

***

With prayers for the safety and protection of all who flee persecution and war.

Notes Before Dawn

Against the void.

So much depends on finding some beginning, a way in––the next breath, the first word, the next right thing, the first step into it. The despair before the task is so looming, a body could easily be swallowed in its shadow. And will be, unless. There is the next breath, the next right thing, the next step, the first word. Say it.

Safe Passage

For shelter in the event of this now.

How do you enter?

What, you mean this? It can help to know that you are already here.

Parents have been sending the children to school with special stickers: names, telephone, blood type––in case, in the event––unmentionable, but. Some schools made these stickers mandatory. They have been practicing. In case of fire, one drill; bomb, another. The idea is not to panic.

How?

It can help to know that–– 

Not to say too much. We want them to feel normal, say the mothers.

What now?

We pray, says one mother. We pray a lot, she says, for peace.

But how can––

Look. We are already here.

But––

We hold the babies, hold the prayers. We hold on, and the windows are shaking.

Shhh, we say, shh.  What else?

***

For the mothers and the babies, the brothers, fathers, the missing, and those holding in solidarity and love.

Sources referenced: Foreign Policy and Today.

Dark Matters

And other enigmas of being.

You can try to name it with an austere smile or sprinkle it over the garden; count the universe in years, a galaxy in stars, a recognized species in projected numbers to a beginning or end; you can wave self-proclaimed insights with the strength of an eye pressed hot against an iron will, claiming the inconstant sun like a trophy in a body’s feeble attempt to make itself into a direction. But then comes this spinning and the compass will not hold, and all the fragile parts of a theory of everything collapse into the gap between the last exhalation and the next breath.

Walking

A lesson in surrender.

Before the iron star,

earthquake snaking 

over the far side of 

dreams, listening for 

butterfly whispers 

in the hard blue of

a desert sky, a child 

holds a foot over a 

knee to examine a 

thorn. For a moment, 

all is the space  between

his hand, his foot,

and the tiny barb. What

follows is a long 

discovery: how 

a body can learn to 

abandon itself to 

pure endurance.

Compass and Compassion

Reins, range, and possibility.

Considering the freedom of a given will, one might ask, which is it: from some impediment, or into some possibility? But here’s a tired habit again, the old insistence on one or the other: acting in nature vs. enacting Nature, and never beyond reach from creation, enduring the fractals of a multiplicity of loves, and the wounds a body learns to bear for their sum, ever toward some abundance of seeming opposites unveiled, this vast body assembled from so many shattered shards.