A Love Supreme

With John Coltrane.

I want to talk about you, your ascension, the promise I wish I knew, too beautiful.

Say it.

Say more for the lovers, please.

Weaver of dreams, dripping stardust, you answered time after time, then I’ll be tired; still, insisting, love thy neighbor.

But how deep is the ocean after the rain? 

An acknowledgement. Help me to be––compassion. Love.

An acknowledgement: Consequences.

Help me to be––serenity. Dearly beloved, I am a dreamer.

Dearly beloved, something I dreamed last night––

It was sometime around midnight, just after another take of something straight, no chaser, and all of us gathered like someone in love, alternating our so whats with melancholic meditations like someday my prince. It was soft lights and slow dance, and you leave me breathless on a misty night to hear a rhapsody. Lover, come back to me. I Cry! 

Tender, it’s a fire waltz, a minor disturbance. It’s this chronic blues, a love supreme.

Call me by my rightful name, I’m old fashioned. I can’t get started. I’m too young to go––

Steady. But it’s all or nothing at all.

Dearly beloved, this is an acknowledgement. 

Beloved, this is a song of praise 

I wish I knew.

***

Inspired by the serendipitous appearance of A Love Supreme on last night’s random shuffle, the above is assembled almost entirely from the titles of John Coltrane songs. And, of course, by love.

Shepherd

The real work of preserving life.

Protect her but know this. Only by doing so in earnest can humility be learned. Some are inclined to believe that the charge begins and ends with what the lost believe is the sole triumph of her sex, forgetting that it is not her womb but how she sat with the creatures in the yard, soothed the sick and the dying, welcomed and fed strangers, and traveled long distances to meet the ones in prison. Some would claim to defend life while they abandon her to her grief, and to all the rest of her work.

Not all of her children are living, but they all have names, and it would be a mistake for anyone outside the limits of her skin to presume to know them––or her, the contents of her heart or the will of her womb. 

There are reasons why the Liberator––who so many seem to prefer in infant form––preferred, as a man, the laying on of hands. There are reasons why he knew to send her attackers away, forgoing either law or personal insult, saying only this: let he who is clean of living cast the first stone. Another time, he asked Simon, in the company of another supposed criminal, Do you see this woman? Weeping and extravagant in her devotion, others would dismiss her on legal grounds, citing purity codes. He knew her by her tears. Later, when he met the women on the road of sorrows he said to them, Weep not for me, but for yourselves, because the day will come. 

To ignore the grief of this moment is to fall asleep again in the garden, when all that was asked was vigilance over one who is persecuted and afraid.

Becoming Shelter

Remaining human in wartime.

At first, it was the usual set of former pets in wartime––cats and dogs. She stayed with them as the shelling continued. The ground was shaking, she says, of her arrival. The dogs were tearing holes in the fence with their teeth.

Later, it became clear that there was no one else to watch the turtles, the peacocks––and who would feed the lion? They left a land mine near his cage. She tried bribes. They detonated. The lion lived. They locked her in a room, killed her dog.  She buried Jina under a tree. When they locked her in a room, they told her she would die if she tried to leave. She left the room. It was time to feed the animals. It is always time, she says. Always.

It haunts her, to imagine the noises the horses made, neighing in the burning stables she could not reach. The shelling continues, and she continues here. It doesn’t matter who you protect, she says. You rescue what you can to remain human when war would make you forget.

***

On the work of Asya Serpinska, a seventy-seven-year-old Ukranian woman sheltering over 700 animals in Hostomel, roughly twenty miles northwest of Kyiv.

First Sight

Notes of a witness.

For a lover, pure and simple, beguiled every step, it may be a long journey. Bloom time in the lowlands, there were weeks and months uncounted, sun-drenched in lark song before the painted hills. Progress slow, I wandered enchanted.

Then came the peaks, massive light forms suggesting the walls of a celestial city. Crystal rocks and aspen glow, the irised spray of waterfalls; all that may perish is vanishing quickly. Listen, ancient glaciers now sing river song, and at temple of the valley floor, a congregation of glowing rock faces to welcome the storm like the lambs. 

In the distance, I heard the thunder of the fall, and before me the whale-back masses of granite crowning and rising, alone and in snug groups. Breaking tranquility, I followed the plunging river down. This wild scene I tell you was never safe, my fate hinged on an idle wind.

Nerves shaken, drenched, bathed in moonlit spray, I hoped. All were in bloom.

The air was shining. I counted, noticing the noon-gray clouds.

I slept and woke, and the winds sung too, in throbbing chorus with the fall, and it was a song I tell you, pleading notice.

Do you think there is a choice now? I saw none but this cry, and I did.

***

In honor of the birthday of Scottish-American naturalist and environmental philosopher John Muir (1838-1914) (also known as John of the Mountains), today’s post is composed of found words and phrases from an 1890 essay he published in The Century Magazine, “The Treasures of the Yosemite.”

Between Whales

Song over distance.

In the event

that one of us

should slip from

the range of

contact, I want

to tell you that I 

did not know if 

my voice was 

made of sound,

or if that was just

an idea, possibly

unsound, until

you answered.

I still don’t have

a word for the 

color of that 

last note, but

now I think this

is more likely

about the limits

of any language

seeded 

in isolation

than it is about

a problem with 

my eyes.

In Our Time

Among the living.

Sometimes, when it was hiding in our homeland, we would feel its aftermaths in succession, running our fingers along the seams of cracked earth. Means for making meaning, ever mutating, make new forms where the formers are buried. We move soil to make room for our dead. Seedlings, too––even then. 

We could not call it war until we survived it. In the meantime, it was living. It was diapers and babies, earaches and crackers and someone still had to milk the cows, walk the dogs, and soak the beans overnight. 

What did you do? They will ask us later. Possibly we will forget by then, how we folded laundry and clipped toenails. How sometimes, even then, someone would show up with a cake, and someone else would find plates. We would pass slices one at a time, among the living.

Human Shield

Mothers in wartime.

Speaking of the universes inside us now, of silenced griefs, do you wonder if this new fear has come to meet our weak refusals to acknowledge its magnitude? An inherited idea: us as defenders of the first official bodies of an emerging something––and yet, we couldn’t see it, not all the way. We missed the point, didn’t we, when we called it safe.

They gave it borders and called it done. Who could blame them? Had I known better, I might have done the same with my own form when I could, but even a broken body can learn, when it comes time for offerings, to be one. 

You can hear the official mandates all around: ours, ours, no trespassing, but try claiming something from a body whose primary substance is the fluid it sends and receives, through these acres of unknowns, and eventually we challenged them to go ahead, see if they could find a place to plant their flag. This took no words; just as well when these were the first to flee.

***

Inspiration: On March 6, 2022, Krista Tippett, whose excellent On Being Project I have long followed, tweeted: “There is a universe inside each of us now of unarticulated fear and unmarked grief.” As with many of her observations, this one resonated a particular truth of this moment.

And of course, the images we all know by heart now, and in our bones, of mothers in wartime.

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.