At the end of a long day in a long month, I read a hiring notice: Professional Cub Snuggler! it says, and I think, this is something. The work is to wrap baby bears in blankets, hold them in a coat while the mother gets a checkup.
Now I can’t stop wishing that this was a model for some other things, the practice of stopping in the work week, no matter the job, for the most important work of the week. Time to hold the babies! everyone would say, and the babies would be held, and there would be enough hands so that the ones who had been caring for more babies than they had hands for could take a break and tend to other things, knowing the babies were okay.
There is a trick the handlers use, for getting the orphaned bears accepted. They cover the bark of a tree with a scented goo, and after the birth babies and the orphan run through it, back to mama, they all smell the same. And there’s something in this model, too.
Inspired by this notice: “Dream Job Alert: Michigan DNR is Hiring Bear Cub Cuddlers.”
When the veil slips against this grip against the fire of high noon, and there’s no recourse but to take in the full face of a day’s madness, no words can help me bear it, each too round unto itself, biting its tail.
I slipped into the stream again, dead weight at your shoulder, the nebulae of closed eyes until the saving tongue of salt lime chased my veins back into themselves and you shone me a remedy.
The words go on biting their tails. None can help me bear this love, when only the living will do.
I found you where we were children, and you found a way to bend a certain recipe toward the collection crowding my pockets, slowing my chase. In surrender, I removed the lot of it in pieces and placed each on the table. Tell me, love, I asked you. What is it?
You took a stamp and sewed it to your shirt, held a button to your reflection, and the shard of a mirror you pressed into an album to save the memory of someone looking back. We chased to catch ourselves back to running from what teased our terrors, tempting catch me! and you can’t!
I feared the years would fell me first, but you did, and from the rest of what is saved if you wait I can still make you a meal and we will raise a glass to the hour of these signs, from this shelter of broken time.
In quiet devotion from within the crowd, you witness the sway of a collective in song, knowing this moment in transit a destination of its own, and call it Train Church. You seek out parallel moments, always from within. The stream crossing, the waiting line, the dancers, the cave. Outsiders wanted spectacle and you pushed back with ordinary life. The long looks of tired eyes over the horizon from the middle of a field, breaking from the labor of the day. The hanging clothes of late parents on a bare pole against a concrete wall. Shaded interior of a kitchen, ethereal light through pleated rayon curtains. The mist pushing against easy meaning, smoke against certainty, dust against the definition of forms. No, the magic won’t be captured, you insisted. Chasing shadows to witness, atmosphere to witness, sediments to witness––faces, in long attention, patient. Insisting, here is only the beginning of sight. Look again.
Inspired by the art and practice of Santu Mofokeng (1956-2020).
There’s an idea that water was inherited from a cloud that long preceded the sun, that the cloud evolved from the heat around each newborn star, that the heat so melted the gases and dusts around it that they became something else, and that this something else floated out there in the vast dark for entire forevers, without even a name; that before it was known to us as oceans, and rivers, as life itself, it was just drifting between the other bodies, neither planet or star, comet or asteroid, silently evolving rains and ablutions, storms and sailors, mermaids and the notes we’d pass in bottles overseas, wondering and telling no one; swelling with the fluid of waiting cells and someday wombs, gilled figures and baptisms, rebirths and ritual baths and wild slaps of newborn hands against its sudden surfaces, but what does it take to wait eons, drifting and holding these potentials under a veil of vast nothing, until the moment comes for surrounding a single body in a single time, that will remain for many more eons unnamed, that will remain for many more eons no time at all, in the vast void before the beginning, and be so moved by the body and the moment that you let it all go, everything you are, the body dissolving the last of itself to make the first rain?
They were so long in it that they had begun to suspect the wilderness eternal. Then came a surprise. Against extinction and total loss, a sudden stream of fluid resistance. What was this viscous nectar, freely offered? To be received, and never had.
And then came the memory of someone who so loved the world that they could not stop highlighting her face, who at every turn of the gaze would find her silhouette made flesh and lean into its pliant give. Whose ear, tuned to eavesdrop on dream music, would lift a lucid pen and point it toward transcription of the tattered ends of her beloved robes.
Who kept flying home, crying home, and singing her back, the jazz ache of her grief’s webbed movements and polyphonic breaths keeping time with the ancients at the drums, past the trembling where words won’t go, these nested rolls yoked to something just beyond the reach of the given ear, where the pattern of beats becomes so dense that–––
absorbing our cries
to some original
The wings are wet with oil, and yet.
Still here, we look. This alteration:
how many steps? How bright when
it becomes us, before the lens
takes its leave. I may have lost
mine already, but I remember.
How we had no use for silences
or speech. Neither was needed
to let the other be.
How often one of us says––of some work or other, whether as protector or caretaker; builder, custodian, healer, organizer, artist––we didn’t know the half of what was coming our way when we started. If we had known, we could not have begun. We wouldn’t have been up for it, yet.
My mom says this about the new puppy. She loves the new puppy. The laundry is endless. Lovers say this sometimes, and parents. People who go all in for the old home, even though it “needs a little TLC.”
On a related note, I am now remembering that the thing I think I am working on is almost never the main work, and that the main project is always some other, still hidden thing I’ve started, or taken up with, or allowed to start me. I wonder what I am doing now, and I have a strong suspicion that I lack the perspective I would need to see it.
Now it’s a cocoon. Now a moth. Now it’s something else. What is that thing?
Now it’s beautiful. Now it can kill. Now it’s pure passion. Now it’s a study in precision, one-part formal event, another part emotive creature. Fluid and gorgeous, then stoically opaque.
It is delicate, backbreaking work. Now innocent, now disturbing. This heavy love.
Inspired by this interview with Kathy Butterly, which is my introduction to the sculptor’s work.