I’d love to tell you, but the words become ghosts, choking intention.
Once, they showed their insides, breaking open.
Meaning tends to expand at the site of the cut.
The next attempt reminds: what is necessary is also impossible.
The space after time’s vanishing has a way of losing its contours.
To compensate, you can try cross-mapping histories to create an architecture of memory.
Now we are inside the stones, now we are their erosion.
By exposing matter, you can revisit its secretive nature. Some colors don’t happen in paint.
The synapses around a single sentence can curl a face into the face of another time.
We pierced the soft flesh of old monuments.
A child makes bricks of debris, each block a memory.
If each of these haystacks is another time of day, seeing is what happens between them.
Inspired by Monet’s Haystacks.
In the days when we knew forms were only provisional, you called Leap! at the sight of the next star. Our metamorphic world buzzed with a panorama of possible and the hours were a cyclic series of somersaults.
We read by the myth from inside its closed shell, unlike the heavy-headed beachcombers trying to recover something lost. From inside, we dissolved selves well enough to forget our tired, temporary names and donned instead originals of dark dimension. In these we splashed back to the undergrounds where the Mothers knew us, to restore the old tales to their first beginnings. We chased the slivering prints of angels’ bare feet to catch them only long enough that they would whisper again the small verse assigned to each of us. This one is yours to bring forth, they told us, one at a time.
In dawn’s purple flame, the branching capillaries of eons swelled our skins, and Time’s wild clowning made us know ourselves at once alive and dead, ending and beginning, never and again. By this light, the world’s creatures seemed to know us, looking back as though waiting to be named.
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.
With exhaustion’s heavy fog rolling thick against the day, it is too much to find the lines of the perimeters I am expected to seal. Then comes a dovetail reversal. Fever burns a midday sun’s cruel brilliance, blinding against the snow. The long melt follows but still not the lines. Hands defy the premise of trespass, insisting. Here is no territory, but soil.
You ask where the time is going. I can’t answer. Someone calls, inside! I look to where we came from, and the door stands ajar, its half-open hesitancy hiding some threshold creature, looking back.
For whom I, on the other side of its pause, must be another threshold creature, looking back.
Sure, we had a habit of holding. All of us did. The sudden beauties we couldn’t keep from loving kept on doing what sudden beauties do. Don’t go, we said, but the plea sounded tinny in our ears. What resonated was the departure itself. We looked from a cliff, and with colors slanting words from us, we were gone before we left. Someone at the end of the horizon kept pulling back the sun. We had the sense of being the butt of the joke in this ritual play. The laughter was gentle, but we felt that it was something else, too. Sometimes.
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.
There was a river in the hymns that the grandmas kept under their breath. It wound across the landscape and in and out of alleyways and dark rooms, poised to wash a crossing body of its fears. Dip a hand in as often as you like, one told us, it will be a new river every time. They hummed it over dishes, over laundry, in the car, when looking past the window, unable to speak.
There is no resolution, is there? So much is lost in the archive, and what isn’t––of memory, and the rest of us––isn’t mild. Our warped genesis, we tried to keep it in the basement and when the floods started coming, we watched our photos. How they bounced in the underground lake, above the sediments of our boxed secrets, those dreams of all we might yet be.
Here is our foundation: sacrifice, or accident? The awe of it.
Mama. How are you breathing now? Someone said of your lungs, that it doesn’t look––still, I think of your waves. How we would throw ourselves into you to feel the rush of you tossing us back. Sometimes you would hold us in place for the space of the next breath we expected to take, so that we might know something. I’m still trying to know it. It has to do with fragility and strength, play and death, love, and the depths of some wounds. As if you are saying, feel this: all of me shifting with each pulse and the only one holding is you.
The floods keep coming. Still, we collect. A song starts and catches in the back of the throat. Wade in––
During the crisis, we rehearsed everything we knew, sending ambiguous signs and vague symbols––an ongoing SOS maybe, to some beyond––and watched the play of light, how it obscured the boundaries between surface and space. Which were we, anyway?
It rained and the bombing continued and so did the ads for flawless skin in seconds and the promise of a good night’s sleep, an end to mildew, air fryers. The campaigns were one-note, not unlike the bombs; some spoke of distraction, but who had the time? The babies were needing. The list was endless. It was never done. There were only so many of us, to hold them.
Horizons blurred, then sharpened. We looked and gave up looking. The crisis would splash across our faces. We stopped sometimes to wash them, turning away from it, sometimes into each another, and everyone had a story of a sighting, the something they would never forget. Bodies looked for somewhere to rest. Where? we asked each other. When?
Which is to say, I cannot remember where the bits went in the last blast, or what they were. I don’t remember what or if I was holding at the time, only that I felt it fly from me, scattering in every direction.
It wasn’t a sign or a symbol. I retrace my steps, rehearse everything. But it won’t take. Someone calls, help me. I almost recognize the voice.
Paper or stone; water or fire? When in doubt, we played tic-tac-toe and hoped for the best. We were in love with broken things: hiccupping wheels, chipped teacups, the wings of fallen sparrows and the lines of our own teeth. Here it comes, we would announce, pulling the next one loose. You wanted a cast so people could lean in and leave their names.
Empty rooms were magnificent halls to be witnessed from a corner on the bare floor. It was the light that did it, granting some significance to everything it touched. We watched it come and go. It moved like it knew its way around, like it knew us.
Inspired when I chanced upon this image from Barbara Bloom’s Pictures from the Floating World.