Holding

Our pieces.

The babies are at the window 

of the train, watching the smoke 

rise, and here’s another reminder 

that words are only shards of 

of our shattering selves, collected 

in each aftermath, in pockets, and

in the corners of silence, to be

glued into the mosaics we are 

always making with the bits, and

to give some shape to the next

cry when it comes, whenever

it comes, faces pressing this 

window of whatever that is at

the border of a full breath. 

On the Bridge

Portraits in courage.

Waiting, somebody asks, what will happen when the silence breaks? When the sirens come, so does this announcement: turn off the lights, gas, water. Take what you can. At the window of the train, a hundred Pietàs. Close up on camera, the most hunted among them is refusing his chance to escape. We are here, he says, both reminder and call. Here, Our weapon is truth. This is our land, our children, our country, he says, and we will defend. Civilians run to the wrecked tanks in twos and threes to pick up armor. The defenders are on the bridge. The attackers are coming soon. The living pass the dead, over the river. The bodies need collecting. The holes need repair. Certainty? A grandmother laughs. That’s only for the dead, she says. And then, as if remembering, she crosses herself, and says an inaudible prayer.

***

With love for all who are persecuted by greed, tyranny, and war, especially the people of Ukraine in this historic moment. A prayer for your safety, peace and continued courage. May every witness to your example take heart, and offer it to others in your name.

Life and Limb

Seeding the resistance.

With blasts on the horizon again, I want to know the woman who grew a forest around her to show the world its trees, offering a resistance. These ones are harder to kill, she said. She called them sacred and some jeered. 

We don’t know, she explained, what we destroy.

What’s in them, anyway? someone asked.

Time, she answered. Time.

***

Inspired by the work of Dr. Diana Beresford-Kroeger, as discussed in this article.

Yes, You Can

Monday blues vs. DIY inspiration.

When the malaise of Mondays pounds at an unprecedented pitch, it can be helpful to bear witness to the fountain of human ingenuity available on DIY posts across cyberspace. A few keystrokes can renew the world-weary spirit with fresh perspective, not to mention a  wealth of insight on overcoming everyday challenges and turning ordinary items into upcycled treasures.

If your car is giving you trouble, don’t worry. You can convert your ten-speed to an e-bike by installing some easy-to-find hardware. While you’re saving money for the auto repair, you can tune up your table saw with a few simple steps, and while you’re at it, tune up your table saw skills by building this floating key organizer. 

Did you know that it is possible to avoid seeing yourself on video calls, even while keeping the camera on? No more forehead strain while trying to hold your face still. Not only that, but you can become a digital ghost, change the settings on your smart phone, and use time-tested strategies to claim decisive victory over Wordle. 

Want to show off your wild side? You can start a fire in the rain and make a fine side dish out of edible hemlock needles and sidewalk snails––locally sourced! And there’s no need to let another week go by without harnessing the life-changing power of cornstarch. While you’re basking in the glow of the best scrambled eggs you’ve ever tasted, possibilities abound. You might crochet a decorative hippopotamus, make a bucket swing from cutoff jeans and sturdy chain, and replace your normal eyeshadow routine with a festive leopard-print design. Me-ow!

Does the thought of having to take a shower and go to work get you down? It would probably be lots more fun if you had taken the time to up your hygiene game by infusing some soap eggs with plastic dinosaurs! It really pays to think ahead. Just don’t forget to submerge the figurines completely into the mold before it hardens. 

Yes, the world is your oyster. Not only that, but those leftover shells may be the secret to upping your domestic interior with some choice beach-themed home décor ideas. While the lighting fixture projects are recommended for the advanced craftsperson, anyone can make a compete set of oyster-shell Santa heads for next year’s tree, and who couldn’t use more of those? Onward!

The Alumni News

Reading the honorable dispatch.

See this tree-lined walk, snow framed beneath the red brick. Notice the tower, the arch. Hear this presidential address: honor society, an array of diversity, equity, inclusion. Notice the right words in appropriate places. 

Want evidence? See this picture! Don’t miss our greens, our greenhouse, and We Are Going Green. Dedication! Concert! Debut! 

We cut the ribbon. A trio of new sculptures in the courtyard. The renovated center. Award, fellowship, title, win! Our success rates. Recognition, honor, inaugural event! Homecoming.

Last, in memoriam. Here are the latest dead. See their photos, all smiling. Notice their honors, connections, advanced degrees. They are survived. We remember. Dates. Pay no attention to the missing. We look forward to an exciting year ahead!

I remember the tower bell, how it would sound on the hour, the expansive flood of its knell. Impossible, even if you kept talking through it, not to notice the suggestion, at least, of what was infinitely more vast and ancient than the oldest historic building––in the air we gushed, the land we rushed over, the silences between each proclamation.

*

Inspired by the pile of mail I’ve been meaning to go through, in which I found my alumni magazine. It’s a beautiful publication for a wonderful school, but I always feel a little funny about opening it, probably for reasons similar to the trepidation one feels around reunions. One’s life never quite fits into an update. One never quite feels quite “arrived” enough. Sensing that I must not be alone in this discomfort, I decided to read it here.

Counting Saints

Commonplace reminders on being.

Golden yarrow, fledgling web, congregations of clover refusing to quit. These dishes again, and the pot left soaking overnight. Pan, too. Basket of laundry, ever renewing, and this list. This ache in my temples to remind me what I took for granted just last week, like the fluttering chest and sore neck. Sleeping cat in the chair, beside a small collection of beach rocks, at least one of which is concrete, gathered how many years ago? By still-dimpled hands, with calm assurance reaching up, saying Here. Hawk on streetlight, coyote in yard, dog panting on rug, legs splayed forward and back, trail of pawprints between the door and where she is now, looking up. This trio of men at the park in boxing gloves and sweatpants and the youngest must be at least sixty-eight. They run in circles, punch pads and one another’s gloves, punch trees and the trees hold still. One among them is the coach and when he’s not cussing a blue streak he’s shouting, C’mon, that don’t matter! Whaddya doin?! No, look! Up, up, up!

For All Times

Considering the movement in these moments.

You’ve been a cane-wielding cartoon old man, white beard down to your knees; a bloody tyrant, horned and masked, coming to ravage every beloved. Then, in the next scene, a healer: white linen, salves, and herbs, sometimes in the costume of a nurse of the first influenza, the first world war. The bard posed you with a scythe, the dark reaper poised, and had his lovers profess refusal to be your fool.

Then you’re a river. We build our settlements near you, travel over washing, reviving, bathing, and blessing one another by your body. Then, when the great storms come, you rinse us away––and yet, when we come to, there we are, still within and among your waters, carrying their currents in our cells. Someone suggests you are an illusion, maybe they meant elusive, but the idea adds much to our sense of the scope and reach of what we touch and then create, our tools one part memory and another part dream, and the last must be need. But for what? Is this nourishment you bring, or is it more like shelter against what we are not ready for––yet?

If you are long like a ribbon or a road, why can’t we know this about you in a moment? There’s no duration in the present, but we’ll measure rest as well as motion, our now both a beginning and an end, and in your holy geography we continue to meet, dancing in the second line with the saints, and we the once and future ancients, spinning the rhythms of your forever reception. 

How We Hold

On the ties that bind us.

Our long infancies make for long bonds, as with elephants, primates, and crows. Herodotus had a mind to study family ties, but he couldn’t find a set given when it came to what lines they might follow or what shapes they could take.  

The sheer helplessness of the infant explains a few things about the biological necessity for the strength of such long bonds, and yet. Isn’t it also true that most of us are walking around with at least one infant inside us, however carefully swaddled, who is bound unpredictably and for no reason––but their own––to cry out, Help! Hold.

Consider the etymology of family: one part property, one part servant, one part friendship. A prayer for the body collective: you are mine and I am for you; friend, take my hand––the original need, made and remade.

Consider the wide-ranging implications of the phrase to be heldholding. A hand is not a cell. A tie is not a cage. A friend knows that the hand may be stretched in any direction, across a table, Here; down into a dark recess, Pull! and up from another deep hole, Help! A body among friends will naturally do all of these again and again, unless prevented by some opposing force.

I love the way that in some contexts, almost every exchange is followed by an, I gotchou. How often, in these same places, you might rarely hear proclamations mentioning love or devotion specifically. But watch the hands of the men as they pass: fingertips, then palms, then full grip, knuckles, wrists, sometimes all the way up the arm to a full embrace, as if the point is to practice different ways to hold. To say with the body, I got you.

Enough

An interview with the curators of “Enough: an Exhibit of Curiosities.”

When did you first know you had it?

Had what?

Enough.

Enough what?

You know.

I’m in the dark.

The life, you know. Like that Scandinavian word that got big a few years ago, about warm socks and cocoa by a fire.

But I am in the dark when it happens. There wasn’t a fire. No light, no socks, no cocoa.

And then what?

I breathed anyway.

Notes for the Missing

Inspired by messages to elusive someones that came and went.

This post is part of an ongoing series I can’t seem to resist, inspired by posts on online message boards.

***

You were at Home Depot, wanting to talk. You were turning around at the marina, and I was passing toward the end of the dock.

You were helping at a thrift store near the train station. You were seen later, camping near a picnic table at the Park ‘N Ride, and then you were gone. Where are you staying now?

You were at the bakery, the swap meet, at Major Market on Broadway.

You were my friend, my lunch partner, my gym buddy. You made me smile. I have missed you.

We miss so much, don’t we? Going about these daily tasks, getting dog food, gas, and BAM! A sighting, and it’s you again, isn’t it? Peeling back the veil of the world I think I know, when you arrive, and just as quickly, go. 

***

Others in this series: