On the corner of Broadway and Elm.
[A bus stop. She stands with her arms out.
Her mouth moves. People see it moving
from their cars. Another sight but not a
I did not come here today
to point at you / I came here to
offer resistance to every impulse to
wield speech like sharpened knife ready
for blood I want to swell not drain it
to resist these Peters enough with
your swords already the speech of this
hour is not your righteous proclamation
your self-righteous dedication to your
selves, your group, your flag, this
one is music it is receiving it is
the tongue that moves to open the
body, uncurling fingers first from
fists relaxing at the wrists, out
and out resist the urge to shield
again this heart I have only this
these arms, this wavering voice––
I see you
take a good look but then listen––
do you hear?
What is today our objective isn’t one and the materials needed are no more than what we already hold, and much less, and the words for the hour are only favorites including those we’ve never said, and the challenge is to find it in us to do one small thing or better yet, no single thing, not one, so that when they come to ask us to account for ourselves any one of us might respond, We are––, and leave it there?
In this luminous shade, our tenses melting, we could number the contractions in our skins until we lost count or became distracted. Even the spine’s intention drifts. The once vivid eyes lose precision, and some bright cousin of sorrow shines through. Oh, I am falling apart, you say, not for the first time, and now we can’t stop laughing.
Once when I was stuck, a dog came to sniff at me, tail wagging with interest. The old woman followed, calling after the dog. She laughed to see me.
That’s not very helpful, I said to the old woman, adding that I could really use some help.
Then the dog barked and ran off after something else. Still laughing as she followed the dog with her gaze, the old woman shared an opinion. This was not the sort of thing I would have found helpful in ordinary circumstances. However, stuck as I was, I had time to think about it after she left.
When nothing will let you go, she offered, what if you let it, and go? To catch what would bud and break from the remains?
That is how I came to be here, still breaking from remains.
After the brimstone men were gone marching, the women gathered on porches and in kitchens near us as we played, and sometimes we would sit at their feet and in their laps, pretending not to listen to the stories they told as they rocked back and forth, pretending not to wait with any hunger for the moments when they would break into laughter, and song.
Inspired partially by Rhiannon Giddens.
The ordinary breaks apart, but in so many versions that it is endlessly ending into astonishment.
I can’t believe this, we say again, and keep on.
We would feel it at the edges of our breaths, something shining we imagined could launch us. Into some finitude and with open hands waiting at the end of the long tunnel at the top of the stairs after the last stop. But it wasn’t like that. When it came, we were still in the station, packed and––as we described ourselves so often, then––ready to go. Then, an announcement over the speakers in the lobby. But there is no world but this one. Where did we think? A voice demanded. We were going.
Siri how does it end and what happens.
To all these broken lights?
Why so many vessels, Siri, for some single
when all it wants is its wholeness
––We, I mean. All we. Want.
Siri doesn’t respond. Then one day
she asks, Is that your final answer?
Since when do you ask questions, Siri?
I’m sorry, she tells me. I don’t understand.
They would appear every year around this time, a few weeks after first frost, when skies turned uncertain, and evening began to flood our afternoons. Some caution enters with the season, attended by its sidekick, mischief, daring to betray all reminders to take care where it’s cold, where it’s dark. To watch out.
They appeared as other seasonal creatures did, the kind that inspire axioms administered to students. As in, watch the squirrel gather acorns for winter, watch the leaves turn and fall, the geese flying south (as they once did with more note, in greater numbers). But no one of the sort inclined toward neat lesson would mention these other creatures, except with some comment about fools. Who catch their death of cold––that or eternal fire, for lack of modesty.
They were always young men at the age of terror and anticipation. A few years, some young women joined, but these were a different sort of spectacle, the sort you had to take care not to see. The ran across the clearing, naked except for boots, laughing with hoots and shrieks, with pumping arms and wild faces. A few wore hats. They appeared suddenly and were gone. After, no one could ever be sure who it was, unless someone bragged about it later. It seemed best not to know. There go the streakers, someone would say. And then it would be quiet again, as the evening continued, and the cold.
After the children had gone to live among the missing, after the pirates searched and left the land of broken light, our ghosts, these former vessels were everywhere.
And now. The screens rotate between sales events. First furniture, then war.
Idle hands, moving gaze. Downhill crossing grid: stucco, asphalt, concrete, sidewalk, yard. Repeat under shadow of freeway, up southern peaks. Back over yard, clotheslines, sheets into the harsh of late morning.
Find water, find ice, find the birds with your ears. Try again. They’ve gone silent. Find freeway on three sides a sudden soft hush and now a child’s laugh. Look and see her.
Barefoot and away, threading steps between oak and sage, eucalyptus, orange. Her pause in the clearing to enact the opening of stem into bud stretching petals to hills spinning. While stray cats watch, a horse looks on,