Say it’s a last day. Say the seagull knows. Say this is the explanation for that seeming pointed look where it stops just now on this eye-level post. There are these urgent clouds at the horizon, the edge of a tongue frayed toward song. Bodies inflected against the tide. To be washed, a quiet instrument waiting. If our dead watch, let someone play me now. That I may praise it, too.
If the edge if the fall if the downpour or a sudden neglect of the next breath if in the heat to the land of no light the blind prophet will not come, if the wailing starts again, if the Edens are forever gone and the third day brings no relief and the next call no answer if the cold brings the ships again––or won’t, please do not lay this down while you are here. Please, stay for the carrying until there is none.
And I watched another raging hero with the priest, disputing the last claim to spoils of war––at the end of another bloody year, another daughter’s ransom, and the muzzled prophet muted, and I know you sent your heralds, but their words were weak against the noise. You said I had to learn to let things be as they are, but who was I to untie myself of every assumption inherited at altitude? Even the clouds are flying now from the weight of this constellation of atoms, held fast while the widening day goes on, denying all assurances that tomorrow or tomorrow or tomorrow will return from the place where it flew off right now, to somewhere past the sight lines, out of reach.
City of the sun, salve my sins and give me second skins in half-off drive-thru plastic packets with a color for every fluorescent mood, forget the shadow. Food’s first rush shakes the rattle, hard- fisted billboards of it banging now, now, now at the table. One day I’d like to meet someone––city, are you listening your eyes in every limb the undulating spread of you––someone across the table draped in shade, can you imagine in the radiant quiet of those hands, another pulse?
The bend of years is partial, a pockmarked continuum of dropped stitches against the fast-forward spit of a seventh-inning pitcher known for curves.
This made us cling: to the bodies of pets, lovers, the photos of children––ours, the ones we had been, the ones we never knew, could not remember, and the new dead.
We could not name our joys, only the pause between days in which we called our exiled silences back home to hang them on loops of the threads we meant to weave back into place, somehow.
My daughter is sleeping, and I want to cup my hands around her face, to frame for a moment what won’t be kept, to hold inside the curve the stillness of an original praise song, the only one with any bearing and still it won’t quite hold. Look at you. There you are. Come here.
Like this, she said, hands open, singing. Gonna let it move me, she sang, and we followed, fingers splayed and pressing into the space of the circle we made with our attention. Now stir, she said, and we did, and it stirred us up.
Let it come, she sang. We laughed, cried. Feel this, she sang, and by then we couldn’t help ourselves because our centers had shifted to the space between us, and it was this that we pressed with our open hands. It was into this that we poured our voices, surrendered our attentions––
And we held it like that, stirring and singing together, here. Something shifted, and we went with it.
It is something, isn’t it, to reach the end of a day and count the moments that one’s life is spared, and perhaps something else to start the day with such a list, considering all the excellent reasons there were, after all, for not having anything to begin, ever again.
What, you mean this? It can help to know that you are already here.
Parents have been sending the children to school with special stickers: names, telephone, blood type––in case, in the event––unmentionable, but. Some schools made these stickers mandatory. They have been practicing. In case of fire, one drill; bomb, another. The idea is not to panic.
It can help to know that––
Not to say too much. We want them to feel normal, say the mothers.
We pray, says one mother. We pray a lot, she says, for peace.
But how can––
Look. We are already here.
We hold the babies, hold the prayers. We hold on, and the windows are shaking.
Shhh, we say, shh. What else?
For the mothers and the babies, the brothers, fathers, the missing, and those holding in solidarity and love.
To see a baby elephant splashing and take it as a suggestion.
May I know it for answering thirst, and to wash; for cooling feet, brushing teeth, boiling food; for baptism. May I swim to you through it. May I always remember the depths of its substance, the hidden multitudes beneath its infinite unknowns, and the speed at which I might be swallowed whole.
And yet, let me also remember what this little one knows at first touch, when she is feeling only surface, undistracted by depth: how it presses back against skin, against the pressure of whomever leans in. How this willingness to return touch magnified makes it best for splashing.
The first praise song ever uttered goes like this: Splash, tap, tap, splash! Open hand, open mouth, open foot. Again, again! Not to make a point, but for the delight of having none, but this.
Inspired by this video of Chaba, a rescued baby elephant, enjoying the water in her new tub, which I encountered on My Modern Met: