Blur

In memoriam.

It has been said that the fade of memory is a symptom of decaying sense. One loses the outline, the detail, over time. Color washed into water, the old forms oceanic, and yet. A blurred thing may be as particular as anything sharp. For some of these, the blur itself was the essence: reflection on water, the texture of sky, your life. Don’t make this love a bullet or a blade, and I won’t reduce its music to a marching drum. 

For some, all learning is the remembering of what was already present in a soul before the dark days of sharp derangement before our bodies spilled into the soil. My brother’s blood is not your warpaint and my mother’s cry is not a call to your next battle. Wait.

When sense becomes senseless, let me blur with you, brother, that I may learn your life in concert with my own. Let the blood-drenched soil bloom until some new music comes. We are all out of tune. Teach yourself to us, again. 

In Our Time

Among the living.

Sometimes, when it was hiding in our homeland, we would feel its aftermaths in succession, running our fingers along the seams of cracked earth. Means for making meaning, ever mutating, make new forms where the formers are buried. We move soil to make room for our dead. Seedlings, too––even then. 

We could not call it war until we survived it. In the meantime, it was living. It was diapers and babies, earaches and crackers and someone still had to milk the cows, walk the dogs, and soak the beans overnight. 

What did you do? They will ask us later. Possibly we will forget by then, how we folded laundry and clipped toenails. How sometimes, even then, someone would show up with a cake, and someone else would find plates. We would pass slices one at a time, among the living.

Hello, Stranger

For the love of seaweed.

There is the familiar arrangement of well-known symmetrical forms, the sort that draws comments of Cute, and Beautiful, exclamation mark. These are not that. Slick like raw meat, covered with film over knotty, bulbous appendages, they were dubbed the useless class of botanists. Perhaps it is the fate of things deemed useless, to be collected by fringe enthusiasts, who pressed them between paper, offered collections as gifts. They would sell them during the first world war, to raise money for wounded soldiers, and this is one of those things I can’t stop thinking: how when a continent was immersed in mechanized violence on a scale unprecedented in human history, some responded by collecting delicate specimens of fragile ocean life, to press between pages. 

***

Inspired by Sasha Archibald’s Love and Longing in the Seaweed Album in the Public Domain Review.

Hope in the Dark

Against other constants, and at random.

“Everything I ever thought to be a nightmare is nothing compared to what I am witnessing.”

Voice of Diana Berg, Mariupol Resident, in “No Water, No Electricity: Life Under Siege in Mariupol”

I wanted to tell you, when we spoke last week, about the child returned to the swing before the bombed-out building where he once lived, lifting his foot to the sky anyway, before he can know the word for resistance; and also about the the women gathered close in a kitchen, by the thin window before it broke, passing cake around on patterned plates with good silverware, saying to one another Here, here. Eat––

but the conversation followed another line, and then time was up, and now the shelling is constant and at random and I don’t think the child is swinging anymore, and I don’t know what happened to the women with the cake, if they got on a train the next day, or went underground, and I don’t want to end with this––

constant

––did you hear about the babies born in the basement of the Metro station? Yes, there were several and you could hear the mothers’ screams below against the shelling above, but it is said they are okay now, these babies not because they are at home––and where will that be–– the shelling constant

and at random

––when this is done, 

when is this done? It is constant

but they are at their mother’s breasts and there is still milk even as the mothers are weeping, especially as the mothers are weeping, there is weeping constantly now and at random, and there are also the tiny fingers wrapped tight around a mother’s pointer finger, as if to hold her pointing in place

this

finger like a compass needle dotted with this row of little nails. Strong grip, people say, for some excuse to laugh, and everyone agrees, because this is here now, the grip of the newborn whose first days begin and end here, whose home is mother.

***

Inspired by the documentary mentioned above, featured in the New York Times, March 5, 2022 (Created by Masha Froliak, Ainara Tiefenthäler, Dmitri Khavin, and Sarah Kerr), in which Diana Berg also observes, “The shelling is constant and at random.” Also by stories like this, of births in the metro station. The title of this piece nods to Rebecca Solnit’s brilliant work, especially her Hope in The Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities.  

Safe Passage

For shelter in the event of this now.

How do you enter?

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.

How?

It can help to know that–– 

Not to say too much. We want them to feel normal, say the mothers.

What now?

We pray, says one mother. We pray a lot, she says, for peace.

But how can––

Look. We are already here.

But––

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.

Sources referenced: Foreign Policy and Today.