2 geese in perfect duo
over the bridge together
back from winter.
A false Spring,
a lovely start.
A woman’s pair of beige dance shoes
hangs from the powerline
outside the theatre.
She always wanted to be
a tightrope walker.
We often throw ourselves higher,
sooner than we think we’re able to go.
Ostara, in her haste,
drops a white-washed paintbrush
on the robin blue eggshell sky
leaving a smatter of
pulled apart cotton cloud.
The birds still wait to be warmed
To fly or to burrow?
Cannot take the sky
before I know how
to go to ground.
A strange circular rainbow appears
behind a triangular treeline.
Not yet. Still, more rain.
I take a wrong turn into a dead end street
and the Ouroboros symbol appears
on a glassblowers garage studio door
at the end of the alley,
and it’s no longer the wrong way
it’s the right symbol,
I turn around again
bite my own tail,
face the sun
waiting, turning from the dark
for two to agree
and become one.
I sat waiting for my lunch to be ready. Closing my eyes, the sun warming me, honing in on nearby conversations.
“It was just awful!”
“Do you want to meet later?”
“We have to get back soon.”
“What are you hungry for?”
And then, “Think of a Chinese word you’d like to see written.”
Two young women, students conducting a written language experiment, held a small, dry-erase board and the woman in the steel-grey wool skirt looked sheepishly to the man-in-tow standing next to her, scanning his face for a word, for approval.
“Tomato,” she smiled and shrugged.
“What an uninteresting word,” I thought to myself. Clearly, hunger and condiments dominated her thoughts to choose such an oddly simple thing.
The student began to draw the two characters, then handed the board to steel-grey skirt and asked her to draw it, to copy the lines in her own hand.
“Like this?” She fumbled through and the student asked to take a picture of steel-grey skirt holding up the sign, which she obliged after being assured it wouldn’t end up on the web or Facebook.
Steel-grey skirt and man-in-tow collected their lunches and wandered off back to their meetings and spreadsheets and before the students could walk away, I volunteered, “I have a word I’d like to see.”
“Great! What’s the word?”
“Oh—I’ll have to look that one up, it might be kind of difficult, the Chinese don’t really have an expression for that. Well, depending on the context I guess.”
“I suppose weakness is not a good emotional or political stance,” I mused.
She typed it into her phone where there must’ve been a pinyin and symbology translator of sorts and she mumbled, “Ah, hmm, that’s really pretty.”
She sketched out what looked like two number 5s, curved, bent and spooning, little animals with two quick hatchmarks in the coils and crooks, something warm in their bellies perhaps. The second symbol, like a little house on stick legs, or a bird laying in a field of short reeds or soft, matted grass, or a boat on uneven waves jutting a mast with no sail attached.
She handed me the board and it was my turn to draw.
“Very good!” She encouraged. “You could do calligraphy.”
And I suddenly thought of my high school art class, how I attended my prom for free because I volunteered to hand write every student’s name in my graduating class and their respective date’s name on folded white cardstock for all the seating arrangements at the dinner tables. How I painstakingly wrote every letter with a copper pen tip, sinking the nib into a bottle of crow-black ink, scratching out letters and then with a glue gun, affixing a black bow-tied ribbon and burgundy rose in the corner of every one.
She took my picture holding up the board with “vulnerable” written twice and asked, “Why are you so interested in this word?”
I considered the tomato. Heart-shaped, red, plump, viscous inside, thin-skinned, vulnerable and thought perhaps, it wasn’t such a bad word after all and I said, “I think objects are fine, but I am more curious about concepts, especially emotional ones that are difficult to describe with one word. Like love or home or wonder.” I thought about how big ideas cannot, should not easily be boiled down, compartmentalized, or compressed into a single word or worse, an acronym. Americans are really fond of acronyms and especially mnemonics, trying to make big ideas memorable, and easier to digest, when really, what must be done is some digging, some spelunking, some serious unpacking followed by a gentle examination of all the parts.
I thought of other languages where speakers might have cultural differences and difficulties expressing emotion. For instance, one way of responding to the everyday greeting of “How are you?” in Russian is to say ” I am not unwell.” As if, already expressing in the negative was a way of conveying strength. Things could be worse. I’m not dead yet. My friend told a story where in high school, a Russian exchange student staying at his home was being chastised for taking her host family’s young son out to play in his school clothes on a rainy day. His mother wasn’t at all happy that they had returned so filthy, caked in mud and muck, but the Russian girl sweetly explained to the mother, “he is not unwashable.”
What does it mean to be vulnerable? To be “accessible, assailable, defenseless, exposed, liable, naked, on the line, on the spot, out on a limb, ready, sensitive, sitting duck, sucker, susceptible, tender, thin-skinned, unguarded, unprotected, unsafe, weak, wide open, open to attack.” Why is there no strength in vulnerability when it takes all the courage in the world to allow yourself to let something, some ideas, someone in? To yield with grace to the often terrifying, ever-shifting locus of love, of home, and of wonder.
All three of these ideas have changed greatly for me in the last several years. Losing a beloved pet to cancer, losing a home by being priced out of the neighborhood, losing a job and a marriage; and all of these losses and changes at nearly the same time. It was like witnessing all the love and home and wonder I nurtured suddenly evaporate out from under me. There was a serious unpacking. There was a gentle examination of all my parts. Especially the ones that went missing, where I identified myself.
I thought of many loves lost in my youth, how some of the most tender pieces of me were carried off by wild wolf boys and buried like edible treasure to devour later. How sometimes there were wounds I ignored and over and over I had to revisit the same old traps that closed upon them to extract myself very carefully so as to not lose more pieces still. Sure, I came out licking my wounds, scathed and dirty. But I emerged whole.
Turns out, I am not unwahsable. I am not unwell. I am still hungry and I am getting reacquainted with wonder. I have redefined home. I still don’t fully understand the nature of love, but I am very much an eager student and believer of it in all of its necessary function and beautiful, new forms.
Last nite I dreamed a child was born. An angry, powerful girl child meant for battle. A child somehow prophesied and meant to act as a weapon, a tool for humanity. I did not give birth to this child, I simply kept my distance and observed as all the wise men and women sought to coax her and train her. They staged miniature bouts between the child and those who thought themselves strong enough to get within striking distance. No one could and those who tried were thrown back from the child’s fiery, protective field, a red bubble, a halo of light that would build and erupt and push the intruder away as the child sounded with an ear-piercing cry.
I watched the warriors come and go and paced and thought and drew close to the child and gently removed the clutch of her handler from her tiny shoulder. I was well within range to destroy the child meant for service and greatness or murder and annihilation but I gathered the child instead to my barren breast which suddenly gave milk and comfort. I looked to the handler who nodded and closed his eyes and took the child with me for a walk through a field, which led us down a dirt road where Iboarded a bus where a man sat beside me with open sea-green eyes and a gentle countenance. He put his arm about my shoulders and held us both and the child looked up at me and smiled.
No—it is not a longing for children. I am instead longing to soothe that angry, sad untempered part of me who has taken some damage lately and lashes out at all the wrong people, in all the wrong dimensions, and with wildly inordinate scales of heat.
I am listening to my dream language and I know what I must do. It involves some self-mothering. And some fussing and some nursing. To be sure.