Thrifting

Cloth hangs thick as curtains: floral dresses
and saris with their oriental prints.
Patterns from the tropics.
Fabric from the moon.
My own clothes now
are navy and dull from so many cleanings.
These are the pants I wear to work.
The sweater I wear to meetings,
to my lectures, with no comment
or complaints to my supervisor
or his supervisor.
I know myself well,
it is a lifeless body draped
without vegetable dyes or the soak
of the earth, raw hands to knead
the knots and stitches.  I am clearly not
of this same earth
as I see my face distorted
in the curve of the shining rods
on the racks.
                             These clothes are almost free,
relinquished by those who once owned them, by those
who first imagined them, holding the design
in their mind and finally
made them, stitch by stitch.
There is sadness in such a tender craft.
For now they belong to themselves, aging
in the light as it streams through windowpanes;
they are safely apart from the world,
yet part of the world, made of the world
as it flashes by the bars of my body
and does not peek inside.
Look at me, I’m begging
these bones to open, to open! and yet
I am trapped
in this box of glass:
every speck of dust is illuminated.

Image

Salt

Libraries, for example, are good places
to escape the viciousness of people
when they try to get

inside of you.

Between the shelves
there is plenty of space
to lick your wounds.

This is something I do often.

My first twenty years weren’t easy
I was always busy
with the important occupation

of dismantling myself—an exhausting
and ungrateful enterprise.
I did this so earnestly that I was, in fact,
convinced 

I had invented the vocation.

I just kept carving
and carving.

Did I ever succeed? in scraping clean
the rind.  in turning myself
inside-out.  What is left?
after such a thorough cauterization.

One raw little soul.

I can still taste that grief
in my mouth like champagne, icy
& no hint of sweetness.

I could have stayed inside all day.

Meanwhile on the quad, a pretty girl
walks her small white dog
across the grass & shadows
sprawl across the perfect lawn

with their splotchy memory.
Although memory, I am learning,
always give back much more color
than what was there in the first place.

I look back now, and I want to feel 
that grass 
on my skin.  But all I can remember
is that I hated my life

and I hated my life.

The feeling comes
and goes, but at least I find
a quiet absolution in my landscape:
the restfulness of books
and sunlight in an empty room
that transforms the isolation
into something else entirely.

Dear Astrid

Loneliness is the human condition.
Cultivate it. The way it tunnels into you
allows your soul room to grow.

Never expect to outgrow loneliness.
Never hope to find people who will understand you,
someone to fill that space.  An intelligent, sensitive person
is the exception,
the very great exception.

If you expect to find someone who will understand you,
you will grow murderous
with disappointment.
The best you'll ever do is to understand yourself,
know what it is that you want,
and not let the cattle get in the way.

Moo.

Image

Excerpt adapted from White Oleander, by Janet Fitch.