The summer slipped away again, washed away in heavy rain, turning itself over to a burnt October The pear trees slowly slumped beneath the balmy weight of southern sky and finally they bore their swollen fruit Now the mild autumn days roll by calmly, slow as summer thunder. This house is very quiet. Outside the world keeps blooming into auburn color, flooding through the kitchen windows where I am baking bread or reading novels Even the bees drift lazily among the fallen pears fermenting in the sun. I watch them start to fly then float back down to the sugar-bruised fruit Surely nothing is more silent than steam escaping hot bread broken alone, than black tea going cold.
When I was little, I thought I had the power to change them. When you got cancer, I bargained with God: He could take away my power if you could live. You didn’t die and I can’t change stoplights.
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.
I’m told this is a paradise
of snow and sea and starlight.
The mountains burst out from the loam
then tumble to the charcoal water
like a silent white explosion,
splitting through the citrus sky.
But its sound is swallowed in the vastness
like a whisper or a violent kiss.
I’ve heard there’s beauty in the bareness,
in the sparkling glacial graves.
The sun melts across the hills like nectar,
as dusk starts seeping through the trees.
But something holds me by the water,
underneath the lights in the sky that are stars,
stuck between fearing cataclysm
and wishing for it. Working towards it.
When wolves first meet up they have a ritual of smelling one other’s breath One wolf will put his nose to the mouth of another, asking What have you been hunting? The second wolf exhales thick breath, hot with blood and sulfur to explain, You can still smell the kill But nothing tells this story quite as well as a human. My father took me hunting every autumn Crouched down in the forest beside him, I felt the gravity of this genre, the deepness of its roots extending so far beyond men. It was the sensation of soil working its way into the grooves of my skin, the crunch of detritus underfoot. It becomes a type of language, like a prayer In college, I would later learn some theories which suggest that the human kiss began as a mouth-to-mouth greeting like that of the wolf. I knew this immediately to be true; my father is a wolf. Always quick and deliberate; gutting his animal in perfect technique. He taught me how to split open the ribcage and reach inside— you have to grab the heart and sever the moorings. But still, there is a right way and a wrong way to kill an animal.
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.
After everything, I couldn’t stand to be alone in my bedroom, so I started sleeping on the couch. Then I couldn’t stand the couch so I slept outside in the grass, but I couldn’t stand the grass. So I slept in my body, strung from my ankles and my wrists like a hammock. When I couldn't stand my body, I chiseled myself out of it. This use of knives broke my heart, because it was an act of violence. My weakness broke my heart, because Julia comes from Jupiter. The meaning of my name broke my heart because I would rather be beautiful than strong. My vanity broke my heart because I am a scholar. My education broke my heart because universities are mostly lonely places and knowledge, in the end, is empty. My emptiness ate me alive; I was starving to be whole. The thought of wholeness broke my heart because it is elusive and I could not have it. So I tried to rationalize wholeness as the mastery of all interests: I walked into the yard trying to vomit and pray simultaneously. I fell asleep while whispering a love song. I was empty empty empty. I've had enough heartbreak to fill every inch of this house. Really, I was drowning in a room I couldn't stand.