A Buddhist monk once said that life is like stepping into a boat that is already sinking. Death: it’s the apples rotting in the yard. My mother says she is not afraid of death, but of dying. Not me. I am terrified of death, its finality. Lights out. Or else, eternity. But first, the dusty volume propped open on the welcome desk, thick as a phonebook The careful catalogue of my choices to be considered: The lies I told without blinking All the homeless I have walked past The mornings I left without saying I love you. Humble, courageous, and kind: my mother will go to heaven. Her heart is just enormous, like Audrey Tautou in Amélie, dipping her hands into sacks of grain at the market. I might go to hell: I don't save birthday cards or love letters. I hoard unread novels and believe I am what I wear. I am bad at listening even as the Buddhist Zen says gently until death there is nothing enough.
You didn’t understand: I wanted freedom; well didn’t I have it? You demanded to know: Why all this beating of wings? Not in words, but the way you stared at the floor and nestled the cat to show that you were capable of affection but withheld it from me. To you this was a question of loyalty. Meanwhile, I was trapped in the slow-clicking memory of my childhood, like an old video tape: the tick of a clock, the sound of late afternoon. At this time of year, there is no sunset, just the deep carve of light that slowly melts away. I told you I was leaving, which was easier than allowing you to love me. At first, it felt as if the sky had been ripped off the earth, but then I finally sensed my own existence and I was ravenous for the world, driven outward like a bursting sap. For weeks, I opened all the windows before I went to bed. How glorious: the fragments of moon, blue air and honey sun. All that light on my face in the morning. When the summer edged out, I shut the windows and left. The drive was long and the sky was filled with rain like thick strokes of ink I hurried down the freeway, as if someone would be there waiting for me. And the next thing I knew: Wisconsin. I dashed from the car, pretending to run for cover, but secretly praying for more and more rain.
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.
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.