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.

Sunday in the Garden

I knew you would want
to talk about Kant or Descartes
or Hume again, how can I 
compete with them?
And this time
it's free will; you tell me
Physics doesn't leave
much room for choice--what if
everything has already been laid out?
                  I reach for a pastry,
taking the beignet
gently in my fingers, letting the sugar glaze
melt a little in the morning sun.
You lean back 
on your elbows and ask
me or the sky, what if it's all
               inevitable?
I polish off
the doughnut, licking
my fingers clean then rolling
up the cuffs of my jeans
That's called determinism, I say
and it haunts me.
You pause on that,
is there any other way?
Then you take my ankles
and swing my legs into your lap.
I lay back, shoulder blades
pressed flat into the grass
beneath the devstating canopy of clouds
and think about agency and freedom:
Chaos, I say
as if it's half a question. Spontaneity,
as if it's something
that I want very much
but am afraid to afraid to ask for.
You're holding my small pink feet
in your hands, everything about you,
unbearbly wistful.
                Which is worse?
Before I think too hard about it, I hear myself
answer: I don't care
as long as there is God.
What I mean
is I want both
freedom and meaning--
that's what we all want
don't we?
The things we can't ever seem
to get our hands on.

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.