Dry brown leaves skittered across the boulevard, their tips scratching the blacktop like the claws of runaway squirrels. I was there, but also far from there, a reverie having lifted me to an Andean spring near Quito, astride the equator, half north and half south of the middle seam of the world. In my memory, I felt the place ineffably strange, infused somehow with a wild geometry shimmering just beyond reach, as unsettling as the auras the trees had, mourning clothes, along the road the day the man came too early for anything good and spoke to mom, who urged us out of bed and dressed, and drove us all to where there was nothing to be done.
A night nurse makes her rounds with the gentle tread of a librarian among half-forgotten volumes so fragile they might crumble at a touch, and Angie, as she was, glides in sleep across the winter ice of her eighth year, birthday skates agleam.
A version of this piece appeared in the Boston Literary Magazine.
Sometimes the troubles lift away like startled winter pigeons, and I’m free alone, open to the sky, humors balanced on the pivot of equanimity, imagining myself forever light, the troubles never turning back to perch again, heavy, and indifferent as the moon.
Leaves in their prime, Open for business, Conjuring fuel For roots and Trunks and limbs, Give no thought To us, yet it’s they We have to thank For breathing out The very thing We need when Breathing in.
And when they hoist The hues of summer’s end, Their unwilled bounty’s There for us again, Their autumn art reward for All our respiration.
And when one falls And comes to rest And waits for me, A rich brown symmetry Veined in black and Glistening wet with Morning dew, I wonder whether Any other death Might be as fair As that before my feet, The final elegance Of one spent leaf.
I saw the first photographs on Twitter this morning as I sipped my cappuccino at a local coffee shop. The broken geometry. A soundless astonishing gap where a great section of the bridge had been near Genoa. The rest of the day would be punctuated by new totals of the dead, and in the days ahead, the totals would rise further, and the grief would settle in, a fog of ache that would take years to thin and never fully dissipate.
They’ll have something to say later about these parched weeks, about the heat, and much more to say if the potatoes die of it. But the chill of a welcome early breeze lifts the hair of my old arms, and I’ve no crop or garden under threat as I make my way down the hill, passing without comment the bleak gray walls of the shuttered convent where the nuns once did what they must have thought God wanted and where now the pigeons live in unruly spaces beyond panes broken by who knows what — winter storms or naughty boys or other free things.
Don’t think I haven’t dreamed my way Down the 8-Mile Road to the seam Between the hollow and the world Where the New People live, riding The buzz of New Caffeine And the techno-pulse of EarPod beats As they eHuddle over MacBook screens To code the next New Things. But I’ve drunk the valley mist And heard the owl on evening watch And felt the fox brush by my feet On silent moonless winter nights And seen the blackberries waiting For the birds and me, so I think I’ll stay Awhile among the shuttered mines And mournful diesel lullabies.
The spider never sees its web. Not really. Not as we see it. The delicate geometry of it — The implications. There’s No real cunning, is there? No Stratagem. Every inch of Every thread the spider spins Is coded in, fashioned Down the palimpsest of Geologic time.
A cool, empty dark, Untouchable for the moment. The mourning doves Still, dreaming. A wind Turning in its sleep. Bleached light of a Shoeless dawn slipping in. Madness sealed away In bone, cupped Indifferently in the give Of a cotton pillow.