Walking the dog, it comes. Out of nowhere, or somewhere almost forgotten.
If my words did glow
With the gold of sunshine
Out loud. Into this ordinary day, I sing.
This is the first time in months my voice has opened like this. It is not the first song, no – there’s always the radio, always mugging for neighborhood kids.
But like this? Just the day, the dog, and me? I am new all over again.
The sun has begun to spill over the horizon, leaking through branches laced with green. Cool damp from last night’s deluge whispers around my calves. Noodle stops to sniff. Trot sniff, trot trot, sniff. The morning blooms awake.
And my tune were played on a harp unstrung
Cars on I-66 hum and rumble past. The sound wall is coming in closer. The change is years from now but freeway developers have already claimed the land. They’ve mapped the plans and signed the papers.
We either love it more or pretend we never did. We choose to ignore what approaches and what retreats. We follow one trail of loss or another depending on the residue from our skittering-away dreams.
I know this: we will lose our wild green space, the knotted jungle of ivies and blackberries that separate us from the interstate. We will lose our dog run. Our wooded path. The resale value of our homes.
I know all this, and even so, I sing.
Would you hear my voice come through the music?
Song rises up out of a vault so light and finely wrought, I forget I carry it. Forget that I buried it. The heavy stuff – that’s what consumes my attention most days.
Lyrics come shadow-tripping right out into light. From a Grateful Dead show in Buffalo. Or Shoreline? Red Rocks? From some dread-headed white girl’s guitar as she sat cross-legged next to a painted school bus. From tiny silver bells slung around wrists and hips.
Would you hold it near, as if it were your own?
It seems grief’s burnt fist has finally released its grip.
Last night, digging in the recesses of the cabinets under the bathroom sink, I found the fuschia pouch. It used to ride back and forth to his house. Toothbrush, hair ties, expired ibuprofen. A travel bottle of shampoo, half empty.
The feel of what came before rushed in and I let it take me: The cool of his bathroom tile under my feet. The small nightlight by the mirror. He put it there for his daughter but with all my nighttime pit-stops, I appreciated it too. My clothes hung in a bag from the door handle. I’d strip off the office slacks and suit up in a jog bra and running shorts. Leave my stuff strewn across the floor.
We boxed in the basement, three rounds each, then four, then six. Afterwards, we’d stretch out limbs, our skin salted and slick. He’d grip my arms with sodden hand wraps and pull muscles loose. A thick layer of grime from the mat coated our feet.
Upstairs after the workout, finding a clean towel meant digging around in the hall closet or through the unfolded laundry pile on someone’s bed. I tried not to make any noise, sliding the closet door along its track and willing it not to squeak. If he heard me, he’d come rushing out. “What do you need? What are you looking for?” Jumping in front, finding the bathmat and washcloth. Like maybe I was sniffing out secrets. Like maybe the illusion of order needed protecting.
He tiptoed too, he told me often enough. We both clenched back trust and kept our nerves coiled. No wonder we so enjoyed slamming into that heavy bag.
Stepping out of the shower, I’d fold myself into a fluffy towel almost twice the size of anything at my house. The contents of my fuschia pouch, all my bottles and brushes, littered the counter and mingled with his daughter’s things. Bandaids, toothpaste, detangling spray. Two sinks in that bathroom, three bathrooms in the house. Halls and corners and closets and so much space, but still, we always found a way to gravitate. To grate.
To twine. To melt into.
After brushing teeth and hair, I’d go find him in his room down the hall. He would have made the bed with fresh sheets. His sinewy body, scrubbed pink. Clean boxers and a black Title t-shirt. He’d clear piles of clothes, open blinds or shut them, click one light on and another off. Always moving.
I loved watching him move.
Three months now? Four?
My fuschia pouch isn’t making the trip again.
Last night, I tossed the expired Advil, hung the hair ties with the others in the corner of my bathroom. Packed the travel bottle of shampoo into my gym bag. Folded the pouch and tucked it away.
The extra toothbrush in the mug by the sink, the green one, it also had to go. Unused three months now. Four. “Just a piece of plastic,” I told myself. “Just cleaning house.”
I slept hard. Woke up rested and ready. I could get used to this.
Now Noodle and I stroll through our morning.
Reach out your hand if your cup be empty
If your cup is full may it be again
Memory, as if to eclipse memory, offers up all the words.
When there is no pebble tossed, nor wind to blow
On the corner, a tree filled with cicadas swells in song. The chorus rises and falls and rises again, a strange, sweet fizz of chords. A few red-eyed monsters lumber across sidewalk. Some leave their papery shells clinging to picnic benches and handrails. They are as spent as this old body of mine. As half-blind and blundering.
Even so, they press up and out of their dark hideaways. Ten years down there, seventeen even. They make the climb towards desire. Crawling, calling, they fall towards light.
Towards this ordinary day.
When it’s time to wake up.
On their bent wings they take to the air. Find their perch.
Image: Cicada Dreams, Philip Stallard