Growing Up, Mindfulness, Poetry

First Taste

collard greens 2

I tear from their stems
leaves as big as elephant’s ears,
dino kale, mustard, Russian red.
Friends came
bearing this plastic sack of plants.
I hugged close
the friends then lifted out
one giant collard leaf
and pressed it against my cheek.

These succulent greens grew
in a stark suburban yard
stripped bare of topsoil
and shade. It took a few years
and the season’s first frost
to draw sweetness up through veins
threading bitter lamina.

The tough, cold fiber
yields to a tug,
its surprising suppleness
as porous as my own
skin, as ready
to give.

I did not want
to cook something new. Dinner fuels
me, most days that is
enough.
In the pan, oil spits
at the intrusion
of garlic and broth.
The spatula’s flat wooden blade
gilds ashen leaves
and they shine with the sharp scent
of roots, ice, chlorophyll, flame.

The flavor makes my mouth
ache like when I’m close
to crying. I eat
slowly, marveling at how far the comfort
of routine has carried me
from pleasure.

It is wonderful to see you
is what we say. It used to be the other way
when sensation raced
to the side of the bed, bouncing
on its toes,
get up get up, come look.
Taking notice comes first
now. This is the shift
that marks the start
of growing up. We wake
to walls and grab
at threads of hunger,
at any texture that can mimic
or at least stand in
for wonder. We pause
still hoping for a surge
until we surrender and step out
as first light
splits the horizon and say
It is wonderful
to see
you.

We learn to lift
ourselves towards desire. We learn to proceed
with our hands
extended, feeling
through weed and loam, inviting
something to stroke our wrists
and yank us over
into the bright fat flesh
of the world, the place
all around us
where explosions as fleeting
as one leaf
against tongue, skin,
or sky can make us catch our breath
in a thrill of awakening, breaking
us open in gratitude
for a visit
from that part of our heart
that left home
we thought
for good.

 

Art, Home

Creeping Crawl

The plants are multiplying. They need new pots which I don’t have so I find old ones and streak them with violet and gold. Brushes dry in the dishrack alongside the pizza cutter, the wooden spoons. Potting soil and paint collect in the veins of the floorboards.

Another flea-market dining table has joined our family of orphans and strays. On any given day, half the furniture is hidden under cover of old newsprint.

An explosion of of foliage in the quasi foyer threatens to displace the coats. It needs a haircut, a transplant, a new home, yet most of the walls here are too far from windows. The greenery plays musical shelves. If any one refrains from curling into brown husks, it quits the rotation and settles into its new role animating shadow. The prima donnas demanding full sun have to contend with Bug’s beads and colored pencils to stake out a spot near the sliding glass door.

Tonight, I will divide two into four and ferry several to the office on an inverted vacation. They will sip northern light from their perch on a woven throw draped over a low bookcase. Like the others, they will spill from their pots and climb the walls, feeling their way across the muted canvas. In the after hours of a 5th-floor shush, they’ll peel open and twine into inevitability.

Back home, the false starts of an amateur’s attempts at design clutter the walls and halls. At some point six or eight months in, I abandoned pretense and pushed the sofa to a nook along with the coffee table and lamps. The honey-drunk bamboo is clear for landing. At last, nothing is the everything. A person can puddle unobstructed all the way to the outermost window and maybe beyond. My son zooms his scooter in giant orbits around a living room which is every room.

From the corners, a fecund unfurling. We’ve shed the illusion of indoors. Tiny spiders loop from strands that dust the ceiling. My Mister and I lay in the bed and watch the epic journey of one who circles back on itself, forever beginning all over again. Its progress is like our own: A lovely conceit. A reason, anyway, to keep moving.

I sweep aside obstructions, machines and footstools, bigness, permanence. I own almost nothing I can’t lift on my own, nothing I can’t throw off the balcony when the time comes. In the space where things usually reside, now an invitation. A frame without a door. No lock, no knock, no fumbling for an excuse. I stretch my arms and almost brush the overgrown fronds of the philodendron. It was the first one, the one my Mister brought to welcome me home. No surprise that it’s the biggest. It has outgrown its pot. (“Out,” groans its spot.) The jade blades arch then bow like a suitor toward a patch of grass that springs from the opposite corner.

As them, us.

We expand to fill the space we inhabit. If we are wise, we clear the way for what we can’t stop anyway.

If we are ready, we live as if we’ve chosen what creeps in.