I’ve been running into this old friend all over the place. Bug and I opened up a worn copy of Rise Up Singing to find the words to “Big Rock Candy Mountain”, and there she was. She snuck up on me as I leafed through the battered vegetarian cookbook with all the mouth-watering photographs of phyllo pastry and parsnips. One of her handmade collages fell out of the back of the splashy covers of Graeme Base’s 11th Hour. A slim volume of her poetry slid from between the sturdier bindings of the published authors.
Her name, the long arc of the letters in an exuberant hand, greets me. Hello! Hello! I was here, and now I’m back!
The girl was prolific. Artistic. A little intense. I had forgotten how eclectic her literary tastes were. Never dull company, that one.
She left her mark, and now she leaves a trail of breadcrumbs. Mail addressed to her shows up at my house. She is registered to vote in my very own precinct. She even has an account with the university library. On the card alongside a grinning photograph, her name appears yet again. She has been taking full advantage of the access my small-potatoes position provides. Titles covering everything from neuroscience to storytelling arrive by the week. She has been away for some time and certainly anything can happen to a person, but my guess is she has not changed so much. You would recognize her anywhere.
I am thinking of inviting her to stay. I didn’t realize how much I missed her spunk. Anyway, it’s just a formality. She has already staked her claim, hasn’t she? When that girl gets her teeth into something, she doesn’t let go. Hell, her nameplate is hanging on my office door. She has probably already designed her new business cards. Before you know it, she’ll be running the place.
Good thing. We need someone with strong arms and a little sass to throw open the windows and holler to whatever is out there, What are you waiting for? Come on, get your butt in here!
Once, I believed you sang for me
Even though the girl’s brown eyes were not the blue of these.
It was a relief to become an imagined thing,
A lyric, the leaf atop a walnut shell, bobbing along
On the calm and lilting sea,
The lullaby of you giving the faintest luff
To the edges of our rough but sturdy dreams.
When we turned away from that gust
We found so much calm, we could not progress.
Lazy circles. Days into weeks.
You stopped trying to draw a smile upon my cheeks.
Do you remember I had a dimple?
Do I recall the feel of your teeth?
Your tune, so long
Had pulled me back from any distance
Until I slipped to the crack at the bottom
And tried to plug the leak with my own whispers,
Hoarse and off-key.
My sodden wings
Sucked me through and down
Logged with brine, I was not expecting rescue.
Instead, the tentacle grasp, the inky black
Deafness. Down from up, who can tell? That slick and sucking embrace
Cracked scapulae and pressed the feathered limbs back in
And oh, the sting, my torn and voiceless throat,
The sweet surrender of broken things.
How far did I go? Fathoms
Immeasurable, impossible for a human girl
To descend to those low octaves and still draw breath
So I choose to believe
I never left the boat
And you were still there on the surface of things
With your song suspended
Over me, awaiting my reach, my choked “Please.”
If I had spoken this aloud, perhaps.
Assuming our power is greater than that of the ocean,
And that words can turn the winds
And that we are more than just dampened flesh
Salted with such thirst.