Love, Music, Poetry

4:50 pm, Pink Floyd

Tulips bend to paint a corner of Washington
Circle with candy tongues
tied, twisted police tape slaps at a strutting
breeze, a whir of wheels, skin and spandex sheathing
viscera pulsing femur tibia and tucked wing of
earthbound flight. A checkered cap tops
the pile on a table by an escalator
ringing like a miscalibrated telephone, unheeded
warning every third or fifth body rushing
up to open air, no one turning. Back
after back in suit jacket, wilting and shedding
finally revealing damp shoulder, furred forearm
freed from cuff. Lime-green
chrome and finned convertible
on oversized whitewalls takes the corner,
watering eyes and turning heads.

Delayed train, detour, an extra mile
on foot west, sundog flares against the curved city
bus merging with a hiss. I thought I knew
the way, thought I’d thought of every
contingency but I never imagined him
in the everything
grazing the tips of my fingers, him
in the everything holding me fast

To these teeming streets. Nothing to compare
to this belay. No metaphor, no halo
of light, no vapor trail threading sky
is anything like the music
making me skate an inch
at least above the skin of the planet
and so it should come as no surprise
(except that’s exactly what it does) to find
I learn to fly
the instant I give up
trying.
 

Home, Living in the Moment

Hello Here

On the brink of leaving this home for the next (inshallah), and I still don’t know what I’m after. Place? Family? Community? Safety? The list is long and it changes with the breeze.
 
Ambiguous purpose calls for simple acts. I turn to my son and say, “Let’s go outside.”
 
These days, he joins me. This is new. It used to be a struggle, cajoling and begging before demanding or giving up. Now, he pounds down the stairs, “I’ll put her leash on! Here, let me!” He throws open the sliding glass door and calls her with his quasi wolf-whistles. She is suspicious of his intentions but ducks inside, unable to resist the word “walk.”
 
Flexi-leash in hand, Bug races down the driveway dragging the dog. She tosses a few desperate glances back at me but I’m no help to her now. Bug has finally learned to slow long enough to let her have a break for her bladder. It rarely lasts past the last drop so she forgoes all olfactory temptations gets down to business. They lope down the swath of grass between the fences. At the bottom where the year’s accumulated leaves lay in drifts, Bug snaps off her leash and she tears off into the trees. He squeals in delight and tramps after her, knee-deep in brambles.
 
The dog is the leader but doesn’t know it. Winding and snoofling through brown tangles, she takes us on a looping journey up and back down the hillside. Scattered clumps of daffodils poke their way up into patches of sun and purplish flowers unfurl from buried brush. Light threads its way down through dry spindles scratching the sky. I carry a plastic shopping bag and collect the crumpled cans and muck-filled Corona bottles that peek up through the leaves.
 
I follow Bug. Bug follows the dog. The dog follows her nose. We come upon a creek snaking out from under a neighbor’s chicken wire fence. Across the way is a clutch of bamboo as high as a rooftop. It bends against the breeze. The road beyond is near enough to keep me vigilant. Bug fords the brook with a single leap and slips up the muddy bank beyond. He picks his way through the deep green flutes, swishing them low. Feathered leaves stroke the water’s golden skin.
 
“I’m in the bamboo jungle! There is a tornado coming! Get out of the storm, Mommy!” I duck across and hide with him in the cool dark there. Cars roar just feet from our back and I holler the dog back from the roadside. She bounds into the creek, splashing us with wet silt.
 
When it is time to go, we gather leash and garbage and assorted leafy treasures. I urge. Bug dawdles. The dog drips. Eventually we shimmy into a dry creek-bed and follow the tracks of raccoons and deer back to the trail into our neighborhood. Just as we start up the hill, we turn and see a strange sight. In all our years of walking here, we have never come across such a thing.
 
A boy.
 
He is making his jerky way over the buried roots up to a log that bridges the dry trench. His black hair and pale skin trace a ghostly curve over the hillside. He looks up and sees us. I wave. He pauses then waves back. Bug and dog and I are poised on the forest edge ready to go home.
 
“One second, Mom,” Bug says. And he is off. He plows straight through the weeds and pricker bushes and heads straight uphill. The boy leaps off the log, starts to climb, and then slows. Bug is talking to him. He turns and responds. In a blink, they are deep into it. By the time I have gotten the dog turned and have approached the pair, they are discussing the bamboo forest and the forts up on hilltop that some older kids built years ago. “We come in here all the time,” the boy says.
 
“So do I!” Bug cries.
 
They talk pets. Neighbors. Teachers. Movies. Books. The boy is into the Warriors series and Bug is reading JK Rowling. I hang back and marvel at their ease. They compare notes on the best scenes from the last Harry Potter movie. Bug seeks and seeks a common footing. The boy, a few years older, is happy to oblige. They giggle about an explosion at a quidditch match then giggle some more when the dog grunts and tries to lick the boy’s hand off.
 
The sun is sinking and it is past time for dinner. Bug manages to tear himself away. We plod back up the swath of grass. Bug watches the boy return to his own porch and join a group of children there. A grown man sees us and waves a big Hullo. I return the greeting.
 
“We come in here all the time,” the boy had said. We had never seen him, yet here he was. We have paid attention to this place for years without looking for anything. The dog’s nose has been a truer guide than our own intention. Only in today’s purposeless looking do we stumble upon what we didn’t know we’d been after: a person who shares our place and a similar way of wandering through it.
 
My son’s bold delight stuns me. Even with no idea what he will find, he bridges the distance to meet what glances against his sense of wonder. Call it innocence. Call it courage. Whatever it is, in our new home (inshallah), may that wide-open not-looking to guide us to what we seek.
 

Poetry

Lunar Equinox

It is frost now, still
faltering between
chill blue knife and furred limb.

Moon meets sun in a garden of stars,
all visible in half-night. A red-tailed fox
skies across gunmetal dawn
feet never touching
the ground. Babies begin
in groaning belly
of robin, raccoon. A squirrel
squatting on the wrist of a high vine
scratches at the shell of last year’s seed. The bare end
of provisions before the next harvest means lean times
for a merciless brood.

The yield may suffice.
It may not.
The way to survive is to live as if both are true
at all times.

Remember: the equinox lasts
a single night. Each of us is on one side or the other
even if the lifting foot is only just clearing the line
even if the bottomless blue still saps any recollection
of fertility. By a hair each day, darkness falls away.
The crack in the ellipse
narrows, the coin tilts on its axis and slips
through. The first moon

of spring is a fat dubloon winging
across the frosted miles, casting off
as it turns the full gleam from the sun. It is only when you stand
just so and gaze just there that you can gauge its trajectory
and lift out your shirt
to collect what spills
over, such riches
only last through twilight and by dawn
you will be blind
again.

Divorce, Letting Go

This is not Then

It is impossible to run from the truth of him anymore. Without another man to hide behind, my naked heart receives the full blow. He walks into the house to drop off our son and he towers now in a way he never did. The sensation is not desire but it is similar enough to make the ground tremble. He is not the weak one anymore. That role is mine now.
 
Finally.
 
In the Saturday sun, Bug and I pound a volleyball back and forth before picking our way through brambles at the neighborhood park. Our path takes us around by the community gardens where folks till black soil into stirring plots. An erratic series of reports through the brush leads us to a basketball court glistening with a damp frenzy of male limbs. We watch for a moment before climbing a hill to a buttery yellow house trimmed in white.
 
“Right here, buddy,” I say. My feet find their way to the precise spot. For a blink, everything is a bright a June day. Bug climbs up behind me.
 
“Right here what?”
 
“This,” I say, spreading my hands, “is the spot where your daddy and I got married. He was there looking at me. This tree was absolutely covered in white blossoms.” Back then, two of the flowering trees had stood side-by-side. The arch studded with sunflowers had formed a bridge under the canopy of snowy petals. Now the larger twin is gone and just one tree stands bare. Eight years have passed. There isn’t even a trace, not one scar in the earth. Bug and I gaze all around the grass as it makes its tentative appearance into early spring. A few pink and purple pansies have been planted in mulch by the door.
 
“Everyone was in chairs here. Your grandmas and grandpas, all your aunts and uncles and cousins.” I retrace my steps backwards along the path I took holding my father’s arm. Oh, how I had laughed during that walk! The giddiness returns in a shiver. It is as potent as the moment I strode out between all the people I loved towards Tee, sweating and grinning there by the blooms.
 
“Were you embarrassed?” Bug asks as he follows me. We make our way through the trees and down to the tennis courts.
 
“Embarrassed? Why?”
 
“You were in front of all those people.”
 
“No,” I say. “I was happy.”
 
Bug darts ahead into an empty court. A brisk wind has been cutting into our collars. Bug follows the white lines, kneeling occasionally to press his cheek to the sun-warmed clay. On the neighboring courts, groups of doubles thwack and scrape, hollering at one another. We make our way around the back and look for the next trail into the woods. A man calls out and asks us to toss back a ball.
 
“Where?” I ask.
 
He shrugs and laughs. “Somewhere out there.”
 
We walk on, scanning. “I see it!” Bug hollers. Hiding in the grass is a lighter shade of green. He grabs the ball and races up to the fence. It is chain link nearly two stories high. Bug stops a few feet from the edge, pulls back, and hurls the ball. It sails up and over, clearing the top by at least twelve inches. Everyone on the court whoops and cheers. Bug’s pink face shines.
 
Early in our courtship, Tee spent weeks teaching me how to throw a baseball. First he had to un-teach me and then I practiced the awkward new pitch until it became second nature. In the field near his apartment, I could send that ball soaring over the power lines. He had to walk further and further back to catch it, and he smiled so big and called out his praise when it really flew. “Can you feel the difference? I can see it!”
 
The return of my maiden name has restored other lesser lords to their previous stations. Old muscle memory has regained its dominion. Solitude has settled back onto its cinderblock throne. This regime was not democratically elected, and so it happens that it is not easily unseated. I understand now that a coup d’epouse is an impermanent solution to the challenges of becoming a truly human creature.
 
That passage from the white-trimmed door to that lush duet of foliage is now only a neural pathway. It turns out I could not plant a new civilization in the soil of me just by crossing those 20 feet. Like the whole of the absent sister tree, the petals I remember are black earth now. Neither grass nor root has a record of our covenant.
 
Bug and I walk on. The yellow house where I donned my white dress recedes behind us. The park is not just the place where Tee and I married. It is the place where Bug celebrated his 5th birthday, burying pirate treasure in the volleyball sand with his preschool friends. It is the place where a visiting friend joined me on a stroll earlier this winter and we stumbled across fallow garden plots I did not know existed.
 
It is the place my son shows me that he has inherited not only his daddy’s pink glow but his throwing arm, too. Undoubtedly, he will be as ignorant of the rarity of his innate athleticism as he is of his fortune in the assignment of fathers.
 
Today, it is where I learn that I did love that man once. And it is where I practice walking under the weight of my own name in the other direction.
 
As it turns out, a swath of awakening earth is up ahead, warming itself for my arrival.
 

Uncategorized

Special Effects

He races through the small patch of green at the edge of the cul de sac. Under his feet, the grass grows wild. The knot of stalks reaches his shins. Suddenly, a blur of motion bursts out around him like an electron cloud. His feet meet earth, setting off one explosion after another. A whisper of wings and rain catches the air, following him through the brush. He neither sees nor hears, swimming just below the surface of this quiet cacophony of sound and motion.
 
“What is that?” I ask, pointing. He stops, and as he does, the grass falls silent. He looks sideways at me through the stillness. Then he is off running again, bursts of confetti meeting his footfalls.
 
“Look!” I call. He stops again. All is still, all is silent.
 
“What?” These interruptions are seriously inhibiting his pleasure. And anyway, there is nothing to see. Controlling a phenomenon enough to observe it renders it unobservable, as Heisenberg tried to explain.
 
“Watch,” I say. I stride up next to Bug and stomp my foot. The weeds send up an inverted shower of tiny, living things. Bug’s eyes pop open. Then a grin spreads lights him up from within. He lifts his foot and stomps. Another shower, followed by the tinkling of tinsel rain on a forest canopy. For an instant, I wonder if these airborne, pinging things are midget grasshoppers or buff-winged moths.
 
I crouch for a better look. The weeds are slender, dark green stems with tresses of gold radiating out in all directions. Because of the yellow dusting atop the bending plants, the clearing appears as an infant wheat field. The tendrils are thin, cleaved nests. Each is a floral ovary clutching an egg in a loose grip, readying itself to take a shot at starting next season’s crop.
 
Next to me, Bug is stomping, giggling hard at each detonation. I bite my tongue and keep my observations to myself. Does knowing what things are really teach us what they are?
 
Then he is off and running, his face pink and his arms wide. His gaze is back, down, up, everywhere. His voice cries out the high notes. He is the bandleader now of this moving parade, and all around him, one explosion after another announces to the world the arrival of this force of nature, this human animal.  His weight is enough to set loose a surge of animate fireworks right here on earth. The simple presence of him sends life skyward to seek a brand new start in an unturned corner of the world.

Uncategorized

Here, Now

When there is no desire,
all things are at peace.

-Tao Te Ching

Where is the snow?
 
Those of us who grew up with seasons rely on winter’s calibration. Without it, a melancholy itch infects the mood. Even though we cursed our frost-nipped fingers after a morning walk, the thin leather gloves with their 20 years of wear unfit for the job, the sting was welcome. The hand needs to curl, seeking of warmth in the compressed fist, drawing weak steam. Winter is for burrowing. It is for drawing in. The constriction, the stiff lean of pedestrians trying to compress into the shell of their insufficient layers, is a necessary discomfort. It is the chrysalis of winter. Without it, how can any of us crack open into spring’s new light? How can we become?
 
I watch my son bound down the dry cul-de-sac in nothing but a t-shirt, and I ache for him. This warming planet, his home? Out on the streets just beyond the cocoon of our neighborhood, swollen vehicles flash and roar as they barrel down. They crowd out the shoulders. Their velocity increases unchecked in the absence of winter’s forced caution.  Bug has no snow day. No crunch or silvery hush, no red nose, no vast and untamed place. My heart contracts under the weight of what is lost. The bending trail to the ice-crusted mountaintop no longer waits just outside his door. He cannot skate across the frozen expanse of a freshwater lake and immerse himself in the blue beyond.
 
And yet, he bounds. He lives in the Is Is Is. With no basis for comparison, his heart continues to surge, unburdened. The dog leaps alongside him at the end of her lead, and then the two are clambering up a heap of logs cut from a fallen tree in the neighbor’s yard. We count 59 rings before he charges off to press himself into the massive root ball that has released its grip on the thin soil.
 
What is my nostalgia to him? Nothing at all. His pleasure and his rage are his own. They are not what I believe them to be, and they are not for the things I love. Nothing remains as it was. Only when I clutch at the before do I feel its clawing absence in the now. Bug rarely shows interest in the photo albums or the stories of an old camp life he does not know as his. My sorrow is my own private indulgence. I lick the wounds and secretly savor the taste. I do not wish to share this compulsion with my boy. His world belongs to him. It is exactly as it should be.
 
I breathe the sunlit air into the torn place in my chest and lift my eyes. At the same instant, my son pauses, glancing skyward. Up in the branches, the exultant song of a cardinal welcomes the February spring.
 

Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.

 
– Tao Te Ching

Adventure, Outdoors

Face Lift

The quince shrub thinks it is spring. Pink blossoms unfurl from its branches, dusting the blacktop with pollen. The birds are similarly confused. One calls from the high, bare limbs, tuh-wee tuh-wee tuh-wee tuh-wee tuh-wee. Across the street, a second returns the song. They toss their ten notes back and forth, bridging the short distance between them. Soon, a third gets in on the action. At odd intervals, a chickadee scratches his beat behind the rhythm.
 
This warmth has been hanging around for longer than expected. On Sunday, Bug and I went to skip stones on a duck pond near the apartment of the man I have been seeing. He is a Don Juan with thick arms and a love affair with the open road. He knows water, mud, mountains. He made the flat rocks bounce six, seven, eight times, almost to the opposite shore. The ducks kept to the sides. My tosses managed maybe three piddly skips before plopping near the bank. The man laughed, telling me I throw like a girl. I shot back that Venus Williams turned that insult into a compliment ages ago.
 
Bug stripped off his shoes and socks. In his red plaid flannel and rolled up jeans, he was Huck Finn, tramping through the creek as it carried winter runoff and tiny minnows to the pond. The sun was easy on our skin. My friend settled down on a large stone at the edge of the creek and turned his face to the light. Bug wound around and around him, toes reddening in the chilly trickle, catching his balance against the man’s solid frame.
 
We collected pieces of mica and sandstone and scratched our names into the walkway above the bank. This man believes in talismans and magic. He drew a narrow, long eye inside the rectangle of brick. This is the first part of a converged symbol he penned on a napkin for me on one of the early dates. I do not see what he sees, but that does not stop him from showing me. In the adjacent brick, I drew a mate. The pair of eyes stared up at us, blank and cutting. I could not resist embellishment. Big eyelashes sullied the sleek edges. The swipe of nose, a swirl of hair, a smirking mouth. Don Juan lay back on the warm walkway. I traced his body in flaking, yellow rock. Bug called, “Mommy, look! A bug!” He had colored in the first of the eyes, turning its lashes into legs. He went to work on the second.
 
Bug rode the barrel of the man’s shoulders back through the woods. We made our way home, the sun beginning to fade. It grew colder again, but only by a few degrees.
 
It will not last, this strange reprieve. Already this morning, the clouds have gathered. Rain is beating against the windows.  But my arms are looser, and there is a pink burn in my cheeks. It could take a while to fade. By then, who knows? The sun may have come around again.  I have no shame. I keep the door cracked and take what I can get.