Thursday, October 23, 2008

Clover drying, sweet woodruff

Thanks for your letter, darling, I wrote to the niece in Big City That Never Sleeps, I'm impressed by the beauty of your language and the depth of your feeling. She's grieving. The end of her first love affair. She told me that food tastes like dust, the walls of her house close in till she has to run outdoors to breathe. She howls like a dog at the incredible offense of someone ceasing to love her. I tell her she's encroyable, and grip the phone helplessly, trying to force the logic of intensity onto a situation nobody knows anything about. But there's no good way to do it, not even a bad way.

Loss powders me with its dust, a moth flapping against the screen, schwush of leaves, eddy just before the water falls. Night comes on quickly these days, there's no air inside as we close windows to the cold. I write letters, try to finish poems, shoot rolls of film, write songs and sing them. Loud. Clean my house, even the clean parts. Cook. Fill the house with the smell of nutmeg. Roasting meat. Frying onions. Chocolate syrup heating in a pan to be poured over white chocolate ice cream. Homemade lemon curd.

Tonight I cooked a pan of applesauce from the new macintosh apples in bushels everywhere, just enough cinnamon to color the juice, a drizzle of maple syrup to take off the edge. It's cooling in a white dog dish in the other room (dish no longer needed by the dog, I have commandeered it for my own use). Later I'll mix a few dollops of it into plain yoghurt and swirl it around for a late supper.

Earlier the westering sun sky painted the walls of this 5-sided room where I work. The few katydids left have lost some of their voice as cold stiffens everything with its arrival. I walk out back to toss apple skins and egg shells into the compost box, hoping it lures our neighborhood skunk for a last visit, or the coyote who has learned to sneak along the edges to avoid light from the house.

I try to lay to rest once and for all something that cannot be laid to rest once and for all. My house smells of drying red clover and sweet woodruff. Like a humidor for expensive cigars, a little bit of hot cinnamon, burnt rice. The branches of an overgrown forsythia scrabble against screens, and mockingbirds on a last romp through the neighborhood call out their cascade of fooling-around imitations.

Finishing a poem is like trying to land a plane. The desired quiet touching down collides with an ultimate updraft of feeling, and in the background, the flying glass, foaming bleeding wounds, and shards lying all over the floor soaking up moon on its way to full. I bellow to the smoke trick with mirrors thing that everyone targets for their rage and fury and whining, and as always get nothing back.

Dear child, you will learn how awful it is to live in the vividness of your heart. You'll thank your stars for it, even while pressing hard against chest and belly to shore up the shreds and tatters, the blazing heat and mess left behind after love has ebbed away. You'll go again and again to the place of falling off, you'll thrive and even prosper. I know you will. I know.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Any minute he might walk in

For me, the on/off world with him was never any vivider than that last afternoon. Or at least the one I think was the last. I might've gone to the window to watch him down the street to his car in the soft yellow morning....October, when warmth is married to liquid in a way that heats you all the way in, marinating skin and ribs and heart in that golden haze.

It happens in the commonest of ways. One day the person just isn't there anymore. Nothing was said, or done. He went out the door into the same city as you, and you never saw him again.

When he didn't come back right away I didn't even wonder for several hours more. And then days went by. Weeks. I imagined that the phone rang and rang inside the empty rooms of my house while I was at work. Knowing that he'd call when things were right again, I didn't bother to catch up with him. Probably, I'd already lost him then.

I let go too soon and he went scudding along the edges of my life where he was always apt to be. And even after he moved across the country and started up a life with people I didn't know, still I believed that I'd see him again sometime. Any minute he might walk in the door, call up from a booth in the midwest, drop a line.
For a long time I found in my sleep that I was still living in the long-ago months when he was with me, and would wake with the thought that he'd be waiting in the hall when I came out of class that afternoon.

And even after he had walked on out the door that last morning, I didn't change anything. I left the lampshade cocked, socks balled under the bed, his towel damp from the shower dangling over the edge.

Tonight I washed my hair in a steamy shower to get relief from the ache of weeping from news of his death. I went outside to hang the towel, and the air was thick with mist and something like the smell of beets cooking in very little water. The sky hung low, and the now-faint katydid sound was steady, full of night. It happened at the house of a friend down south. She came home from work and found him in a chair, naked, a faded turquoise beach towel dropped to the floor beside him.