the book I continue intending to read
or the rhythm I blink with my eyes, or the moons
in my fingernails as I scratch your back
and look out the window beyond you, into
wilderness of bushes we planted just a year ago,
now filled with purple berries and lizards
the length of my finger, the guide book full
of useful lies, like the color of the lake
intend somebody to live beside
or the river that flows beneath our house,
full of transparent fish we eat
sometimes when we curl around each other
too tightly to sleep, or wake in an unfamiliar
outskirt of our lives, where the accents are leafy
and windblown and full of useless gestures
like free improvisations without
melody, stories that flesh no plot,
or books we could intend to read
for years--until our lives are separate
from our bodies, and we are everywhere.
She talked about the faces we've memorized so well
we no longer see them. She looked at me, squinting,
and wondered which self might be irrelevant
in this colorized landscape, where birds fly in no clear
pattern, like feelings. And doesn't the sky pale
each time we look up, and every time we mention blue?
So I imagine caves, she said, and so I breathe
cool air as we walk down into dripping earth,
wondering how deep we must go before there's only dark,
before we've vanished. Could we understand our bodies
well enough to see, could we wake the senses
we've never even thought about, to light our way down
where creatures have no use for eyes,
down where creatures are more pale than air,
down where we might even make our own light
and see. So why not practice breathing
with our bodies, until we can swim as far down
as we might desire, hollow out our thoughts
until we are light enough to fly, unfold
our wings like black umbrellas, and flap
unself-consciously, thinking sky or wind,
the self that is all self, make an adequate
language from the center of everything, and sing?
said he could hear what people were saying
in cars on the highway
even when they were blasting their radios.
told me he could recognize my heart beat
as soon as I walked into his office, even
while I was sitting in the waiting room and he was
treating a patient much sicker than me.
said he could hear the unexplored terrain inside:
huge fields no human had visited, with birds
rising just above the tall grass,
gliding there, landing, singing in patterns
that always sounded new, and in harmony. He scowled
as he stared off into space, then told me the woods
on the other side of that field were full
of owls the size of our children when they’re learning
to talk, which is huge for a raptor. Then he smiled
and opened his arms for a hug, so he could
feel those secrets I still couldn’t tell
and sense which flowers would heal me.
Yesterday, my daughter
carrying a wing she had fashioned in art class,
as tall as I am--which is not very tall
for a person but huge for a wing--built
of wire and wax paper that looked like skin,
and hair she'd cut from her classmates' heads
and glued down. No feathers. That was one of the rules,
she told me, we have to make wings without feathers,
that strap onto our arms. Then we're supposed to fly,
or pretend to, while our friends imagine birds
and draw us way up there. And then we'll draw them too.
When I tapped the wing lightly it sounded like a drum.
It's beautiful, I told her, and then I went inside
while she strapped the wing on and started running around
the yard, lopsided for a bird: one wing
only makes a person fall over.
So I helped her build a second wing, but it didn't match,
which was all right by me, since I didn't really want her
flying anyway, at least not without
protection: a parachute, or a net to break her
I helped her fail, though both
her wings are beautiful.
Maybe they are beautiful because they don't quite match,
I suggested over dinner, unconvinced myself.
She scowled. And then she smiled. Later we went out--
after the dew had fallen--and tried
to lift spider webs from the trees without
spoiling their symmetry. These will staunch a wound
better than a band-aid, or a cotton ball, she said
as dusk fell around us, like fragrance or a breeze.
I wanted to ask her what wound do you mean,
as though I might staunch it myself, but she was
holding a web
suspended in her hands,
like air, or like nothing, and passing it to me.