They took M again; this time I too learned what it’s like inside; no more.
The Gypsy’s Wife, L. Cohen.
I would write more if this were anonymous. I should slip into fiction, but that does not feel true either. I do not know what I am afraid of. (Does anyone, really?) Or I do know, but I am reluctant to say.
To beauty I would betray everything.
It does, and I though I am no longer little I still post secret letters to strangers, and I am sorry that this one– although not secret– comes so late.
This week I sent someone I do not know two silver-clasped threads of silk. One was red, and one was white, and in return she sent me a poem. It was titled Love Sorrow.
It was not hers, but it was hers, and now I am holding it too. I am not sure what to do with it.
When I was a very little girl my mother read aloud to me the stories of John Irving’s strange and complicated families; when I was a little older, I read their familiar pages myself. I remember that similar inimitable line from Hotel New Hampshire: Sorrow floats.
Sorrow, in Irving’s novel, was not the little girl of Oliver’s poem, but rather the Berry family’s black lab, whom they’d had a taxidermist stuff upon dying; the line refers to the plane crash that killed Mary Berry and her youngest son, among the wreckage of which the glass-eyed body of the long-dead Sorrow buoyed.
You wrote in your letter of suicide, and of the nets and fences that prevent it in Toyko; you wrote of the fuck-you anti-dance of the West; you wrote of sadness, too. But what shape does your sorrow take?
(There’s no need to answer; I would not know how to respond.)
On my desk a cat– she has been living with us for months; she is still cat– is half-purring and half-growling through the heart she’s dragged close to me. Writing is nothing without blood; the fire burns here too.
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
smiling by the windows looking out
in our directions
back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you
with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is
— W. S. Merwin
I’ve been writing elsewhere, in silence, and I’m not sure why. Perhaps it is the fantasy of secrecy; perhaps mere shyness. But does reason matter? What matters is: I’ve abandoned this place for far too long, and I miss this broader and more treacherous home.
Certain things are perfect. (I am not one of them, but even this is a matter of perspective; given enough times, everything disintegrates into the necessary.) Today the rain was perfect, and perfect was the day, and there was even something perfect in the sugared glass and metal tissue and throbbing lights and twisted faces of the car accident that slowed my slow way home.
Thanksgiving is next week. Last Thanksgiving M. was three weeks into a three month caging in a windowless detention center; this Thanksgiving it will be enough to spend together. And there is so much more, from the growing being in the belly of my sister to my marriage and slow shuffle east, from this house and our home and our hurrying business to our move and our love and our everything.
Still, no matter how much I give it, the past gulps down each new day as if starving. How can anyone stand living at the brink of the world? I keep peering over the edge, and it is dizzying.
I hold awe and wonder in too high esteem. Or no–that’s not it. It’s more that I tend to helplessly collapse into such perspectives as a default: when I don’t know or don’t understand something, I naively assume a mysterious and wonderful depth; when I encounter the new, or the old, or am asked to consider, I end up helplessly stumbling into the marvelous. For me the proverbial grass-elsewhere is not so much greener, but imbued with some sort of transcendent mystical promise.
In relationships, be they platonic or romantic or professional, this tends to be a gift: I’m rarely disabused of the assumption, and many people–for the most part, it seems–not only prove to be strangely and marvelously enigmatic, but appreciate being acknowledged as such. In other arenas, though, this tendency toward romanticism quivers between heartbreak and an embarrassing foolishness. I keep thinking I’ll grow out of it, but if anything it keeps getting worse. (Is there a career or profession that is the opposite of a critic? I wish I could spend my life pointing out what is frighteningly beautiful in things.)
Ah well. There are worse problems to have, certainly, and certainly there are worse attitudes with which to feel flooded.
I have been having the most hideous dreams.