This is the Blueprint for Difficult:
Reading The World of the Ten Thousand Things on the lawn
while trying not to ignore trees, shot through with hot white light
of a summer sun descending. Between me and the trees, sky,
the hushed blue of a silk scarf edged with the kind of clouds
angels must enjoy playing with on their off days. Too much beauty
makes me anxious. It is a terrible thing to be a fallen creature. Missing
that glimpse of sprightly jay in the birch, that violet curve of mountain
rounding this West Virginia bend, feels like losing sight of grace,
again. I am always a child in summer, attuned to desire
for something bigger than myself: the dew’s sweet secret, strung along
feathered hands of ferns in the meadow come morning. My mother’s voice
humming over small tasks involving cinnamon and soap. Is it too much to ask
of God to bless me also, a heart imperfect to perfection, and I having
no birthright to sell, here at the Farmer’s Market with its blueberry venders
and sweet corn experts. The nights grow thick, and instead of turning away
I slip into them, like a deer following its heart to clover
and moonlight. These days I understand little but feel more, a toy piano
where my head used to be, playing songs of daring, dusty adventure, not
the usual strawberry ditties of my kitchen dishwashing voice. Worry
makes the shape of God more abrupt in the mind. I plant zinnias
and try not to wonder about their health. I diligently read a nun’s thoughts
on prayer, underlining my filth crackles as He seizes hold of me.
Sometimes, longing is the only thing that saves us. Today I will finish
planting my vegetable garden, and listen to the peepers sing through the heat, of rain.
Poem for a Late Summer Day I
The evening’s bewitching beauty, like bee-balm holding vigil over the body
of a crushed finch, stalked my depression. I’d come to the lake with a bucket
of dying fish, hoping to right my wrongs. By the plum light of a fading day we made a pact:
no more guilt over beauty, accidental or cultivated; yellow tea roses in a garden
exclusive to wild sunflowers. All those practical seeds come September,
and only a handful of startled, migrating finches to eat them. The fish lay still
in a field of waist-high goldenrod, then swam away, grateful.
I had nothing to remember them by. It seemed to be night, the sky enamored of itself,
all pink and hopeful, and I said to no one in particular, “to sit in a cloud is to believe
in falling.” Sometimes the shape of something is less real than our desire
to make it so: sudden hill, dollhouse at sunset, the husks of us, some stars.
How to Talk about Love, & Other Strategies for Survival
Me: Do you love me like a fat boy loves cake,
or do you love me like a fat boy loves cake AND ice cream?
You: [pause] Can’t I just love you without the cake?
In a word: Yes. Of course this is only the beginnings of remedy. We are almost to Ohio,
on our way to see the man with healing hands. I know I’m in for pain.
It has been too long and the ache has taken over my body. Yet there are hills
to exclaim over: three horses high up, one the color of bleached bones in the desert
flanked by chestnuts. We are on this side of the gate and almost there. I inhale goats
and gardens ploughed under. No, I do not need to use the outhouse this time, dear.
You know the routine by now. Awkwardness and herbs in a musky basement.
I try not to cry out, even though you are outside, making friends with the buggy horses.
I try not to cry out, though the pain is savage, and leaves the healer’s arm limp and stinging.
You said: Do I go out and buy a cow just because I crave milk? And I asked for a brown goat.
Goldenrod along the path all September and milkweed shot up and shining
like the wise hair of good ancestors. I want to savor all these words, just in case.
We never really know about the wilderness until we’re in it.
Going home we took a different road and came upon a new high hill,
this one with a triptych of crosses: at center one the color of bleached bones in the desert,
the others of shining yellow wood like the hard, straight pews of my girlhood.
I held your hand and hoped for a sign.