Wednesday, March 30, 2011

One of the stories I tell myself starts with a pangolin and a star-nosed mole who become friends through the walls of their exhibits. Pangolins are nocturnal but the moles, living mostly underground, are active day and night, and over time one mole discovered that it took great pleasure in explaining the daytime to the neighboring pangolin, the differences in sound and temperature and scent, all the nuances that it wouldn't have even thought to notice if it hadn't been asked to describe them. Zoos don't throw many mixers for the animals, so neither of them know that they are in a special exhibit for peculiar-looking creatures, or indeed that each is different from the other, which is the uncommon freedom that comes only from being born in captivity. But then one day there is an earthquake and their exhibits are torn open, and two creatures who have only ever known the dark and the damp step out into the light together.

Sometimes I think about all of the avenues for change, all of the forks in paths I didn't realize were there. All of the lives I'm not living, passed by and glimpsed through windows in the late nights. I never much liked Robert Frost, but I think of his Birches and how he interrupts himself from his reverie with facts before falling back into the story. If one must choose between a real ice storm and a story about a soft summer day, the choice seems obvious. Today my horoscope suggested that if I am wondering where my heart and brain are hiding it might be because they are on the other side of the world, discussing things together. Which makes as much sense as anything else. And it's true that the stories I tell to myself, alone in the late nights, are untouched by the cool chill of facts, which might not be the case down any of the others of those forks.

Truly, one could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

Friday, March 25, 2011

There's no need to hide a thing under floorboards when our skin is lined with all of these veins like tiny little mailboxes and pigeonholes and knots in trees. Maybe that's the benefit of the mystery there, all of the things we'll never see. Sometimes I'm not entirely sure that that isn't the secret, that all of my veins aren't inscribed with love letters and the first half of jokes and five million puns. It makes as much sense as anything else.

I worry a lot about the things we leave behind, all of the rainbows and smashed plates, bouquets and empty bottles and boxes full of crumbs. I've seen a lot of things broken lately, and nothing to do by to try and help with the first half of jokes and five million puns. But I think about the ways to grow flowers to cover our footsteps, all of the things left unwritten and stacked in our veins. Building seems scary in a world full of chasms, but the open sky isn't always a friend either, and the only plan possible is to leave behind less that is broken and more that is fixed.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Grandma and Reggie

It's been a year now since we lost my grandma, and I'm not going to talk about grief any more. We all know all about that. I'm going to tell you a secret.

There is a tree I pass twice a day, on my way to and from work. It sits near a vent that breathes steam, and this I think makes the air around the tree a little warmer than the air around all of the other trees. As a result, this tree always blooms first--thick fleshy pink flowers (magnolia, I think) awake and ready for the spring before anything else. That is where she is for me, in the earliest of all the beautiful things--the first trees to bloom in the spring and to be shot through with red in the fall, the first clumps of daffodils and days warm enough to sit outside, the first snow sinking softly through the yellow glow of the streetlights. And though I miss her all the time, in those moments it feels almost like she never left at all.

Monday, March 21, 2011


I bet it surprises you not at all to learn that I did not particularly enjoy shooting guns yesterday. As with the trapeze, my instincts tend more toward the flight end of things, and especially with this big one here I could not manage to force my body to lean forward. You want me to put my face on this gun? I am not overly fond of my face, but I do greatly enjoy that it is attached to my body, and would prefer to keep it that way.

None of the people giving us these lessons were particularly pleased with me as a potential assassin--my hands were too small to adequately grip the pistol, my neck too short to see very well through the sights of the rifle, and I could not manage the recoil on the Glock to save my life. (So to speak.) They all seemed just as glad as I was when my turn was over, since I think we were all wondering if I would manage to get through without accidentally turning the whole place into a bugs bunny cartoon. If I decide to pursue a career as a mercenary, it will definitely be against the odds.

Fortunately, the next stop on the adventure was a whiskey tasting, and if I am terrible at shooting guns I at least have a great talent for drinking whiskey.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I was still in bed on Friday when the east coast started checking to see if we had been washed out to sea over here. My mom called first, and it took me a few minutes to muster up the courage to walk out of my bedroom and make sure the landscape was still intact. This is a fear of mine untethered to natural disasters, that one day I will miss the end of things and wake to find only devastation, the sea having turned our hills to islands. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.

It's a treacherous thing, to think only in TS Eliot and shadow puppets, a grimace that in retrospect was a rictus of fear, all of the ways that all of everything can go wrong. Perhaps it's better to return to making living tissue from cotton candy, seeding the sweeter channels with possibility, since it's all going to end up the same way in whichever cases.

Maybe we just too seldom look past our Prufrocks and Wastelands to our Little Giddings, to the salvation in unity and the discovery in circles. Things get a little too Pentecostal in there, true enough, but there is also an uncommon peace in the rhythm. Of all the rabbit holes on offer, some are certainly more likely to be lined with spikes than others, but we'll have to go down one eventually.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

If all rectangles were squares it would be easier to find a place for everything, all fitting together and evenly spaced. And if we are going to be making mountains out of molehills, it would be nice to know where to find the steps to the top. As a change of pace.

Something unexpected is what we need, and in my head is a plan to glue harmonicas to the hands of everyone in the world to listen to the songs that their gestures sing. Because I have heard all of these tunes before. I want to pack a jar full of squares and bury it somewhere deep, so that by the time it surfaces again we'll be able to remember what it was we once saw.

It's only that the spring is there, just under my skin, sheep in wolf's clothing and china in bull shops, and I am tired of everything that was. In November I knocked softly nine times on a stump and wished for the future, and I grow worried that the future didn't hear me, that I should have knocked much louder, preferred my wish over a desire to not attract attention. Maybe this has been my problem with the future all along.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

If you look into the ogre-faced spider--not literally, although that's probably fun too--it seems like no one wants to talk about its eyes, only about how it likes to cast nets like a fisherman with many many legs. And that's an impressive technique, to be sure, but if there's one thing I've learned about spiders it's that the only consistent thing among them is their tendency toward wackiness in looking for food. But the ogre-faced spider somehow missed the day in evolution school where their eyes got the reflective predator membrane, and so instead they had to learn to grow a new layer of cells every single night. You know how I like to think about eyes, and it's remarkable to me that it's not remarkable to everyone else. This spider, it looks at everything with brand new eyes practically all the time.

I sliced my finger badly last night, cutting something carelessly while sitting on the couch. What I should have done was jump up and run to the bathroom, to avoid getting any blood on my grandma's quilt, but it seemed to take ages for the blood to reach the surface. I couldn't move until I saw what came out--a rainbow or a monster or thirteen poems. But it turns out I am only full of blood after all.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

It's easy to think that we would surprise the fish, if they knew about what was happening just on the other side of the water. All of our cars and psychoanalysts and cold fusion. After all, the fish surprise us all the time. But I have been thinking about how we expect outerspace to be teeming with others, how insulted we continue to be at the lack of contact from other planets. How surprising it would not be if hooks suddenly dropped from the sky to haul us above the clouds and into something different.

The daffodils are coming back, slowly, coaxed by February's ritual false spring. Those bulbs divide every year or so pretty much indefinitely, outlasting all of us and showing up in unexpected places. It's mostly our cultivation that causes them to go blind and stop blooming, cutting off their leaves before the plant has stored enough food for the winter. Each time they show back up it's a little bit of relief that we haven't ruined one more thing with our impatience.