For all the hardships that life throws at us, I have always felt that life keeps living. Perhaps not in the same form or in a way that is recognizable. But life keeps pulsing under everything. And no matter the pain or confusion I face, something in me keeps reaching for that irrepressible pulse. This poem comes from my reaching.
A FEW TURNS OF THE MOON
From the balcony of this restaurant, I watch
a hundred lives below: burrowing and laughing
and finding their way. And perhaps because
I’ve lost my father and our beloved dog in the
last year, perhaps because at sixty-three, I see
over the final hill more clearly, I also see the
hundreds on the other side, still burrowing
and laughing and finding their way. I don’t
know if this is alarming or a comfort: that
we go on the same, that the gleam pressed
out of every hardship is the jewel of existence,
here and on the other side. So I spoon my
soup and sip my wine, knowing the balcony
is the gutter and the gutter is the balcony,
that the dark waits all curled up in the light,
and the light, thank God, waits all curled up
in the dark.
Darkness deserves gratitude. It is the alleluia point at which we learn
to understand that all growth does not take place in the sunlight.
When you doubt the world
look at the undivided darkness
look at Wheeler Peak
cliffs like suspended prayers
contemplate the cerulean
the gleaming limestone
the frozen shades
look at the bristlecone pine
a labyrinth to winding wonders
listen to the caves
remember the smell of sagebrush
after a thunderstorm
that Lexington Arch
is a bridge of questions
in the solitude of dreams
distances disturb desire
to deliver a collision of breaths
the desert echoes
in this dark night sky
stars reveal the way
a heart can light a world.
About This Poem
“I’m an urbanite but when I started teaching at the low-residency MFA program at Sierra Nevada College and discovered the numinous openness of Nevada, something unnamed untangled me. Standing under the crisp golden-red light then the infinite dark at Great Basin for the first time felt like being in the middle of my heart and asking, where do I go from here? Where does one go after they’ve lived wars, been too close to death’s shadows, and then sees a version of heaven? Can we give ourselves permission to inhale its glory without betraying those who couldn’t flee, or didn’t survive? Perhaps we are meant to see such wonder to inform us of how beauty resists.”
But today we kneel only to truth, follow only beauty, and obey only love.
Some days, I see time as a great stretch of fabric with the stars all speckled over it and the planets scattered across it. They are plump with the seas and volcanoes and all of the people, who are stitched together by hope and gravity.
There is an old woman who darns time whenever it frays. She takes her needle and thread and makes it neat again. That’s where the saying “a stitch in time saves nine” comes from, because if she happens to miss the chance to fix it straight away, it has this awful habit of unraveling rather quickly.
A lot of things cause time to fray. Not paying attention to beautiful things is one of them. So if you’re watching a glorious sunset and thinking about porridge, or worse, stocks and shares, time might start to get raggedy. Anything dramatic makes it a little wild as well. In those moments when the world breaks your heart, if you were to just happen to look at the right second, you’d see her diligently fixing a small tear in the sky or precisely cross stitching a cherry blossom which was beginning to lose its shape.
Sometimes she’s at your shoulder, fixing a little part of you that’s beginning to lose its thread, pins in her mouth even though it’s dangerous, so she can get the hem of your existence just right.
She is always patching this, or noticing that, and occasionally if her hands are weary, working the pedal on her old sewing machine to pick and redo the stitching of one of the lesser moons, for practice.
The silver of the needle. The thimble. The neat reels of cotton. All of these tiny things making something so much greater than themselves. Like we do as well.
Life is so fragile, and so is time. It is only kept together by her determination and the thin thread she holds safe in her hands. By luck, too.
And maybe it’s a strange idea, but I can see her so clearly, and I can hear how she lullabies into the stillness while we continue and we try to find whatever magic we can.