The Voice and Our Breath

   
 

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Three

sky
One

The door
the door
empty now
gone birds
gone spring
gone sun
now just cloud
now just white
gone white
gone bird
gone song
light gone
singing gone
gone entrance
gone morning
gone morning
chatter
gone bird
gone snow
gone over
me
gone me
gone thought
last glimpse
gone bird
what is gone
gone me
gone bird
long gone
gone before
open gone
land land
sea sea.

Two

Big hair
cigar tooth
boarded up
garbage pile
kitchen light
split door
old perfume
feathers in
the corner
dish soap on
the wall
licorice smile
time warp
still moving
I’ll try
one
more
day

Three

An opening
slowly closing
last night
a totem rising through
frost
enough jokes, please
love is service
I am a worthy
neighbor carrying
you home, a slice
through your heel,
hands flat as skillets,
striking
the snow
one foot
then,
the other

Click

doorknob

Click

Just close it. That’s all. Just close it. The little click let’s you know it’s closed. It clicks just once. You need the sound. You need the sound to let you know it’s closed. Once it’s closed there is no sound. You know it’s closed because there is no longer a click. First the sound of the no-click when it’s open, then the click, and then the sound of no-click after it’s closed. The no-click no-sound is vast and tough to swallow, much like the cod-liver oil the old man talks about having to drink when he was young— “mother gave it to me by the spoonful because of my ears, my lungs, my nerves. We thought magnets could cure rheumatism.” It’s the kind of no-sound silence in the room when he’s talked himself tired and you’re left with only the space between his bed and your chair and the tail end of his story— “…we woke up and the Dodgers were gone. They tore down Ebbet’s Field. Knocked it right down into the cold earth.” The cold earth hovers between you both. How can anyone compete with the cold earth? You can’t. You don’t even try. A long almost-silence is the only solution. You call it silence, but if you really listen, you’ll hear all sorts of things: people talking downstairs, words indistinct except for the occasional name, Bob, Mary, Corwin; feet on the coffee table, heels scuffing the wood; pills poured from a  bottle into a cup; spaghetti boiling on the stove; jello wobbling in its mold; kids shooting hoops at the park; cars on the overpass; a truck jake-braking on the bridge; a girl yelling No fair! Stop it!; someone throwing bottles into a recycling bin; a shower curtain sliding on its rings; a plane landing at the airstrip. Those sounds are below the silence, you have to climb under the silence to hear them and who has the time for such things during these busy final days? It’s such a complicated process. First, you seek the edge of the silence and then find a purchase upon its rim. It’s like slipping your fingers under a manhole cover; possible, certainly, but only with monumental effort. You have to wait for the silence to spread. You have to grip its edges without setting off any alarms. You can’t let the old man start talking again; you can’t get out of the chair; you shouldn’t even blink, let alone weep. Movement will turn the tide against you. You’ll have rustling and creaking and snapping to deal with and you have to hope the old man won’t groan or mumble or fart because then you’re out; gone; no chance. But if all is aligned and you are patient, the stripe between afternoon and dusk will crystalize, and you can slip underneath. But that is not all. There is always more. If you are very careful, and if you’ve trained well, you can find yet the smaller gap between the underneath-silence and the absolute-silence. If you find yourself there and unafraid, you must close the door. It is the only option. Reach out with both hands. The doorknob will be there beneath your trembling fingers. All you have to do is pull with an open heart. Pull until you hear the click.

How to Experience Joy

How to Experience Joy

Why don’t you read more poems, for starters. Has someone made you feel as though you don’t understand poetry? Maybe a teacher told you that the lake in the poem meant something other than the lake? Perhaps you read the line that contained the word lake and you thought of a lake you knew once, when you were small, before your mother brought you to Houston after your father died, a lake now quite distant in your memory and you rarely think of those trees layered thick on the opposite shore, the dock a finger pointing toward adventure, tomorrow, a cannonball, an inner tube, the pure open air holding you for an instant before your feet broke the surface and the water pulled you deep. Perhaps a ripple passed through you then, while you were reading, a jolt come + gone, an afterimage of a bright moon tapping you from the inside like the water against the dock pilings, a gleam that left you nearly breathless in Mrs. Lucas’s 10th grade English class, too afraid to open your mouth or move your eyes away from the page for fear that the entire world might steal the silver stretch of moon across the water, that one clear image rushing away as Mrs. Lucas was saying your name, calling you back—Well? Well? The lake is a symbol for salvation, she said, or for redemption. The author wants you to see that he has been washed clean, purified. She tapped her pen against her grade book until you nodded. But that lake is still in the poem, waiting for you to return, waiting for you to unlock not what it means, but what it is. You are its only key.