living in a heartbeat
Words can sometimes, in moments of grace,
attain the quality of deeds.
Random memories of ordinary places I once took for granted, now bathed in the Autumn twilight of my longing. Where has this life gone?
Roses in an alley. The gaze of a Gernsey cow in a meadow of violets. Abandoned doll on a park bench. Cobblestone sidewalk on a street down which I never walked.
Smell of old books in the attic, invoking the whisper of the grandfathers. Frozen cream pushing the tops off milk bottles on the back porch.
Barn owl in Winter moonlight. Tangled vine on a ruined fence post, suddenly rioting with berries. Saturday morning, the color of butter dripping over hot pancakes. Where has this life gone?
Can I not bathe the present moment with this same liquid sorrow, same transparent beauty, each moment of time immersed in eternity, eternity of my awareness? The dream of the past, the dream of now; does it not all sparkle with love?
I scare away rabbits stripping the strawberries
in the garden, ripened ovaries reddening
their mouths. You take down the hanging basket
and show it to our son—a nest, secret as a heart,
throbbing between flowers. Look, but don’t touch,
you instruct our son who has already begun
to reach for the black globes of a new bird’s eyes,
wanting to touch the world. To know it.
Disappointed, you say: Common house finch,
as if even banal miracles aren’t still pink
and blind and heaving with life. When the cat
your ex-wife gave you died, I was grateful.
I’d never seen a man grieve like that
for an animal. I held you like a victory,
embarrassed and relieved that this was how
you loved. To the bone of you. To the meat.
And we want the stricken pleasure of intimacy,
so we risk it. We do. Every day we take down
the basket and prove it to our son. Just look
at its rawness, its tenderness, it’s almost flying.
Fledgling by Traci Brimhall
The deed took all my heart.
I did not think of you,
Not ’til the thing was done.
I put my sword away
And then no more the cold
And perfect fury ran
Along my narrow bones
And then no more the black
And dripping corridors
Hold anywhere the shape
That I had come to slay.
Then for the first time,
I saw in the cave’s belly
The dark and clotted webs,
The green and sucking pools,
The rank and crumbling walls,
The maze of passages.
And I thought then
Of the far earth,
Of the spring sun
And the slow wind,
And a young girl,
And I looked then
At the white thread.
Hunting the minotaur
I was no common man
And had no need of love.
I trailed the shining thread
Behind me, for a vow,
And did not think of you.
It lay there, like a sign,
Coiled on the bull’s great hoof.
And back into the world,
Half blind with weariness
I touched the thread and wept.
O, it was frail as air,
And I turned then
With the white spool
Through the cold rocks,
Through the black rocks.
Through the long webs,
And the mist fell,
And the webs clung.
And the rocks tumbled,
And the earth shook.
And the thread held.
The Return by Mary Oliver
Each of us is an artist of our days; the greater our integrity and awareness, the more original and creative our time will become.
– John O’Donohue