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When Making a Choice

 

 

 

It’s like any new landscape. At first,

You don’t know which direction to look.

Each time you look east, you regret

 

you can’t at the same time look west.

Soon you become a spinning top, unable

to focus anywhere without wanting to turn

 

and see what you’re missing. For a time,

it serves you, this willingness to see every side,

keeps you from making poor choices. But then,

 

spinning and spinning becomes dizzying.

What would it be like, you wonder,

to make a clear choice and then walk

 

that direction and never look back?

And so you try it—at first by forcing yourself

to look only one way. It’s not easy to walk

 

a straight line when you’ve been spinning.

Then you begin to notice how good it feels

to put one foot in front of the other

 

and walk a single course. It is, after all,

all a single person can do. How easy, now

that you’re not always looking away,

 

how easy to notice every detail about this landscape,

to revel in each step, to focus being

here, and now here, and only here.

 

 

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.        

—Annie Dillard

 

 

I want to spend my life

cheering for young girls as they learn

what they are capable of, learn

to trust themselves and each other,

learn to become a team. I want

to spend my life looking for new ways

to say, “I am thrilled with who

you are becoming.” I want to support

other women’s daughters, all of them,

some of them with my own hands.

It’s so easy, really. A glass of water,

a hug, a word, a shoulder, a nod.

And if days are our currency, let me

spend them giving as much love

as possible, though it sounds

like a cheer, though it feels like a pat

on the back, though it looks like

a bagel, a headband, a double thumbs up.

 

 

 

I love entering a race with no chance of winning—

so easy to keep a smile on my face, to remember

I am doing this for the love of it, easy to focus

on the color of the sky, the cold scent of snow,

the thrill of the arms as they pump and release.

 

It’s the same reason I love going to high school plays

or middle school volleyball games or eating potato chips.

There’s a thrill, of course, in the best—but oh, the joy

of wearing a soft sweatshirt on a Saturday, of finding yourself

on the tenth kilometer of fifteen, grateful for five more k.

It Comes Down to This

 

 

Not that I want to be someone else,

just that I want to be less myself,

 

which is to say less the woman

who thinks she knows anything

 

about anything—gardening or writing

or skiing or parenting or loving—

 

I want to be less who I am and

more what a tree is, what a star is,

 

protons fused with other protons,

and the strong force that holds

 

particles together in the center of atoms,

and the weak force that breaks the atoms down,

 

and the electromagnetic force that binds

all molecules. Yes, this is how I want to meet you,

 

without a name, unencumbered by a me,

a collection of atoms and forces that rhyme

 

with you, linked as we are from the very beginning.

How easy it is then to say hello, to fall in love

 

with each other, the world.

 

Stubborn Praise

 

Praise the futility of song.

Ruth Schwartz, Versions of Ghalib: Ghazal 1,

 

 

And so today I praise

the mango that molders,

how sweet it is the moment just before

it is gone. I praise the shovel

for its valiant attempt

to make a clearing

even as snow continues

to fall. Praise the fire,

though it always goes out

when left untended.

Praise how easily I forget the lessons

I learned yesterday,

how this allows me to learn them again.

Praise the body that rises

and runs, though it knows

it will tire and ache. Praise

the innocent clock

which only does what it

was made to do. And praise

this longing to praise—

how it has never built

a single house nor fed a mouth

nor loaded a train,

but oh, the joy,

the aliveness in praising.

 

 

 

 

One Indestructible

 

 

just when the sledgehammer of no

takes its best shot,

finding in me an invincible yes

 

 

 

And so, although

there’s so much

work to do,

I step outside

and let February

have its way

with me—cold,

dusted with snow.

Hard to believe

anything can grow.

But singing high

in cottonwood trees

are the chickadees.

 

It’s not hard

to think, This

is the most

important thing I

can do today.

I think it

until I forget

to think it,

until I am

simply standing there

in winter air

pledging my ears

to the sound

of the birds—

 

such a simple

song. Funny no

part of me

longs for other

work. Funny how

soon it becomes

everything.

 

 

Thank you for blessing me with reality,

for showing me when I’m guilty

of what my friend calls cognitive slippage.

It’s like stuffing a big scoop of wasabi into my mouth,

thinking it’s guacamole. The mind believes

what it wants to believe until it’s shown otherwise.

 

Thank you for demonstrating how sometimes

I disconnect from the facts—especially when

emotions are involved. Like when I think

I’m a pool of warm soothing water

another could enter, but really, I’m a woman

made of bone and corpuscles. Little can I hold.

 

I always thought imagination was a gift,

but not, perhaps, when it puts me at odds with what’s true.

Dear moment, I want to be attentive. When you pull out the rug

from beneath my thoughts, I want to be the rug.

And when you poke my theories full of holes, I want

to be the hand that pokes, the fresh air that rushes in.

 

 

Allspice. Basil. Bay. Caraway. There were mornings

my boy and I spent on the floor pulling herbs and spices

from the drawer. We’d open the jars and close our eyes

and gently sniff. Cardamom. Cilantro. Cinnamon. Dill.

I took out the cayenne and red pepper flakes

and put them up high on an uppermost shelf.

Some agonies are easy to prevent.

We focused on Fennel. Fenugreek. Mint.

 

Today, he comes home having breathed in deeply

the scent of heartbreak, a jar I would have hidden if I could,

but all of us know it eventually, feel the burn, the inner sear.

Beyond safety, thyme, turmeric, there is fire, and once inhaled,

it hurts everywhere. Eventually we respect the heat as a gift.

Eventually the heart learns to walk through it.

One Fermata

 

the music will last

forever, but who will be

here to dance to it?

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