for John Burroughs
Nights when I am sleeping in her shoulder blades, her white-feather wings and necklaces of sentences enfold me so effortlessly–that when I wake to her cloud embrace, the obfuscated skies and sentences do not overwhelm me with how limitless I have become.
In half-sleep, her feather wings are starlings hovering above me. One by one, I stroke her silk-white feathers, feel their attenuated bone–and burn them in my memory; the sight of all twelve of them, each by each, wings beating like an excited heart, flying into dusty skies, a temple somewhere–so distant from me.
I did not speak or sing to her for 16 Seasons, 4 long Sunless Winters, 1,461 days. I cannot explain–not even to myself. A miracle–when I unleashed her name, Bellona, to the ice-cloud skies finally–she coursed through tumultuous seas back through me–her sentences spilling from my mouth before she nestled me once more in her feather-white embrace. Yes, I had been silent for four years and I am sorry for that, but she understood why.
Month after month, she stalked me in the too-overgrown forest behind my shabby house–as if she were tracing the narrowest path of light with her extenuated, delicate finger. I trembled, too insignificant–there amidst the ancient trees of her reckoning–her promise of something I was still afraid of.
Now she leaves me at whim—not returning for many days or weeks, sometimes. I enumerated far-too-many hours, but will not total them/admit the unbearable sum even to myself. Instead, I await her at night, prostrate, ready for her pearl-white down-feather wings to find me. For the blades of her shoulders and wild sentences to hurt me. And I have to wonder is this wrong?
Once she came to me during an almost-moonless night. I spotted her at the crumpled window of my bedroom through the telescope I had purchased, so I would not miss her desperately-anticipated appearance–I assisted her inside;; the weight of her emaciated body slumped against my sternum–before i witnessed her streams of tears shimmering in the scant moonlight. I sat her on my bed. She and I in quiet shock. Her open-flower wounds, royal purple and blue-crimson gashes–were remarkably clean-looking. I probed her face but she dodged my colorless eyes. They are for you, she said–before finally arresting my riveted gaze, as I towered above her. They are your pain.
I bathed her with my cupped hands of sea water and rose hips. The salt burned her open-flower wounds. When the deep gashes dried, I wrapped her cut places in gauze–cautiously/gently [not too tight]–calm the whole time, so she would cease shaking. And then I, Orpheus, played her lullaby after lullaby on my guitar. Then we lay inside goose-down-feathers, and I wept in her beautiful long hair until dawn.
When she was strong enough to leave me, she disappeared. She always, eventually abandoned me. This time , she left an orange book on my kitchen table. The book was tied several times around with a hemp leather cord, knotted over a stone from the sea–a stone I had seen several times in her odd pocket where her hand would go to touch when she was nervous or afraid.
The note I found underneath the book when I lifted it to my face–to inhale the magnolia-perfumed [the redolent, sweet fragrance of her hair] pages—instructed not to open under any circumstances Her beautiful handwritten calligraphy–set in soft, veridian ink reminded me of watercolor paintings of summer grass and vibrant emeralds. Imagine the sentences I have written here for you, the inner cover read–sentences and stanzas about you, about us, timeless as stone.
Hour upon hour, endless night upon nights of paltry, discombobulated sleep–I formulated her indeterminately-possible, stunning sentences. I had, long ago, memorized the cadences and rhythm of her eloquent, mellifluous speech–how she usually spoke in meandering, long poetic stanzas, with a short thought interposed here and there. I’m not sure if those succinct breaks were for her own benefit or for me—a resting place after spiraling through her infinitely- complex, syntactical machines.
The night she returned I scrolled the window panes open in my bedroom and cooed to her bird noises. She was more beautiful than she had ever appeared to be–an opalescent glow haloed her entire being. She handed me a large, white-feather pen that she assembled from a fallen sea-bird that had misjudged the cliffs, she sang in a voice tinged with melancholy. Its eyes still open & staring at the sky.
I hastened her to my shabby, plastic kitchen table, to the magical [I was certain] orange, leather book. My impatience palpable, she un-knotted the robin-egg-blue stone from hemp. I held my breath as she opened to the first blank page, blinding me with its glare of emptiness–before expediently, turned all the pages with her bent index finger–exposing a lined journal with no writing. Bereft, heartbroken by her betrayal–I expected her to be laughing, mocking me.
Write what you burned in your memory during your half-sleep or no-sleep nights, she instructed with a intractable conviction I had never heard. Don’t be afraid. We are stone.
Then she enfolded me in her cloud-dispersed wings, and we slept for eternity–unafraid of what we had become. A bizarre dance–music with empty beats punctuating polyphonous, abruptly-truncated melodies–the noiseless, beating hearts of the starlings that fly from us–or the fallen seabird that traverses us in our dreams–their perfectly-round, amber-marble eyes still open–asking us to burn into our memory–all we have, all our blessings.
[published in Gone Lawn 19, 2015]