Nights when I am sleeping in her shoulder blades, her white feather wings and necklaces of sentences enfold me so gently that when I wake in her cloud embrace, the dusky 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 the soft white feathers, feel the fragile bone and sear them into my memory: the sight of all twelve of them, each by each, wings beating like an excited heart flying into dusky 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 justify-–not even to myself. A miracle: when I unleashed her name to the ice-cloud skies, and she coursed through seas back through me, her sentences spilling from my mouth—and me, nestled once more in her feather-white shoulders. 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 woods behind my shabby house—as if she were tracing the narrowest path of light with her long, delicate finger. I trembled, too insignificant, there amidst the ancient trees and her reckoning–-that promise—of something—I was still afraid of.
Now she leaves me at whim—not returning for many days or weeks sometimes. I counted many hours but will not total them or admit to myself. Instead, I await her at night, prostrate, ready for her 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. She appeared—crumpled at the window. I helped her inside and then saw the streams of tears pooling in the little bit of moonlight. I sat her on my bed. She and I in quiet shock. Her open-flower wounds, purple blue and red—gashes–-were remarkably clean. I probed her face, but she avoided my colorless eyes. They are for you, she said before finally meeting my 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–gently, not too tight; calm the whole time, so she would stop shaking.
When she was strong enough to leave me, she disappeared. This time there was an orange book on my kitchen table. The book was tied several times around with a hemp 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 smell her hair—instructed not to open under any circumstances. Imagine the sentences I have written here for you. Sentences and stanzas about you, about us, timeless as stone.
Hour upon hour, upon nights of little or no sleep, I formulated her sentences. I knew the cadences and rhythm of her eloquent speech, how she usually spoke in meandering long cascades 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 wandering through so many complex syntactical machines.
The night she returned I scrolled the windowpanes open in my bedroom and cooed to her bird noises. She handed me a large feather pen that she made from a fallen seabird that had misjudged the cliffs. Its eyes still open and staring at the sky, she said. I hastened her to the meager kitchen table, to the orange book. My impatience palpable. She unknotted the stone from hemp.
I held my breath as she opened to the first page and quickly turned all the pages with her thumb to expose 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. Don’t be afraid. We are stone. Then she enfolded me in her cloud-dusky wings, and we slept for an eternity. Unafraid of what we had become. A strange dance. Music with empty beats, at times. The silent beating heart of the starlings that fly from us or the fallen seabird that follows us in our dreams, its eyes still open, asking us to burn into our memory, all we have—all our blessings.
[published in Gone Lawn 19, 2015]