My friend and I snickered the first time
we heard the meditation teacher, a grown man,
call himself honey, with a hand placed
over his heart to illustrate how we too
might become more gentle with ourselves
and our runaway minds. Itâs been years
since we sat with legs twisted on cushions,
holding back our laughter, but today
I found myself crouched on the floor again,
not meditating exactly, just agreeing
to be still, saying honey to myself each time
I thought about my husband splayed
on the couch with aching joints and fever
from a tick biteâwhat if he never gets better?â
or considered the threat of more wildfires,
the possible collapse of the Gulf Stream,
then remembered that in a few more minutes,
Iâd have to climb down to the cellar and empty
the bucket I placed beneath a leaky pipe
that canât be fixed until next week. How long
do any of us really have before the body
begins to break down and empty its mysteries
into the air? Oh honey, I saidâfor once
without a trace of irony or blush of shameâ
the touch of my own hand on my chest
like that of a stranger, oddly comforting
in spite of the facts.
I wonder if I will miss the moss after I fly off as much as I miss it now just thinking about leaving.
There were stones of many colors. There were sticks holding both lichen and moss. There were red gates with old hand-forged hardware. There were fields of dry grass smelling of first rain then of new mud. There was mud, and there was the walking, all the beautiful walking, and it alone filled me— the smells, the scratchy grass heads. All the sleeping under bushes, once waking to vultures above, peering down with their bent heads the way they do, caricatures of interest and curiosity. Once too a lizard. Once too a kangaroo rat. Once too a rat. They did not say I belonged to them, but I did.
Whenever the experiment on and of my life begins to draw to a close I’ll go back to the place that held me and be held. It’s O.K. I think I did what I could. I think I sang some, I think I held my hand out.
Location: Half inch above the K/T boundary Gender:
Sep 26, 2021 - 5:37pm
TULIPS by Sylvia Plath
The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here. Look how white everything is, how quiet, how snowed-in. I am learning peacefulness, lying by myself quietly As the light lies on these white walls, this bed, these hands. I am nobody; I have nothing to do with explosions. I have given my name and my day-clothes up to the nurses And my history to the anesthetist and my body to surgeons.
They have propped my head between the pillow and the sheet-cuff Like an eye between two white lids that will not shut. Stupid pupil, it has to take everything in. The nurses pass and pass, they are no trouble, They pass the way gulls pass inland in their white caps, Doing things with their hands, one just the same as another, So it is impossible to tell how many there are.
My body is a pebble to them, they tend it as water Tends to the pebbles it must run over, smoothing them gently. They bring me numbness in their bright needles, they bring me sleep. Now I have lost myself I am sick of baggage — My patent leather overnight case like a black pillbox, My husband and child smiling out of the family photo; Their smiles catch onto my skin, little smiling hooks.
I have let things slip, a thirty-year-old cargo boat stubbornly hanging on to my name and address. They have swabbed me clear of my loving associations. Scared and bare on the green plastic-pillowed trolley I watched my teaset, my bureaus of linen, my books Sink out of sight, and the water went over my head. I am a nun now, I have never been so pure.
I didn’t want any flowers, I only wanted To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty. How free it is, you have no idea how free — The peacefulness is so big it dazes you, And it asks nothing, a name tag, a few trinkets. It is what the dead close on, finally; I imagine them Shutting their mouths on it, like a Communion tablet.
The tulips are too red in the first place, they hurt me. Even through the gift paper I could hear them breathe Lightly, through their white swaddlings, like an awful baby. Their redness talks to my wound, it corresponds. They are subtle : they seem to float, though they weigh me down, Upsetting me with their sudden tongues and their color, A dozen red lead sinkers round my neck.
Nobody watched me before, now I am watched. The tulips turn to me, and the window behind me Where once a day the light slowly widens and slowly thins, And I see myself, flat, ridiculous, a cut-paper shadow Between the eye of the sun and the eyes of the tulips, And I have no face, I have wanted to efface myself. The vivid tulips eat my oxygen.
Before they came the air was calm enough, Coming and going, breath by breath, without any fuss. Then the tulips filled it up like a loud noise. Now the air snags and eddies round them the way a river Snags and eddies round a sunken rust-red engine. They concentrate my attention, that was happy Playing and resting without committing itself.
The walls, also, seem to be warming themselves. The tulips should be behind bars like dangerous animals; They are opening like the mouth of some great African cat, And I am aware of my heart: it opens and closes Its bowl of red blooms out of sheer love of me. The water I taste is warm and salt, like the sea, And comes from a country far away as health.
Some say love's a little boy, And some say it's a bird, Some say it makes the world go around, Some say that's absurd, And when I asked the man next-door, Who looked as if he knew, His wife got very cross indeed, And said it wouldn't do.
Does it look like a pair of pajamas, Or the ham in a temperance hotel? Does its odor remind one of llamas, Or has it a comforting smell? Is it prickly to touch as a hedge is, Or soft as eiderdown fluff? Is it sharp or quite smooth at the edges? O tell me the truth about love.
Our history books refer to it In cryptic little notes, It's quite a common topic on The Transatlantic boats; I've found the subject mentioned in Accounts of suicides, And even seen it scribbled on The backs of railway guides.
Does it howl like a hungry Alsatian, Or boom like a military band? Could one give a first-rate imitation On a saw or a Steinway Grand? Is its singing at parties a riot? Does it only like Classical stuff? Will it stop when one wants to be quiet? O tell me the truth about love.
I looked inside the summer-house; It wasn't over there; I tried the Thames at Maidenhead, And Brighton's bracing air. I don't know what the blackbird sang, Or what the tulip said; But it wasn't in the chicken-run, Or underneath the bed.
Can it pull extraordinary faces? Is it usually sick on a swing? Does it spend all its time at the races, or fiddling with pieces of string? Has it views of its own about money? Does it think Patriotism enough? Are its stories vulgar but funny? O tell me the truth about love.
When it comes, will it come without warning Just as I'm picking my nose? Will it knock on my door in the morning, Or tread in the bus on my toes? Will it come like a change in the weather? Will its greeting be courteous or rough? Will it alter my life altogether? O tell me the truth about love.
Location: Half inch above the K/T boundary Gender:
Aug 15, 2021 - 8:55am
A Slip of Paper by Louise Gluck
Today I went to the doctor— the doctor said I was dying, not in those words, but when I said it she didn't deny it—
What have you done to your body, her silence says. We gave it to you and look what you did to it, how you abused it. I’m not talking only of cigarettes, she says, but also of poor diet, of drink.
She's a young woman; the stiff white coat disguises her body. Her hair's pulled back, the little female wisps suppressed by a dark band. She's not at ease here,
behind her desk, with her diploma over her head, reading a list of numbers in columns, some flagged for her attention. Her spine's straight also, showing no feeling.
No one taught me how to care for my body. You grow up watched by your mother or grandmother. Once you're free of them, your wife takes over, but she's nervous, she doesn't go too far. So this body I have, that the doctor blames me for—it's always been supervised by women, and let me tell you, they left a lot out.
The doctor looks at me— between us, a stack of books and folders. Except for us, the clinic's empty.
There's a trap-door here, and through that door, the country of the dead. And the living push you through, they want you there first, ahead of them.
The doctor knows this. She has her books, I have my cigarettes. Finally she writes something on a slip of paper. This will help your blood pressure, she says.
And I pocket it, a sign to go. And once I'm outside, I tear it up, like a ticket to the other world.
She was crazy to come here, a place where she knows no one. She's alone; she has no wedding ring. She goes home alone, to her place outside the village. And she has her one glass of wine a day, her dinner that isn't a dinner.
And she takes off that white coat between that coat and her body, there's just a thin layer of cotton. And at some point, that comes off too.
To get born, your body makes a pact with death, and from that moment, all it tries to do is cheat—
You get into bed alone. Maybe you sleep, maybe you never wake up. But for a long time you hear every sound. It's a night like any summer night; the dark never comes.