‘Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.’
A Bird, came down the Walk —
He did not know I saw —
He bit an Angle Worm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,
And then, he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass —
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass —
He glanced with rapid eyes,
That hurried all abroad —
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought,
He stirred his Velvet Head. —
Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb,
And he unrolled his feathers,
And rowed him softer Home —
Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam,
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon,
Leap, plashless as they swim.
I thought, on the train, how utterly we have forsaken the Earth, in the sense
of excluding it from our thoughts. There are but few who consider its physical
hugeness, its rough enormity. It is still a disparate monstrosity, full of solitudes
& barrens & wilds. It still dwarfs & terrifies & crushes. The rivers still roar,
the mountains still crash, the winds still shatter. Man is an affair of cities. His gardens & orchards & fields are mere scrapings. Somehow, however, he has managed to shut out the face of the giant from his windows. But the giant is
there, nevertheless. And it is a proper question, whether or not the Lilliputians
have tied him down. There are his huge legs, Africa & South America, still,
apparently, free; and the rest of him is pretty tough and unhandy. But, as I
say, we do not think of this. There was a girl on the train with a face like the
under-side of a moonfish. Her talk was of dances and men. For her, Sahara had no sand; Brazil, no mud.
– a journal entry from Wallace Stevens, 20 June 1899
One woman drives across five states just to see her. The woman being driven to has no idea anyone’s headed her way. The driving woman crosses three bridges & seven lakes just to get to her door. She stops along the highway, wades into the soggy ground, cuts down coral-eyed cattails, carries them to her car as if they might be sherbet orange, long-stemmed, Confederate roses, sheared for Sherman himself. For two days she drives toward the woman in Kentucky, sleeping in rest areas with her seat lowered all the way back, doors locked. When she reaches the state line it’s misting. The tired pedal-to-the-metal woman finally calls ahead. I’m here, she says. Who’s this? The woman being driven to, who has never checked her oil, asks. The driving woman reminds her of the recent writing workshop where they shared love for all things out-of-doors and lyrical. Come, have lunch with me, the driving woman invites. They eat spinach salads with different kinds of dressing. They talk about driving, the third thing they both love and how fast clouds can change from state line to state line. The didn’t-know-she-was-coming woman stares at she who has just arrived. She tries to read the mighty spinach leaves in her bowl, privately marveling at the driving woman’s muscled spontaneity. She can hardly believe this almost stranger has made it across five states just to have lunch with her. She wonders where this mad driving woman will sleep tonight. She is of two driving minds. One convertible. One hardtop. The driving woman shows her pictures of her children. Beautiful, the other does not say. Before long words run out of petrol. The woman who is home, but without pictures of her own, announces she must go. The driving woman frets & flames, May I walk you to your car? They walk. The driver changes two lanes in third gear, fast. The trunk opens. The Mario Andretti look-alike fills the other woman’s arms with sable-sheared cattails. Five feet high & badly in need of sunlight & proudly stolen from across five states. The woman with no children of her own pulls their twenty pounds in close, resting them over her Peter-Panning heart. Her lungs empty out, then fill, then fill again with the surge of birth & surprise. For two years, until their velvet bodies begin (and end) to fall to pieces, every time the driven-to woman passes the bouquet of them, there, in the vase by the front door, she is reminded of what falling in love, without permission, smells like. Each time she reaches for her keys, she recalls what you must be willing to turn into for love: spiny oyster mushroom, damson, salt marsh, cedar, creosote, new bud of pomegranate, Aegean sage blue sea, fig, blueberry, marigold, leaf fall, fogs eye, dusty miller, thief-of-the-night.
I think the sea is a useless teacher, pitching and falling
no matter the weather, when our lives are rather lakes
unlocking in a constant and bewildering spring. Listen,
a day comes, when you say what all winter
I’ve been meaning to ask, and a crack booms and echoes
where ice had seemed solid, scattering ducks
and scaring us half to death. In Vermont, you dreamed
from the crown of a hill and across a ravine
you saw lights so familiar they might have been ours
shining back from the future.
And waking, you walked there, to the real place,
and when you saw only trees, come back bleak
with a foreknowledge we have both come to believe in.
But this morning, a kind day has descended, from nowhere,
and making coffee in the usual way, measuring grounds
with the wooden spoon, I remembered,
this is how things happen, cup by cup, familiar gesture
after gesture, what else can we know of safety
or of fruitfulness? We walk with mincing steps within
a thaw as slow as February, wading through currents
that surprise us with their sudden warmth. Remember,
last week you woke still whistling for a bird
that had miraculously escaped its cage, and look, today,
a swallow has come to settle behind this rented rain gutter,
gripping a twig twice his size in his beak, staggering
under its weight, so delicately, so precariously it seems
from here, holding all he knows of hope in his mouth.
It’s so interesting you should suddenly be here, how did that happen? In your favorite place, this witchy old orange orchard, the very spot where it gives the impression of stretching forever in every direction–all those spokes, from where you stand, between the trees, within sight of the three-story house painted the same shade of white and right about the same size as this lone beehive you stand looking down at a moment, no one has lived there for as long as you’ve known it, kept it a secret, parking off the high-way and walking a mile down the nameless dirt road in a windy and shadowy brightness, wind from the sun you would say, in your mind, if I know you, as I do not, and never will now, no one will anymore, you have made sure of that, but I can picture you saying it, I’m not bothering anyone, I don’t even know where it is, that’s the point, no one did, nobody knew how to reach you, in the one vacant room with a mattress you even spent a night sometimes, honeysuckle southern California dawn wind blowing through the glassless windows and over your body, over your hair, maybe God would let you be the wind, but I don’t know what God thinks either, I just like to imagine you all at once finding yourself in that place, walking along, without anyone knowing, that was the haunting, that was always the fun, and stretching before you a whole day of wandering and singing alone in the instant right before the one in which your body meets the earth at last.
Shut not your doors to me, proud libraries,
For that which was lacking among you all, yet needed most, I bring;
A book I have made for your dear sake, O soldiers,
And for you, O soul of man, and you, love of comrades;
The words of my book nothing, the life of it everything;
A book separate, not link’d with the rest, nor felt by the intellect;
But you will feel every word, O Libertad! arm’d Libertad!
It shall pass by the intellect to swim the sea, the air,
With joy with you, O soul of man.