At the party, the man with the Belgian accent told her he, too,
always got a little nervous around crowds, drew imaginary lines
to the closest exit and kept his eye on the time. He didn't want to lose track,
he said, and she was relieved she didn't have to explain her position near the door,
or why she wasn't dancing, or the reason she chased each glass of wine with
a bottle of water. They hovered like elephants at the edge of the crowd, witnessing
the splashy revelry, and while each of them felt the small ache of the outsider,
there was, nevertheless, certain comfort in their distance from the center,
the way their own stillness cushioned them as they stood, shoulders
Is there anything sweeter than the tug of nostalgia pulling you
out of the viscous and shadowy present? Anything more poetic than a sign
taped above the back shelves of a store you wandered into for a bottle of water
and a pack of gum, and how quickly you are willing to abandon your search
in favor of some misty reminder of your unsophisticated youth? Maybe it's the delirium
of the headlines, your shock dismantling into a strange brew of panic and stupor,
like when blood rushes to your head after you get up too fast and the room tilts sideways.
You want so badly to see your old horizon line again, to put the world back at the right angles
you remember. You want to taste the candy of your own innocence, no matter how saccharine
or sentimental, to make that honey drip from your lips and stick to everything it touches.
We can't seem to catch up to the calendar, folding into the couch with
heavy eyes so soon after dinner. In the morning, it takes more caffeine
than usual to meet the demands of wakefulness. Then again, look at what
we're waking into - each day, a fresh cycle of televised trouble, a cyclone twist
leveling the foundation of decency and sending us tumbling to the cellar steps
toward an improvised, temporary safety. We want to look away, but like any
gruesome disaster, we can't help but stare at the wreckage on our way down,
wondering how someone could have lost track of the road, or - worse - fallen asleep
at the wheel. Meanwhile, the sky keeps brightening by degrees, the season advancing
right on schedule, the crocuses ripening into the brightest purple we've ever seen.
in memory of Ted Bogardus
She arrived like a windstorm, and the chaos you'd imagined you'd organize
before she descended remained tangled and lawless when the plane arrived early
and you scurried, instead, to the airport to pick her up. In certain ways,
you were relieved the air currents had brought her sooner - left to your own
devices, you know you'd worry over the piles, waste time in a state of overwhelm and
certain inertia. Sometimes, we need the urgency of a clock running down to
muscle us out of the usual delays. We need someone to tell us to get in the car and drive.
When you hustled out the door, you weren't thinking of the dust you hadn't swept away
but rather, how welcome this visit was on a day like this, and how sweet the reunion would be,
and how you would smile at each other the whole ride home.
When the cake fails to rise and the test grade topples.
When the walls sting with an unwinnable argument.
When disappointment sharpens its claws. When a friendship meets a fault line.
Worse, when the baby doesn't come. When the treatment doesn't work.
When a fury of preparation and sacrifice leads only to the closed door
of a dead end. This is the time, though it may look exactly opposite. This
is the way it begins, fists raised at the unnameable injustice of injury,
then the elbows weakening with the effort until the shoulders go slack and the body,
bone by bone, begins to yield. This is how the fine art of forgiving reveals itself, one knobby
disassembly at a time, until you are crushed with the weight of it, the softness.