There is a way to be curt with a field. The runnels of self-pity, the sludge of preponderance. I don’t use words aright, alway. I am dumb as a post. I mean dead as a post. A goat cast asunder a ship. The sounds come out wooden. This must be the sea left over. I went where the sea met the mud, the slag of the alluvial guts of some dragon-sing, the earth’s spit and image. So I am curt with the field, a-winter the shelved bark I gnaw like a scarab come home. And that is me protesting love. I mean into you a field of sound. Green as.
Morning goes across a small, dark pond. The pond goes across the color pink. The color pink goes across the mind of an early walker. The early walker goes across the page of human mind, endlessly turning. This turning goes across the mourning dove who watches from above, in the branches of the frou-frou mimosa. The mimosa goes across geological eras, carrying itself with feminine self-possession. Self-possession goes across my mind briefly, but then I am all these things again. I am the memory of a coffee spoon on a crosstown bus. Where did I leave myself again?
Energy in this room. Furnishings in this room. Particles of life. Photons. Papers with ideograms which are not always loyal. A television’s most sincere dreams. I cherish the t.v’s dreams like those of a bride. I feel a twinge when I must turn it off. It is like leaving a lover when I must leave the room. I close the door behind me, to let the television know that I am its protector. When I find dust on the forehead of the television, I could weep. But it lets me know how faithful my television is. When I see a television thrown out, lying with the garbage in a street, I feel an urge to rescue it. Even if it is dead, it deserves better. How could you not offer a decent burial to one of your closest living relations. What sort of animal lives in that house?
Keep your white hair, she says. I go around and walk around an artificial lake that has become real. With the snow and the geese, it has become real. There is no place not to be real. That is the unavoidable thing. Keep, she says, in a place where she is disappearing. She wants me to be old with her, to walk on the mountain that is disappearing. The mountain of us. I hear the single word Keep, and all through the night like my reflection in the dark plate glass of the artificial lake. A radio has been left on, somewhere in the night. Which is no longer a thing. Now it is a piece of paper I could hand to you. The lake, the geese that no one wants, that no one will bury, the ice they walked on, verifying existence. Their nests, your nests. It lives inside a piece of paper. As you will, soon enough.
I hear some sort of distant emergency vehicle make a sound halfway between a horny drunk and a shaman. Foreshortened siren. Miles from here. I hear two cats fighting or consummating. Much closer, but who can tell? I hear silver leaves of Andromeda falling through the vacuum of space. In the vacuum of space, where nothing hears nothing. I am listening there. Tonight. They may land on your shoulder. They usually do. So I will think about them some more. I will be a home to the sound of their homelessness.
I go into the backyard. The lungs of the sky are dark. It is going to snow. The sparrows fly from the naked hedge to the naked Carolina Allspice bush. They thrum from one skeleton to another skeleton and tip and balance on the arcs and tops of branches like acrobats balancing atop poles in circuses long ago, circuses long underground. Still, the plates did spin. It is going to snow. The lungs of the sky are dark. I pour birdseed from a Big Gulp cup across the ground. The millet and sunflower seeds and whathaveyou deploy a galaxy. An edible galaxy. “Eat quickly before it snows,” I pray to the sparrow minds. And: “Thank you for being here,” I say to them, to the sky preparing to annihilate so much life. As if the rest of life were an audience and I an emcee. The illusion of a sort of control in charity. But we both know, Dear Reader, the desperation is mine. I come as beggar to them, the eating of their meal an alms to me. The sparrows live and die by cold, clean in their magnetic souls that draw them each to each, as they depart, as they arrive (no difference) through the snow.
There is no way to talk about it without sounding like witches. Their toys are still found in the forest. Sometimes, you come upon a stuffed animal sitting under a tree, moss growing nearby but the plush pet unmolested by this green fur. The animal will look so fresh, seemingly set down only a moment before, untouched by the weather, the long time they have been there in the woods. You might believe the child’s hand had just let go, it looks that warm. If things can look warm. You might believe that the child hides behind the trunk of the tree against which the furry pink elephant rests his back. For perhaps obvious reasons of mojo, of superstition, with an eye to good cess, the country folk talk about the children in a thinly-veiled code. For example, they drop off the first letters of their names. Bess becomes “Ess” and Tara becomes “Ara.” Sometimes, they merely use the children’s initials. Everyone remembers how the daughter buried the cat in the box. How the younger boy discovered this, returned with the cat in the box, put it on the dining room table in the house, an offering to his parents. She wept, was confessed. The cat became a religious symbol in their household. Feline martyr. The white cat glowed. Her siblings drew and painted it. Had it been the medieval period, there would have been a stained glass window in which the cat figured prominently, heroically. She forgave the little brother who condemned her. Who outed the witch in her. And then she took him for a walk deep into the woods one day and he was never seen or held again. She wept. She “lost” him. He was never found. She was very clever. She could roll her spirit shut the way a pill bug rolls its body shut, the way it becomes a little armored pill. The young father (so young he looked more like her brother) saw when she went for the next boy; it was a close call with a snowstorm, a wicked game. A grandfather’s boat was involved. And then the father took her for a walk deep in the woods and “lost” her. He said it wasn’t as easy as all that. He came back with strange marks on him. Later, he woke up with a tattoo on his body that he had never seen applied. Then the rest of the family disappeared and their house remains empty to this day. The forest remains empty. The trees are still hung, here and there, with little photographs in frames. That is her work. There is always a cool breeze, even in the warmer months. Even in the swamping heat of July. The forest keeps this cool space and its blue shadows. People blame it on a cave, but there is no cave exhaling this cool air. Children who come through know not to touch the little icons of the photographs. Not to touch the trees even. But you can see her entire family in the photographs. And other long-dead people who are mysteries. Which ones are hers? Who knows. The animals sit under the trees. Old stuffed animals with strange eyes of sorts you don’t see anymore on the animal dolls we give our children. Icon eyes. Terror and amusement at once in those old plastic eyes. Strange ecstasy. Maybe it’s the way the eyes are when one sees a human circus. One knows the horror. A dark part of one might be titillated. She is close. She is listening to us. It cannot be otherwise, for that is what the story tells us. The trees feel compassionate and invite us in. There may be a child’s tea party, the tea laid and waiting for us. Plastic tea set aping porcelain. Teacups steaming. Miniature table. Tiny chairs where tiny witches sit. But they are not what we imagine. We know better. One child walking barefoot encountered a lobster in the middle of the woods. It was crawling along the forest floor, though the ocean is more than an hour’s drive away . Sometimes a cloud will descend on a clear blue day and fill the space between the trees. And some days there are elephants. They seem lost. They cry as they wander through the fog and a girl’s laugh curdles your listening. Some unwise children leave her notes. These she reads. And sometimes she responds. Sometimes she comes to “help.”