The desert has no memory. Sun beats
on its chest, collarbone glistens: I wait
for rain, an angry sea filling the sky
to break, blow, burn, make a new world order.
Agave pierces clouds while amethyst
mountains rest in heavy sleep. I have asked
permission to make this desolate ground
my home. Beneath these imagined oceans,
are forgotten idols. There is a thirst
that causes some to drown, doubting the sky
will open again. Like the desert, I
must look to the sky and expect nothing
indent iin return, while watching angels fly through
indent istars to the embers of a rising sun.
Out of chaos a master, ether lassoed
to belief, not by a hero, only by birth:
During battle, story met sword and bodies bled, limbs ebbed in surf while the moon
indent ifound an eye in a placid, navy sky.
A man, in striped pants, died
inside a cave blown open, dynamite howled to bring
a lantern to night. Days before, he sat on the shore with a lover.
She fed him fruit, sugared from another
land, wasps venom held inside the grit.
The fruit sat somber in his gut, even while he danced
through fire and bullets.
In the cave a fig tree, foreign to this coast, grew
from the man’s womb. Life birthed
through bones and rock to seek fire’s end.
The dynamite that blew open the cave, a man that drug death through another’s heart,
indent ia lover that fed earth turned honey, and the man in striped pants all came
indent itogether to revise war’s chaos,
to bring death its master. Imagine this:
indent iall the dead
indent iarise on a coast
indent ito take knee in sand
indent iin front a fruit tree
indent ithat was despite darkness.
from Undulations of Grief: Zuihitsu Meditations
The flies form their bodies, a communal shape, into an ampersand. Only minimal light appears through fluttered wings, redundant breaks. Is there a forest thick enough to cover my shadow, line my eyes with only flickers of a far off light? How similar our bodies become. I hope the flies are poetry in motion, I hope the rot is not.
First, I settled in the desert. Blood slid to soil and my roots splintered wide like needle-edged leaves of agave. This is the root I can never escape, dry to core and apt for bitter survival, the birth of snide thirst. It is told that a cacti can be barren then, overnight, sprout flame petals, but the root, that hollow moon-mimicking flesh, holds below sand in shadow clay, below breezes that slither over the desert, cold and hard to hold it in place. In the end, all change is western wind, only surface sand scatters to confuse a traveler searching for the single citrine sprouted flower.
Can I ask of the trees if the limbs will push further because of these bodies? Is this not beauty or is it a reminder that life is half lived? Days full of lists and torn grocery bags, numbers on a gradual decrease. Yet these trees have no care for our desire to turn breath into strategies. They will grow green then rust to hide despite our stories. The dead body has a purpose once again, not for this breath that we ignore, but for growth. Could we have any more hope?
Yesterday, I found a fiddlehead fern dripped in morning dew. It was such a strange sight, a green cyclone, furling into its own heartbeat, stem sturdy, and dew cascading like a tongue over the naked skin of the beloved’s body, passion to erasure. It was like a crown or a drowning body, and there did not seem to be an option of almost or perhaps. In grief, the mind races inside of lists, wrongdoings and their victimhood, all the ineffable things left unsaid. The bed is now so large, a divot of another’s body on one side, where the dog now sometimes sleeps. Absently, lists frozen in dream-state, I’ll reach over with my arm long in search, but I find an instinct unrealized. These moments in navy light of rest bring a hollowness, the missing, that seems like there is no way out of being consumed. Like the fern, my self is furled to despair, hunched back of the daily reminders that I may be more droplets than self. Enough condensation can eventually become an ocean. Once, I was pulled under a wave to the undertow, my body lost to a power not my own. My spine pulled to a center, unaware of where the sun started or the ocean floor ended. This is how I ebb through all these days without them, unable to tell if I am hidden under temporary drops of dew or lost to a power more ancient than my desire.
Before bed, sleep-slapped and mild mind, I thought I saw them, young and new to me. Their body a wisp of light and delicate dust, holding still for just a glance. Some say it is a light or something hungry for revenge or something born into a new beauty, but what I saw was none of these things — just a presence, not a part of me or the room around, a body returned to mobility, a face of bone and stone, the last light of the day.
Cover image: Hans-Simon Holtzbecker, Agave Americana, gouache on vellum, from the Gottorfer Codex (1649-1659), a collection of paintings from the garden of Schloss Gottorf, via Wikimedia Commons.
This is part of ROOT MAPPING, a section of The Learned Pig devoted to exploring which maps might help us live with a clear sense of where we are. ROOT MAPPING is conceived and edited by Melanie Viets.