I wonder, is it possible to cultivate a patience so gentle and profound that it outlives the flesh? Or is patience a pond we bathe in, and cannot defile with our death?
We were greeted by a friendly, talkative woodpecker yesterday near Goose Lake — a young bird more intent on socializing than carrying on its regular craft and trade. Watching us from a bare trunk not five feet away, it seemed more child-spirit than bird. It acted as if it wanted to show us something, clinging to the smooth bark two or three feet from the ground, moving a few inches, cheeping, apparently without fear. Finally, when we turned to continue on our way, it pecked half a dozen times ever so lightly on the wood. In the afternoon shadows with clouds moving in, there followed a kind of velvet hush that was as much scent as sound. Enchantment. Mud on our shoes. The lake swollen now. A winter river, running across the road. Bare cottonwoods. A flicker’s call. A heron flying low. The complexity of each inhaled smell, a slang-meringue of show-and-tell, the birth of language, the water a woman who knows how to be alone, and thereby casts her spell.
January 17, 2020
For a time yesterday when death seemed irrevocably near, I did what any good poet-husband would do: I paid the bills, balanced our meager checkbook, dusted the piano and the pictures of the kids in our bedroom, finished the leftover potato salad and the plastic container of sliced olives, had coffee with two friends of our friend who died, discovered in them the same bright warmth of the one now gone, returned home, found death twiddling his thumbs, and smiled when I heard him say, “Now, where were we?”
Recently Banned Literature, February 26, 2010