I am struck bythe way that loss—which suggests anabsence of somethingimportant—is actuallymuch more the presenceof the thing that is missing.In other words,the loss of an important person inour lives is much more a weight, theheaviness a newload we must carry—not necessarilya load that we resist, but onenonetheless that we must shoulderand that we are not necessarily prepared for.
This, then, is a meditationon loss, heaviness, andlightness of being, throughpoetry and photography.
This first poem is called“Architecture of Loss”—Iwrote it about a year orso ago, when the feelingof loss as weight firstentered myconsciousness asa thing bothinside meand external to me.
Architecture of LossIA clear bell, clapper wornto a strip of leather,still the glass shivers andmourners set down their work and draw near.
II Words blister off the page and float through the open window,catching in the branches or whirling toward the hills. People swim by, their mouths wide, elbows cocked. Once dimensional they are stripped to the basics, like paper dolls. They don’t notice the air has been brushed with a graying wash.
IIIThe doors slam shut on the night-timeriver of sliding images as the boy rises,brushing leaves and debris from his shoulders.He looks up, a grin spreads slowly across his face . . .but something gives him pause—is it in my reachfor him or my shadow on the vaulted ceiling?—Oh, to stop that cellular movement of knowledge acrossthe eyes, nose, mouth drawing down—What am I doing in your dream?There, there, my darling, come and let me hold you,I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry . . .
IVMatter condensed and carried just inside.If I pull it out and show you, it will sit in the centerof my palm for a moment and then pull my handto the ground. You will kneel down as well, curious,and then the earth will tremble and you will noticethat a crater has formed around us,my palm and the thing I wanted to show youthere at the center, attached by an arm, a body.You will scramble away, pulling yourselfbranch by branch toward the crest, and waveover your shoulder—I don’t blame youfor your swift departure.
I look at the hand that holds the matter,pulsing black on an open star.Do I return it to the place, just here,where the heart once stood its post,or let the eclipsing rim pull me in?I think of Christina in the Wyeth painting.Turned away her face might be awash in tearsor lit with gratitude, her body grounded but light.Maybe she is the darkened house on the hilland the vast landscape of golds and brownsthe loneliness that bids her go on.
In that poem I was trying to explore the way loss has a certain structure and that thestructure varies—sometimes watery, sometimes rock-like, occasionally as clear as thering of a bell. The most powerful image for me was that of a weight in my heart,which I would like to show the person listening, pull it out and hold it in my hand . . .no matter how terrifying.
This next poem is called “Second Year,”and though we are now into our thirdyear, the idea of increasing weightcarries with it the notion that loss doesnot simply fade away.
Second YearThe first year the sword made its homein the tight place between the atria of my heart.Some days it seemed the pointhad broken away and traveledto my eyes so that the worldfragmented and shone more brightly.
At night my fingers could not dislodge the handleand I dreamt of goblins’ breath—the fairy tale woods of malevolentbranches and roots all grown up nowand serious.Faint lights pulsed in the darkness.Other times the blade seemedto have slid out of its silky red homeand then the place it leftlonged for its return.
I miss the way the edge made shapesof the body’s meat, drew Z’s in the darkwhere the light would creep,or slid filet-like between the ribsand opened them.As snow flakes mount their second dancein the oak tree’s branches, one limbstill wearing its ragged skirt of brown—something new is taking shape.
It grows long as a river,dragging across a land that faltersand then crumbles . . .a hunching thingno longer in the riverbut of the river and watchingas dreams thrust up their skinny armsand fingers catch the lightbefore sinking into marshy sag.There is no desire.It doesn’t want to eat the rest,it just does.
Because those poemsare sad ones, I’d like toclose with one more—one that I hope offers alittle more “lift,” a sensethat although the weight isthere it is not always soheavy as it was once upona time.
But first, a word from oursponsor: Ginger, my lostdog found, here leaping forwhat I can only presume isa dog’s version of joy.
When I Fall yes, it’s there.When I fall, I’d like it to bein a very clear lake When I fall, I’d like to know it’s near home,at the top of a mountain. that my roots, even exposed are familiarI’d like to know that I will see if not exactly what they were before.the mounting fuzz of mossand beneath, the hard calcium Make it green, a hint of blue,of other elements and me, bleached of all colorthat fishes dart beneath me just a path, narrow and tentativein the sun, and above, the brilliant stars for some tiny creaturepulse in harmony. seeking the other side.I’d like to fall with a splashand ripples that hit the shores and comeback to me, saying