It was like pouring something beautiful into his ear. That is what the bird said. And the bird was made of sunshine and plumage and bone. His song weighed more than he did, in the end. And in the end, there was the hollow where a nest had been, as if between two roads a man had stopped to wonder, How? At night he dreamed there was no choice. But there had been and he couldn’t choose again. Unless, the wind said. He listened and like a leaf went lighting everywhere. The limbs snapped under his feet. Isn’t it funny how heavy the wind can feel, and then so gentle it can rock you to sleep… How beautiful, the bird said. He said it to the moon, who slipped over the surfaces and vanished and returned.
Joy said, O! But she said it to the stones. I was listening in the trees. I was a bird. Another bird said, So? I couldn’t answer it. The sea had been jealous a long time, until it turned. Until it turned, the sea was jealous, and that is when I lost my verbs. Poetry, joy said, is there: in run, in leap, in fly. I didn’t believe her until it was too late. O, joy! I said, and I meant it. Where do I go now to find her likeness? Do I see her face in children? Do I find her skimming the surface of a stillness like the moon? Just when I thought, “Today,” she came. I was there. Joy leapt without the word for leap. We made love all night, and this is the child we created. O! I said but I couldn’t say anymore.
I said to the rain, O? And the rain began to explain. It took all night but finally I understood. What I call mine is really his. You didn’t know? said the moon. I had to admit, and soon the whole world flooded with light. But behind her back, she hides another life. It is the one I can’t call mine. This is what it means to love. Marriage is an act of faith. One has to be careful not to be too careful. This is what I learned after the last shipwreck. I keep a catalogue of things I learned, and sometimes I go back and let my finger run from name to name. Here lies one… The story always starts the same way. The end is always different. We should know better, but we don’t.
Was it last night, or the night before, I woke to hear the birds outside? And I said to the birds: Who? But that was wrong. The starlings perched in the cedar tree, murmuring of despair. O, how I came upon them and startled them into joy! The list goes on and on, and so is called a catalogue. This is the lesson I learned from the stars. And one more, too. The last one went like this, and I am giving it to you. It is my obligation, friend. Shine, though all the light be gone. Say, It is good like God. And everything will be. When I was a boy I climb the tree. And now the tree climbs me. I am alive with chattering birds today. My needles fall like celebration to the ground. From this, from this, I hear and write down all the words.
Sometimes I walk with the moon. Sometimes she walks with me. I don’t mean we walk in dreams, where dream is trope for something more. The moon is just the moon. And, if anything, I indicate the something more. Or something less. She shines. I, well. Tonight, if I ask every sleepy creature – children, mothers, fathers, dogs – to open up its eyes a little but somehow stay asleep, what will become of me? Shadow, I say. It is a whispering and it sounds like the wind. The trees begin to understand in spring. But now bare limbed they seem dumb. Sometimes I walk with them. Sometimes I am beyond their spell.
Surprise said, O. That I hadn’t thought. But she was beautiful. That much I knew, and so I threw my arms around her neck. You are, I said. And she said, Yes. Later, when the moon had filled the room, we made love like old friends. The gods looked on, but they were only lies. The one God stood high and aloof. His name was on the tips of our tongues. Read, she said, and so I did. And what? Who knows except, after a long time feeling lonely, suddenly I was afraid. Someone was watching and he didn’t care.
Enter, it says. And he says, Yes and does as he says. He doesn’t wait on the stoop. It is the door that spoke. It spoke without a tongue, as if the wind blew through it. And he walks over the threshold inside. It feels like love to enter and find the furniture arranged as if it, too, awaited a guest to arrive. Sit, I say. And sit he does. And so we talked all night like flames. The morning opened up the room. It hadn’t seemed close. Dark makes everything close seem far away and the far away seems near, like stars. The dead have come to me at night. And hate, which had rooted in my heart, unmoored. I said some of this to the guest. And some of this in particular he already knew. Together we arrived at the solution. Forgiveness is as easy as to ask. But knowing who should start troubles me still. Perhaps he keeps a souvenir. Perhaps. Perhaps he might never return. The house regards his departure just the same as it regards the blooming and the blowing of leaves.
Who knows what our lives will look like then. Not this, I said. And she said, So. And if we had been at the seashore, perhaps it would have made a difference. Perhaps the pages of the book would have clung one to the other, and who knows perhaps we would have missed an essential page. But here we are. Still, here we are. And she will sleep tonight, and I will, too. And where we go when dreaming is anybody’s guess. He isn’t telling. He never has. Though he writes book after book and publishes the results and receives the accolades reserved for better men, who couldn’t care about such things and are more concerned with looking inwardly. If looking were the right trope for what saints do when they retreat from the world not to look for God but to find what there is to love in the wilderness.
Joy came to me. I said, Now? But yes is joy’s only word. The wind says yes. The earth says yes. Even the distant sea says yes. Under the waves the many armed yes, which clutches everything says, Yes. Then two yeses meet when a shipwreck drowns. Here, on dry land or here, in the trees, the singing yeses desire flight. Joy lies on the ground. It is a seed. Now it unfolds on my tongue. I listen for the rain. Its pattering says, yes, yes, yes. And joy came to me, and I was ready for its word. When I was a boy, there were no end of noes. But now my body floods with yeses even to the noes.
There is no argument that withstands a flood. Stop here, I said to the waves. And then I made a cross in the sand and said, God, help. Soon my foot was gone. And so I went walking on the stump. You may say, O. Or instead take note of my weeping and my limp and fear for your life. It may be coming for you, and that it hasn’t yet doesn’t mean it won’t. But I am safe today. I am like a seal in a cove. The sun is glistening everywhere like truth. If I turn my head this way, glittering. If I look up, only blue. The tide draws in and out. Sometimes it feels like a convenience. Sometimes it smells like despair.