As the tired voices fade from my blurred memory of yet another day gone by, I can hear the traffic sifting below my window. Pouring a glass of wine, I remember a poet who used to think I was quite something special and then just as quickly lost interest and moved on. We float in and out of lives and nothing sticks, nothing at all except random flashes of light across an empty bedroom wall. Even the silence comes and goes unless you hold onto it with everything you’ve got to keep the demons at bay. I write about things which matter to me but I don’t really know in the grand scheme of things what good it is beyond soothing my nerves. Or igniting them. Writing is strange that way, you never quite know if it’s the beginning or the end, the matchstick or the spark. Shuffling through a stack of books on my writing room floor, I come upon, perhaps rather eerily, Ariel, a most devastating, sinister, and gripping collection of poetry by Sylvia Plath. I must have read it a hundred times. How could a creature so cold spin poetry that scorches the skin with every syllable, every breath between beats black as a raven’s wing hung suspended from the ceiling. Plath died on this day fifty seven years ago. Gone almost twice as long as she was here, a tortured soul to be sure. Still her words reach from the grave and grip you hard by your throat, stare down the whites of your eyes. Even after all this time, the maps of terror are the same in the human heart. We recognize them in the purple lines of our veins, the grooves in our brains where the fears settle in. I wonder why we fixate upon those who end it all at their own hands. You think those who write are telling you everything but I guess even, try as we might to come clean or climb our way out of the darkness through the words, there are some things which even the most gifted writer cannot tear from their burdened chest. Cannot break free of the claws in the marrow of the bones. Some hauntings are too bitter, too malformed, disfigured, to convey outright. Wrapping a blanket around me tight, the air coming in through my window is suddenly chilled with winter even though all day it felt more like a springtime February, a sweetness threatening to bloom before nature was ready. Ill prepared. Awkward, and out of place.
“In any case, you are always there,
Tremulous breath at the end of my line,
Curve of water upleaping
To my water rod, dazzling and grateful,
Touching and sucking.”
-from Medusa by Sylvia Plath
He was a small trusting creature and went down easily after she first injected the sedative and then the final drug which would cause his swollen heart to stop. It was over in less than a minute and something about the efficiency at the very end clutched at my own heartstrings in a strange sort of twisting of relief and anguish. Grief is a swift thief I suppose, at once seizing upon all of your senses and choking your breath in its stiff hands. His heart, in every way imaginable, was too big. The tiny tri-color spaniel adored each and every human, animal, and living creature he ever made contact with. He just loved. Without question or concern. His gentleness would often break me into a million pieces for the innocence of such a kind of affection. The world is cruel and uncaring in so many ways but in the presence of this little dog all you knew was to cherish and be cherished. Cavaliers are known to have physically enlarged hearts which makes them very prone to dying from complications of the disease they carry from birth. I guess you could say in that way we knew it was coming. His heart was too wide and too tall and wouldn’t stop expanding, eventually straining his every breath until he couldn’t take the pressure any longer. He would have endured it until he exploded. He would have done anything, trusted anyone. His whole life he was gentle as a lamb. Handsome and affectionate beyond. It is hard to let go of a presence as wrenchingly kind as Shamus was. There is a hole, a void which is the purity only sadness can contain. I put his paw print impressions on the mantle over the fireplace, nestle them among candles and mini pumpkins. In the past I might have thought that was a silly thing someone would do, but sometimes small things feel more important than grand things do and maybe there are secrets only an animal can make you understand. As I look out across the autumn sky on the first morning in eleven years without the little furry guy at my feet, staring up at me with his gigantic brown puppy eyes, the wild geese are soaring like an arrowhead of dark shadows toward a destination far off over the hills. They cry out, and then they are gone. There is a part of me which is leaving and I can feel it and it is the color of pain. The air hovers cold and stationary over the invisible boundary between autumn and winter. Life and death. Season upon season. You can taste the snow on your tongue even before it begins its quiet descent into the empty streets. He was born on Friday the thirteenth and died on black Friday. I wore black, head to toe. Our little unlucky lucky charm. Don’t worry, he won’t feel anything, the doctor said, looking at me with kind round saucer eyes. And yet up until that final moment, for his entire life I believe he felt everything. And he deemed all of it good.
As I am writing this to you
another life curls herself
against my spine,
she whispers into someone else’s
ears, I mistake them
for my own.
I confuse our turning
toward one another
The life I have chosen
as the one which haunts me
stands beside us
I know they will take you
and I will have to let go
of everything I ever built, everything
more than everything.
So this is the aria for the lengthening of tenderpain,
this is the sorrow which is keeping the
the skies above
from alighting upon the earth.
This is life running her chainlink vacancies
through stale hotel rooms,
racing my bloodstream
over the hills which eclipse my pale moonbody
in the bruised desires of night.
What they cannot know
is that hidden inside me, of course,
And this is a language you have
always known. There are no words
Listen deep for its
singing, listen with all of your
Listen for the coming darkness.
Reach with your eyes and
take in her static
I am within the voices. I am within the faces
you see reflected at the windows
of a time gone by.
The tides are the beating of my heart
curling and receding upon your breast.
Wash the sheets and keep the curtains
closed and know by the firelight
Inside the secrets inside the stars which you have not yet met,
there I am on the edges
Wherever they take you, my beloved,
there they will take me, too.