Things to do when faced with a harrowing deadline

6 January 2008

No. 28: Post poems to feel like you’re still a person of substance.

— Eric Gamalinda

Let me be the first to say
that I know the name for everything
and if I don’t I’ll make them up:
dukkha, naufragio, talinhaga.
Just like the young
whose hearts give no shame,
I love the excesses of beauty,
there is never enough sunlight
in the world I will live in,
never enough room for love.

I fear none of us will last long enough
to prove what I’ve always suspected,
that the sky is a membrane
in an angel’s skull,
trees talk to each other at night,
ice is water in a state of silence,
the embryo listens to everything we say.

I am afraid for the child skipping rope
on the corner of my street,
the girl on the train with flowers in her hair,
the man whose memory is entirely
in Spanish. I am more afraid of losing consciousness
when I go to sleep, or that in my sleep
I will grow old and forget how desire
once drove me mad with wakefulness.

Just like the perfect seasons
they will die
and I will die
and you will die also;
no one knows who will go first,
and this is the source
of all my grief.


Letters to Theo
— Eric Gamalinda


Theo: This summer I fear
I shall go mad
with love
for all things simple,
mortal, brave.

The fireflies rise
in the gloaming,
it is an explosion
so sad and quiet
the whole world is compelled
to watch and be still.

I want to send you
this silence,
the bold fires in the mountains
and the way they torch the earth,
the way things turn luminous
and entire unto themselves.

They will tell you
what to look for.
They will tell you once in a while
the earth is kind
to those who know it is,
and we are subject
to absolute kindness.

It is good
to believe in it,
to know we are not special
but necessary,
like light or water,
to let our lives go
as they must,
to know our place
the moment we get there.


On another day
I found a bird’s nest
and brought it back to my studio.
For days it sat at my window,
and the sun and the wind
nourished it as though
the nest itself were still capable
of nourishing.

A week later it began to unravel,
the twig frame coming apart
to reveal hidden fiber,
a bed of leaves, the patterns
of weaving. The more I tried to fix it
the more it fell apart,
and so I left it alone to fulfill
its inevitable decay.

And all the questions one would expect
from this experience came to mind:
Who had lived there?
Do their memories contain
lost sunlight, and this softness?
Do they leave to let things
fall apart? And how can I save them,
when they never come back?


It is impossible to count all the trees
felled by lightning. This evening
a storm is moving in
with the stealth and grace
of a thief, and the colors
of the fields soften
in its wake. This is how the earth
prepares for upheaval —
a nervous vigilance,
an act of surrender.

Tonight I will stand by this window
to watch those veins of lightning
pulse in the sky. Is it the danger
inherent in them that makes them
so beautiful, or their distance?

I am writing this
from the end of the world.
The sky bursts into flames.
Finally, I possess nothing.


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