There is a lot that I don’t talk about on this blog, as I am very conscious of respecting the privacy of those around me. So I will keep this brief. There was a sudden and tragic death of a young man in my family this week, and we are all reeling from it. I am shocked and saddened and very concerned for those who were closest to him. I’m unable to concentrate well enough to write anything at all today. So I will simply leave you with some poems, and a plea to hold your loved ones close.
by Kristen McHenry
You buy four bowls and a silver robe the same day the dog gets his teeth pulled. Something about the bowls, the robe, and the missing teeth all go together but you can’t seem to parse it out. “A leaf is a kingdom of fervid veins” is the only thought that sticks. You’ve thought this before but would never say it out loud. A leaf is not a metaphor, a leaf is not a body made of light. You’ve been told by serious people it’s a factual item, specific and concrete. It doesn’t do to always think of things as other things. You are stern with yourself about this, you promise yourself, next time, but then you’re surprised by a blue jay and it’s something about the fleeting nature of genius and breaking with routine, and also, nobility and the urge to paint a tree. Oh, no no, the serious ones shake their heads and waggle their lovely long fingers, fingers that spend all day running up and down crisp lacy lists or columns of numbers, cool marble fingers meant for holding pencils and pointers and ball point pens, but never pens with funny little pom-pom toppers or holograms of nudes, just the purely functional ones, and you are jealous of their ability to see each thing in its precise measurements, and you miss their beautiful waggling fingers when they go off write to another list. You haven’t forgotten about the leaf, and the serious ones would benefit from hearing that a leaf is a long, fine song, an infinity cycle, but in the end you decide for some, such knowledge is upending, for some, it’s best to know a leaf only and exactly as a leaf, a thin, flattened structure borne above ground and designed for photosynthesis.
by Kristen McHenry
I taught a workshop
on how to eat a peach,
despite what little
of peaches, what little I know
of bright and sweet.
Still, I dished them out
You have to go
slow to really know it,
I said with all sincerity.
I ate the pit before they noticed it.
I wanted them
only the lavish, the most
by Kristen McHenry
When I stick my hands in there to feel around there’s nothing. Once I sat for emptiness alone, entire months, flailing blindly in the spaces where emptiness had weight. Nothing rolls off of my palms, nothing mocks my efforts. I’m parched and have received bad information. All that time I sat, breathing in, only to know my own low feelings. To kneel there open-handed and say, this is all I have to offer. My palms no longer ferry light.
They say within a void lies all possibilities, but I think there are only two persuasions: Corpulent emptiness, and a nothingness that drifts above our heads, that will not acknowledge us. In second grade we planted seedlings. They came up vivid, lusty shoots. I understood then there was a kind of order, that this was nature’s outcome. It was impersonal and pleasing. Could I now proclaim, I am feeling full, or I must fill up, or, I am fully felt. I flounder with seeds and window boxes. The problem is that emptiness has teeth, and wishes of its own. The emptiness is un-content. It will not do with the least it can survive on. No stones, no feathers, no shells settle in my hands. Only a crusted thing, grown around its nut, seed of all nourishment, jewel of the essential.
Sit and think of nothing. Sit and engage only in the hollowness of breath, its motion in your veins. I tell people all day long because I believe it is important: We breathe in oxygen, we breathe out carbon dioxide, the lungs lunge, the lungs do their job. There is nothing easy in the effortless.
I remain to this day faithless despite everything I knew my heart could do. I stick my hands in there to feel around. I bring up tangled in my fingers a clear and weightless substance that slips off into space.