what they did yesterday afternoon
by warsan shire
they set my aunts house on fire
i cried the way women on tv do
folding at the middle
like a five pound note.
i called the boy who use to love me
tried to ‘okay’ my voice
i said hello
he said warsan, what’s wrong, what’s happened?
i’ve been praying,
and these are what my prayers look like;
i come from two countries
one is thirsty
the other is on fire
both need water.
later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
where does it hurt?
(More from warshan shire in the New Yorker and on her blog.)
When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I saw, as if prescient, the life we would share—a voyage laid out upon a map of the future, our ship heading out to sea. And then there was death, and our ship rode the waves half in and half out of life. She could not remain with me nor I with her no matter how desperately I wished it.
Our vessels diverged, hers ephemeral and moon-pearled, upon waters I could not travel. She bore away the life I believed we were meant to share. My own craft, war-beaten and barely seaworthy, foundered.
As I limped sail-tattered and broken-masted on a course set by winds that refused to listen, I watched the ghost ship that carried my daughter. Across the swells, I saw her grow into a plump-limbed toddler, her auburn curls twisting in the sea wind. A lithe girl, easy with laughter.
And when she was no longer visible in the distance, I watched the ship as long as I could in the broad expanse of longitude and latitude.
I can no longer see the ghost ship.
I did not follow its course.
I can not imagine her fourteen-years-old.
I could not live that voyage.
— For Esther
With thanks to Cheryl Strayed and Tomas Tranströmer for writing about ghost ships and grief.
THE SITTING TIME
by Joe Digman
Don’t listen to the foolish unbelievers
who say forget.
Take up your armful of roses and
the flower and the fragrance.
When you go home to do your sitting
in the corner by the clock
and sip your rosethorn tea
It will warm your face and fingers
and burn the bottom of your belly.
But as her gone-ness piles in white,
It will be the blossom of her moment
the warmth on your belly,
the tiny fingers unfolding,
the new face you’ve always known,
That has changed you.
Take her moment, and hold it
As every mother does.
She will always be
And when the sitting is done you’ll find
bitter grief could never poison
the sweetness of her time.
Last week, I took care of my neighbor’s horses while she was out of town. I woke wondering if they were ready for breakfast. I wrote in my office with one eye on the weather darting over the coast range. I watched for sun breaks and the chance to ride. For a week, I smelled like hay and stalls and horse sweat. I pulled the rhythm of my days into that of snuffling breath and eager hooves.
My reading choice: King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry.
Whenever the horseboys raced their horses beyond the city gates, Sham outran them all. He outran the colts his own age and the seasoned running horses as well. He seemed not to know that he was an earthy creature with four legs, like other horses. He acted as if he were an airy thing, traveling on the wings of the wind.
Then I thought of this lovely poem by Allen Braden, which appears in his book A Wreath of Down and Drops of Blood.
Detail of the Four Chambers to the Horse’s Heart (excerpt)
Listen. The last time I saw my father
alive, he spoke of horses, the brute geometry
of a broken team in motion. He tallied
the bushels of oats, gallons of water
down to the drop each task would cost.
How Belgians loved hardwood hames the most.
Give them the timber sled at logging camp
any day, the workable meadows in need
of leveling, tilling, harrowing, new seeding.
We could’ve been in our dark loafing shed,
cooling off between loads of chopping hay,
the way he carried on that last good day.
With the proper encouragement, he said,
they would work themselves to death.
I must confess that this horse-less week is much more crazy and much less full.
If you don’t know the work of Timothy Basil Ering, you should. I would buy anything he’s worked on. My love of Frog Belly Rat Bone is profound! So that said, even if the reviews of Snook Alone hadn’t been spectacular, I would have bought it.
And this book… ah… it sings, it philosophizes, it scrabbles in the sand, it sniffs it’s own butt. And I love all of it. I could not pick favorite bit, but listen to this:
Snook curled in the farthest corner
and watched all night.
In the silence, he listened.
The wind was his breathing.
The waves were his breath.