Mami and I walk to the end of the cul-de-sac, the last sunlight hitting the top of our bit of foothills here. There are two bucks on the hillside, fidgeting, a little anxious. Then their third appears in the neighbor’s back yard, walks across the patio to join them, and they relax. We stand for a long time watching them, silent, arms twined. I swim after sunset, slow strokes back and forth across the length of the pool. I feel easy and strong. I have the orange glow and Venus as companions, and my mountain here in silhouette, two handfuls of stars across our stretch of sky. Later, I finally write a letter to Ulla, my Auntie Gardi’s sister who helped us so much when my Tante Helga died. I wrote a paragraph by hand in English, then typed it into the computer, then copied Google’s German translation again by hand. I thought it would feel grueling, but it didn’t. It was quiet, steady work, but there was a peace about it, too, and the hope it might make her know how much she came to mean to me during those long months last fall after my aunt died. My eyes begin to close as I type, and I long for those moments when I can turn out the living room lights, say good night to that distant, lit-up world below us and seek my bed.
This house is filled with crickets
I have found them dying more than once
Some nights they sing
loud in the living room
and I stand in the dark
and listen to their song
When I am working in the black chair
I will see one crossing the carpet
and send up prayers
May you be safe
May you be happy
My mother stomps near them
to scare them away
and I worry I will step on one without knowing
I find their small belly-up corpses
now and then
in every room of the house
lying in chavasana
I hear the loud heater
down the hall
and think of my little home
and silence in the middle of the night
especially in winter
with no air conditioners
only cold air
through the open louvers
and the cry of the barn owl
and years ago, the small, warm weights
of my two cats
tucked against me
in the quiet night.
I am on the phone with my good friend. She mentions in passing, on her way to another story, that she once did a documentary with Julia Roberts. I am standing in the back yard, and I watch my mother walk down the hallway inside the house, obedient with her oxygen, so the tension in my shoulders lessens. Two red-tailed hawks appear against the blue and fly slow circles above me while I listen to my friend’s voice. And all at once it is one of those moments, when everything aligns, and for several seconds I am not understanding words, only standing there, taking in the sounds. The hawks feathers brush against my cheeks, and I am at the center of it all.
A woman I know tells me she is underwater. Me, too, I think. Later, driving down the hill, I picture myself in aquamarine water, light dancing like the gemstone. I am fully clothed, upright, swathed in rising bubbles. My head is just below the surface, and right now, I think, I’m not even coming up for air.
I’m just trying to grow gills.
I am still resisting what is much of the time, refusing or unable to accept the reality I’ve somehow landed in. Reason doesn’t seem to help—my mind fails to convince me even though I am 100% certain accepting things as they are is the only way to move forward with anything even close to grace. But it is a thing of the body, this resistance, and all the logic in the world does no good.
[Words were reality and reason.]
My dragons in the books I’ve been rereading are like magpies, drawn to the shiny, the silver, to the gold of Napoleon’s eagles. I like glitter, too, and quiet neighborhoods and memories of Sundays when I was a child in Tujunga, and I sat in the back seat of our white Monza while my father drove, and every store on Foothill Boulevard was closed and the sidewalks were empty.
[Spontaneous writing prompt, words were silver and Sunday. The books I reference here are Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series.]