Liturgy (17)

I have a funny Sunday night. I wake in the deep of it to steady, quiet rain outside the opened louvered windows. It’s a surprise. I love the rain, and this kind speaks to some deep peace in me. I go out to the back yard naked, collect all the cushions, pile them in the living room. I fall asleep again to the almost silent presence of this summer rain. Before dawn, I wake to wind, the leaves loud in the liquid ambers, the quick, hard sounds of the neighbor’s American flag. I go back outside to put down the three umbrellas, get back in bed. I am not ruffled by this effort or this unexpected need, only responding to it, at ease. (So out of character for me.) The third time I wake is to Monday morning’s trash trucks. I head out the front door, clothed this time, to put out our bins. I go back to bed again because it seems like the thing to do, to complete the pattern of the night, only to daydream a little, to finish waking up. But there is a softness that stays with me into the morning, as if this funny night of waking and going outside and going back to bed was more ritual than oddity, like a Buddhist monk doing walking practice, or the clergy in Kay’s Sailing to Sarantium who stayed up all night chanting to help their god return in the morning with the sun.

Dispatch (13)

I sit beneath the lime green umbrella in the corner of the yard and drink my yerba maté. I remember the moon and look for her in the sky. She is right there, only a turn of my head, not behind the neighbor’s tree or hidden by the umbrella. My daylight moon. I turn back to study the top of the ridge before me in search of movement or the silhouette of a hawk perched on a shrub or the bare branch of a dead bush. Once I saw a deer grazing at the very top of the hill. I’d always wondered if they climbed the steep rocky sides. I let my mind drift, drink my tea. Later I wonder if I can still see the moon, and I turn to look again. There is writing in the sky where the moon was. For a moment, I think it is a message from the universe. It startles me to find it there, but in that first second, the possibility doesn’t seem odd at all. Why shouldn’t there be a message in the sky for me? In the next moment, I realize it’s skywriting. “Narek,” it says. Or maybe “Marek.” The word is moving north, the letters beginning to come apart. I see the moon then, the waning crescent just beside the “k.” Behind the name is a perfect heart, holding its shape as it follows Narek across the sky.

Passing Muster (12)

Last Sunday I saw the female red-tailed hawk closer than I’ve ever seen her, flashes of both belly and back, the dark outline beneath her wings, the red tail fanned out, translucent, lit by the sun. She landed on a shrub at the top of the ridge near the spot where the row of seven yuccas bloomed once, my companions and my comfort in an earlier stretch of time here. I imagined her studying me. I’ve never been so aware of wanting to be found worthy.

Talismans, Too (58)

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
small enchantments
lucky charms
loved ones.

Tiny Talismans (57)

I heard once
crickets in the house
are good luck
a Chinese belief
I think
but maybe not
In my trailer home
a family of them
lived for a time
behind my fridge
I loved their loud
singing in the night
so near my bed
I missed them
when they moved out
and it was just me again
and the quiet daddy long legs.

Stigmata (44)

Months into the pandemic, I began noticing a weird rash on my right wrist. I thought it might be from washing my hands and wrists too often because of the virus. (Yes, it’s true. I developed the habit of adding my wrists to the equation. Wrists rest on all kinds of surfaces.) The rash went away twice but came back. Then I noticed it was vaguely heart-shaped, lopsided, like a good beach rock. It has stayed with me ever since. Now I joke to myself it is my stigmata. Not in the usual sense—marks mirroring the wounds of Jesus that appear by divine grace on others, marks of honor—but evidence of inner wounds made outer. One day I wonder if the crooked heart on my wrist might be a message, like images of Mother Mary appearing to people in their homemade pancakes. Maybe my lopsided heart is reminding me to be compassionate with myself. Maybe it’s telling me I’m loved.

Landing (22)

I rest my palm against my belly and take a deep breath. I am tired of the smog but grateful to my lungs and glad I am relaxed enough to feel like I can fill them. I have always felt like I am in some smaller section of humanity, on the edge, maybe, living on the fringe, but in moments like this I am in the center of it all.

[Editor’s note: Another snippet from our writing group, one of our “Two Words, Two Minutes.” The words were “fringe” and “belly.”]