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.
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.
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.
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.”]
Two weeks ago I did a little ritual just before I left town. I asked for help with my writing, with my resistance to writing. I asked to have fun, to be pulled toward my writing instead of away. It was quick but heartfelt. Now I am in my second week of a 4-week writing class about voices, a teacherless class from Creative Nonfiction. And I’m getting a big kick out of it. The assignment I talked about in yesterday’s poem is from that class. I’ve been doing all the work, eager to complete the lessons, the exercises, to play, to practice. (Often in the past when I signed up for a self-paced class like this I ended up not carving out the time to do the work. But this time it’s different.) Reading Gertrude Stein’s letters for the assignment was entrancing, falling into her familiar cadence, so easy, feeling her voice like an old friend, one I knew well decades ago, the way that carries over, even if you visit seldom in all the years between. After, I became engrossed in the writing. I began at dusk, and then it was 8:30 when I surfaced. Such a sweetness, that sense of getting lost in the writing even when each moment feels so engaging, carried away by the act but very much present. A delicious paradox, a big gift. Thank you. Thank you.
Today I spend the day with Sylvia Boorstein, and her guests, from afar, livestreamed from Spirit Rock. Beforehand, I debate the all-day commitment on this day, but being in her presence even virtually and getting to listen to her wonderful stories feels like such a reassuring way to begin the year. After, I feel vulnerable. I am achey and tender and sad. I am all opened up. I feel a kind of longing, I think. Longing to be able to be part of something like this always? Partaking in her big warm love and acceptance? More connected to people like this, this deep kindheartedness? Always with Sylvia my old voices arise, want to lament I didn’t find her years ago when I could have worked with her for decades. Maybe, though, another voice says, you wouldn’t have felt this way about her then. Maybe you wouldn’t have been ready, or maybe she needed time to grow into who she is today. In the end, I settle back into gratitude for the day, for the gift of her. But in me, too, is secret hope to get to spend more time with her, maybe even years of it.
I sit, angry, stiff. Then I become aware of the bees on the ivy’s spiky balls of blooms. The soft hum of them and their warm, steady presence soothe me. I breathe, one hand on my belly. I remember the bee women in Starhawk’s The Fifth Sacred Thing, working their magic.