Echo / Eco

this poem
opens its mouth
to ask for something it wants but
then there are no words

the hole in its heart
is perhaps too deep to fill
too strange
a cave with too many chambers

it’s a poem that has learned
to adapt to anything
it can become a cricket
or a whale
it can vanish completely

but when asked what it wants
it only echos

* * * * *

questa poesia
apre la bocca
per chiedere quello che vuole, ma
non le vengono parole

il buco nel suo cuore
è forse troppo profondo per riempire
troppo strano
una grotta con troppe camere

è una poesia che ha imparato
adattarsi a qualsiasi cosa
può diventare un grillo
o una balena
può svanire completamente

ma quando gli viene chiesto cosa vuole
fa solo eco

A Heart the Size of Your Fist

Excerpt from Marry A Mennonite Boy and Make Pie
Workplay Publishing, 2018
pp. 174-175

 

I knew that letters were going to come but wasn’t prepared for what happened when I found one lying in my campus mail box. I flashed hot, then cold, then nauseous, and I had to go somewhere to read it—somewhere that is not home. No one must look at me.

Across campus on the other side of the railroad tracks that run behind the theatre, there is a tree I sometimes climbed. It’s a scruffy old pine with branches that are naked near the trunk—a hiding place I discovered last spring before I met Tom, when the guy I’d been in love with all year started going out with somebody who wasn’t me.

I rode my bike to my tree with the letter in my pocket and climbed up to the seat where I mourned that other heartbreak.

Don’t cry. Whatever you do, don’t cry.

I didn’t want to go home with red eyes and snot on my shirt.

Don’t cry.

The problem wasn’t my housemates. It was Tom I was hiding from. Obviously, at our house you could cry if you wanted and you didn’t owe anybody an explanation. But Tom would expect one. One I didn’t have. When he said he loved me, I said it back. And I meant it. I did.

 

I didn’t cry.

I read the letter, and read the letter, and read the letter. I held it to my face. I pressed it to my arms, to my cheek, to my heart. All I could do was think about breathing. All he asked was for me to come back, but I couldn’t move from that tree.

 

Can you love two people? If you love two people, is one fake and one real? Which one? Or are they both lies?

Can you fracture into a thousand pieces on the inside, and outside no one will know? Can you die and still appear alive? Can you live without understanding anything?

What is happening to me? Why can I not let go? Why does it matter more than air? How will I live my life?

Can you ever be alright again, ever, after you are absolutely broken? How can so much pain fit into a heart the size of your fist?

 

It was like the day in Los Rios that I reached from the shower for my towel and was stung on my pinky finger by the scorpion hiding there. I stared in dumb disbelief at my hand, as a blinding pain surged through my tiny finger and exploded into the entire room. It charged the air around my body like electric and shook the walls of concrete. All the while, my smallest finger looked exactly the same.

Un Corazón del Tamaño del Puño

Extraco de Marry A Mennonite Boy and Make Pie
Workplay Publishing, 2018
pp. 174-175

 

Yo sabía que las cartas iban a llegar, pero no estaba preparada para lo que sucedió cuando encontré la primera en mi buzón en el campus universitario. Sentí calor, luego frío, luego náuseas, y tenía que ir a algún lugar para leerla, algún lugar que no fuera mi casa. Nadie debía mirarme.

Al otro lado de la universidad, al otro lado de las vías del ferrocarril que corren detrás del teatro, hay un árbol que yo a veces subía. Es un pino viejo desaliñado con ramas desnudas cerca del tronco, un escondite que descubrí la primavera pasada antes de conocer a Tom, cuando el muchacho del que yo estaba enamoradísima comenzó a salir con alguien que no era yo.

Me fui en la bicicleta hasta aquel árbol con la carta en el bolsillo, y subí al asiento donde lloré esa otra angustia.

No llorar, me dije. Pase lo que pase, no llorar.

Yo no quería ir a casa con los ojos rojos y mocos en la camisa.

No llorar.

El problema no eran mis compañeras de casa. Me estaba escondiendo de mi novio Tom. Obviamente en la casa donde vivía con las chicas, podrías llorar si querías sin deberle una explicación a nadie. Pero Tom me pediría una explicación. Uno que no tenía. Cuando Tom me decía que me amaba, se lo decía también yo. Y lo decía en serio. Era la verdad.

 

No lloré.

Leí la carta, y leí la carta, y leí la carta. Me la apreté a la cara. La presioné contra mis brazos, contra mi mejilla, contra mi corazón. Lo único que yo podía hacer era concentrarme en respirar. Lo único que pidió él que me había escrito la carta era de volver, pero no podía moverme del árbol.

 

¿Puedes amar a dos personas? Si amas a dos personas, ¿uno es falso y el otro es verdadero? ¿Cuál es cuál? ¿O son ambas mentiras?

¿Puedes fracturarte en mil pedazos por dentro sin que nadie lo nota por fuera? ¿Puedes morir y seguir vivo? ¿Puedes vivir sin entender nada?

¿Qué me está pasando? ¿Por qué no puedo dejarlo ir? ¿Por qué importa más que el aire? ¿Cómo viviré mi vida?

¿Es posible volver estar entero después de que estés completamente roto? ¿Cómo puede caber tanto dolor dentro de un corazón del tamaño del puño?

 

Era como el día en Los Ríos cuando, después de bañarme, tomé mi toalla y  un escorpión allí escondido me picó en el dedo meñique. Me quedé estupefacta mirando la mano, mientras un dolor cegador surgió a través de mi dedo meñique y explotó en toda la habitación. El dolor era tan grande que cargó el aire alrededor de mi cuerpo con electricidad y sacudió las paredes de concreto. Pero todo el tiempo, mi dedo meñique se veía exactamente igual.

 

My Spiderweb

I went to Italy for the month of September. If you are my friend or follower on social media, you already know this. You saw how much fun I had.

It was not exactly a vacation, and if you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed that I have never once referred to it as that. It was a trip, an odyssey, a pilgrimage, a journey—but not a vacation by any means. It included virtually no rest, and lots of hard emotional work stirred in with all the fun.

Why a month in Italy? Well there’s the level of reply which is, “Why not?!” Italy is awesome and September is a great month to be somewhere besides Tamarindo. So there’s that. But you know me—this was so much more.

I wanted to go to Italy to see Pio’s family—his children and the new grandson I hadn’t met, his brothers and their wives, the nieces and nephews… Escorting someone you love out of this life is an intensely bonding experience and we all did it together only two years ago. I wanted to go see them again. I wanted to demonstrate that I am the family member you won’t lose unless you want to. I wanted to introduce myself as ME, here because I choose to be, not because of who’s wife I am. I wanted to retrace the steps to the hospital, the grocery store, the markets, the landmarks I loved…everything. Why? Because. It didn’t make me sad, especially. It made me happy. I am the girl who owns my stories. All of them.

When Pio was sick, he promised me that when he got better, he would take me to Rome. I said that would be great, but I knew it was never going to happen. So I went to Rome myself. When I say I went to Rome myself, understand that the the only time I was actually by myself in Rome was on the train! I had friends waiting for me at the train station, friends taking me to their houses to eat and sleep, friends taking me to dinner, taking me around the city, taking me to the beach… Five days was not nearly enough.

After the Rome excursion, I brought my sunburnt self back to Milan for a few days, then went to the east end of the country, to Gorizia near the border of Slovenia. I toured breathtaking mountains on the back of a motorcycle, ate like a queen, and went to Venice for a day. Then back to Milan. The last excursion took me to the west side of Italy, to Sanremo to visit Pio’s daughter. She’s almost 21 now. Pio and I visited her there in 2015, so it was a somewhat familiar place. In Sanremo I rented my own apartment, so I was able to eat a fraction of what I was eating as a guest in the homes of friends/family, wander around the city on my own while Kiara was at work, and go to bed early.

I have a feeling that Kiara, young and spontaneous, voiced the thoughts of—um, maybe everyone?–as she hugged me, bursting out with, “Why did you come to Italy?!”

Indeed. Why?

I told her what I told you in the beginning of this post. But that’s not the whole story, either. Part of the answer is, “I don’t know.” But it was a very important trip. I needed to go to close a circle. I needed to hand-deliver my new book, Certain as Afternoon, to certain people. Would I really buy a plane ticket to Europe and take a month of no pay just to do that?

Yup.

Because I have this theory that not everything has to make sense. Making sense is over-rated. I have this theory that we don’t know everything–that sometime things that seem important for no apparent reason really ARE important. I have this theory that our 5 senses do not actually provide us with information on 100% of what is going on around us. They provide us with what we need not to get run over by buses in the street, but that’s about it. I think there are things that are true and we are unable to perceive them, mostly, because of senses we don’t have. Like a deaf person who can’t hear the music but feels the vibration of it and can dance to it anyway. Sometimes I dance to music I don’t actually hear. But the rhythm is right.

And so I went to Italy, during the month that, 2 years ago, Pio was sick and dying. I took the same metros, walked past the hospital, had a sandwich at the bar by the hospital. Walked in the parks. The Duomo. The Castello. Ate gelato. Took a copy of my book to the office of The Merciful Doctor and left it there for him. And I traveled around and saw new places and met new people and had excellent adventures.

I am a spider working on my web, making a place to live out of the silk in my belly. Going back and forth, up and down, connecting things to each other. Guided by instinct, not ideas. Fixing the parts that are torn. Just you wait and see: it will be beautiful.

Maybe I had to go so that I could come back. Re-enter. Begin again. I don’t know. I don’t hear the music, but I feel the vibrations. And I feel like a million bucks.

The Beginning

 

Seed / Bone

spit out the seed
the bone of the fruit
you have eaten
that has become you
open your mouth
lift your tongue and
drop the nut

no secrets
are allowed here
no pieces carried
from the past

spit the seed
onto the soil
breathe a new
mouthful of air

roots will come to
the piece of bone
that has given you
its flesh
that you have
carried to
this place

You Should Know by Now

you should know by now
that the smoke from
Amazonia
will change the world,
that all of us will breathe
the trees instead of
their green breath.
all that cannot run
sacrifices its body to the flames.

you should know by now
that the world is round.
what you throw into the
air today
lands in your lap
tomorrow.

you should know by now
about the moon and the tides.
you should know better than
to take your eyes off the
horizon while you wait.
you should have learned to
sense the movement,
change in color,
before you see the swells
and you should know
to paddle out
before you see what
you know is coming.

you should know by now
winds will come in december
crocodiles can swim in saltwater
that life and love are
happy accidents.

you should know by now
when to turn off the lights
the wifi, and
just
stop.
if you don’t,
who can teach you?
on the screen are only
patterns of dark and light–
constellations.

you should know by now
that sugar will kill you
faster than salt,
but what comes out of your mouth
matters as much as
what goes in.
you are what you eat;
you are what you say.

no matter how much you talk
every time you inhale
there is silence.

A Poem to Name a Book After

That’s what I think of the poem “Certain as Afternoon,” the title poem of my new book.

The poem is about the beginning of the end–about death, but not about the moment of dying. The poem is about the moment death is born and no one knows it. Like quiet rain in the night, and you wake up and look out the window and say, “Hey look! It rained in the night. I wonder when? I didn’t hear anything.”

In the poem, there is a “we.” The “we” is me and Pio, of coruse, but it is also any other “we” in the world. In the night while we are sleeping in our room, something else enters the room quietly like rain in the night. No one knows the moment it comes. But when we awaken in the morning it is there in the room with us, certain as afternoon.

Because the one thing you can be sure of in the morning, on any morning, is that the next thing to arrive is afternoon.  And when the end has begun, it’s arrival follows as naturally as afternoon follows morning.

 

Certain as Afternoon

death came quietly
like rain in the night
no one knew the
moment it began

there was no thunder
no lightening
when the sick cells
began to divide then
send out seeds

when we woke in the
morning
it stood in the
room with us
certain as afternoon

 

Certa Come il Pomeriggio 

la morte cominciò a formarsi
silenziosamente
come pioggia nella notte
nessuno sapeva il momento
del suo inizio

non c‘erano tuoni
nè lampi
quando le cellule malate
cominciarono a separarsi
ed a disseminarsi 

quando ci siamo svegliati
al mattino
era lì in piedi
nella stanza con noi
certa come il pomeriggio