Baby James makes his way around sharp corners
He feels the fibers of the carpet
rough between his rose petal fingers
tickling his toes.
Navigating the great wide world
that is the kitchen
he shows his mother that she doesn’t need to watch so closely
her arms outstretched
hands grasping at thin air
expecting him to fall.
He does not know the color “green”
Or the indescribable beauty
of a drop of dew
perched perfectly atop the hardened edge
of a blade of grass in June.
He does not know his father’s eyes
or the metal tint of his baby spoon.
He will not know the pace of tears
as they flow down cheeks
He will not know the color of blood
illuminated on a television screen
as inevitable war and destruction
He will not know the hopeless shape of the homeless
shaking white styrofoam cups on city streets
…only the rattle of loose change.
He will not know the contorted face of anger
or the twitching furrowed brow
He will not see his planet die
with smoke billowing from great chimneys
and the zebra mussel-like takeover
of urban sprawl.
His parents pray
for the miracle of sight.
Would this little boy
cooing in content as he transfers wooden blocks from hand to hand
be better off if he could see?
I’ve been thinking about moments of “flow” ever since that conversation we had in class on Wednesday about moments of “absorbedness” and being entirely present. Reminiscing about the “flow” moments I’ve experienced, I went back through some of my old poetry. I find that my most present moments of clarity occur in travel. There’s something about the rhythm of trains and planes and automobiles–that suspension between where you’re going and where you’ve been–that lends itself to thinking and awareness as the world flies by outside of your window. You might argue that in those moments you are actually disconnected from nature, shielded by the metal casing of transportation and technology, but I feel the connection anyway.
Here are a couple of poems that stemmed from those moments:
Rhythms of travel
and my heart is opening again
flaying at the seams
The looming countryside covers me
head to toe
that tickling sensation
as if I could burst out laughing
at any moment.
We are the waiting people
suspended between where we are going
and where we have been
alive in no man’s land without purpose
An hour passes
another measured unit
bringing us closer to determining who we are
and who we’re not
We are defined by our actions
in the world
where none of us truly has a place.
She’s happier now
as the sun catches her shoulder
and the wind dances in her hair
reminding her that there is always time
even when the clock stops
and the bus keeps moving
shielded by the guard rail
half moon and tumbling
living for the thrill of the fall.
Reading through these poems, and putting them in the context of Annie Dillard’s “Seeing,” I begin to reminisce about all of the moments of my life when I was completely aware of who I was and where my place in the world was. These moments weren’t necessarily understanding, (because I don’t think we can ever really understand all of our infinite connectedness) but they were moments of wonder. I think of the series of minutes last Sunday that my boyfriend and I spent staring wide eyed at a tree on St. Olaf Avenue, filled with dozens of small black birds, chirping with a chorus of voices that inspired amazement. We wondered where they came from and why they were all there…together. We thought about what they were saying to each other, and pitied the people who owned the yard that held the tree they lived in–subjected to their noisiness at 9 in the morning on a lazy Sunday. But why did we pity them? Really we should have pitied the birds, whose natural home could now be “owned.”
Then there was the moment the pair of us were walking (again down Ole Avenue) at midnight on a Saturday night. Our breath hung in midair, and our shoulders hunched with cold. Amidst the snow drifts and the soft yellow hue of the street lights, we were content. There was a break in our conversation, and I stopped mid-stride. I was surprised by the silence. In our lives there is seldom silence. And when there is, we don’t stop to appreciate it. In that moment, the two of us stood and breathed it in. We waited. We listened. We felt. It was only a matter of minutes, or maybe even seconds, before we turned on our heels and walked back to campus…but it meant so much more than the countless hours of noise and scheduled tasks. I need to remember to have more of these.
In one line of her piece “Seeing,” Annie Dillard presents herself as “peeping through a keyhole.” For me, this was a great analogy for the way we see the world. We each look through our own individual keyholes, seeing only a small segment of light from the confines of our locked rooms. The goal is to open the door. I read this passage, and I thought about the moments when I was a little girl and I would lay in bed–staring out of my window at the branches of the tree I watched change with the seasons, then closing my eyelids tight and focusing until I was sure I could feel the world spin. I want to channel that determination again. I want to feel the whole world at once and continue to ask questions and shake loose the lock of my own little room. We need to get rid of the keyholes.