When you get to 3000 feet, pull!
Heart hammering! Eyes like the prairie sky. Go! Arch!
I arch. I plummet. I howl with manic delight. It is too big, too much!
It cannot be contained. It will not be hemmed in with words. My voice will utter the sounds but my spirit will know the truth.
Your brother has leukemia.
Instantly I am shivering, gasping. Stomach clenching, twisting.
They are moments that change us: brilliant, terrifying, exquisite, sublime. They arrive with too many words. They arrive with too few. No amount of speaking or writing, praying or pleading, raging or singing can capture the spirit, the essence. We dance. We become be free. We stare catatonic, curled, crystal forming in air.
A first date. An empty bed. Smoke in the night. There are no letters, no words for this. We are untethered, afloat. No map, no road, no floor, no walls. I’m leaving. Dust drifts aimlessly. I do. We whirl ecstatic. There’s been an accident. We slump, bled dry.
Scorched echoes of nothing.
Drunk with pleasure, pale with dread, restless, longing, enraptured, alone.
And never a word. But our bones and our bellies, our souls and our spirits – they know.
Poems will not live here. Lyrics will not contain this love. Letters won’t soothe and essays will be buckets with holes. But we are alive in these moments. For a season, for a few squares on a calendar, a handful of ticks on a clock, we inhabit the boundary of words and no words, time and no time. We are pure, elemental, visceral. Our bones – they know.
Mid-stride, unprepared, sprawling, staggering stumble. They clench us in tight fists and they drop us naked on a stage: no script, no curtain.
You’re fired. Sunrise. We’ll to try chemo… You passed. Will you go out with me? Look, whales! I do. I’m sorry. And ten thousand more, all existing in a labyrinth of words wandering in weeds, letters scrambled, scattered like breath. Utterly useless words.
Baby’s first step. Tulips in Spring. Tsunamis in Greece. The moment is forever tied to this one thing, and this one thing will not be known again – not like this. Instead, it will remain shimmering, soaring above tendrils of white. Or it will be bleak, a pit of clinging, shifting shadows. It may drift in reverent silence, oceans deep. It is a summit, a miscarriage, a puppy, a breath.
It is hourglass sand that hangs in mid air.
It is life. Watch. Wait. These moments will be as waves, as stars.
We will blister from cinders too close. We will know candies at Christmas, cobwebs, dreams. Patched, faded denim on potholed roads. Sodden, we shamble past broken down dams. Joy dripping sweet on our lips, embracing in tides. We will ache, we will love.
And we will tell our stories, or at least we will try.
But only you will know what your bones uncovered in dark corners, what wounded tune your fractured soul sang. Only you will hear the ancient wheeze of your boots lurching through mire, pleading for light. You alone will know your hunger, your bliss, your child’s laugh. And when you speak – giving breath to these things – they will vanish like shadows of dreams, beyond letters, beyond words. Too rich, too free, they live at the borderlands, melting in fog. Known, unknown. Seen, unseen.
We try. We believe that we understand, that we know. We are kind and we listen. We tell and retell, care and care again. We proclaim from the stage, preach from the pulpit, whisper in the arms of a lover. But our gently heaving prairies, our thrashing oceans, our exuberant joys: they live with no paper, no pen; they exclaim with no lips, no breath.
And it is good.
These moments, these feelings, these slivers and seasons, they have no need of letters or words. To hold them tight is to bottle the stars. I will not try. They live when calendars do not turn, caress when clocks have lost their hands.
They weep between worlds. They live beyond light.
Too big, too much, they are shadows of dreams.