a letter written with twenty four hand -sharpened pencils looks a lot goodbye.
January 27, 2013 § Leave a comment
I can’t remember which direction we traveled past the water or which boats knelt beside the shore. We watched a man approach a Hinckley from downwind. A Kingfisher sat on the stern. We talk about water like we talk about birds. I peel a snail off the dock and toss it into the water. Docks are not meant for land. You lean back and look at me. I blink saltwater from my eyelashes. It is sad to see a boat removed from its mooring. In Maine we prepare for winter with our bare hands. The kind my mother had after years of hauling water.
In Maine we look for sidewalks without snow. The wind is so strong it burns our cheeks. We run so fast the wind gets inside our bodies. Our ears ring. The ringing feels like waving goodbye to my mother when I leave for Albuquerque. In Maine we prepare for winter by saying goodbye to our mothers. We stack wood before we leave.
I do not migrate alone. I fly in a skein with a flock of Canadian geese.
When I arrive home there is an envelope waiting for me. I open the envelope and remove what is inside. It’s a field guide of North American birds and a note. The note says something about raking the leaves before the snow comes. My father sent the book so that I could look up hummingbirds but all I can find are swans. When I go to the doctor I need a new prescription but I don’t have the sickness, which means the fainting has nothing to do with my eyes. In the morning I rest my head on the table. I cannot remember the last time I saw you, but I have new eyes and these eyes are stronger so if I concentrate real hard and think of Chennai I can find you among the gods. I rake leaves in preparation for winter.
Another way to prepare for winter is to find a blue scarf in a dim restaurant. When you remember that it belongs to you, you are ready for the solstice.
I stand in the snow and cry out. I cannot remember life before winter. I cannot find a place for my hands. When I was a child I thought having five fingers meant everything. I stand by the window and wait for the mail to come. My father sends an envelope of laminated maple leaves. I picture him standing among the trees collecting sap. There are white buckets and women with rubber boots. They make syrup before the snow comes.
When the snow melts we drink coffee. I wear all the lost scarves and you sit beside me. Two hours pass. The rest of the world is in motion but we are still. I breathe birds from my back in the place where wings form. I take sparrows out of your skin. I replace your eyes with silver coins and stuff your body with straw. Only it isn’t straw, it is feathers. And when the wind blows, the feathers return to the birds. You lean back and look at me, but I am gone. You touch your coin eyes but you cannot cry because your eyes are made of silver.
In New Mexico I find a penny and toss it into a ravine. Even in winter everything is red. I open the door to your room. A hummingbird flies out. It looks at me. It was never inside my body. It was never a tiny bird on the windowsill at your parent’s home in Los Alamos. The bird that flies out of my body was never in your room. The bird inside me is a Rhode Island Swan.
I have a niece and a nephew. Their tiny snowshoes rest against the wall beside the stove. This will always be a safe place for them. A place where Chickadees land. A place where their bodies will look like snow angels and their eyes will hold secrets they will tell me when they’re older. They will not be afraid of winter. They will not hold their breath for him.
In Colorado I wake to the sound of a piano. We all sit together in a row on the couch beside the fire before I am alone again. I call home. If I die, please bury my bones above ground. I turned thirty all by myself, and if the piano had not woken me I would still be dreaming of frozen oceans. Impossible sorrow. Life without birds that return from Estes in the afternoon before winter settles in. The bird inside me is a Canadian goose just learning to land on water.
In Colorado winter is powerless against the bird. I stand beside a pond and watch ducks. The bird stands beside me. He has not flown in from Canada with the other geese. He has not sent an arctic chill to Maine. My mother says the chill makes her hands cold. My bird is not a Lark or a Raven or a Sparrow.
The pond means something to the bird. When I leave the pond I am sad. I am not sure if I miss the bird or the water. The pond is only partially frozen. I never knew winter at all.
In the morning there are more birds. We make snow angels with chalk on the sidewalk outside my home in Boulder. We fall in love with the mergansers that swim in pairs in the pond that collects Canadian geese. In the afternoon we bring in the winter moorings and raise the sails. We uncover the wood and replace the suet. If I die of winter please don’t tell my father. My father says you cannot die of winter. He says hold on little one; the ice will break before the dawn.