Even on a cloudy day, the spectrum finds the snowy field
that offers light back to the air, to our eyes. Envelopes of blue light
open everywhere. Sun flashes insurrection against its death.
One learns to play the harp by playing, my friend said, as I watched
her fingers, &, more, watched light play up & down a string, dart
through the spaces to slip up & down the whole raft of the strings together,
through which my friend tossed the Celtic songs I love,
handwritten letters on the air, gossamer & sturdy with loss.
Crusts of snow were pocked by rain, & under a tarp a woodpile
was tapped at, rain knocking, majestic, wanting in, wanting everywhere,
to run, to carry light into the crevices even where the blind worm sleeps.
I am wanting everywhere, too. Light seeking water seeking motion
both skates & sinks to the bottom of the persistent stream.
I have chanted this ardor before, how a raindrop
grows light with the gathering weight, & what is private,
within the drop, is returned public,
a curved portrait of the near world, & the way an evocative word
can tender fresh meaning each time it is sounded, a drop
falling silver sparks iridescent pink & green.
A crystal hung by fishing line in the east window of my mother’s kitchen,
slowly twisting. Mornings after waking slowly, needing to be held,
toddler Laura slipped from my lap & chased rainbows thrown all over the room,
the spectrum taking a walkabout on the kitchen walls & floor,
the way she chased each word from my mouth.
Like an envelope of light opened, the words, emerging, started to quiver
& join, to sing just to her, & sparks shattered in every direction
from the bead on the faucet grabbed directly by morning sun, each word
an open satchel of possibility. Her favorite game was Post Office.
We played it for an hour in the brilliant, brief kitchen.
I sat on the floor sorting a great gatherment
of paper: bills due, poems, car registration smog check,
the recipe for a sugar-baked wonder, notes scribbled
on notes, on abstracts, & more poems on the envelopes,
paper towels, on anything that might otherwise be tossed.
The chaos passed through my hands into neat sheaves
fanned out around me, an organ of three ranks or a library
with curving shelves. I grouped, then stacked the many into one,
ordered, parts ready to be accomplished, a skyscraper built
of alternating perpendiculars exactingly askew.
I folded discards into the recycling & set the tall pile
on the table, but to use the table, almost immediately I balanced
the tidy pile to the floor under the table. Later, I returned it,
then again, next day to the floor, the table.
Needing a single document, surgically, my fingers
pinched to a forceps, I extracted it, a mere splinter,
but the stack twisted against itself a little. Floor,
table, disorganization increasing, like the edge of anything
much-handled frays, but deeper. What am I practicing here?
A strategy no longer useful can be discarded,
but this one stays days & days & years.
It seemed there was no organization left at all,
but there was. When the glass tipped as I set it too far
to the edge of a trivet, water, heavy, spread immediately
under the pile & found the desiccant bottom pages.
I pulled them, fragile rags, drenched, & spread them
to dry into distinct warps, waves frozen & crackling.
As I laid them out in the sunlight on the floor, I let myself
feel what I felt, what I thought was gratitude—the pages were
salvaged—but it was sadness, layered, ambiguous.
Sometimes the garden climbs in the window so eager
to have me remember to water it, it droops near death,
& I do nothing at all. The pile on the table edge, I flung my wrist,
& the way a galaxy of glitter falls in sunlight, or sun itself
is pulled down to the floor where a dog or cat would curl,
the pile fell. I sent it all down into original chaos.
When I knelt to gather again, I was crying. I’m so attached
to what should happen & how, a lifetime of it, but I owe
a debt to gravity. Air touched my hands, & I don’t know,
maybe it tried to lift me away from this life,
but down among the fallen sun, my hands were full.
I woke alone as the globe started to enter its shadow.
Once I had a lover who taught me to nap on the beach.
I’d ever walked & frolicked, thrown balls, swam.
She gave me, stretched out beside me,
her face covered with her hat, her legs twitching
as they did, the gift of awakening to late sun & clouds
on the sea, to sanctity breaking aloud in near rhythms,
waves unbraiding themselves in a rising tide.
A beach nap, like a hand-me-down jacket, forms
a spell of being cared for by someone unknown, settling
into a trustable universe, then waking to the loud envelopes
torn open & open, ripping down the coast,
to the scallops of foam approaching, hissing,
a wider world, awakening, like taking off the jacket,
rather, like having the jacket lifted away from
around the body, without the motion of a limb.
The first time, it was a small beach jammed with flotsam.
After we woke, we wandered, two women entering
the driftwood shacks & a steepled lean-to built & abandoned
by others. An alien planet was becoming our own.
Wind & surf had brushed the sand smooth. I let go
her hand to pick up a small piece of driftwood, & where
the rings of a living tree had grown, in death, ridges
rose under my fingers, soft gray, other than in life.
I would leave her and hurt her, though in truth I would
miss her, too. She loved my body & I hers. For years
we curled around & toward each other. When I woke,
she was gone, beside me a half-parenthesis
in the sand where her body had slept. When I woke,
the world was more mine & I a smaller part.
Waves had rippled and crashed into me as sound.
When I woke, I was sandy, & she brushed off my back.
Christina Hutchins is author of Tender the Maker (Utah State UP), which won the 2015 May Swenson Award and The Stranger Dissolves (San Francisco, Sixteen Rivers), a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award and the Audre Lorde/Publishers’ Triangle Award. A chapbook, Radiantly We Inhabit the Air won the Robin Becker Prize for queer poetry. Her poems have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Denver Quarterly, The New Republic, Prairie Schooner, Salmagundi, The Southern Review, Women’s Review of Books and elsewhere, and awards include The Missouri Review Editors’ Prize, National Poetry Review’s Annie Finch Prize, and two Barbara Deming Awards. Recently, she served as the Dartmouth Poet in Residence at Robert Frost’s home in Franconia, NH. She holds a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies: Theology and Literary Arts from Graduate Theological Union, an MDiv from Harvard, and a BS from U.C. Davis in Biochemistry and Piano Performance.