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This Drought

August 8, 2012

Entering the onecolorness of the outdoors,
I try to follow the sick advice I offered
an internet mom this morning: concentrate
on the good things her exhaustion brings. 

I could be one of those Sargent portraits,
a figure swallowed by a mystery
of blacks. In my case, yellows: yellow
road, yellow fields, yellow trees, yellow
sky. Madame X in running shorts. I could
be a thing to see.

                             From the roadside
a scrap of trash promises, Grows Plants
Twice As Big! Next to it, a grasshopper
so uniformly plastic yellow it has no
features, no hairs along its legs, no joints
in its articulated abdomen, no chewing
mouth. Looks like a toy bug.

                                            Before long,
I meet a man walking. He introduces
himself, as they do in these parts,
mentions my dead father-in-law, a man
I never met. Walking for his health,
he says, trying for 4 miles. So far 2.
Open heart? I ask, noting the scar.
He tells me more. Then, again, sickness
pours out of me: Could be worse, I say.
He nods, says, Yes, I could be out
in those planets.

                             Birds behaving oddly.
Bluebirds, normally on the highlines, flap
up, then down, in the yellow weeds.
Flushing grasshoppers, I speculate.
In the yard, birds flock the drizzle
of hosewater, mouths open, exposing
hard birdtongues, noiseless.

                                               We need
a miracle here, I think. I try not to
remember the dying cypress I saw
from my office yesterday. I try not to
strategize about hoses from a distant
faucet that, in all probability, doesn’t

             Sometimes the only good is not
yet, and worse unimaginable. Sometimes
aith is all there is. Sometimes there’s only
hope. Sometimes a red zigzag down
a sparse chest is the only thing that
means, the only thing worth seeing.

  1. Your use of the words sick, sickness made me feel so good. It shot past the hemming and hawing of stuff like striving, hypocrisy, self-doubt, etc and just said it. Thanks.

    • Yeah. It’s sort of how I see my badness–as sickness. Last night I was thinking about this line from The Scarlet Letter (Ch. 5, “Hester at Her Needle”): “… there is a fatality, a feeling so irresistible and inevitable that it has the force of doom, which almost invariably compels human beings to linger around and haunt, ghost-like, the spot where some great and marked event has given the color to their lifetime; and still the more irresistibly, the darker the tinge that saddens it.” (I like how it gets at how we tend to let the bad things that happen to us govern our lives.) Hawthorne’s narrator’s considering here why Hester didn’t leave town, “the spot where some great and marked event has given the color to [her] lifetime,” and I think the narrator–and, perhaps, Hawthorne himself–would call the “great and marked event” her “sin.” For me, though, it’s so interesting how Hawthorne seems to revere this event as “great” and “marked” and says that it colors her life, like a bruise. I’m getting off topic, I know, but something about this big, important bruisedness is how I like to think about my own failings.

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