{17 April 2018}

I muck actual bull shit into a four meter deep pit
Below the stables that are home to 55 dairy cows
On a small island in a lake in the middle of Holland.

If you didn’t know the dignity of the land,
You might not even call it an island, just
A collection of fields and small canals.

I’m wearing a pink tank top my mom’s best friend and
My namesake gave my mom.
The shirt feels tight with meaning and the
Sawdust covering the front is suddenly bothersome.

Through the huge barn door, I can see various songbirds and
The eurasian magpie, which my friend says is the only
Beautiful bird in his country.

I’m thinking about the first line of my memoir.

I’m thinking:
This is merely what happened when the problem began
to look like a life-sized problem.

Later, after the cows have been fed,
Their heads draped over the edge of the stalls,
Their tongues, long like giraffes’, eating the hay urgently,
I sit outside on a concrete slab in the middle of the grass,
Writing on the back of my Wendell Berry book, and
I wonder how these words push their way out of me,
Onto a page of paper torn out of a notebook, and
Into this world.

The cows are eating as if it were
The most important thing,
Which, I guess, it is, right then.

Learning from example, urgently, I take in this moment,
This life-sized moment:
The cold concrete under me, the wet grass against my boots,
The pen in my fingers, the words in my throat,
The cows in the barn, the magpies gliding,
The blue sky slowly darkening,
The new day coming.

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{Windows}

Every evening, if we remember, before it is dark enough to turn on the light,
We pull the shade down over the window,
Blocking our neighbors and people on the street from a view straight
Through the glass of five friends chatting over chocolate and tears and sacred words.

Every morning, when enough of us are awake,
We pull open the shade to a view of the street and the neighbors’ dining table:
Bare winter branches and telephone wire and
Two yellow chairs and a laptop and occasionally a person.

Tonight when I take the train out of the city,
It snakes through apartments, tall buildings made of little boxes made into homes.
Through the brightly lit windows,
All the kitchens look different, counters and tables and chairs.
I catch a mere second of the inhabitants’ actions,
The turn of a head or the placing of the hand or just stillness,
Only their eyes following the movement of the train.

I think about how many people we saw everyday on the streets.
We are not city folk.
The cars and the trains and the noise and the exhaust, well,
We could wax poetic.

I don’t know how to say that it seems unnecessary to be living in small cubes
Of one’s own decoration surrounded by others doing the same.

We walk the same streets, breath the same exhaust.

Regardless, we return to our room every night and pull shut the curtain,
Enveloped again in our box of artificial light,
Our stories spilling out of our mouths,
Leaking through the cracked window,
Staining the old concrete in the East Village of Chicago.

{A Story of Birds}

For high above, flew the cranes

I wonder what ancient star song lays
rolled like a message in the bottle of their hollow bones
that moves forward their dinosaur bodies.
Probably hunger or thirst or fear.

And down below, we walked

Muley said that the hunted cannot be strong,
only fierce.
The egrets, small creatures with yellow legs
and feathers that seem an impossible white,
peck and jab at the sand, hunting.
I think maybe their hunted,
the tiny, muscular sand fleas,
are strong, and willing.

But it’s unfathomable, really.
Time and sand and death
and birds and all.

{28 January 2018}

Before the beach, my migraine digs a hole into the folds of my brain.
It sits like a storm cloud in front of my eyes.
It twists the muscles of my back and neck into tightly bound rope.
Words fall out of my mouth like splintered wood into people’s palms.


Now, the cloud has disappeared.
The ropes have loosened.
Do these words feel like sand papered birds to you, too?


The cold sea water I walk in barely covers the veins of my feet.
I hold in my hands small tokens of the ocean’s generosity:
a rock, reddish brown with one almost perfectly formed right corner,
a shard of a blue shell with rough edges and small holes.
I clutch them in my fist;
they feel a little like the absent minded grip of a friend’s hand.


What would it be like to live in the assurance of our brokenness?
I mean:
What would it be like if we didn’t look for our missing pieces?
What if we made a home of this cracked vessel?

{“A Terrifying Kindness”}

1
I’ve been waiting for the words all week.
Snow ― after four years!
Food!
Stars.
Such joys.

2
There’s something about family history.
Something about the feeling of the past,
resting on the shoulders of someone’s memory,
someone’s God-given ability to tell a story.
The candles start to listen, I swear.
And the laughs ― those never die.

3
My eyes start to go a little blurry and
my body shakes with coughs of too-cold air.
But my head doesn’t hurt, not now.

4
I walk in the dark after dinner.

5
There’s something about family history.
I miss my family, but God,
I am thankful.

6
“The Lord’s terrifying kindness has come to me.”

7
“Good night, Reid.”

8
The stars are many, I know you know this.
I remember on a school trip years ago,
on the backside of Mount Kenya,
my teacher told us why the stars flicker.

9
The stars.
Such joys.
Such kindness.

{9 November 2017}

This is a magic rock.
You might not believe me, but let me tell you about it.

Two little girls, one with long blonde hair and the other with dark shiny hair,
found a pack of crayons in the geocache under the tree in the foothills,
and they set to work to create magic rocks to sell to us in exchange
for weeds or my snack or a bigger rock or, really,
anything else that they determined to have value.

They gave me this rock, a pink heart painted onto it like an embodiment
of the day’s shiny joy,
and they said to me,

“You have the power of the moon, Reid.”
I said, “Why, thank you!”

In other words, a woman at church asked me if I believed in miracles,
and I said, “Yes, ma’am, I do.”

Two little girls gave me the power of the moon in a rock smaller than my palm
and, you may not believe me, but I believe in miracles,
and the moon has never shone like it did that night.

{26 October 2017}

At the beach today, we bury two animals.

One, a sea slug, we think, or a kind of sea cucumber.
We gather arounds its body resting in a wet sand grave.
We marvel at its anatomy, turning it over and prodding it
Gently with a piece of driftwood.
As we cover it with sand, seaweed, and small rocks,
We sing a song of blessing:

I behold you beautiful one,
I behold you child of the earth and sun,
Let our love wash over you,
Let our love wash over you.

Two, along the bottom of the cliffs facing the ocean, a small possum.
Nestled in the cracks of the soft sandstone,
He looks like he died in the middle of a dream,
His long, thin snout in the air, still smelling the salty air,
I imagine, — when do the cells stop processing information?
We cover him in stones, and I sing the
Song silently over his body.

I behold you beautiful one,
I behold you child of the earth and sun,
Let my love wash over you,
Let my love wash over you.

Later, we gather shells and seaweed and rocks and sea glass
And crab legs and drift wood
Along the edge of the water,
Ocean gifts running here and there in the tide.
We display them on the sand,
A ‘touch-see-and-feel’ museum.

Seaweed dries in tangled piles on the beach.
As we approach, small flies burst into the air,
Our presence disrupting their feeding attention.
They live off the dying, drying seaweed.
We carry bunches in our hands back to the driftwood fort,
Decorating the entrance.

We play with the sea like a long-lost sister.
Jumping and crashing our bodies into the waves,
The water carries us out and back in.
The gifts, shells and driftwood,
Who knows how long she has carried them.

The sun is shining today.
What more could we wish for?