Photo by Jens Buurgaard Nielsen
This long match—the screen lit up in my dim room. I tap on dry tinder (fingertips over keys) until we glow and it catches, just enough to make a tiny sun in my singed pocket, all good to go.
The trees are running with scissors, snipping off their motley: leaves, spiraling down around ghost maypoles, a centripetal dance. I kick them up and back into the sharp wind. You may think it’s gusts that make these dry palmate mudras fall, but they grow to break—abscission in their cells, and mine.
I toss, roll over, sit up, and find the gifts I’ve been given even more inexplicable than what’s usual for me: the dog-whistle of tinnitus, a dream in which I was generous with a stranger and still afraid, a chaotic origami made of candy wrappers.
My ears are full of distant crickets chirring as I think about that dream, its almost-familiar highways ending in run-down neighborhoods. It’s as if Kurt Schwitters was Mr. Sandman, snipping bits from every place I’ve ever been and pasting them
together catawampus across my forehead as I slept so they’d infuse my dreaming soul. There’s a rustle at the edge of the bed. The wrapper from a hard candy I sucked on overnight has become wedged under my hip, crumpling nothing like a folded crane.
It’s the “almost home” part of the journey for this prodigal: I spent what I had to spend, not quite every last bit but near enough to feel the air moving through my bones. Hard to stop myself—sometimes it takes running to the edge of a horizon, to where I can’t tell whether that one thin coin I tossed was a dime or the moon. I can see in my mind’s eye the doorstep: I’m so weak from this fading illness, from the relief of return. I steady myself with a hand on the entryway. The porch light’s on.
Adam Jackson, "Tall Grass at Night"
I’m too close to the ground to see where this all landed, but still I’m pushing through sharp tall grass, sniffing the air for a trace of burnt metal in the dark. Was it a bottle rocket or a meteorite? Smoke rises dark against dark, then an even deeper dark, a hole arms-width into which my shadow drops. I flatten, belly down on bent sedge, and pull towards the edge: look in, look down, where a disc the size of the moon shines back, black as obsidian, reflecting stars.
So many purpose-filled creatures here clustered together along the stalled line of their own stories, shuffling, not quite touching each other. And then above, alongside, a cabbage white butterfly spirals up next to me, lifting my eyes and heart skyward.
A red-spotted toad, from The Western Ecological Research Center
A small velvet beanbag lands on my ankle: it’s a toad, tiny delicate thing, who promptly hops off and into the grass. Another evening, it’s a house gecko who falls on my arm as I walk into the house with a load
of groceries. Those touches give such unlikely gifts. They weave my frayed attention into a single strand of webbing on which I slackline, wobble, slowly stand and balance beneath the moon, hold still until it drifts.