Darkness (and light)

I’m surrounded by darkness:
The darkness of aging, sickness, stagnation, chronic pain, fatigue.
The darkness of war, famine, plague.
anger. neglect. hurt. ignorance. laziness. fear.
The darkness of this dreary, god-forsaken city.

The mirror is desilvering,
The retina peeling away.

I crave light. But no light I can find suffices.
It’s a different sun than when I was younger.
Even when it shows, I look into the thin, peeling sky and feel the cold, dark black pressing in on this small planet, where scant rays fleetingly percolate and then are lost.

Even that younger light of earlier times begins to seem darker to me now.
Those blue skies were surely blue and cold, and even then were at work sucking up the warmth we felt–were we there now, we wouldn’t feel warm.
How, indeed, could any bright, warm thing truly exist?

But here are light and warmth inside me.
I see only glimpses and flickerings now,
But I feel the warmth of a true light:
The light of expanding, opening, unknotting, understanding.
The light of resolution, of opening up paths lost to the vast darkness of ignorance, fear, and presumption, where the light of a thousands suns could not penetrate.
The light of pure being, washing over the hurt, sick, and afraid legions within me.

In the end, my body and mind will give in to corruption and darkness.
These hotly pursue me, too often have their way with me.
But before the end, might I be rent wide open.
Might enlightenment reach every corner of my body and seep from my pores.
Might my light linger in the peeling retinas of my children when the darkness finally overtakes me.


I don’t want to have something, so much as to want something. Let’s just start there.

To want something in a way that’s severe, intense, even uncomfortable. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

You knew how to do it once, when you were a child. To want a cookie, a toy, whatever your sibling had that you didn’t. Admit it: that kicking, screaming child wants to stay at the playground for 5 more minutes with more intensity than you would want a $1M in a briefcase if I held it under your nose.

Wants, as it turns out, are quite inconvenient. You learn, in time, that acting on many of your wants alienates you from friends, peers, family, the law. Maybe your wants come to be accompanied with a deep and pernicious guilt. Or maybe you simply can’t get the thing you want, no matter how much you try. And holding an incessant, immediate, childlike want in tension with these realities can become its own particular form of agony.

Who could blame you for thinking it was the wants which were the problem? Who did anything but nod in approval as you progressively suppressed and banished the pesky devils.

But look at you now. Look what you did… Your wants—the poor ostracized things—are hardly alive. And hardly alive are you. “Death to self!” That was what you cried, as you sat on top of that one particularly vivacious want until its wrigglings slowly ceased. What did you expect?

That’s how you learned the truth about wants: the agony is merely the price you pay for something far more dear.

Now you’re ready to embrace the agony and want with abandon. And so am I. Maybe we won’t have what we want, but let’s let that be something to kick and scream about.

I want you to write me a letter. A good one.

Every day, your world is larger still—yet smaller.

Your boundaries expand at a breathtaking rate, enveloping new words, sights, sounds, and feelings. You see further, feel deeper, know more.

Yet, with each new word, sight, sound, and feeling, you make your world smaller, collapsing the infinity of the unknown into the singularity of that which has been seen, felt, tasted, named.

Never larger was your earth than before the day you saw the globe. On the day that you master the wheels and the streets and the wings, your horizons jetting out into the distance, it will be nearing its smallest. No longer a sleepy passenger winking in and out of geographical existence at unknown points of an incalculable vastness: you will know every mile.

One day, when your world is larger but smaller, you will find that you must journey far to escape the cage of the familiar and mine deep to drink of the newness on which your curiosity and imagination now feed.

Then you will look back on your once small world and marvel.

On Time

I’m haunted with the sights and feelings of another place and time. The thread which connects me to those days finally has one too many knots to let anything but permeable memories through.

The great diaspora: Even the ghosts have moved on. None but the ground itself remain to share in remembering. But the ground has burned. It has forgotten.

So you gather up the memories: The ones you kept in that car that was finally junked. The ones you kept in the house that has never been seen again. The ones you left scattered along the trail. The ones that you entrusted to the people who moved away. The ones in the cupboard, the ones in the messy drawer. All of them. Those places are too far away; they’re no longer safe.

Keep the memories with you, inside, out of the rain. When one of them tries to find its way out, back to that other place, gently remind: You might not like it there. The weather has changed. The cat is dead. Those people moved away.


Hardly the sort of thing you want to talk about.

If it weren’t for these conversations with you, I’d probably never have dared to imagine…

Blingle, zip, zurch.

Go ahead, say it.

Alright, here it is:

She is a flock of starlings, floating, billowing, pulsing. Never settling. Always finding new patterns and configurations. Diffuse more than water but not beyond vapor.

What thought may persist in these writhing folds and fomenting currents? What sober knowing hardens beneath?

She knows only this: No, she cannot even speak it. She cannot cast it into a mold of words. Indeed, she only knows it in part.

In fact, knowing is not hard and firm. Rather, it is tenuous and giving. It is a multiplicity of glances of glints from the wings of the starlings. Though each may in turn wink away, the overpowering force of the knowledge remains, reassuring her of the truth. And here is what it tells her: nothing. Nothing at all.

So, she flits on.