Inhaling the Song and Exhaling the Prayer

1932435_10202857038883568_1921674410_nI start the day here, browsing, reading. Poems about Persephone, about chains of women and photographs of girls on the beach. There are so many poets, words and lines, images I prop up against like pillows, pillars.

It is Tuesday in the bedroom that faces East, letting in morning sunlight, casting shadows of lamps and shelves on the yellow door. I am allotted one day off during the college’s spring break, and I sit in bed with my coffee, tucked up under a fleece blanket next to my chosen one, who is working. I am obsessed with the songbirds.

The house is quiet but for the moon-faced clock ticking steadily and the sounds of nearby traffic on Chestnut Street. I am reading Mark Doty, his memoir of becoming, Firebird:

“Soul way down in there, little winged me, little shoot, like when you cut open an onion and there’s that new green hidden in the center, wanting to shout its way out, but be careful: lose your body and the soul jumps out, like the little man my grandfather told me jumps out of the log in the fire when you hear that pop–that sound means he’s broken free of the wood that held him.”

And I am reading poems, too. Poems by women I’ve never heard of before and poems by women I know across time and space. It’s cold outside, still so cold. I’m wearing a knitted hat from a consignment shop, and the pajama bottoms my sister gave me. I cross and uncross my ankles, reading Emily Dickinson — 

I’ve got an arrow here
Loving the hand that sent it
I the dart revere

— and Annie Finch, who lives in Maine and whose bird name is new to me, her Changing Woman:

If we change as she is changing,
if she changes as we change

(If she changes, I am changing)

Who is changing, as I bend
down to what the sky has sent us?

(Is she changing, or the same?)

Am I changing? I’ve got an arrow here, and once again am listening for something I cannot hear without silence. On my little desk, the Pothos seems to be looking out the window, Moroccan oil cardamom-scented in a blue bottle, and holy water from Lourdes telling stories of healing, of pilgrimage.

Cherry-red frames on the wall containing moments, gorgeous pregnant mama and black-and-white desert love. Little winged me, little shoot, she who shot out of me and grew and grew, whose pajama bottoms get mixed up with mine now and whose voice wants the whole world as a stage for her becoming.

I write knowing only that I always wanted to be a weaver, warp and weft, deftly nestling disparate moments into something that would drape like heavy comfort over your tightly knit shoulders, forever bending down, looking over, peering into nothing to glimpse something unseen, stillness a sunbeam, a package at the door, a fury of songbirds and bulbs bulging beneath the thaw.

If I know one thing, it must be this. This silence and synthesis, of not having to go anywhere or be anything. There are losses and there are gains, she told me whose name I’ve lost, as I agonized over false choices before circling back to center. She is changing, she is the same.

Released for a day from the draining routine and relaxing my grip on what’s already here, I strain to hear the instructions that always send me back to my seat. Inhaling the song, and exhaling the prayer:

You can’t catch a cardinal,
that cocky flash of red,
or the pair of Chickadees,
cacophonous overhead.
You can’t make the trilling
sound of one without a name,
but you can sit and listen
and say thank you all the same.

3 thoughts on “Inhaling the Song and Exhaling the Prayer

  1. Lillian Stevens says:

    Thanks Jena for these words; they explain this ineffable, new phase of life (retirement) that I’ve just entered perfectly:
    “If I know one thing, it must be this. This silence and synthesis, of not having to go anywhere or be anything. There are losses and there are gains, she told me whose name I’ve lost, as I agonized over false choices before circling back to center. She is changing, she is the same.”

    Like

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