This is a poem about enlightenment.
No, I lied. It’s probably just a poem about Sonia
the concierge, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.
Sonia is a mystery to me. One day I noticed
she was wearing a silver necklace with a Sanskrit
symbol on it. There were two swirled, rolling letters.
Maybe OM. So Sonia does yoga, I thought, adding this
to my mental inventory of Sonia. That would explain
her toned forearms (I noticed when she handed me
a package the other day). Sonia never says much
other than to comment on the sun or lack thereof,
so I have to make do with what I can.
I once read that OM appears at the beginning
and end of Sanskrit prayers, but that it’s impossible
to translate. They say it’s the sound that contains
everything. The Ultimate Reality. Atman, Brahman.
Self. Universe. So it’s mystic and bright but also
difficult to understand, like Sonia.
Sonia is the beginning and end of my workday,
but I hardly know anything about her. I know
that she wears grey earbuds and sometimes
reads magazines, and that she (probably)
does yoga. Maybe she burns candles. Sonia seems
like a candle type, if I may venture to label her.
It’s easier to condense people into labels.
Otherwise we’re just too big. I once read
that egos keep us safe, like plastic wrap
on vegetables. So we draw neat little lines
around who we are by thinking and doing.
Sonia takes yoga classes (I think), reads
glossy magazines and wears a silver necklace.
Other people play crossword puzzles and wear
purple dresses, or drink martinis and have families.
Maybe every now and then, if we’re lucky,
we catch a glimpse of something bigger –
an open smile, that golden glow just above
our skin, the knowing embrace of a familiar song.
I wonder what kind of music Sonia listens to. Like I said,
Sonia is a mystery to me.
After Kindness, by Naomi Shihab Nye
Before you know Naomi
you must first feel longing.
You must sense the gentle ache
tugging at your skin like a child
on her mother’s skirt. All the cafés
and envelopes, the lampposts
pressed against city streets,
all this must be left behind
so you can hear the tree birds
reaching into the sky of Naomi.
Before you learn the delicate freedom
of Naomi, you must walk
where the women in thin shawls
hold vigil by the river.
You must step off trains
in lands with no names
where little girls hold open
their hands asking for lullabies.
Before you understand Naomi
as warmth, you must first know cold.
You must float in it until your raft lands
on a barren shore and your fingers
can no longer grasp the oars.
Then it is only Naomi
that makes sense anymore,
only Naomi who opens the door
as you enter the room of this world,
only Naomi who walks ahead of you
on the curving path and turns to say
It is I you have been seeking,
and then leads you forward
like a heartbeat or a teacher.
Aiyana can speak to things.
but also spider webs
and the moths in the closet.
Aiyana knows where the purple loosestrife grows
and how to hold the fragile strands of light
in her left hand,
but who can she give them to?
Aiyana has yet to translate
the meaning of sand.
It can’t be galaxy,
Perhaps it has to do with the way
the grass asks for rain
or the color of loosestrife at night.
Perhaps it’s ballad,
Maybe it’s laughter.
but the words
are too similar.
It’s not easy to translate
the wild dialects of branches –
but the willow is persistent
in its whisper, and Aiyana
There are a thousand ways to worship Vivian.
Head bent, hands open to the dawn,
kneeling in the grass as the finches
begin their psalms. Or deep in the river,
baptized by a barren mother’s hand.
How the water trickles between your breasts
as the leaves drift like boats past the reeds.
Or spinning with fireflies beneath the willow,
your bare feet painted with earth.
Scatter rose petals, if you must,
but know that Vivian cannot be gathered
or dusk. Perhaps you can leave
a bowl of milk on the windowsill,
or a reed flute hanging above the bed.
You needn’t play it.
Vivian understands the melody
The recklessness of Becky
I can only speculate
as to the circumstances
that led Becky
to lose her reck.
it was February
after a quibble
with Mrs. Brixton.
There may have been
a wicked flash
Becky’s thin thread
of reck snapped
like a speckled fish.
There are others
who believe Becky
on midsummer’s eve
and that she was blessed
with a special breath
of abandon –
rebellious as the
for Brixton’s bakery,
and no matter
try to gather her
into a pleated skirt
or decorous reflection,
Becky simply can’t
Her reck is hidden
between the moon
and the heather,