The Wind Gatherer

by Tanner Howard

A Pecha Kucha

In the back of the sun there is a door like a mousehole
That the wind is kept in. There is enough of it there
To level the world like sandpaper. Do not ask how I know this.
I would have to tell you about the stillness of dreams, 
About the names of changing things, the quiet ways things fall apart.

I first met the Wind Gatherer outside my Mother’s library
Leaning into the sun, whispering to the leaves,
Coaxing them from their hushed, still greens
Into passionfruit blood, the sad oranges of stars.
When he left, the colors followed him like footprints.

When I was a child, I would spend months
Waiting for Autumn. I left a box of raisins
On my grandfather’s grave once. It stayed all Winter.
When spring came, weeds sprouted out it’s sides.
When a squirrel ate it in Autumn, I waited for Winter again.

I cannot say anything was ever taken from me.
The wind never took what he was not given.
Yet tragedy always followed the Gatherer
As closely as his color. I lost much before we spoke.

It took me thirteen years to find the Gatherer.
I had chased his color through sleeping mountains
Of dreams, oceans of trapped language. Yet I found
Him only as a passing glance, a hushed breath
Over the white roses I left for the people I loved.

I can remember my mother’s face when she told me
Not to write poetry. You need money, she said,
Looking at me as if I were a pot of ramen
She was afraid might boil over. Then, I worry.
She said it looking past me, like a prayer. I worry.

I almost wish that I had been broken sooner.
It is difficult to embrace the wind without knowing
How to die. It’s like learning how to fly
Without first learning which side up the world is.

Yes, I did find the Gatherer. We spoke only once.
He was consoling a hospice nurse with the sound
Of birds. He was an old man then, leaning into the sun.
The sun was withered too. Old, like a peeled grape.
We stood together in silence.

I have heard there is a place where broken things go
Before they are lost. Where children’s toys are piled like
God sized carns, old sewing needles, dead batteries, the like.
When You went looking for it, I knew better than to go
After you. But sometimes, I could still wish I had.

Come close! I have testament to give. The wise
Will listen. Do not go chasing the Wind Gatherer.
Lifetimes have I wasted with only prayers to eat,
Wind to drink. Only fools and poets leave their homes
To chase what is tamed, to claim what is already lost.

I too have cried aloud to him, whispered in short, breathy gasps
The songs strung between absences, heavy in bent silence.
He answered with the shivering and pregnant length of God
Between the blades of grass and the wind that shakes them.

Above all things the Gatherer is good.
When the plagues come, the famine, the floods
Or the bombs, when screams chew like locust
Through the minds of the living, who is left
But the wind? To sate the fires? To clean the soul?

But who am I to tell you anything? Only a Calamint
Blooming through the cracks of a broken sidewalk,
A lover’s whisper in an ocean of screaming.
Do not mistake me. I am a vacancy. Not a refuge.

Sometimes I too do not understand what I’m saying,
When I’m writing only to fill myself, to figure out
The colors of my own soul. I’m a song, not a poem,
A hummed tune to keep away the boredom of living.

I asked him why is it man must suffer. Why he was
Made to seek warmth, while the stars do not know cold.
What is the meaning of entropy, the purpose of rust?
Has God grown weary of creating? Does He, too, think
Sometimes of death? Of color? Of wind?

The president does not believe in the Gatherer.
Rulers rarely do. They stand together in the shadows
Of their empires and get drunk off trade winds
and tales of strength. Yet he does not believe.
The Gatherer understands. Faith is a liquid thing.

In Maine, I thought I had the Gatherer cornered
Between Gorham Mountain and the sea.
But he slipped away across the stone beaches, stood
Like stray teeth against the salt-ebony tongues of water.

I have heard a shooting star is only
God’s tears, when he is crying over his children.
I thought He was crying for me once,
But it was a satellite searching for cleaner skies.

And so the wind passes. I have nothing
More to say. What words could be bled to end
Withering, to scrape away the rust from the world?
Only this: When the wind fades, remember the Gatherer.

When I left him, he told me only one thing.
His mouth was the cracked of a lost desert, of having
Stared too long into the sun, his spring river eyes
Slowing with a touch of frost. But he told me one thing.
        The wind, too, grows tired.

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