It was like the moment when a bird decides not to eat from your hand, and flies, just before it flies, the moment the rivers seem to still and stop because a storm is coming, but there is no storm, as when a hundred starlings lift and bank together before they wheel and drop, very much like the moment, driving on bad ice, when it occurs to you your car could spin, just before it slowly begins to spin, like the moment just before you forgot what it was you were about to say, it was like that, and after that, it was still like that, only all the time.
From The Good Thief. Copyright © 1988 by Marie Howe. Reprinted by permission of Persea Books, Inc., New York.
My friend Michael and I are walking home arguing about the movie. He says that he believes a person can love someone and still be able to murder that person. I say, No, that’s not love. That’s attachment. Michael says, No, that’s love. You can love someone, then come to a day when you’re forced to think “it’s him or me” think “me” and kill him. I say, Then it’s not love anymore. Michael says, It was love up to then though. I say, Maybe we mean different things by the same word. Michael says, Humans are complicated: love can exist even in the murderous heart. I say that what he might mean by love is desire. Love is not a feeling, I say. And Michael says, Then what is it? We’re walking along West 16th Street—a clear unclouded night—and I hear my voice repeating what I used to say to my husband: Love is action, I used to say to him. Simone Weil says that when you really love you are able to look at someone you want to eat and not eat them. Janis Joplin says, take another little piece of my heart now baby. Meister Eckhardt says that as long as we love images we are doomed to live in purgatory. Michael and I stand on the corner of 6th Avenue saying goodnight. I can’t drink enough of the tangerine spritzer I’ve just bought— again and again I bring the cold can to my mouth and suck the stuff from the hole the flip top made. What are you doing tomorrow? Michael says. But what I think he’s saying is “You are too strict. You are a nun.” Then I think, Do I love Michael enough to allow him to think these things of me even if he’s not thinking them? Above Manhattan, the moon wanes, and the sky turns clearer and colder. Although the days, after the solstice, have started to lengthen, we both know the winter has only begun.
From The Kingdom of Ordinary Time by Marie Howe. Copyright © 2008 by Marie Howe. Used by permission of W. W. Norton. All rights reserved.
Crows assemble in the bare elm above our house.
Restless, staring: like souls
who want back in life.
—And who wouldn’t want again
the hot bath after hard work,
with soft canyons of splitting foam;
or the glass of spring water
cold at the mouth?
To be startled by beauty—drops of bright
blood on the snow.
To be radiant.
All morning the crows watch me in the garden
putting in the early onions.
Their bodies look oiled.
Back in, back in,
they shake the wooden rattles.
Copyright © 2020 by Jenny George. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 19, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.