In fields of bush clover and hay-scent grass the autumn moon takes refuge The cricket's song is gold Zeshin's loneliness taught him this Who is coming? What will come to pass, and pass? Neither bruise nor sweetness nor cool air not-knowing knows the way And the moon? Who among us does not wander, and flare and bow to the ground? Who does not savor, and stand open if only in secret taking heart in the ripening of the moon? (Shibata Zeshin, Autumn Grasses, two-panel screen)
What little I know, I hold closer, more dear, especially now that I take the daily reinvention of loss as my teacher. I will never graduate from this college, whose M.A. translates “Master of Absence,” with a subtext in the imperative: Misplace Anything. If there’s anything I want, it’s that more people I love join the search party. You were once renowned among friends for your luck in retrieving from the wayside the perfect bowl for the kitchen, or a hand carved deer, a pencil drawn portrait of a young girl whose brimming innocence still makes me ache. Now the daily litany of common losses goes like this: Do you have your wallet, keys, glasses, gloves, giraffe? Oh dear, I forgot my giraffe—that’s the preferred response, but no: it’s usually the glasses, the gloves, the wallet. The keys I’ve hidden. I’ve signed you up for “safe return” with a medallion (like a diploma) on a chain about your neck. Okay, today, this writing, I’m amused by the art of losing. I bow to Elizabeth Bishop, I try “losing faster”—but when I get frantic, when I’ve lost my composure, my nerve, my patience, my compassion, I have only what little I know to save me. Here’s what I know: it’s not absence I fear, but anonymity. I remember taking a deep breath, stopped in my tracks. I’d been looking for an important document I had myself misplaced; high and low, no luck yet. I was “beside myself,” so there may have indeed been my double running the search party. “Stop,” you said gently. “I’ll go get Margaret. She’ll know where it is.” “But I’m Margaret,” I wailed. “No, no.” You held out before me a copy of one of my books, pointing to the author’s photograph, someone serious and composed. “You know her. Margaret Gibson, the poet.” We looked into each others’ eyes a long time. The earth tilted on its axis, and what we were looking for, each other and ourselves, took the tilt, and we slid into each others’ arms, holding on for dear life, holding on.