I go to church every Sunday though I don’t believe a word of it, because the longing for God is a prayer said in the bones. When people call on Jesus I move to a place in the body where such words rise, one of the valleys where hope pins itself to desire; we have so much landscape like that you’d think we were made to sustain a cry. When the old men around me lift their hands as though someone has cornered them, giving it all away, I remember a dock on the estuary, watching a heron get airborne against the odds. It’s the transitional moment that baffles me— how she composes her rickety grocery cart of a body to make that flight. The pine siskin, stalled on a windy coast, remembers the woods she will long for when needs arise; so the boreal forest composes itself in my mind: first as a rift, absence, then in a tumble of words undone from sense, like the stutter you hear when somebody falls over the cliff of language. Call it a gift.
Portrait of Madame Monet on Her Deathbed
Monet confided to his journal, "All the while she was dying, I could not stop painting her face."
—Monet at Vétheuil
He will paint her again as grain;
now she is fog
the chantilly fog of the Seine:
avoiding no hint of the slow dissolve,
the bandage around her jaw,
rigor's cramp at the lip,
how death abraded and hollowed her,
while he remembered light.
Had he a failed heart
or a wholly transfigured eye
that knew her tonight as water
convulsion and sky?
that stared through layers of the body
at more than it took to die?