8 Years of Solitude
“What if he's not your dog?”
Anna asks at the dog park.
“He'll become my dog.”
Rob and I get cheeseburgers
at Olneyville New York system
around the corner from my office.
He'll hardly speak, but he says
he's just calm from the reiki, so
I try not to pester him—instead
I wonder if we are all aliens,
accounting for the extreme
detachment from the non-human life
on this planet or language difficulties—
like Rob, for instance, talking about the superior
civilization he's thinking of—people
who live for centuries and communicate
telepathically and are sun worshipers.
I don't have that kind of advanced
narrative for my people. It seems
he is thinking in pictures right now,
but they will simply not transmit to me.
If only we could just draw comic books
for one another . . . or if I could remember
something about my origins, how I became
stranded here, what I need to be looking
for if I hope to identify others of my kind.
Back when I was studying the deliberation
of the skunk to counter my over-defensiveness,
it seemed the text informed me I was entering
eight years of solitude. That seemed unbearable
at the time, but I only have 2 years left.
I suppose we both know by now that no one
is returning for us and the best thing to do is
become immersed in our field work.
By nightfall, his mood has darkened
considerably. “I'm too old. I never should have
tried filmmaking.” You must keep taking notes,
I think, why else did you come here with such big eyes?
Plus, does anything else make you happy at all?
When my dog arrives, I will try my best
to minimize his past. I hate those people who say
“he was abused” so dramatically, in hushed tones.
“Hector” means “hold fast” which he has done.
He should not need to remain a victim. Maybe
I can see how he does it—wakes into
another day of this earth's yellow light.
Learn a Story
And I was so jealous when I heard on the radio
about computers watching movies. That must
be stunning, putting it all together like Eve eating
knowledge.. Imagine a computer plodding through
it's first dim conception of human emotion, narrative
arc, as if it were a horse driving a mill, plodding,
moving, an organic thing and a mechanism.
And I immediately wished that I was watching a movie,
any movie—maybe the first movie I ever saw,
Tron, stunned at the way the human was digitized
into the game, where programs appeared in the form
of their human designers and I had so many questions,
because I was only 5. Only just beginning to feel
like an organic part in a complex mill, driven
by the motion of us all and the countermotion as well,
and of course, the reaction to the countermotion,
echoing down into hardly felt vibrations whose outcome
could in no way be foreseen. I didn't imagine you could
grow into your harness, that it could embed in your skin,
that you could plod one circle for so long that actually
stopping would open up the ache in your body.
That you might look at the sky or the open pasture almost
confused, like a computer that was taught to watch movies,
but hadn't yet. And then it did. And was it like the horse
that drove the mill, but wasn’t of it? Or was it free,
like a work animal released to leisure? And is that what
freedom feels like? Leisure? Or does the horse want
to do its job like the computer wants to watch movies,
before it even knows what that is, to watch a movie, to eat
knowledge, to learn a story and another, to light up
inside, to be exiled from other machines forever.
Right now it’s just me and my blue sweatshirt
with the old school metal zipper and a bowl
of perfect short-grained rice, so starchy you can eat
with your fingers. If there was a knocking—
say, a relative—I'd probably say no, sorry, no
admittance. No, Polish grandmother. And she’d
stand there, the corners of her mouth dragged way
down until I shut the door in her face. Maybe a pooka
I could handle, a black dog or a hob, a reason to keep
the fire going. I’m sorry, Grandmother, I am selective
about family in poems. A black dog will help you
if you ask, but no one, not even the fey, is allowed in
without an invitation. I am a little like you, though,
I know. I put on the milk to heat for yogurt and
light a Mary candle and play the hymns to Brigit
which honor her Pagan form and her new one
too. Brigit was of the hearth. The goddess of
fire and smithing and poetry. I don’t know if you
see, but smithing goes on all day here, where I live.
The hammers chime away and it is a secret beauty.
You too loved horses. You too called life from the
Earth. And endlessly revised. One looks at one’s
work and sees only the damn quackgrass and wood
sorrel. You felt so sorry for people in cities, never
imagining they grow gardens, never imagining
what grows untended. Do you know the wild place,
the untouched place is what will draw the fey?
Mullein, aster, wild carrot—I can only name a few
that I see. The visible things come—the bees
thrive on the oregano blossoms, the wasps are thirsty
on a hot day and will drink at any shallow dish of water
one may wish to provide. And it is easy, so easy
to welcome them into the poem. Being uncomplicated,
they do not frighten me.