Monday, September 2, 2013

Late Summer Storm, Time, and Xu Bing's Phoenix

Xu Bing, Phoenix


Late summer thunder storm. Lying in bed beside Moses, half asleep, half sleeping, half nursing and singing, the thunder rings and when the lightning flashes through the trees I am again reminded of the way that I feel my entire life exists unspooling not in linear fashion, but like water moving and expanding and filling this present with what has passed and perhaps—though I cannot say—what will be.

The lightning flashes and the outline of the leaves on the tree in the yard, the tree just beyond the window, imprint in memory, summer at the lake cabin in Northern Minnesota and my Auntie Kris with her poof of hair and flamboyant maternal love, her sunflower seeds and cigarettes. It flashes and Moses curls into me and I press on with my singing—a crackling, nasal sound only beloved by a child of his mother. I think of the awful pain of time and the way—I heard a poet say this today on the radio—myth connects us to eternity. I think of the part of me that would somehow prefer a life as a hermit in the woods, though with a family, with children. How much I love children and never knew until I had my own and my sisters had theirs and they clung to my side with their sticky hands and hot breath and whispers. Their voices so sweet, one might cry over them.  

And then sometimes I think of the depth of my inner life before I had a child, a husband, an incessant need to clean, keep house, make money. I think of the way I lived in collusion with poets, and how their words spoke to me in my bones, my organs, my skin, the ends of my fingers, my hair—in the place that we go when we stand at the window with the lightning so near and the thunder booming (finally the downpour that will lift this humidity so that we can all get back to work and quit walking around like zombies).

Mostly I regret the loss of time in this way: there was the time I lived in that one apartment all alone and really I was devastated by loneliness but it allowed me to enter into books and words and thoughts and ideas so deeply that I lived in another world and yet that world was this world, only the best of it. And the time when I was a child and I played in the woods and I told myself that I would grow up and become a grown-up, but that I must never forget what it was like to be a child. But of course I did, because to be a child is to live free of worry—I know, this is sort of a privilege and not every child gets to live this way, but I do think it has something to do with not yet comprehending the boring game that the grown-ups have created with life, working and paying the bills and worrying about this and that. And the time this summer when we all sat around on the beach watching the toddler-babies play and running after them and feeling exhausted from the heat and from taking care of the babies with all their wonderfully complex needs—that time, yes, I miss it tonight.

I think too of the wedding we attended just a few days ago, of my dear friend from graduate school and her sweet, sweet love, married in the Mass Moca. We all ate dinner under Xu Bing’s Phoenix birds, lit up and hanging, the size of large sail boats, made completely of scraps found in construction sites in urban China. Moses running beneath them, tossing his toy horses and yelling “giddy-up,” breaking a plate as we all—my writer friends and I—ate breakfast for dinner because Sarah is yes, that amazing that she would have breakfast as her wedding supper.


And then the storm quiets and Moses sleeps and I kiss his cheek and my husband’s cheek and go into the kitchen and eat some ice cream and listen to the silence and think of all the other silences, and all the other landscapes that weave in and out through my mind at any given moment, in time. But the Phoenix, my god, it was brilliant to see. 

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