On my walk yesterday, the one down the canyon trail to the river, my knees threaten to buckle on the steep decline, I saw a large swallowtail butterfly. Brown and yellow with layered bars or hyphens, like someone hiding in the bush wearing a mask. I have never seen one like this before. It fluttered only a yard or two from me. Of course, I thought of Melinda who dreamed she had become a butterfly weeks before she died. Here in my sliver of wild where the spring rains have produced a foliage so thick it is almost dark—the deep dark woods.
I am only a quarter mile walk from the streets of the new subdivision, but for a moment I allow myself to think I am somewhere else, somewhere deep.
I sip my coffee. It has grown cold and bland, so I will pour myself another cup. I am barefoot. Grounded on a mat. I continue to read Jane Kenyon—Donald Hall’s difficult second wife, I read. She would be difficult. It’s the nature of our species, I would think. God seems to find us difficult—that’s what hell is for, I was told as a boy. I take a breath.
I watch the news for a minute or two. The president is talking about the casualties on D-Day. “There are these guides. They call them guides,” he says.
I am a wizard, the poet says, but not a guide. I don’t know where the hell I am going, so how can I guide anyone. History has been assassinated, so what could I tell you that wouldn’t shift under our feet during the telling. But there’s no one to blame for it, because blame would suggest a cause and effect narrative. A thread clinging to the real. There is no real.
I leave the butterfly behind and continue down the trail until I get to the swollen river. It has rained for more than forty days. We are treading water.
Connie writes me yesterday, smiling at the notion of my losing weight, buying a “dapper” outfit, and wearing it to HEB. I would wear it to the opera, I might have said. Here we have HEB instead. Anne writes me about how reading Jane Kenyon helped her to write her own poetry. Winston writes to tell me about Donald Hall’s memoirs. Scott writes to tell me he has given away hundreds of copies of Kenyon’s A Hundred White Daffodils. Mark tells me we missed a Morisot exhibition in Dallas. Kicking myself for missing this. Diana writes. Matt writes. I am not alone, the poet whispers to himself.
But there are times when it still feels so very much alone, he admits. The butterfly flutters in front of me, and I wait for the metaphor. A butterfly is sometimes only a butterfly.
I sip my coffee. A refreshed cup.
Yesterday, we dropped off warranty deeds at the water company. I filled out a few forms, signed away some portion of my life, earned the right to live another day. I will need to do something useful today—this need for utility.
I take a breath. Single breath meditation.
Meditation was frowned on by the authorities of my old school. Something about being a challenge to the church. I mutter something under my breath even I don’t quite hear. I take another breath.
Sometimes I think I am still eleven years old. Whoever the person I am inside, hasn’t really changed all that much since eleven, I want to say, but then I know too many people who would agree.