Each man is a half-open door leading to a room for everyone. —Tomas Tranströmer
My friends say Tolstoy really got into the heads of his female characters. They give him credit. They talk dreamily of the books they love, books so long only two will make a whole course. This seems to me like making twelve gallons of chili and eating nothing else till it’s gone, but I smile and listen. My friends are smarter than me and more patient, surely. I’m the only guy in the house tonight so I get my own room with a good foam mattress, a bad desk, windows that open on other rooms. I make up the bed and lie down with Tranströmer’s poems, ten or twenty lines on a page, fewer words in fifty years than Tolstoy or George Eliot put down in a decent work week. Every man is a half-open door.
The door to my room is cracked open, lights blaze outside. My friends are all upstairs. If I don’t shut the light off, no one will. The wind will settle toward morning, the waves begin again to spell their single complicated word. Waiting for the ferry we watched a hawk try to lift a four-foot snake from the shallows, drop it, circle, swoop and grab again and lose its grip and veer away. Oh, how sweet would that meat have been, how grand a feast, how we would have cracked and sucked the bones, how long we could have made that story last.
There must be a sutra that fits this mess: lumps of melting snow —markers of impermanence. Once the unspoiled beauty of fields of cotton, ski slope, starlit sky—now shoveled and ploughed, siphoned inward by sun and gravity. Old snow with all the elegance of gun-metal helicopter blades churning overhead. Soot-smudge tattoos on berms of it, foot-stomped reminders of imperfection, dirty laundry.
Only listen for hymn-licks in the slap of slush from tires, birdsong layered in like a gospel round. Then join in, scanning twigs of gray-barked trees for bud sprits— that first portent of spring.
I don’t tell you how much it matters to me that you are my friend. I’ll never tell you, bluntly and face to face. I can’t summon words That way. They only come to my fingers occasionally if I’m silent And give up thinking. Our fingers are a lot smarter than we know. Like today when my fingers want to say something like: your gifts To me have been ears and humor. We speak some strange language That few other people speak. I don’t know why that’s so. It’s surely An accident. It’s not like we set out to find each other in the tumult Of this sweet wilderness. But we did somehow. You can put names On the finding if you want. The names all mean the same thing. An Old name is Providence, which is another way to say God, which is A way to say We Have No Idea How, But We Are Aware of Grace. There are more names for God than we’ll ever know, and one is you.