Philosophers have measur’d mountains, Fathom’d the depths of seas, of states, and kings, Walk’d with a staffe to heav’n, and traced fountains: But there are two vast, spacious things, The which to measure it doth more behove: Yet few there are that sound them; Sinne and Love.
Who would know Sinne, let him repair Unto Mount Olivet; there shall he see A man so wrung with pains, that all his hair, His skinne, his garments bloudie be. Sinne is that presse and vice, which forceth pain To hunt his cruell food through ev’ry vein.
Who knows not Love, let him assay And taste that juice, which on the crosse a pike Did set again abroach; then let him say If ever he did taste the like. Love in that liquour sweet and most divine, Which my God feels as bloud; but I, as wine.
Hubble pockets light years, eons, sees eye to eye with dust, a small drop of water. NASA’s robot stalks tiptoe, a cat’s paw on the prowl to report if there is life, beeps back a monument of stone and ice, an unresponsive mountain in orbit. Delicate antennae translate the laws of physics into a mourner’s sigh.
But the frozen droplet, like the sea to a drowning man, whirls its rueful hoard of thanks deferred, of love unvoiced, the pleas of miracles before the eyes, the mystery of the heart, the mind’s Post-it notes: Praise the Lord, Carpe Diem and Memento Mori.
It’s the coat I notice first, several sizes too big, and blue as the sea, an ocean to drown in, and clearly not hers. It was, I guessed, his, just two months dead, and she, his wife for scarcely a year, stays afloat, barely, marooned in his clothes, in anything that keeps him close, the scent and touch of cloth to skin. But it’s the shoes that pierce my heart—gunboats, we called them when I was a child—and they do look like boats, his New Balance sneakers that carry her, heeling, over sharp breaking waves.
The air in my barrio bulges with ash, the remains of dead poets, dried-out painters, and sick-sounding musicians. Skeletons of talento that never found breath.
I sit, estancada, in this hole, condemnation filling me. My dying ideas crinkle and shuffle but no one, not even the flea on a cat’s hairy back, wants them.
Dreams peak in my mind as dusty dirges, polvo floating down Figueroa to settle, abandoned. In a one-room apartment the homeless grow and light fires for the warmth of words I will never write and they will never hear.