Inside the pages of night’s book

I wake in the evenings in this season of my life, an hour or two after the sun has gone down. I sit at the desk at night, and I lie back down as the sun climbs up the sky. I wake in the supple arms of a darkness distinct from every other darkness that has come before it, so why should I, and how could I, stay the same, as if I am not subject to the same law that keeps the seasons changing? The law of invisible evidence tells me I too am distinct, but not separate. No space exists between my essence and the presence of night, for I rest inside the pages of night’s book. It is a good night to stay within these lines.

Crickets at Midnight

I want to write something tonight
that will be remembered.
I don’t want to be forgotten.
I don’t want to forget
what crickets sound like

in the Virginia summer.
I do want to stop wishing
I had someone to hold tonight,
but my body doesn’t care
what I want or don’t want.

I hear the crickets.
You know what they sound like.
Do I need to tell you everything?
No. I want to tell you one thing
and then fall into a dreamless sleep.

I want to speak the truth of my heart,
but don’t you dare tell me to speak.
I don’t make it a habit to be told things.
I let the crickets speak for me.
They do a good job.

I’m up past my bedtime
but not ready to sleep yet.
I’m not ready to die either.
Death doesn’t care
if I speak the truth of my heart

or if I never speak again.
And life? Life speaks for itself.
I’ll speak for this self, alone
in this dark room, listening.
I don’t feel the presence of God.

I’m not thinking of anyone
I once knew nor of those
I’ll know in the future.
I’m here. Of course, I want more
than what is here, so I suffer.

I don’t want to be forgotten, and so
I suffer more. But I won’t forget
what’s here: the crickets here
that I hear from outside the window.
And there is no one who can tell me—

tell this small, suffering, forgettable self—
that hearing this music on a July night
does not make me proud
to be an ear, and glad
to be alive.

“Not Yet Midnight”

This cabin is a mess, clothes and books strewn about, but I can’t imagine cleaning it.
There have been nights when the music of crickets has brought me to tears;
Tonight I look back on my weeping with pitiless scorn,
And I look on my despair with detached indifference.
My pain feels like it belongs to someone else who I don’t even know well.

I remember nights when I’ve roamed the town, looking for music to dance to,
And the wild-eyed despair of drunks I do not know has filled my heart with tears.
I can no longer weep for the pain of someone I do not even know,
I can no longer feel that anyone belongs anywhere,
I can no longer listen to the sounds of night and feel silence deep within me.

It is Friday, not yet midnight.
If I went down to town I could probably find a place to dance for an hour or two.
In fifty years I won’t be able to dance like I can now; Maybe I will not be able
To dance at all. If I am living, I hope I will not be speaking.
These are the thoughts that came just now when I thought about dancing.

I want to feel that everyone belongs somewhere,
I want to listen to the sounds of night and feel silence reverberate all through me,
I want to weep for the pain of all the ones I do not know and will never understand.
I remember evenings when I’ve sat naked on Spruce Mountain, looking down on town,
And the sun going down on me has filled my heart with glowing laughter.

“Plant of No Name”

I look at a plant for a class I take.
At first I see nothing but green.

All I see is green; yet I feel nothing
green growing within me.
There is only green on the outside,
shadow on the inside,
and space in between.

I look closer at the plant,
looking at it now not for a class I take,
looking out and looking in.
I look at nothing but I look within.

The sun is on its way down.
The plant as it faces me sits in shadow,
the opposite side sits lit up by the sun.
When the sun is on its way up,
the side facing me could be lit,
the side opposite me could be in shadow.

What is lit by morning may fade into shadow
by night.
What is obscured in shadow by night may be lit
by morning.

In the morning,
in those hours before the day begins
and before the people awake,
I am lit and obscured
by shadows in the twilight.

Perhaps wakefulness in the world works in this way:
The less people awake, the more wakefulness present,
the more wakeful those who do not sleep.

But this plant I look at
as I look in—
this plant is always wakeful,
though half of it is now in shadow,
though half of it is now in light.

Wakeful yet still,
this plant that does not blow in the wind
as much as its neighbors,
being wide and short in stature.

Wakeful yet still, and at rest,
but never dull, never colorless.
Brimming with color:
Now a soft and subtle brown at the base,
now a fierce and passionate red at the stem,
now an alive and sunlit green in the leaves.

To be brimming with color,
yet remain still;
To abound in light,
yet remain boundless in shadow;
To be unknown,
yet remain unique and one’s own:

That is to be
like this plant, the name of which
I do not know.