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.

“The Night”

The absence of people,
often a blessing,
seems more like a hardship
on this clear cold night.

There’s no one here
to distract me from my condition,
to alleviate the tension,
to come between me and the silence,
me and the emptiness,
me and the night.

The night and me:
that’s all I see.
The night and
me, trying to put this night into words,
trying to put myself into words:
to mold beauty out of pain,
inspiration out of frustration,
the distinct out of the same.

There’s no one here to come between me and the night,
but yet there is something between us.
There’s no one here to come between me and the night.
No one, that is,
but me.

There’s no one here
in the night
but me.

“The Whole”

One thousand feet above town,
too far away to hear the music and dancing of Saturday night,
there is almost complete silence,
save for the swaying of tall trees in the gentle breeze.
An unnamed sadness is present amidst the entertainment downtown,
while an unnamable joy is present here
in the silent night,
here where the moon’s light
shines through cobwebs and into cabins.
It is a good night to be alive
and to be awake.
I close my eyes and feel
both the unnamed sadness
and the silent, unnamable joy.
I feel the restless yearning of the drinkers and dancers downtown
as I watch the calm way the tall trees with immovable trunks sway.
Why be one or the other, either calm or restless?
I am restless and I am calm,
I sway like the trees and I dance like the wild,
I move with a vital force and I am immovable.
The calm, still being within respects the restless, seeking one,
and the restless one who seeks
respects the still one who accepts.
Neither demands to be sole inhabitant,
neither claims to encapsulate the soul.
Each needs the other in order
to be included in the whole.
The restless one yearns for the whole to be expressed
in one passionate movement,
one intuitive line,
while the still one looks on with an invisible glow,
blessed with knowledge beyond expression
and wisdom beyond time.
Above town and in town,
there is yearning and there is the yearned for,
there is stillness and there is restlessness,
there is underlying sadness and there is overarching joy.
I go out and look up at the sky.
Neither darkness nor light covers the whole stretch of sky.
There is the blackness of night and there is the light
from the moon and stars.
Each needs the other in order
to be included in the whole.