Ⓒ Copyright Hugh Miller 2005 -2019
“In the water I am beautiful.” –Kurt Vonnegut
At the lake edge, I am a pilgrim, humble, awkward, almost naked.
I step on rocks, cringing forward, top heavy on bone stilts
Entering, absorbing by inches the inhospitable chill
till the short gasp of getting the shoulders underwater.
With an expansive stroke forward I weigh 30 pounds and I can fly. I possess the wisdom of otters.
I hold myself above the earth, my arms, slow-beating wings.
The perfect hug of water, denser than oil, cool as shadows, absorbs me and every whirring, buzzing problem of the day is gone.
My eyes just above the surface, the subtle plashing mirror shows a downwards liquid earth of sloshing trees, sliding hills, and rippling mountains.
Incapable of error, water sings the real tao
it welcomes your joy
it welcomes your expression of slide and float,
of undulate and wave
I am buoyant, spread-eagle human driftwood, eyes closed with a red landscape glowing on my eyelids.
The lake smells like the top of a babies head, like the bed where your beloved slept;
like the iron in blood;
like dusty ozone on the wind before the thunder.
Afterward, the afterglow, lying in the hot sun on the grass
as happy as a tired dog
and blinking up at the shivering aspen
glittering in the blue sky
In a dream more real than waking,
we were athletes, running true
and dancing hard, till breath was short
and you breathed me and I breathed you
pressed together, holding tight,
the pressure built to a teapot boil, and
off we took! Away we flew!
Plucked and held by the Angel, Eros
flown at mad speeds, swerving through
the sleeping trees, and over
the fields of aster, balsam, thistle, rue*
Faster than suddenly, lifted UP
UP to the highest open-air
and UP over green hill,
we startled the wind, who softened,
and sighed to an evening prayer
all the town spread out below
all the lights, warm loving stars
face to face, our hair askew
our mouths, as one, agape, ajar, said:
God, I hope you see this too!
*Aster, Balsam, and Thistle plants are symbolically associated with great love, Rue is associated with regret.
in this infinite blue-gray ocean of
moments that never were, and moments that never can be
come to me, before the horizon takes you,
come to me in this beautifully flowered raft for the moment that is ours alone,
drink wine with me and close the never away outside, for now.
love each other foolishly and fearlessly,
by the light of the other’s eyes, a graze of soft warm breath
on the cheek,
along the neck,
then tender kisses, deep kisses, and kisses on the smile.
our bodies merge, inside as inside can be,
it is impossible to say
who is farther inside the other
then everything, everything, shakes hard.
the scent of warm skin,
heads touching, hair mingled.
in the quiet,
a shared thought cradles us as one.
sleep close to me then, with your head on my shoulder
and my arm around yours,
we’ll rise and fall on soft waves, embracing…whispering until
the morning sky claims you and carries you away
no plan. no goal.
none of this to make the future
bend along the path of an old sad story that
we never remembered in quite the same way.
we’ll use our always to cut this glowing moment
out of the never.
My love story is laden with unlikeliness, and met with disbelief
I have a mad true tale to tell you, of redeeming love as unlikely and essential as redemption itself
my love is not believable unless you can believe, nor provable unless you test
I want you to see my love for you as I do, as a blessed sea-change in my soul
and linked to God as every truly soulful thing is. It is grace unearned.
My love for you is the overthrowing of small good things for great ones,
My love for you is a revolution against dismal expectations, half hearts and half measures.
There is no controller, no governor of love, it pops like flowers through our tired sidewalks, where it will,
bright petals against gray.
Love is not a zero sum game of losers and winners but the approach to love’s door
is treacherous, as every wounded heart can attest.
There is no science of love, nor organized agencies of love, though some make the claim,
statistics cannot chart it, nor prediction find it, nor expert testimony confirm it.
Love is found not in safety, through exhaustive research, or any collective judgement pro or con,
Love is the end of shopping, of the hard bargain, of grudging and holding out, comparing for the best deal.
Love seems mad to those who do not, and a flat memory of could to those who can’t. Love is the dammed up river
in every human heart.
Love and the magic in it BECOMES when two hearts admit it,
a shared smile cuts an exit from emptiness and two pass through, as the gates to the garden move open,
love calls magic to exist, and you cannot know magic without it
love is the unforbidding of itself. The releasing, revealing, recognizing, and receiving of itself.
Love makes possible both flight, and the ascendant soul.
Love is the heart at last released outside to run and play like joyful dogs along the river trail
Love is restoration, the engine of forgiveness, and the place made ready for peace. The place where differences matter least.
Love is the gravity of life.
Love is the unreserved kiss, it is lust turned sacrament, the unshaming of Adam and Eve, the many economies of joy
love is the absurd, complete undeserved welcome of our truest self by its truest twin,
Love is what mirrors see in themselves.
“Wherever she was, there was Eden” Adam lamenting beside Eve’s grave. – Mark Twain
There is a deep mysterious ocean of strangers.
Everyone we know once rose from its cool depths, just breaking the surface at first,
then growing almost imperceptibly into an island, and finally a settled, mapped territory.
When love fails they become enemy lands or sink once more below the surface,
no longer known, only remembered, then less remembered, a void in the dark ocean.
Some we cry for. Some become home then suddenly collapse, leaving us in ice water a mile deep.
The rarest become Eden and we ourselves, exiles forever.
The Cupid cherub with love’s arrows becomes the cherubim with a flaming sword at the gate who stands down only to God.
Far from paradise, we hold our hand in the fire of memory, because the pain of remembering Eden lost, is better than forgetting Eden.
You are my Eden, my innocence lost, my flowering trees and peaceful beasts, my sweet water, my unknown nakedness, my new world.
We release thousands of people each year into the oblivion of unremembering.
Most without effort, as naturally as snow melts.
A few flicker on and off a while, distant lightning.
I cannot forget you, and I mean to say that it is impossible.
Because you are not a memory, you are part of me.
You are my daily experience though far away and stubbornly mute. My heart outside my body.
I feel your emotions. I feel love, sorrow, fear.
They are mine too, OUR love, sorrow, and fear.
our yearning aches, and answers through the distance between us like the troubled harmony of wolf howls.
When I release you, you do not become enemy land or a sunken void.
You and I are volcanic, rising at a distance from the same boiling sea floor
from the same restless faultline in the fiery earth. When I release you, if anything, you grow.
In the dream:
Our black islands surge and merge, they grow by push and rise by struggle.
Two lost Edens become a mountain, paradise is reborn, and innocence renewed,
beside the sweet water, underneath the flowering trees.
You are where you are going. When you remember where that was.
In the middle of life you found yourself in a dark wood, dazed and shaken,
circling slowly in the reeds, crashed in the ditch beside the road,
or stalled with a dead battery where some cruelty left you broken and alone.
And perhaps that’s where you dropped the map. Where love failed with a slammed door
and left you alone you on a sidewalk downtown, with a child holding your hand.
and from that day home wasn’t home, it was a hideout, a lean-to, a make do, a rented perch to hold
and protect the sacred half broken love that you gathered up gently and held in a blanket on your lap
Whispering “don’t worry love, I’ll be your home, home is where we are together”
as the wind shook the walls.
You remembered home, and knew it must still be somewhere
whole and golden, simple and safe, true and untouched
by the callous fist that you witnessed batter it coldly down.
On the hurried shores of every day – and through every night with and without sleep,
you and home called to each other across the dark, never finding the others hand.
But the map waits where you dropped it, and shows where you placed your mark and
Home comes home when two souls bless it with one true love
and two souls make one open heart,
and a single forever
with a single YES
every maybe, and “for a while” in this world.
the first thing you lose is the comfortable
story of how much time you have ahead
It’s clothing, a drape, wrapped around you,
Ripped away, you are naked instead
existence is naked, sky and earth,
future and past, in the raw.
Aghast and shaken, you feel at once
the unfairness of it all:
Cruel and cold beyond measure,
beyond measure, because now,
as never before –
you have nothing left at all,
and nothing raced across everything
unwinding at terrible speed.
A white-hot voice without a sound
filled the earth and shook the ground.
YOU WASTED YOUR TIME
YOU DID NOT LOVE
YOU WASTED YOUR TIME
YOU DID NOT LOVE ENOUGH
LOOK AT HOW YOU SHOULD HAVE LOVED
Four faces appeared inside my heart
four faces of the ones I love
The ones I love with all my heart
with each, shame shook me like a rag
and showed me who I should have been
and showed me what I should have done and
Every way I should have loved
those who were my few, and one.
I ached for them, despaired for them,
despaired and ached for me.
somewhere in here, it shifted
and I began to see,
I saw that I wasn’t dying,
I saw that I had some time
but relief was shouldered to the side
by the burning truth that I now knew
from the moment that I thought I died
I have stood on beaches and in forests eating solitude like beef stew,
I have smiled at parties with loneliness bones stuck in my throat,
I have turned from a friend parting as if to a better friend &
and I’ve dreaded goodbye and the descent to my own dark company.
what is it that is full when emptiness can fill us?
& what is empty when abundance leaves us starving?
what is this tide that rises and retreats in us?
what moon does it follow?
I have raced along the beach in twilight
to catch that tide and swim with it
avoiding the strewn once loved things
abandoned in the sand, denying that I am one of them
though I am here and alone
the ocean withdrew and left a desert here
I settle down in the bleak dunes and wait, my head full
of calling seabirds and crashing waves.
Even as we try
to behave as
decently as little ministers
We ought to
salute the rippling black
snapping in the windy sky within us.
Even as we try
to behave as
decently as the Sunday school teachers
We ought to
enjoy the Sunshine
on the leather brown skin of our pirate souls
and the way it glitters off our
bone notched blade.
There is a deep cool to this city
like the chill underside of a large rock lifted from the soil.
And Spring fights for every moment of warm sunshine pried from the hands of Winter.
There is a chill in the bones of this deep water town, crowned with western blue skies and a storm to the east, the color of navy hulls and sorrow.
There is a wind across this tall forest town that sets the daisies and the pine trees to nodding their heads in agreement.