Sometimes when you are driving you begin to know things you can’t see or touch but have always carried: the way a jaw tightens to say nothing, how eyes can dart away a shame, and birds how they form along the telephone wire, each with a secret in a long silence of miles.
On a road for hours, you are sleepy with quiet when a hunger like longing wants the words in your throat to meet the world but knows, like a rain coming, that the feeling will fall and quickly pass. So you hold back and in the suspension the world waits and grows into something similar to illness and you remember the way a fever clarified your life.
Your map is a quilt of lines and dots, and you wear every landscape. You are numb with canyons and hills, with scrub and rock. Every terrain says try me, and so you are haybale and scorched field, broken window and rusted phone. You hold heat and storm, and keep breathing, slow and pronounced, over and over like a prayer or a plea. You are throat and lungs and fear.
Because stillness is a gift, you keep at the wheel, holding tight, holding on.
If you ask, I'll say I'm happy. But I usually add the ish, happyish, wellish, because each moment is singular and subject to change.
Was I born this cramped, all blister and knots? These weeds inside me, prickle and thistle, were they planted or did I emerge from scrubby plain, growing wind-worn and hard all on my own?
These Sunday nights, raising sadness and regret. The solitude of Sundays, the letting go and gearing up. Looking back meets going forward, a loss and weight all at once.
On Sunday, poem as prayer:
A quality of attention has been given to you:
when you turn your head the whole world
leans forward. It waits there thirsting
after its names, and you speak it all out as it
comes to you: you go forward into forest leaves
holding out your hands, trusting all encounters,
telling every mile, "Take me home."
— William Stafford
excerpt from "For People with Problems About How to Believe"
a poem that appears in An Oregon Message: Poems