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Never ate so many stars
A benediction asking Everything, the only god I know, to take care of a friend I never held, and of me, and everyone else. Also a poem that haunts me, gently.
This one is a prayer.
I say god and don't always know what I mean.
I say, god let me never struggle for astonishment.
Let my brain stay mine, noisy as it is, unkind as it can be. It is mine, I am in there. Let me stay mine and let that be a blessing, even when it's a burden.
God, I say, or sometimes goodness, my goodness, let me learn how to listen. Let me be able to bear what I witness. I don't always know that I can, but I try. Goodness, let me never stop trying.
My god, I try to be grateful. You, who I struggle to name sometimes and take in vain so many others, I am telling you I am grateful—believe me, even when I don't believe much about you, except that you are everything and therefore un-nameable, except as Everything.
Everything, listen: I want to accept you as you are.
Even when it means finding a dead elk in pieces, decomposing in the grass alongside a creek through a hidden valley, where I sat on a rock thick with lichen and wept, my hands hungry to hold onto something, anything real left behind by a friend who left us behind this week, before I could even call him a friend in the way I like to use the word: someone I have held.
I never got to hold him. For years, we’d been Friends From Online (a friend that you make, online) because Aubrey, and The Awl, then Tumblr and Twitter, also poems and California. For years, that was enough. Recently, we started making something like but not quite yet plans to become more real to each other. But now he is gone, and I wanted to see you, Everything, goodness, god.
I wanted to put my hands on the earth and my feet on the earth and my back on the earth and ask if you noticed when he changed and became more you than what he was to me: a friend I never got to hold. Who in the time and funny way I knew him was generous with me. Offered poems and barbed little hahas, at times disarming affection and affirmation, though I knew—even knowing him the way that I did—these were not his only offerings. I knew he could be hurtful. I knew he had hurt people, burnt bridges, done foolish things. But once I was stuck in an airport for seven hours trying to get to a funeral back home and he spent hours with me in that nowhere space, offering me his company and the gift of his mind. For hours we texted about the desert and sentences, also mothers and grandmothers and confusion and addiction, bolo ties and libraries, fractured identity, talent. I asked him questions and paid attention to his answers. He was, in every medium, a gifted writer. I wondered at a mind so capable of holding so much so sharply at once, and felt less anxious and less alone, which is nice, when you're stuck in an airport and feel like just one cigarette might save you.
I wanted to lay down on the earth and ask you what happens to a mind like that, once it's changed. I know what happens to the body. I saw the elk. I know about sky burials, seen vultures at their work. I've carried ashes. But what happens to a mind that bore all that witness? What happens to those memories, that clarity of perception, that blessing and that burden of seeing the world as it is: violent, foolish, and extraordinary?
I wanted to ask you everything, lying down, but there was too much living everywhere. With every step along that narrow canyon trail, crickets exploded in fireworks across the tall grass, rustled every few seconds by some unseen creature, likely prey, while a beaver cut swiftly, full of purpose, through the creek, unconcerned with anything but its task: survive. Though nothing does, eventually. What everything has in common. And who'd want to do anything forever anyway, but goddammit, Everything, it happens too fast.
Let me learn to slow down.
Let me stay with me, kindly, and take you, Everything, as you are. Let me be as unhaunted as it's reasonable to want—I can take a little haunting. But let me never be a ghost. What I'm asking for, god, my goodness, Everything, I think is peace. What I want is peace. For me and every living thing (the same as every dying thing), with Everything, as it is, you are.
I hope my friend who I never held found peace. I hope you find peace in your heart today, with Everything as it is. I hope I feel peace, one day, with laying my whole body down on the wild, wild earth as it lives and it dies all around me, without weeping myself sick. Let me learn to live with an open heart and not feel myself weighed down by it.
Let me be grateful for the funny and fleeting ways I know what little I know, and the friends I haven't held yet, and the ones who went ahead, too soon. Let me be what I am and they were and still are, a part of you, Everything, always changing.
Everything. Let me in.
Door in the Mountain
Never ran this hard through the valley
never ate so many stars
I was carrying a dead deer
tied on to my neck and shoulders
deer legs hanging in front of me
heavy on my chest
People are not wanting
to let me in
Door in the mountain
let me in
Episode music + mixing by Jared Honn, whose wonderful work you can support by donating to Chicago United Solidarity Project.