Light or Dark Speech

Reading this word and that word takes you somewhere else, and nobody toasts November around here. Watching words swim in low chair light calls back worms punctuating our summer patio, out of their element, plucked up by a friend less squeamish than I, squirming, tossed to the side—snapping in the air like hooked fish, then drooping over the pachysandra. This is to say, the words don’t flood out, they crawl up, they go wherever they are flung, at least when I’m not thinking too hard about what I’m reading, sheltered in a cottage from winds that could tear the open book of the roof and throw it and its margins and its gutters across the street. Flashing backwards and forwards in blinking streetlights, that’s as far-fetched as books fly. For all this I’m still only reading because reading is calm and dry enough. I could now fall back into the armchair of morbidity, which Browning said is worth the soul’s study. I once told my mother in a dream you are dead and later Mary told me you are farther along than I am for I still have a feeling of respect for the dead. I am always telling my mother she is dead while she’s always telling me off. Even when I’m reading she’s reading me the riot act. Morbidity, worth the soul’s study. And the least-peaceable kingdom. That salmon I touched with the tip of a stick charred by a beach fire, sand glazing it, dead, out of time, and always in season. Yet there is still ambition on its face, not even cessation is rest. I am sad because the Bluebird closes by November. Because beer sounds are at least a company. Of many instant friends in many mirrors. Sadness is always human . . . sluggish headlights in the rearview mirror, the past you just can’t trust not to run you off the road. I told my mother she was dead. And she told me You know how bubbles creep up the side of a glass, Then, suddenly, pull off, start out, suspend on the surface then pop? What happens next I and they have escaped. She never wrote me but a few letters. She spoke a lot, for, of, at, to, with me. Dark speech in the afternoons, light speech in the mornings. Now this wind—a consciousness upon a consciousness—this wind I was and am gets no good done. The time it takes to think to ask why passes. As for whether there should be a ceremony for her few lost letters, burn them once and for all and have the ashes scatter by hand, with hesitation, the way a feeling, before saying something, scrunches the face. I climb into bed with that face and read while the wind gets to its point, which is to make things move and tear things down without tipping its hand. I read and read until there is nothing but words, and the book falls to the floor like a roof to a house without floors or walls, a house of words, words that preceded me, words behind and ahead of me, before and after me, read in the light or spoken in the dark.   end