Everything lets go in the end. The mortar in the brick. The love song of the finch come fall. Everything lets go in the end, the spinning of the top, the last drops of rain, even the skin of the molting snake. My dog jumped into the Middle Fork of the Gila River and reached for tiny minnows— Out they swam between his teeth and back into the stream. Everything lets go, trickles down, heaves itself into the ground. The motion of the celestial spheres pauses each evening for the stargazers, the knot in the wood, the amber pearl of sap hardened against the rough bark of the tree. The thread lets go of the needle, the comb releases the hair, the flame absolves the wick. The lightning bolt, and then the silence. Think of Jesus, his hand washing Judas’ foot one moment, and then he let it go. Like Galileo, he knew the world stops spinning when love catches you off guard.
To see is to believe. To long is to hope. Teach me to hope for what I cannot yet behold. Remember Galileo: Before the telescope revealed bright lights behind the dark curtain of space— already those stars had overpowered the dark. So break me open in your hands— pomegranate, bruised apricot— seed me. And breathe into me the force that powers canyon floodwaters at breakneck speed— singing— down the precipitous slope.
In another city, another home, I once swept the floor for Mother Teresa. She slept in that room the following night, and in the morning after she had left, a brother swept the room. In the dustpan, one hair.
I opened the thesaurus and then I realized that hope is just another word for hunger and that—although I appease it with the sweetest fruit of the jungle, still, like the cat at my ankle, it will beg for more.
Yucca, rootbound porcupine, stands at attention. What are you guarding with your green quills straight as bayonets? Did you ambush the juniper with the camouflage needles? You creep across the canyon without tanks, refuel on sunlight. Your fruit swells with the summer rain. Clandestine plant, you emerge unexpectedly between sandstone rocks flecked with lichens copious as the spots on a young cougar. What secret do you oversee? When the nocturnal moth emerges from rosettes coated with pollen, do you stand at ease? No wind ruffles your stiff leaves as you stand sentry.
The infant wants milk, love, a lap, a lock of your hair, the glitter from the lake, even the moon. The child wants a friend, a fort, time to play. The youth seeks to divide and conquer, climb, achieve, win, subjugate, wills to power and overpower, even to exert the power and influence to reject and scorn. But then one day, whether by choice or force, the adult releases, accepts, empowers others. Let my bones be a bridge, my hair the buttresses in a nest, my dreams wings for the creatures that fly. Let my words be the ripples that resonate in the pond and then, more thinly, more obliquely, in the air, though I have no breath.
Aloft, they perch along the nest rim— no longer nestlings, nor yet fledglings. For several weeks, their parents have fed them, beak to beak, swooping on blue-black wings to siphon insects from the air, winged insects so small I cannot see them. Hope, penned Emily Dickinson, is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul. But even so, hope is also the last egg cradled in the nest, displaced only yesterday— though its nest mates are nearly fledged now— and cracked open on the tiled step: The ants made short work of its golden yolk.
In a cult, we all hold the same beliefs or risk expulsion. In a community, we work together to find a solution, despite diverging opinions, and always hope to reconcile with each other when we start to drift apart Whatever’s happening in the world, I know my yard is a community where neither the stray cat nor the lizard can disentangle themselves from their mutual obligations and appetites, and yet, the choreography of the dance— between movements— allows them to lie shoulder to shoulder in the round belly of the earth at last.
It’s spring and the river ice cracks— and whose to say— if you could hear it— that it’s not unlike the sound of nest building as the twig snaps.
I once thought love is the mightiest word but now I think perhaps the mightiest word is hope. Oh, we love so freely, and with abandon. We are so prodigal with our love. But hope is the stubborn fortitude of the bud holding on through frost and ice. It’s the steadfastness of tree roots carrying nutrients to the trunk and branches of the tree, though its bark and branches are already alight with lightning strike or forest fire. Oh, I want to be a vessel for the sap. I want to be a seed in the sharecropper’s hand. I want to be the jellied eggs of the spadefoot toad there tucked in the shaded patch of the puddle, and waiting— in this drought-stricken land—waiting for thunderclap. Or, if nothing else remains, I want to be that faint flame—cupped in your hands—coaxed to life with your breath.