Happy Valentine’s Day! A curious holiday, a minor saint’s feast day become a popular and very secular celebration of love, and usually romantic love at that–are we happy, we who are without partners? Are we celebrating today?

Not to keep anyone in suspense, but yes! One happy thing about getting old is that, as one’s reproductive system ages out of relevance, one’s sense of love grows and expands very much outwards. Years ago, I knew menopause was approaching when I realized that I had again become aware of things I had been overlooking: the many, many kinds of green plants called ‘weeds’ growing and blooming right underfoot, the tiny insects and other creatures living fascinating lives in amongst them, and most of all, the number of adorable small children who crossed my path that I barely even looked at–a habit that set in when I realized as a much younger woman that I did not want to bear children and did not want to be seduced by their cuteness. And the many, various ways that things can be beautiful, if only for an instant–hands and faces of course, but also a stray bit of light shining on one bright metal on an otherwise dirty railing; a bird so close by you can see through the side of its eye. These are like little glimmers of light from elsewhere, light that bears secret messages. The secrets are open; only those who are meant to read them are sometimes closed.

These tiny glimmers started speaking to me more and more until I started to ask if there was an overall message I should be listening for. I saw swirling snow, then individual snowflakes in their intricate uniqueness (maybe? new research says snowflakes may not be unique at all), then massed together again on the ground. Look closely, and the individual snowflakes still sparkle in the light. The light from where? Aye, elsewhere.

Time isn’t real where true stories come from, and no sign forms a line that doesn’t finally prove a circle. Remember the stories of hailstones that, when split in half, seem to reveal a womanly profile, even that of the Blessed Virgin? This is a phenomenon that has been reported any number of times. Broken-open windows into a place overlooked before. Imagine–if the Virgin really sends hail as a sign to those who pray to her, who ask her, Make your answer so clear I can’t miss it, please, and then the hailstorm comes, knocking down crops and breaking windows–what must her answer be? I am wondering because lately we have had freezing rain, and half the trees on the hillside outside my window have broken branches. Interpretation is difficult in so many ways, especially the part about telling the truth.

Even so, the glimmers, the little flashes that seem to reach through and grab one’s attention–if that attention is available–are becoming more important to me. They have a name, one that came immediately when I asked for it: Parings. Parings, because even something as humble and simple as a stray nail paring on the floor can become the Moon and show you something shining through, if the moment and your awareness are right. When you start seeing them, soon they multiply; after a while, they settle into a vast field, as of snow–a field as broad as all the world, filled with gleamings to remind you that time is not real and that you come from Elsewhere.

Except, of course, that this world is part of Elsewhere. It’s good to stand in more than one world at a time. If ‘this’ one is celebrating Love, what might the other be doing?

Here is a bit of new work. Happy Valentine’s Day!


She will have willingly shown you her secrets, her face in the mirror, your own in her eyes,

but will you have been still enough to have seen it? And listened, a word to the one growing wise

on her tongue even as you desired so to kiss it? With all of your mouth, and your voice joining hers?

Where is the silence you sought when she taught you the longing the passage of long time confers

on those caught in its endless illusions–though you are her friend and, at intervals, even her child?

Why are you crying so loudly you try but can’t hear her? A sob in your throat growing wild–

that’s a noise she can’t bear, if you tell her she caused it. Taut and constrained and it hurts till it bleeds–

you can’t keep on coughing so hard; when the fever descends where it’s left you alone with its seeds–

it will always remind you of how you fell ill out of loneliness so far from home, where she waits.

What if you looked at your hands in your lap and discovered them braiding the two of three fates

the old reader foretold when you offered up silver? What if you saw your own hands working hard,

and nothing to show but a dreadful confusion come over them both–but a whole blooming yard

green as nightmarish poison condensed to the point of a knife in the flesh of the poisoner’s son?

She’s in the halter and bridle you braided and now that she’s worn it, your work is undone.

You looked far away when you left her to choke on the words you could not of your own power say.

Watch as she dances, her feet on the air as she falls till it catches her, that which holds sway

because you, mortal human, are never the author; you cast your own shadow, and follow it far.

When she leans over the table on which she’s seen scattered the ashes of many a star–

she reads their remains as if clues there would sparkle and dazzle the eyes of your mind–but will she

have shown you the whole of the truth as she knows it, or merely the whisper you need it to be?


About J

formal verse poetry and commentary at
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