how she rises

By Josh Olenslager

I resist, sometimes, using the word love even though it pushes hard into my breast like a spoon. I resist using the word “I”. Some stories are not too easy to tell. Just look at her; she is still asleep in the morning light. She is smiling. I sometimes resist using words like “stone” and ignore things like hip joints, the way a backbone seems broken. The misshapen shadows. She might never suspect that I love her. Truth is, I tend to hold my secrets close. Besides, it is not that the idea of love or beauty is new, not even the visions that appear in my head; newness comes through how I’ve decided to see the ordinary moments around her. How I choose to keep some things to myself, like coins. How I’ve given some things away.

I see a pale bed of light, and there is a pattern of odd connection. Quiet birds in the morning, the clutter of windchimes. Deer grazing on the roadside. It is true that I mistake flowers for weeds. It is true that there is an unsteady column of sunlight; sometimes it rests against the floor. After all, the moon is standing up to watch me some nights, and it is sunlight that reflects from its surface. Just listen to the world. When I am silent, the wind blows. Yes, these the things that surround me. These things which are between her sighing. I am waiting, and the light changes.

I think that everything begins with butterflies, cheat-grass, foxtails rippling against the highway. The ferocious beating of the clouds. My heart thump-thumping. My mouth closed with all its secrets. But I have held my hands and my hat high. I have attempted to describe her rising. There are mornings when I wake without dreams. I break into the morning, blindsided like a bulb. The broken flash that burns down when night is ending. I can be intense, too, as the language awakes inside me. It happens in the flex of light as it leaves. It happens when a newspaper is folded closed. And oh how I’ve tried, but I could never find the words to protect her. The plain attempts of language. And I continue to fasten and then unfasten life, all the low motions and signs. But I am at the window, now, and have nowhere to go, so I watch her as she is sleeping. A pillow beneath a head. And she seems to know everything about me, the fine bones of my feet. The abstraction of light, the gaping mouth of the sky. The sunset as it trips on the curbside; it is scattered already before her like rice. I know she sees heartache, too. A plastic bag is caught in the sage. The deer grazing through the rise of sunlight.

There are so many eyes in this world. A bottle of lukewarm beer. The anchor of stone, lonely in the countryside. Her head, a cloud, a pillow. A part of her swings open, and she rolls back into the sheets. I see her, but never know how to wake her. The trash and litter of my life. She is soft and full. Her leg, the abstract shape of her shoulder. Her quiet breathing. I wish I could believe that fear is nothing to fear. I wish I would stop, just walk out on the lawn. I drive through canyons because there is presence. The sheer volume of walls. Why don’t I ever ask questions? I don’t enjoy the stars. Why not just say the word “cliffside” or the word “stone”? The night is beautiful, too. There are things and they want to appear. Hinges on the doorframe, colors like lavender. The way she smells like vanilla. The way she holds coffee when she wakes. No wonder I resist the idea of sleep, the space wedged between us like a door. The idea of distance and telephones. I remember my family and sleep with my shoes on. The world. A map with red lines and highways. White chalk on a black board. It is easy to see my mistakes when I am alone. The questions I never ask her. And so she goes on sleeping, her breath breaking apart like crumbs. It is difficult to believe that she even exists, a red sweatshirt pulling up and down with her chest, the hidden line of her body. These things I’ve tried to touch. The round complexion of the moon. Her shoulder in the compressed light. The word buckle is so simple. Opens. Closes. The roots of a tree against concrete. The up and down of her. The alluvium of gravel fanning out beneath the sage. The stones.

She covers her eyes against the light. The window, a tree. The birds sit on a branch like pebbles, but I cannot describe them. It is almost too late for hiding. Everything is waking: trees, tires humming, shapes coming and going in light. There are imprints and footprints, impressions in the dirt. Hollow drops of rain that catch the last remnants thunder. I cannot explain absence or appearance. The sudden amount of dawn. I cannot explain anything. I wish I could wake her just to say the word “love”, but I have never trusted it. But today I am there to watch her. She is waking, and her eyes unfold like almonds. There is a connection; the morning is just now between us. It is time. Yes, it is finally time, and I am going to describe her: she is awake and she is yawning, and she has the most beautiful, open eyes.

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Categories: Essay, Issue 4 | Leave a comment

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