Juniper, the first evening

We are to check in and meet at the University Club and as we arrive, my dorm-mates and me, we see clusters of people gathered on the stone patio near the entrance. The group seems cheerful, chatty. Conversation is easy. “A great energy,” says one of the organizers later, at the podium, when introducing the evening’s readings. “Great warmth.” 

Leni Zumas reads first. She introduces the excerpt from her novel by telling the story of her father who as a child, asleep in bed in the room he shared with his brother, is awoken by the sound of gunfire. A fight has broken out in the bar next to their home. They sit up in their beds. A stray bullet comes in through the open window and strikes his brother, who is killed. 

Mark Doty reads two poems about dogs. And then a long, stunning meditation about Whitman’s “Song of Myself.” About the question, “What is grass?” About how our bodies are part of the world around us and we are continuous and without edges. About the ways in which we are language and we are each other and we are a great collective pulsing. 

I walk back to my room alone, the warm evening air, the darkening sky.