pillow book

all of these, repeating

You have a lover who always sends a next-morning poem, who one morning leaves in a pique, proclaiming: “I don’t know why I spend my time with you. It’s pointless to try to talk about it.” He is so angry that he leaves his coat behind. “It is finished,” he says. 

The next morning, there is no word from him and the same is true the morning after that.

The next day, it rains in great torrents. High violent winds rattle the glass in its frames. Still, no word. You begin to think: “He really is finished with me.”

It rains all day and all night. You feel low and ill and irritable. You pace the rooms of your house and watch the gray sky and the rain that falls, relentless. 

Then one evening after many days of silence, a note arrives. On the sheet of paper, only the words: the rising floods of rain. You read them over and over, each word giving more pleasure than whole books of poems might. 

There are other lovers. There are other mornings and there are other poems and the rains come and go. 

Names of pattern designs - Arabesque, dotted swiss, batik. 

Zalij - the word itself so beautiful. 

Trellis. Trefoil. Fretwork.  

Herringbone. Houndstooth. Fleur-de-lis.

Satin weave. Stipple. All of these, repeating. 

Things that should be small - Field mice. Hummingbirds. Pearls. The voices of lovers when they speak in hushed tones after love. 

A square of silk tied in a woman’s hair. A bit of thread for sewing something in a hurry.

Things that should be big - Houses. Museums. Family celebrations. The most special meals should have elements that surprise and delight. The dishes themselves need not be big, but the sense one should have about these occasions is of grandeur. Of being large and full. 

Peony blossoms should be so big and heavy that they bend their slender stalks. Pine trees should be big. Jacaranda flowers. 

Apples. Oxen. Inkwells.

Braziers. Woodpiles. Winter cherries. 

There are certain loves that grow so big they might swallow the world whole. It is good to have those loves, though they can bring considerable discomfort. 

all the inauspicious days

[things that bring shame] - Mostly, she was ashamed of her preoccupations; that she could dwell on one topic or another to the near exclusion of all else, pushing from her mind even the most necessary or essential of the day’s tasks and leave herself to worrying some useless thing. She believed this to be weakness. She believed this to be failure. She spent sleepless nights blinking in the dark.

Usually, although not always, it was about love - or anger or hate or revenge, which are themselves a part of love.

[things that fall] - Rain, sleet, snow, hail. Summer rains, more often than not, bring delight. After many hot days when the air is heavy and stifling, a cool rain that breaks the heat can bring such pleasure. Rain in the winter is often cruel. Cold, driving rains that can chill you to the bone. A long, soaking rain can bring a feeling of relief. As if the rain itself might cleanse you of your shame.

[terrifying things] - Wildfires. A volcano erupting. A thief breaking into your house. The feeling that you are being watched. The feeling that something terrible is about to happen.

Being chased in a dream and falling. You are running through a wooded area and it is autumn. A thick blanket of fallen leaves on the ground. You can hear them underfoot and you can hear the footfalls of your pursuer, who is not far.

The circling of birds of prey. Their beaks and their talons.

[things now useless that recall a glorious past] - A finely-woven tapestry that has become threadbare.

A stately house that stands empty and uncared for, its occupants having come to some shameful circumstance.

A forest, decimated by fire.

Gardens that once grew lush around a pond, on the surface of which once floated waterlilies - white and purple and blue. The pond is still there, stagnant and the garden is overrun with weeds and choking vines.

[things that keep passing by] - The seasons, one after the other in continuous succession.

Sailboats on the water. Wispy clouds moving across a blue sky.

The time to have certain important conversations. You find yourself in a quiet moment and begin to speak, but are interrupted. A child wanders into the room, or a red-breasted robin lands on the branch of a tree and you stop to gaze at it. The person you are with looks away. Or coughs into his hand. Or makes a joke and you laugh, but the laugh rings out in a false-sounding way and you both know at that moment that the time to speak of important things has passed.

[things that no one notices] - All the inauspicious days. The aging of our mothers.

A lamentation of swans

[things that are thrilling] when you wake before dawn to rain and you can hear it falling on the pavement and on the rooftops. Sometimes, there is thunder and lightning and the lightning illuminates the sky in a way that thrills. How the noise of thunder can at once sound so near and at other times, like it is coming from deep within the earth itself. 

To see the rain streak the glass windowpanes in the small pool of light thrown from a street lamp. A thousand tiny reflections and refractions of light. 

The headlights of cars shining white along the highway, as they rush toward their destinations. 

The soft cocoon of your bed where you burrow in warm sheets while your lover sleeps.

You returned from the village. You brought back dark, ripe cherries and peaches and soft plums. Fat purple figs. You set a feast. The neighbors came. You ate with your hands and licked the sticky sweetness from your fingers. You stayed out in the dying light until the rain began to fall. First in a handful of droplets on the brick patio, then in a sudden torrent and you gathered up the fruits and dishes while the rain soaked you through.

[groupings of birds] A cast of falcons. A colony of gulls. A band of jays. A creche of penguins. A bouquet of pheasants. A tidings of magpies. A parliament of owls. An ostentation of peacocks. A congress of ravens. A host of sparrow.

Inside, your guests shed their wet things. You gave them towels and blankets in which they wrapped themselves. You built a small fire and they came around it, their voices hushed and low like you were gathering for prayer. You tended the fire. 

The man who would later share your bed collected up the empty glasses and carried them into the kitchen while your guests sang songs in whispery voices. 

You followed him. You found him crouched low to the floor picking up pieces of broken glass. His murmured apologies. You lowered yourself to your knees, stilled his hands with your own. Then you brought his fingers to your mouth. 

A charm of finches. A sedge of cranes. An aerie of hawks. A siege of herons. An ascension of larks. A descent of woodpeckers. A skein of geese in flight. 

You were quiet and swift. There were shards of glass in your hair. You could still hear singing from the other room, murmured and low. 

When you return, your guests have begun to gather their things. You walk them out to the street in a light but constant rain. 

You stay up late. There are still figs and he traces lines across your bones with each fruit, from rounded shoulder to clavicle, then from hip to pointed hip before he breaks the purple skin with his teeth. 

When you were a child, you swam in the neighbor’s pool in the summer, the cool water such delicious relief from the stultifying heat. She brought you cold tea and you watched as rivulets formed on the glass as it sat there in the relentless sun.

Sometimes, she would talk to you about the child she had lost, who would have been the same age as you were. You did not know what to say. You were a serious child and you furrowed your brow and nodded your head. You listened intently. 

She would bring you a towel. She would sometimes hold your hand. If there were ripe peaches, she would bring those, too. 

She taught you the names of the birds. When there was time before you would be called home, she would take a thick volume from a shelf in her kitchen. She would flip through the pages and let you hold your finger out when you wanted her to stop on a page. Then together, you would look at the photographs, and she would read the descriptions aloud in her sweet, soft voice, itself a kind of song.

A spring of teals. A lamentation of swans. A watch of nightingales.

a sparrow with her nestlings

things that induce half-heartedness - Long periods of seclusion. Preparations for something still far into the future. Attempting conversation with someone who speaks so softly that in order to hear every word, you would have to strain against the hum and chatter of the room. Rising early in the morning to a day that is dreary. 

things people despise - The speeches made by men of a particular disposition, for whom a podium or microphone or raised platform seems an invitation to announce their puffed and waterlogged opinions on topics about which they hold limited wisdom. 

Being made to stand for long periods of time without rest. Being cheated at certain types of games. 

When something - or someone - gives the appearance of being steadfast, reliable, unchanging and then suddenly fails you, it reminds you that nothing lasts. 

infuriating things - A guest who arrives too early, while you are still making urgent preparations, and who hovers near you, chattering. You are walking quickly down the street on your way to an important appointment and you remember you have left a letter that you wanted to mail at home on your desk and now it will be another day before you can send it. 

You are working in your garden on your knees and a foolish person approaches you to make inane conversation. “Why do you like to dig in the dirt?” he asks, and “Why are you working so hard?”

It’s quite infuriating to work very hard and very long at a thing and not to see progress quickly. To see that you have limited skills at something that you very much love to do can be infuriating and also bring sadness. 

An infant who cries when you are trying to hear something. The noise of an airplane flying overhead. Insects, particularly in the evening in the summer, when it is still warm and still light enough to remain outdoors, to keep the wine flowing and the conversation intimate and hushed, if not for the persistence of the winged insects feeding off your tender summer skin. 

The man you are with speaks admiringly of past lovers. Of their beauty or of the ways in which they performed certain acts of love. This can be infuriating although there are some situations in which it doesn’t bother you at all. 

When someone you love with devotion loves you only inconstantly, unpredictably.  When you are compelled to face the limitations of love. 

things that make your heart beat fast - A sparrow with her nestlings. The scent of lavender on a warm summer breeze. Or of honeysuckle. To wash your hair and skin with well-scented soap. Even if no one will see you or be near you, you can still feel a heady sense of pleasure. 

Walking past a place where small children are playing, their laughter ringing high in the afternoon stillness. 

Paintings hung in a light-filled room. A field of vibrant color against the starkness of a white wall. The figure of a mythical creature carved from stone. To press your cheek against the cool stone can make your heart beat fast.  

On a night when you are waiting for someone special to come and the lights are dim and you are standing near the window, near enough to watch for him, but where you cannot be seen as he approaches, so as not to appear so eager, but you are waiting and your skin is perfumed and your heart beats so fast you can hardly stand still. 

outline for your novel

  1. A woman loves a man she cannot have. They meet, for a time, in secret. They attend the openings of art exhibits in the cities where they meet. There are pleasures. There is heat. But it cannot last forever. 
  2. A woman takes a journey to learn something about her past. Is she running toward something that she hopes to discover? Or is she running away from a life she no longer loves? She is sad. She is broken. She is at a turning point. 
  3. Everything is broken. The woman is divorcing. Her mother is dying. Her father moves away and leaves her with nothing. She changes her name. She watches a man die. 
  4. Meditation on death. A catalog of all the people she has lost.


  1. The woman takes a physical journey, which is a metaphor. She is constantly getting lost. (For a time, she loses her sight?)
  2. She meets a man she does not love but he desires her and for a time, this is sufficient. 
  3. Meditation on love and desire. A catalog of desire. 
  4. The woman expects the journey to change her. She is always looking for transformation and is always disappointed. She receives news of her father’s death. She expects that this news, too, should transform her. 
  5. She is the same as when she began the trip, except that now, she is divorced and her parents are gone. 


  1. The man she could not have says that he will leave his wife. She learns that his wife is ill. She tells him she cannot see him and that he should be with his wife who is ill. He agrees, which sends her into despair.
  2. She receives a considerable and unexpected sum of money from her parents, who have died.
  3. Years pass. The woman lives comfortably on her inheritance. She spends most of her time alone. Sometimes, she will go to the opening of art exhibits at the museum and she will wear a brightly-colored scarf and paint her lips red. Sometimes, she will drink too much wine and laugh too loudly. 
  4. The wife of the man she loved but could not have passes peacefully one night in her sleep. The woman learns this not from him, but from someone they knew in common. She wonders if he will try to find her. 
  5. Years pass. The woman is alone. Her vision is failing and she is too tired to go to the openings of art exhibits. Some nights, she will drift to sleep thinking of the man. Nothing is ever the way you want it to be. 

things that are better at night

I wake in the night from a violent dream in which I witness a man shoot a woman in close range. I am kneeling behind a tall white fence and when I see this and when I hear the shot reverberate in the dark night, I gasp, duck down, and try to make myself as small as I possibly can. 

As dream logic would dictate, then I am carrying my son home from a carnival where we have stayed out too late riding the carousel and the bumper boats and throwing darts at water balloons. His cheeks and hands are sticky with the remnants of blue cotton candy and when I turn my face to his, which is resting on my shoulder, I can smell the sugar on his breath from his open mouth. 

Things that delight - the sweet breath of sleeping children. The soft whirring of the ceiling fan above my bed. Beach roses. Long summer evenings when the heat streaks the sky with pink. Embracing someone you have not seen in a long time and so the embrace lingers long enough for you to feel for a moment like you are floating. 

When you wake with a cry from an unsettling dream and someone you love holds you close and covers your face with kisses. 

In the dream, the man slips away from the scene through an open gate. He is tall and his hands are large. I awaken, sit up in bed and try to remember his face. It is wide and pale. His hair is dark, his eyes impassive as he lifts the gun to the woman’s head. I will need to remember this, I think, to describe him to the police. 

Did I mention that he was tall and that his hands were large? Did I mention that he had the familiar look of someone I had met before in a dream? 

Things that are better at night - A dress of iridescent silk. The scent of jasmine in the garden. The soft voice of a lover whispering in your ear, his warm breath. 

The anticipation of pleasure and then the memory of it. 

In the fifth month of the year, certain events are set into motion that in the seventh month come to pass. A man travels to see his parents who are ill. A woman visits with a childhood friend, who reveals many secrets. A promise made is broken. Someone you had trusted leaves you wary. Someone from whom you had kept considerable distance becomes a confidant. 

Phases of the moon - new moon, crescent moon, waxing and waning. Gibbous moon, waxing and waning. Full moon. Blue moon. First and last quarter moon. 

Things that are far away, but seem near - A childhood friend, who moves far away but with whom you exchange letters often. A much anticipated event, like a birthday celebration or a trip somewhere you have never been that is still many months from now but you think of it all the time. 

A sailboat in the ocean when you are looking at it from the shore. 

The constellations in the night sky. The full moon. 

Things that are near, but seem far - The crest of a hill on a warm day when you are walking toward it and you are weary and there are no trees to offer shade. The last long minutes just before a much anticipated event. 

When you argue with your lover and he turns away from you. He stands up and begins pacing gloomily. You remain in your chair, stare out the open window. You are near enough that if you reached for him, you could touch him, could pull him back toward you, but it is as if instead you are separated by a thousand miles. 

secret assignation

Summer provides the most delightful setting for a secret assignation. The long afternoons stretch into evenings. The day’s heat lays heavily on your skin but there is relief in a cooling breeze after love. The windows are thrown open all night. Morning finds the lovers still cooing in their bed in such delightful disarray. The call of birds alerts them to the coming light and the way that the sudden fear of being found quickens the pulse and excites them again to love is pleasurable beyond words. 

There are delights to be found also in winter on a fiercely cold night when you burrow beneath the bedclothes and the sound of cathedral bells reaches you with a deep and distant reverberation that seems to come from somewhere buried. You have made a nest of your bed, drawing the covers to yourself and you rest your head on your folded arm as if it were a feathered wing. 

A man comes calling, perhaps for some intimate conversation or to pass the time pleasurably on his way home after buying apples at the market. He holds an apple up to you, brings the cool skin of it to your cheek. How can you look away? 

He tells you about the weather, about the light rain and there is a bit of dampness on his shoulder where the fabric of his shirt has been soaked through. 

The house is quiet but not empty. Someone - perhaps your mother or her sister visiting from the north - is shuffling quietly in the kitchen preparing a small meal. A plate of fruits and biscuits. A pot of strong tea. You would like the man to stay and you ask but you know that he will not. He leaves you apples. Once you are certain that he is gone, you take the largest one in your two hands and pierce the skin of it with your teeth with a fierceness that surprises even you. 

Rare things - A perfect, unblemished apple. A sheet of handmade paper. A peony blossom still wet with dew.

A notebook on which every page has been written, without gaps, without lines crossed out. 

It is rare to find a man who takes delight in the smallest moments of a woman’s day. When she tells him that the sedum is about to flower. Or that she has discovered thread moss on the branches of the white birch tree. Or that the veins of her hands resemble rivers. 

Likewise, a woman who takes an interest in the preoccupations of her lover is also rare. He tells her he does not like the sound of his own voice. That the dry, cracked skin of his fingers shames him when he brings them to her face or when she takes them in her own soft hands. That it has been several days since he has written a poem or a line of prose. 

It is rare for two people who promise themselves to each other forever, to always treat each other gently, with admiration and with scrupulous care. 

Writing a letter to someone who is far away or copying a poem from a book on a sheet of paper, you take immense care to avoid making errors or smudging ink on the page, but even though you are careful, you are almost always certain to ruin it in some small way. 

Two people, who vow to love each other their whole lives, who are able to please and delight each other, to discover each other anew as the years go on, to cling to each other for comfort and to give solace. To remain faithful to their love until the end. 

Things later regretted - A man takes a job in another city in order to learn something new but when he arrives there, he learns little and he is sullen and sad. 

The parents of a young girl are poor and so they send her to live with distant relatives who are wealthy and who fill her closets with silk dresses, but the girl misses her home so much that the dresses may as well be made of lead and when she wears them, it is like the silk itself has drained the color from her skin. 

At great risk, you take a lover. He doesn’t live up to expectations. 

in the seventh month, when the heat is dreadful

[Annual flowers] The wishbone flower is sometimes called the clown flower for its vivid colors. The flowers resemble tiny snapdragons, mouths open wide and showing their delicate throats. 

The heat can be taxing on the larkspur which will begin to go brown and fade when it gets too hot. In the cooler months, the blue larkspur spikes clustered together can bring considerable delight. 

You may have trouble finding amaranth or, as it is more commonly known, love-lies-bleeding. You may have to start them from seeds, sown directly into the soil.  

Beautiful moonflower will grow like a vine along a stake if you train it carefully. In the cool of the evening, the bright white flowers unfurl and stay open like that - wide, white, fragrant - until morning. 

In the seventh month when the heat is dreadful, the fans run all day and all night and it is delightful to wake on moonlit nights and lie there looking out. Dark nights too are delightful, and as for the sight of the moon at dawn, words cannot describe the loveliness.

Picture her lying on the unmade bed, her dark hair spread out across the pillow, the sheets rumpled and white across her brown skin. The window is open. The curtain blows in at the slightest breeze. It is warm even at dawn with the moon still visible. 

Her lover has already left. She sleeps in a shift of yellow gossamer-silk. Beneath this, thin silk trousers, their strings left trailing, undone. 

Now picture a man, standing nearby. He is dressed in a grey shirt with small white buttons and dark green trousers that sit low on his hips. His hair is uncombed and there are streak of gray. He is on his way home, distracted by memories of his own evening and of the long brown arms of the woman he held while her hair, smelling of lilac and cut grass, spilled over him. 

As he passes the open window of the woman, this woman, a woman whose hair he has also held in his hands, its scent more like charred embers, he sees the curtains open and blowing in the soft breeze. He peeks in to see her stretched there on the white sheets. He finds the door unlocked, lets himself in. 

Sensing his presence, she opens her eyes and sees him standing by the bed. She has not seen him in many months. She is not disturbed by his being there, but she is vexed that he has interrupted this particular morning’s sleep. 

“Only a very special evening would have you sleeping this late,” he says and he comes to her bed and sits perched on its edge. His boldness is stirring. 

“I am merely sleeping off my anger at a man who leaves before the dew is gone.”

They exchange words like this for a time and their banter is not without its charms. As they speak, he edges closer. Although she does not move away from him, she grows anxious, feels a flutter in her chest. Then, it is she who moves toward him, in a manner that is barely perceptible. And they carry on like this as the sky grows lighter and at last the sun is on the very verge of rising. 

He rises. Soon, he will speak to the woman in whose lilac-scented hair he had pressed his face only hours before. He thinks of what he will say to her, what moments of the evening he will relive and as he wanders back to the street, he finds himself wondering, in a somewhat bemused way, whether another man has similarly been visiting her bed, perching himself there in the space he had just left. 

[Flowering trees] The fig tree thrives in full sun. It needs to be kept warm for its fruits to ripen. 

The white mulberry tree loves sun and needs plenty of space around it. It is hearty and can provide shelter from the wind. The fruit is purple and often abundant and can be used to make a lovely wine. 

The leaves of the flowering pear tree turn a deep red in late fall and in the heat of the summer, the leaves are glossy and green. But it is the clusters of tiny white flowers with their perfectly rounded petals, delicately perfumed, in the early spring that truly can make you gasp with delight. 

dispiriting things

A dog howling in the middle of the day. A sheet of newspaper caught in the branches of a rose bush. A creek that has run dry. Broken glass on the footpath to the water’s edge. A trap laid for a mouse.

A front porch at night with no light left burning. A closed door at the top of the stairs. A nursery in the dark, with no child sleeping in the bed.

A hearth with no fire lit in it.

You have taken great care to choose the proper dress for an occasion at which you will meet someone you have long desired. You put a flower in your hair. It might be a wild daisy from your garden or a slender stem of lavender. You wait at the designated meeting place. You stand on the bridge looking out over the waterfall or in front of the shop down in the village square. You ask a woman passing by with a child in her arms to tell you please the time. It is terribly dispiriting to wait for such a long time.

A letter arrives from your mother who has been ill. It is difficult to recognize her handwriting. The loops of her script are small and tight, like she is holding the pen with a clenched fist. The news she sends is not only dispiriting. It sends you to your bed for many hours.

When you walk out to the garden in the early morning and the grass is wet and someone has left bits of trash, the plastic wrapper from a bar of chocolate, seeing that carelessness can be dispiriting. If the morning air is sweet enough and there is a pleasant breeze, the discovery of trash on the lawn can seem less dispiriting.

It is dispiriting to see the bitter cores of apples left on a plate after the fruit has been taken. The dry skins of onions. In the winter, after all the leaves have fallen from the trees and they are dry and brittle and brown, with no longer any hint of the reds and oranges and yellows that they once were. There is no trace of such colors left and the ground is hard and cold and the wind. The way the wind howls is dispiriting, even if you can remember that spring will again come.

The letters from your mother arrive less frequently. You wait for many weeks without hearing news.

Cold rain all day on New Year’s Eve. 

things that give you pleasure

You’ve slept deeply for many hours on cool, smooth sheets. The window to your bedroom is open and a breeze blows in. The air is sweet and smells faintly of the sea. You wake with an unnamed longing. You drift back to sleep - but you sleep only lightly then - until morning. 

Finding a letter that someone wrote to you long ago. The ink has faded and holding the paper in your hands, you think it might dissolve at your touch. You can still read the lines though. The small, perfectly formed letters.

It’s extremely pleasing to see a photograph of yourself as a child with your mother and your father in the frame, watching you as you hold your hand out to feed the ducks who encircle you near the pond, in the park, where the ancient trees give shade. 

It’s also pleasing when you are in the company of people you admire, and someone you love a great deal is talking about something that has happened in the past, or a subject he has just learned about, or something he has heard discussed in the news, and when he speaks, he looks at you. He singles you out to look at you. 

Then there’s the pleasing moment when you’ve heard that someone important to you who is far away - perhaps in some distant place, or even elsewhere in your city - has had a small misfortune, perhaps has fallen ill, and you have worried and are worrying and wringing your hands  with concern, when news arrives that she has taken a turn for the better. 

Someone you love is praised by others. 

When something that you have made - a poem you have written or a small tapestry you have woven by hand - is talked about by other people in a way that you can know about it. It comes up in conversation with someone who says, “Your talents are not inconsiderable.” 

It is very pleasing when you sit next to a stranger on a crowded train and she tells you something that you did not know. And then the story that she told you comes up in conversation later, when you are in bed with your lover and the delightful moment when you cry out, “Oh, that is where it comes from!” and you enjoy recalling the stranger’s mention of it. 

Finding something you thought you had lost forever. Misplacing it again, but then finding it again, quickly. 

How could you not feel pleased when you win at a game? An archery match or some other competition that tests your physical skills. Or that tests the quickness of your mind. 

When someone you have loved who no longer loves you meets with some misfortune in love. You are pleased even though you know this is very wicked of you. 

You’ve sent a letter to someone far away and you expect to wait a long time for his response, but his letter back to you arrives quickly and with stories you have not heard before. 

It’s very pleasing when you recover from a long sickness. This could be a sickness of the body or of the mind. 

And it’s wonderfully pleasing when you wake from a night of troubled dreams and your jaw aches from clenching your teeth so tightly in your sleep and there is a small pain in your head like a point of hot white light that is growing larger and brighter, but when you finally open your eyes and become aware that you are no longer dreaming and you realize that you are in your own bed in the arms of someone you love and that the arms of this person are holding you in way you would want to be held for a very long time. For days, perhaps, or maybe even years. 

–(inspired by and indebted to The Pillow Book, Sei Shonagon: “[257] Things that give you pleasure”)

14 dreams

Dream: You call me from the hospital, but by the time I get there, you are gone. 

Dream: You are standing in a field of poppies. You rise up from a sea of red.

Dream: You are sitting on the concrete steps beneath the tunnel. I am standing there but you cannot see me. I say: Look at me, here I am. I am here. 

Dream: It is night. You are on your knees holding your head in your hands. It is raining.

Dream: You read to me from the dictionary, the words without their meanings. Compulsory, you say. Compunction. Computation. Compute

Dream: It is raining. You are on your knees in the middle of the open highway. I am standing there but you cannot see me. 

Dream: You say: Come to me and so I am running. 

Dream: Again, the dictionary. Again without meanings: Longhand. Longhouse. Longing.

Dream: You call me from the hospital parking lot. You call me from the highway. You call me from the train station. You call me from a field of poppies. 

Dream: You are lying on the grass. The sun is high and bright. The sun warms your skin. You are sleeping. 

Dream: You are sleeping in a field of poppies. I call out to you but you do not answer. I say Longhand. I say Longhouse. I say: Look at me. It is raining

Dream: I am chasing you through the streets of the city. Past the bus stop. Past the abandoned lot. I follow you through the tunnel, up the concrete steps. I follow you across the highway.

Dream: You are lying on the highway. You are lying in a field of poppies. You say: Come to me. You say: Longing.  

Dream: You are waiting for me on the bridge, down by the river that runs through the city. I run to you, through the tunnel, past the bus stop, the abandoned lot. I run to you past the field of wildflowers. Past the empty storefronts, the walls of graffiti. I run to you past the fountain beneath the concrete steps leading up. I run to you on the cracked pavement. I run to you through the empty streets. I run to you across the holes in the earth. I will never stop running. 

hoped for things

The day starts strong, but as afternoon slides into evening, the spirit flags. By nightfall, the old fears return, gnawing at my edges. I read. I make tea. I walk around the room three times - a talisman to ward off sadness. I sit at the edge of my bed. I stand at the window. I lie down, blink at the ceiling. Finally, I gather my things and head to my car. 

I drive with the windows down and the music loud. The evening air is cool on my skin. 

It is while driving that I draw up the list of the lists that I will later make: 

Things that are luscious. 
Things that require time and patience to master.
Things of which the mere mention open deep wells of longing. 
Rare things.
Men who remind me of my father.

My stomach aches. I feel as though something - unknown and unknowable - is about to happen. 

Things that make my stomach ache:

Speaking in front of people I don’t know. Approaching the podium, knowing that my legs will tremble. Knowing the trembling will be visible. 

When someone I love is angry with me. Knowing that I have done something to make them angry. When it is an accidental thing, like being late to pick up my son, the ache passes quickly, but when it is intentional, when I act on my own selfishness at the cost of the feelings of others, the ache is nearly constant. 

When I think about my eventual death, I can feel a dull aching - a mild dread of what is unknown. Will it be sudden, unexpected - like an accident on the highway, my car spinning out of control? Or will it be protracted and slow, lingering in a hospital bed, my husband, my daughter and son forced into whispered conversations in the corridors? It is hard to know what to hope for. 

Hoped for things:

A long, temperate summer.

A few quiet hours for reading, for sitting still. It is too much, perhaps, to want this each day, but every few days, this delicious bit of time.

Letters from my daughter, who is far away. 


night of endless possibility

what if I stay up all night and don’t set the alarm?

what if I wake up late, so late, well after the light comes up? after the hum of birds? and after the campus comes to life with the noise of trucks and small machines?

what if I take all the sheets off the bed and sleep on the bare mattress, my skin sticky on its spillproof surface?

what if I call you this late at night, so late, let the phone ring out in the dark on your bedside table where you plug it in before you go to sleep? 

what if when you pick up the phone, your voice heavy and low, I say only: I am alone. I am lonely. Talk to me. 

what if I fall asleep in this bed, the sheets intact, the phone call not made, the pen still in my hand, scrawling across the page?

what if instead I stumble out into the dark night and run barefoot beneath the unfamiliar trees, their leaves still wet with the evening rain, my arms open wide, shouting: I want more than this life can give? 

what if I wake to the alarm in the morning? to birdsong and early light? and rise for a run beneath the shade of the now familiar trees and running and running and running.