The order of things

On a cold Saturday in late March, I wake with words sprawling, tottering themselves into a poem off of my lips. I move quickly to write it all down. Hours later, I’ve scribbled on the backs of several old papers: a restaurant napkin, a movie pass, the comic section of the local newspaper, a notebook divider—anything with space for the things I cannot stop from leaving. There is a place where every writer feels a rope tighten when the words come faster than the hand can move. It is made up of half magic, and half images from a life lived, and I am a writer in the same way I am a lover: there are plenty of things that I say I can do without believing I can actually do them. Still, my feet find unsteady ledges in an effort to scale objects meant to be seen, not touched. What comes to me, I feel compelled to remember. I write a slew of poems that night. One about loving and light. One about the dark, what it contains or doesn’t, what it holds up or doesn’t, what it can be for people who will never intimately know how the light guides us across days to a greater tomorrow. Always becoming someone or something, perhaps several someones or somethings and I am here, purposefully and unknown. Still learning how to be okay inside of joy. Still working my way through a puzzle with missing pieces. Shay Alexi questioned, “Do you know what it is to love somebody when all their lights go out?” That line stuck with me in the same way my answer to it does. How did I get into this empty room? How do I know my eyes aren’t just closed tightly to savor the dark? I ask about the switch itself, how electricity can travel so fast, how I do not always know if I belong in this space or if I’ve carved into it as a way of saying, “this is mine now.” I have so many questions, so many unanswered thoughts. Alas, I must rest.

Instead, inception. A match strikes. Then, a dancing flicker. A gleam, a sliver of a familiar breath. Fouling off every pitch just to stay in the game, in the bottom of the 9th, down two with one on second, one second to decide if I’ll swing. Step. Go. As far as the light will take me. May I never forget what it means to hold onto things that I cannot fully grasp. Things I’m destined to let go of. And I will not go to where the darkness lives. But when it shows up on my doorstep, I’ll invite it inside. Make some tea, no sugar. I will sit across from it, fumbling around, move my hands across the ink on my pages, look it in the eyes, set down my armor, and begin with belief. I wait for it to make a sound. Make a move. Make a claim that today is over with and next week isn’t coming. I sit with my poems in front of me, hoping one of them can make sense of things right now. There is a line somewhere in these pages about natural disasters. I have referenced love in this way since I can remember. Earthquakes shifting the order of things: dirt split rigidly down Earth’s center, jagged vulnerable cliffs amidst our favorite flowerbeds. We are ripping away from each other; every bouquet from here until the end of everything will have stems we don’t yet know how to cut. We resolve to reach farther but throw the whole thing out. Hope the next dozen will be easier, brighter; have a better shot at surviving this thing, this holy and oft-questioned thing, this beautiful and bold circling-around-the-ridge thing. I move at a speed I do not know towards the place where split headaches begin. When darkness asks me what is most valuable to me, I tell it, “Right here,” pointing straight to the chest, the heart, “right here.” A quiet grin, a subtle laugh, everything and nothing between us, hushed now and I pull the sheets over my head one last time as I drift off to sleep—

Published by Robbie Williford

Writer from Flint, Michigan. Partial but slowly becoming. Educator. Storyteller. Bashful. Paying attention to the quiet.

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