On the morning of your birth, Ja Ming, your mother called me. I have never heard someone sound so tired. Her voice, a savannah sparrow just arrived from out east after huddling for a season on winter beaches. I was scared because that long flight, if you think about it, doesn’t seem possible. There’s hunger and wind, not to mention the window panes we throw ourselves against seeing portholes where there are locked doors. When I asked about you, in her sparrow voice that barely parts grass, she told me that your eyes are shaped like hers, but dark blue. As I write this, Ja Ming, your eyes have already bloomed into cardamon brown. Backlit with the genius unique to new citizens, lanterns on a night river.
Ja Ming, I must say that I feel bad. You’re new here and there’s not a lot I can give you. I don’t know how to do many of the useful things like skip stones across a lake or whistle. But here are a few handy tricks I’ve learned so far:
I think it was Ahkmatova who wrote that she taught herself to wander before evening to tire out her sadness. When the ache you carry inside is like a loveless mongrel nipping at your heels, walk long into dusk, until you can fold and tuck away the soiled linen of the day, until your limbs are more tired than your heart and you are filled with sweet fatigue, the loose smell of fields in flower.
Speaking of prayer and open fields, while walking, I find it helpful to recite this list –
Saying this will get you closer. Actually, saying this is as close as we can get to it here.
And as for the heart, which is almost impossible to speak about nowadays, it seems to me that as I go along, mine becomes more and more cratered by those who hold it, carve “I was here” into its bark and then leave. Absences sculpt the heart into the oddest shapes, thank god. Don’t make the same mistake I did and think that this is bad. Try to remember that it’s our strangeness – the loose folds of flesh, the scars, the loud laugh – that makes us beautiful.
There’s more I’d like to tell you. About always packing good thick socks, or the importance of those lingering conversations on the back deck. But I’m rambling on. And I guess half the fun is in figuring this out for yourself.
I look forward to getting to know you.
Published On:February 14, 2008
Permanent Location: http://www.forgetmagazine.com/080214d.htm