Hinge at the Joint

Manoj Mauryaa Balance

Bright smile and thick glasses. He slips the frames into a pocket while striding over to claim proximity.

Bigger than I’ve been since pregnancy. Stripped of makeup, wrinkled and pimpled and rank with sweat.

Side planks face to face.
I’ve known his name exactly three days.
Here we are grinning like teenagers and losing count.

Not done yet.

Dedication to each small climb, each tiny triumph. Here an apex.
A falling away.
Even on Skyline Drive, you’ve got to pull over and step out. Otherwise it’s just another commute.

Continue reading “Hinge at the Joint”


Thunder Roll


Blue-white needles frosted with summer rain squat fat and still over the roar.  Every passing growl is a Doppler crescendo lifting away another earthling.   One, maybe two.   Each made the choice to ride.  Every roar for days, hours into night, dawn into searing noon.  The rumble approaches and retreats, again, approaches and retreats, again.  Each one another one.  Each one new.  Each one here, each already gone.

 This freeway usually crouches behind its soft noise, a wash becoming nothing.  Surf without storm, wind over low dunes scoured clean of all breaks.  It fades into air itself, hiding passage in the press of blank white.  Ears become deaf by necessity or maybe laziness here on the other side of the sound wall, deaf to each human pressing on towards the singular objective of a fragment of day.

Now, here, these motorcycles demand attention.  They are designed for notice.  Each growl is a call to the hairs to rise, the jaw to stiffen, voice ready.  Who’s that? What’s there? When is this?

Now, it is now, it grumbles, it rumbles.  Another now, here it comes! There it goes. . .  A neighbor, a choice, a journey, a calling.

 What now?

A pleasure.  A burn.  A rebirth.

Coursing over the tarmac and weaving through white gashes, each in a pair, a pack, a battalion, or one lone rider.  Glove and leather, denim and chrome.  Each thunder roll is a choice to grip between thighs that saddled machine.  To clutch at gears, to stay upright, to cling to blacktop while soaring up, past, through and away.

Who’s that? What’s there?  Time, one moment. 

When is this?  Choice, forward motion, action, revolution.

Drive in, charge in, bite in and swallow the same air that churns out from belly, esophagus, throat, motor, rubber, grease, grit, sky.  The growl is gulp and belch.  It is breath and howl.  This is another man’s life here, passing, gone.  This is another woman’s ascent, crest, recede.  Each a doppelganger in flag starred ink and road scarred steel.

Claim it.

The rumble barks.

Claim you. 

Each single ticking humming second, each imperceptible sweep of the minute hand is one that only goes forward no matter how hard you press against the brakes and crank into reverse the resistant gears.  You can’t erase the odometer, can’t fly backwards down the on-ramp and start again with open road.

You only have this stretch here, the one outside your window behind a spill of ivy and shattered glass, this low sun bleeding over the sound wall and carrying your stunted roar up to smash like shell, yolk, skull, and cry against the day’s vanishing light.

Image: Vladen Antonov, AFP/Getty in Huffington Post from the Memorial Day 2014 Rolling Thunder ride in Washington DC

Days of Miracle and Wonder

steampunk eye

Less than 24 hours ago, Jasmine was checking my vitals and Jolly upping the saline. Sexy Surgeon had autographed my left knee in purple marker. An unscheduled emergency bumped my mundane procedure to the bottom of the queue, so I was the last patient of the day. A little after 5:00pm, the two nurses heard the buzz, flipped up the side rails, and wheeled my gurney toward operating room. On the way, Jolly grabbed two warm blankets and apologized as she unfolded them over me. “The room is a little chilly.”

“You should use a word other than ‘chilly,'” I slur, “when someone has been fasting for 18 hours.” Jasmine grinned and kicked open the door.

Less than 24 hours ago, drifting in a fog of anesthesia, I offered up my torn meniscus to the doc and his team.

Less than 15 minutes ago, I walked the dog around the neighborhood.

It was a slow walk, sure, and a low dose of Percocet smoothed the way.  Yet there I hobbled, pooch patiently ambling at my side.  Just a blink earlier, I was lounging in pre-op, rehashing family lore with my mom. They had yet to jab my joint open debride the meniscus with a pair of miniature tools that clearly need more oblique names than “the biter” and “the shaver.”

Medicine is magical and magical is art

This is a terrifying time to be alive. It’s hard to ignore disasters both present and imminent, and impossible to quiet the urgency for action in so many corners of the world.  Innovation births drone warfare and the venom of dictators screaming instantly into our pockets. We celebrate each new decade by inventing a thousand novel ways to die.

Also, this is a time of marvels. Someone found their way through the call of hunger and greed. Someone tinkered and played and eventually conjured up arthroscopy. Now we head home from the operating theater with absolute faith in the next dance.

The way we look to us all

Even knowing the work ahead, even wide awake to the call to clean up these messes and respond to the surging need of our neighbors on this planet, I’m grateful.

These are the days of miracle and wonder

It’s a blessing to be alive on this bit of rock in this moment in the story.

The dog is pretty happy about it too.

Lyrics: Paul Simon’s Boy in the Bubble

Image: Roleplayers Guild: The Relics

100 Blessings


In Jewish tradition, a person should recite 100 berakhot every day.  That’s 100 blessings.

So you are or are not Jewish.  Or you are.  And you think maybe a blessing is something like prayer.  Or gratitude.  Maybe it’s different too.  Maybe it’s noticing the azalea bush at the foot of the stairs and the way its blossoms began as thin green threads and now, after their full explosion, rest like a grandmother’s hands against damp leaves.

Maybe it’s also praising the rain.

A blessing is all these things.  It is also more.  You discover this prism of a definition somewhere deep inside the recitation.  You also stumble out on its leading edge, that one you can only reach by covering ground that you hadn’t considered taking before.

Start with 1 (the public library).  Then 2 (the co-worker who always cracks a joke). Lurch and resist your way to 10 (the grandparents, long dead, whose welcome and affection was so complete, you took it completely for granted).

Catch your breath.

When you get to 25 (the neighbors who stop to say hello even when your head’s down and you’re radiating leave me alone and they choose friendliness anyway) you realize you’re one fourth of the way there.  You’ve hit your stride.  This pace is a marvel.  You thought when you started that that there’s no way, not enough good things, and never enough time to get them all in.

By 26, you begin to lift your gaze up and out of yourself (the teachers and the volunteer parents too).  From there to 50, your radius spools out across the community (the folks who volunteer on weekends to rip the invasive shrubs from the park).  By 51 (the friend raising funds for RAIN for Sahel & Sahara and the locals there who dig the wells), you’re spanning the globe.

Catch your breath.

Then cut the line and let it go.

Because you’ll look everywhere you’ve looked every day for years and see what you’ve never seen quite this way.

There will be 72 (Margot’s health)

And 75 (the field of buttercups behind Bob Evans)

And 80 (the way he let me cry and touched my face)

And 81 (all the women who’ve done it on their own and shown the rest of us we can)

And 92 (the web of bus and metro lines that WMATA workers map, maintain, and drive to get us where we need to go)

And 93 (the neighbor who sends a call out condo community listserv anytime there’s a lost dog in the neighborhood, and offers to lead up the search)

And 97 (a break in the clouds after days of rain).

Catch your breath.

Then toss it over the sky and let it sail its way

to 100 (the welcoming arms of this home).

You will see the multitudes, and marvel.  You will find yourself dancing in the living room and swiveling your hips right around the most stubborn ghosts.  You will turn towards your dear one and listen to what’s inside the words.  You will lift every blessing up into your throat and let it become the truth.  You will pause there before speaking, and when you do, it will be with a voice already lit with song.

 Image: “Spring Rain” by Julie Cady Ryan

Settle In

Durrie Winter Scene

The first flakes are dusting the sidewalk. My son and his little buddy are engaged in a take-no-prisoners Pokemon battle in the living room. They munch on microwave popcorn and negotiate rules while I re-pot the frozen rosemary rescued from the balcony. Beans for soup are soaking on the kitchen counter. Next to them, a bowl of sourdough rises under a cloth.

My Mister stops by after his final run to the store. He delivers a sack of whole wheat flour, two head of garlic, and several minutes of hugs. While all of these are unnecessary for survival, it’s nice to be provisioned. Cooking is my second-favorite snow day diversion. My first includes hugging, but  because my Mister’s kiddos need him home to batten down the hatches, this fleeting squeeze will have to suffice.

After he rolls out into the ominous gray, I tear cardboard for the fire and stack towels by the front door. Noodle tip-taps around the living room. She snuffles up fallen popcorn, stopping by the window to gaze at neighbor dogs getting their last long walks before the whiteout.

After a strategic play involving Rapidash and Magmar, my boy demolishes his friend. They toss cards aside and yank on coats. Bug presses his feet into the new boots we bought at Sears yesterday. They were sold out of almost every size and we had to dig through shelves to find a  pair that wouldn’t give him blisters. With a shriek and a whoop, the two race out into the deepening white.

Here I wait without waiting. For the first time, the season’s hushed pulse matches my own. Soon enough, this low-bellied sky will carry in the night. We will play music. We will dance with the dog. We will finish Rick Riordan’s Lost Hero and crawl into flannel sheets as winter, at last, blankets our world.


Image: George Henry Durrie, Winter Scene in Connecticut, 1858, at the Smithsonian American Art Museum


Everything is Music

He points to Sting and Bob Marley,
his eyes hopscotching sideways
over walls of worn bright album covers
all the way to the ceiling, lighting
up for the first time
as salsa music and hissing milk
steam the room and warp
corners that squeeze
us into the proximity
of firsts
and nexts. Shots
in hot mugs clank against laughing teeth.
He slides forward in his seat
back again. When India Arie
escorted Stevie Wonder to the stage
he tells me, she kissed him on the cheek.

The next morning beach balls
soar through the sanctuary,
the whole congregation plays
Beethoven’s 9th
on kazoos but only after the Jewish
minister of this Unitarian church
wishes everyone a happy Hanukkah
as he juggles.
Joy to the fishies
in the deep blue sea, brass
horns blow fat bubbles of light
across a swaying crowd, on feet,
on chairs,
Joy to you and me.

This is morning’s prelude
to dusk as it rides in on fiddle and flute.
Clapping stomp dancing feet
chase a reel as it vaults off the skin
of an Irish drum then ricochets around the belly
of a bouzouki swollen with Miss Fogarty’s
Christmas cake and strung
with cinnamon berry and gold.

Cresting and crashing
our lustrous flesh resounds
with chords carried by tides of vinyl,
voice, reed, steel. Air, all of it,
curving through the space between cells
and what they create,
our eyes half closed awake
to colors that do not exist in our language,
fingers tracing hieroglyphs
of that ancient tongue
across the sky.

My Shimmering Lovely

Today is a resting time, and my heart goes off in search of itself. If an anguish still clutches me, it’s when I feel this impalpable moment slip through my fingers like quicksilver… At the moment, my whole kingdom is of this world. This sun and these shadows, this warmth and this cold rising from the depths of the air: why wonder if something is dying or if men suffer, since everything is written on this window where the sun sheds its plenty as a greeting to my pity?


Albert Camus, Lyrical and Critical Essays

Heartache is a bitter decadence, the dark chocolate of emotions. Indulgence means savoring the long, slow melt.

Tonight, I wallow.

Disdain would be the easy way forward. Or grumbly resentment, or detached equanimity, or just plain old anger. What else to do with missing him?

Out is a good distraction. This is a buzzing town on a December night. The Weekend section is thick with its glut of holiday fetes.

What’s your pleasure? 

Having been through this a time or two, we know a little more about how to dress and cushion a chilled heart. A breakup is a chance to dive into a capacious garment of diversion. Playing music and cooking bring joy, the gym is a quick high, dancing in the living room an expansive release. Friends are on deck. A new language itches to be spoken. The tree winks, and under it, stockings all wait in their happy heap.

Just outside the door, fullness thrums. It slips in around the edges, pinging and popping under the very skin.

Still, I wallow.

Because I choose to feel all of this.

I choose to keep loving him.

My tenderness would prefer to harden. It wants to plant itself upon its judgments and hammer in the regrets. It would be much more comfortable cooling into place, urging in a cellular structure both predictable and manageable. Routines are an even surface, squared shoulders a lid.

But something tells me this form I inhabit is far from complete. It would be premature to set here.

So I keep stirring, keeping the heat on. I choose to stay soft.

He comes to mind again as he does every night — though maybe not every hour, like before — and I let him float. Him here reminding me of him gone. . .  what is the sensation? What texture, what name? The choices surge and crest and recede. Despair? Indifference? Exasperation? Pain?

Surge, crest, recede.

I choose love.

I call up what I cherish about him. I rewind and return again to a jagged stone beach at night, then a single thread of a spiderweb catching sunlight, then paintbrushes, plumbing, good morning saffron. The fizz of his laugh. The return of mine, the one he gave back every time I lost it.

Leaving all this buried in the cold earth might be a wiser choice. The list of problems is a concrete skin poured over our story. It takes muscle and more than a little stubborn idealism to dig under it all, to extract silver from ore. This is the one power I have here. I use it shamelessly.

I choose to distill us from the rank slurry. I turn us towards light.

My heart will stay open. This is how I can unfurl generous strands of the purest stuff that comprises me, loop them around the boy, the pooch, the neighbors. This is how I can string the silver net for family and community. How I can weave work and creativity into the much larger project of living well on a burdened planet.

By staying soft, my heart also makes room for someone else.

After tonight, I’ll pull myself out of this delicious misery and open myself again to new friends.

Intimacy takes time. It hurts a little. It did with us, it always does. Shifting into imperfect alignment with another human brings bruises and strains, elbows banging into weak spots. He and I acquiesced to the troubles, we let them win. But the next story will be its own. I will keep myself raw, and refuse to harden when I enter the community of strangers and friends. The companions who will let me walk with them, they are waiting, they are already my beloved ones.

I invite in all of what comes.

Tomorrow, I’ll tuck the achy tenderness into pockets behind my breast, around my wrist, under my tongue. As I’ve done for the last month, I’ll flit across the clock, learning and gabbing and celebrating. I’ll step out and begin again yes, yes, to lift the window where the sun sheds it plenty. I’ll let the day in. I’ll set my own self out on my way.

Tonight, though, I wallow.

This is the last night so I give it my all.

The rich, charred flavor is a chord that clangs against my tongue, my blood. The whole loathsome, self-pitying torment of losing him rings in my bones. Meanwhile, in her smokey minor key, the night sings on. The dog sighs, curled on a blanket at my feet. Purple-blue lights blink on tinseled branches.

I can miss him so hard it hurts, and still be a whole shimmering lovely thing,

and still let him go,

still now, be still now,

tonight is a resting time,

still here with the hushed laugh tucked low in my belly, right where he left it for me.