Meditation Denying Everything

By Katie Peterson

Because it is a pearly evening
I am sitting in the window reading
a book I have read before.
Branches emphasize
their heft and sway over their shadows.
Some kind of extra firmament,
an ear over the earth’s ear,
extra, as language is to prayer.
Narratives of elsewhere: in the eye
inside my eye that vision makes when you tell it to
when you shut your eyes so hard they hurt
you get more vista and less twist
of road, and then you’re looking
at a valley you named yourself
and irrigated yourself,
full of bitterroot, magnolia in the clefts
of rock, sage, at last a harvest,
a desert that belongs to you—

The trick to renunciation is starting now.
The secret of detachment
is having already given up,
a transcript of speech whose cadences are lost,
the human need for a body to fill in
all your body’s deficiencies, those clefts and dents
already given up, the narrative of a life
completely altered in the retrospect
that knowledge brings and so discredited
the point of memory utterly lost.
That piece of land has always been
suitable for a house. That nest has never
been ready for eight baby birds
who, top-heavy, frightened their own branch
and home and scared themselves
completely and remarkably away.

Do you hear that? It’s the wind
negotiating the spine of one leaf
it cannot decide whether to raise
a fragment of an inch.

Duncan writes as a reader
struggles with a strong sentence, I struggle
at certain unmistakable times
with what’s furtive and most right.
When people marry they finish their names.
I am still listening for mine
to begin. My spine
wants a bicycle to order its work, a red
bicycle, a hill into a heart
of a city that holds something I want.

The pattern of the air around that leaf
is like someone tracing my ribcage
with his index finger
and then walking away.
Who can blame us for wanting other worlds,
but shall we take them,
or let them come to us? Is the spirit just an ear
more like a mouth
that bites the air and turns it into blood?

A voice in the next room goes to sleep.
Sleep moves in the branches of the oak
become a rootless mass
unsung by skeleton or name or height.
My friend who says
she does not believe in Paradise
believes in rest: I believe that,
or more likely I like to think of her,
the way she held my name in her small mouth,
as she held her own name. I like to think of anyone
who on a night like this
would reach towards my ribcage
and trace it delicately and walk away.

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