Apparently, we’re all – or at least most of us – still opening bananas from the difficult end. Despite the fact that we’ve been shown how to do it otherwise. But we’re creatures of habit. Literally. Social organisms that move through the world according to patterns of behavior we’ve incorporated into the very physical patterns of our cells.

The hand pulls back before the brain registers heat.

When my kids were small I took them to the science museum in London. There were holes in one of the walls and visitors were supposed to put their hand in the darkness to touch something. And to guess what it was.

I couldn’t bring myself to do it. And knew I was supposed to teach my kids to do it: Be curious. Be brave. Be trusting.

Ready, get set, said my brain. But my body said no. What does it really mean to be brave? Is it a matter of handing over the reins to the intellect and obeying a painful kick to the rib?

The body’s wisdom is illogical.
This is is a perfect fact.

This fall I tried virtual reality for the first time. We were supposed to walk out onto a beam extending from a high rise hundreds of meters over a busy street. I bent from the waist and peered out of the window. Put my foot on the narrow beam.


I don’t want to teach my brain to override my body. I am inefficient. I will continue to open bananas from the wrong end. Because I am perfectly human. And I come from perfectly human specimens. Who do we think we are?

I’m from holidays
of blond, wood-veneered bureaus
weekend nightgowns and
tuck-ins, hospital corners
in the guest room that was my room

I’m from decorative
cinder block and roach clips
pools that have been drained
for years a parade of uncles
shaking the etch-a-sketch clear

with hands whose ridges
catch motor oil and resin
and hold the world tight
like desert heat in your lungs
when you run and keep running

We’ve had two weeks of dry cold and I was surprised how clean the snow stayed for that time. Fewer people out and about, I suppose.

The roof on one of my little greenhouses caved in. The birdbath is a tiny skating rink. My yard looks like abandoned fairgrounds.

And Leonard keeps eating snow. I hear myself say, “Don’t do that you’ll get worms.” I have no idea why I say it. I know dogs can get worms, but I don’t know how. And as I am saying it, I am not even thinking of dog worms, or worms of any sort really. The phrase just escapes my mouth.

The more I think about it, the more it puzzles me. I tend to say things to Leonard – or in front of him – that I would never say in the presence of another human. Unfiltered little missives from my subconscious.

“This book really sucks.”
“What do you think you’re doing with my sock?”
“Don’t you think E. should have come home by now?”
“I shouldn’t drink so much wine.”

Or maybe these aren’t the product of my subconscious at all. Maybe they aren’t meant to make sense. Maybe it’s a kind of singing. Random phrases without content. Snatches of melodies. Like the effortless work of modeling an infant towards speech. Noise and air. Pitch and volume. A grocery list can be a lullaby. So can a rant about how someone else never takes out the trash. Self-soothing. No deep psychoanalysis. Proximal neuron-paths, hopping electric associations.

I sound like my grandmother, never. But sometimes.

Sometimes there are words
like prepare and brush-your-teeth
with mushroom fullness
that take me back and forward
in time, melting like the snow

I haven’t been able to write this week.
I’ve been unraveling from the edges that brush against the world.
The softness falls away, and I am a skeleton of splintered glass.
Balancing fractured surfaces upright.

I took a course once on trauma and movement and the instructor said something that shifted my perspective. Drama teachers I’ve had, and have worked with use a standard image during warm-up sequences: “Now roll up: one vertebra at a time. Stacking one on top of the other.”

An upright stack of bones being pulled toward the earth.

But the body doesn’t work that way. You cannot stack a skeleton. Not in death. Not in life.

We are suspension bridges.

I think about this image a lot. I come back to it when I feel heavy in the world. We are animated by opposing tensions. Naturally pulled in varying directions as we go about our days. It opens us. Our ribs open and lift like wings when we breathe.

Life needn’t be
a fight against gravity
a balancing act
precarious brain-on-bone-
on-bone afraid of breathing

We can choose to fly
whisper in each other’s ear
I’m going to lift you
now like a dancer come running
trust I’ve got you even from here

These past few days have been difficult. Something like a storm surge instead of the constant ebb and flow of effort and ease. Someone used the phrase storm in a teacup. But that’s not quite right.

I get it: sometimes drama is a diversion from a real problem. A shrew in the bushes on the loose riverbank in spring.

But sometimes it’s the sputtering leak before the hose bursts.

I typed out a list of things in a messenger exchange with my kid. He called it my anti-gratitude list. I felt a little foolish. But I’ve been considering since whether I needed to write one. Not to dwell on, but to see what I need to let go of. All the fancy therapeutic writing exercises, when maybe all I need is this list on a piece of paper.

And maybe a pair of scissors.
And maybe a thick, black marker.

A box of matches
(Something in a minor key?)
Driftwood and kindling
Fricatives and plosives

All spells are taken
back and forth and back again
until the very end
“for each man kills the thing he loves”
doused in oils and dissonance

We’ve had a rare spell of cold. Leonard is happier than I’ve ever seen him, nose in the wind, picking up the scent of a hare. We see the tracks, but Leonard knows they’re old and he’s not tempted off the trail. I’m relieved because they lead out to where the snow is as smooth as the ice it covers. A few weeks ago a man died trying to pull his dog from the frozen lake. I reel in the hunting lead and try to push it all out of my mind.

But the tracks are huge. I imagine a giant hare pounding over the snow-covered moor. A hare the size of a goat, or a calf. How did the ice hold?

But the mundane fact is that the snow has been accommodating the paw impressions for days. Maybe it’s not that mundane, really, if I don’t settle with the scientific explanation. It’s true, yes, but it’s also true that the hare’s passing lingers and moves the world, like a ghost, like a memory made real.

Memories made real. Recorded. Extrapolated in snow and dirt and sunken moorland.

Maybe we’re being watched.

Yesterday we ran along the beach. The polished stones each sheltering a patch of snow. The tide pools frozen, ostensibly lifeless. E. pointed to the lighthouse on the island in the distance. The ship nearby. Both appearing to hover over the ocean.

The cold wedges itself into our reality. Pulls the pieces apart.

The cold is a serpent that creeps over the earth, that pulls it from itself. Islands float on air, we float from one another, shivering. Closing our doors. Shuttering the windows.

E. explains how the cold settles in the hollows. How it clings to the ground and creeps. You can dig a hole to trap the cold outside your threshold. Like you might any other animal bound by gravity.

I can hear the cold
its infrasonic growling
filling the basement
rumbling in dark corners, like
the dog who wants to pile-on

There’s no need to
appropriate magic.
Notice, and believe
in the world as much as you
believe in flesh and blood.