Like a Pebble in Space is Like a Planet


It takes wrestling with my whole body for words on the tip of my tongue to be found later, disembodied, on paper.
                                             --Rosmarie Waldrop


To speak is an incomparable act
of faith—prayer to which no answer
is ever certain, and yet from which
results are expected.
                               The mind pretends
to pick up the thread of a thought
and follow it to a conclusion, building
upon, always taking into consideration,
the previous millimeter of thread. But,
in fact, the mind is far too skittery.
Distractions abound, even internally,
and the final thought—if one groups
thoughts into sessions that conclude—
is the product of numberless tangents,
which are finally narrowed to a point,
like the minuscule split ends of a
thread that one licks to fit into
a needle’s eye.
                      Of course, that
is a lie. Thoughts don’t have
fibers like threads, are, in fact, unlike
thread in more ways than they
resemble it. Probably, thoughts are
chemicals interacting, or perhaps
they exist on a plane that can be
(poorly) approximated by language,
but are not themselves language. Though
words are thoughts, to call words
thoughts is to use a metaphor, hence,
to think too hard is to flail about
in a mire, to make dead ends meet.



To speak is an incomparable act
of faith. The mind cannot be put on pause,
and a sentence written down is not
a frame frozen from a reel of passing thoughts.
A sentence is a series of symbols—which,
true, can be thought about, but once
they are put on the page, they are no longer
attached to any particular mind, which
may, in part, account for their inexplicable
liveliness. Relative to us, they are thoughts
waiting to happen, but what are they
on their own? What is a book
in the attic? How is it that nothing
happens when pages face
each other in the darkness between
closed covers?
                       The answer is obvious.
No wonder we hope so hard for life
in outer space. We are lonely, and
even if extra terrestrials destroy us,
at least we were on their minds.
most of us want is someone to lie
beside us, nodding, as we speak
our mind, rendering thoughts
into musical air, meaning as something more
substantive than the inaudible voice. Nodding
signifies that something has crossed
over. Of course, just as with popular
songs, which, once they have been played
on the radio, are no longer the property
of their author, a sentence spoken
no longer represents its speaker’s
originating thought. It’s on its own, like
a pebble in space is like a planet.



To speak is an incomparable act
of faith. What proof do we have that
when I say mouse, you do not think
of a stop sign? The obvious response
to such a question is that whoever asks it
is thinking too hard about a soft
            On bad days, I see
the same people passing me on the streets
over and over again, blocks and blocks
apart, and I begin to wonder if there are
only a few actors, extras, to play
the whole cast of characters composing
my life. But why such an elaborate
pageant just for me? Or if I am
one of the extras, should I be
thinking so much?


To speak is an incomparable act
of faith. Love is a process akin to
the use of a language over the course
of an entire life, meaning a lover dares
to assume he can speak and be
understood over and over again by
someone else whose hearing is hobbled
the way one’s enjoyment of the scenery
might be compromised when
falling from a plane strapped to
a failing parachute.
                          All languages
merge and flow forward as love. The body
speaks what the mouth won’t say,
grinding against the sleeping body
of the beloved.
                     The deepest
love is not the one that breaks the lover
with overwhelming feeling. It is the one
that is most cacophonous and yet never
covers its ears.



To speak is an incomparable act
of faith. With one hand clasping
a wind-blown branch, and the other
buried in the soft matter of my brain,
my description of the wind-blown
branch—a dark hand straining
toward some invisible doorknob
suspended in the air—is nearly torn
in two.
           If I am tethered to the world
by the fragile thread of a sentence,
into what will I fall if it breaks?

What if, suddenly, I could change
the world but could no longer
change my mind.
                         Or I could suddenly change
my mind, making the world shudder,
and I fall. I fall and fall and keep falling,
and when I land, I fall and fall again—
the sensation is more, and less,
than I can describe, my feet planted
firmly on rushing air.