90 Elements and a Stamp Collection
I stand by the bed and weep. My hands begin to tingle. I have a branch in my side. It grows, pushes through my bones, refuses to bloom.
A thin string. I tug on it sometimes just to see how far I can unravel. Touch me. It’s all about ripples. I haven’t cascaded in ages. How does one achieve this? I don’t know. I was walking along a park’s path and I saw a patch of ferns. I crawled over to them, put my cheek to their cheek and said, How can I return to you? It started to rain and I had to get back in time for the bus. I never figured out their secret.
Heartwood grows in the inner-most layer of a wood-bearing stem. It grows outward, radially, until it crushes all of the cell walls around it which then collapse to form the bark. The bark is simply dead cells. We never see the heartwood unless we gut the plant. Gut the insides to make writing tablets from which we never wrote each other.
I had a friend once who wrote me from miles away. I’d keep all of her stamped envelopes in my sock drawer and stick the stamps on my bedpost near my lamp. At night the stamps would ripple when I half-way closed my eyes. I thought about her tongue against them and how strangely close my dreams drifted to her. The stamps decorated the bed. Sometimes they would have flowers on them.
I bend over the imaginary stamps, categorizing tulips and periwinkle, primrose and dogwood. I smell only glue and U.S. Postage weight. My cells regenerate. Alive means knowing there’s no end to the string, just variations in color.
The branches lose their lignin and curl to degenerate. It will take years, but eventually, coal will form, a bit of sandalwood will wash up on the North Sea shore.
Great Love: Finding the Other Between Brahms and Quantum Mechanics
We shall be changed. For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality. – 1Corinthians 15:52-3
As I stood between myself and the window, I had a feeling an Other was perceiving what would unwrap.
Call it opening up, call it madness, but sometimes, one feels waves when the ground is steady, love when all corners are dark.
These moments strike only when the mind is ready, when perhaps a broken-down-ness has occurred. And, the very moment we feel the world is stagnant, in the cracks of an alleyway, burst gardens! And why not? Sporadically, the Other dances in tune with our neurons. If not sporadically, we might not notice it when it does occur.
I said I stood between the window and myself while sitting down. At that second, I did not know that state of being-in-between, but looking back, as satellites look to stars, catching unseen tails in their lenses, I move toward a realization that I could, and did, stand between former despair and future unknowing, suspended.
Despair has the capacity to lull our bodies into dance, too, but only occasionally, and with caution. For, after we begin to see ourselves as the Other, a clearing in a wood is put to flames or, more physically, a neuronal pathway, used, shakes off.
One experience cancels the next, and to build, we remember ghosts, only ghosts.
Why can’t gardens grow out of every despair then? So what if our minds give up the clearing in the wood, brushed back with flames of the Other, destroyed, neurologically clipped?
Because, alongside the unknowing that comes with the dance—the moment when the voices come in—there must be undergrowth and new associations, though painful; not to withstand the undergrowth and pain, but to understand.
Once, I succumbed to another sort of dance. Not the relief of the Other, but anchoring despair. Weighted, I thought to cry out, Lift me up! But something wanted my attention. To know this undergrowth, to keep my life from being always “in the clouds,” a gift was being presented. So I cried, full and belly-shifting. But I want revelation, I thought, not this!
Why? asked the former-me and the Other. How is this any different from joy? Sing into the suffering. Be still.
From this stillness, something happens like what happened today near the window. The Other stands and allows me to be in-between former despair and future unknowing. And, in that moment, glimpses of Great Love.
It is the body where the weight of my crying rested. My body that understood something the mind was rejecting. When we are crying out, wanting relief, not accepting the gift, how can a duality happen? How can we have a feeling of beginning-to-know something we have yet to know?
A single electron can take two different paths within our circuits. It can, in essence, interfere with itself while trying to get from place to place, split between two places at once. And so, too, ions, which carry all our potential actions and thoughts across the brain—it is through ions that our neurons communicate.
As with Schrödinger’s wave equation that computes all the possibilities of one particle’s behavior, left alone, the particle has no specific location. Two places at once, five? In a wave or still? To observe is to un-know.
Just as I was walking down the stairs for a cup of tea, a person downstairs began playing Brahms. Though they had been playing for some time, I was only just aware. A thought scurried across just as I felt sadness. So this is the language of the moment. So this is two places at once. My listening and Brahms’ calling into the world, the darkness that once housed his despair. And, possibly, the person playing Brahms began in order to relieve their own sort of sadness and weight. Lifted, we are all together singing!
I remember a friend who called to me as I was running into the West Texas sunset. He was a sort of perceived knowing that the Other danced into me today. I had the feeling of beginning-to-know something. And sure enough, my despair back then led me to write about water, and in that water surfaced a stranger who saw his own face in it. Hannah! He cried, and so I was then named Hannah in his mind. And perhaps the particles in my brain split open to be that for him. Communion, between our sadness and joy, is possible, even with those we have never known.
And when I succumbed to the weighted, full crying, I sang into my arm. What makes me hold, I thought, to one branch any longer than another? And so each experience is its own unwrapping.
If electrons are subject to the counter-intuitiveness of quantum mechanics, perhaps so are our states-of-mind, our emotions. And how, in brief seconds, we may lift up, out of despair or unknowing, and glimpse Great Love.
Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick has chapbooks out with Thrush Press and Mouthfeel Press. Her work has appeared in Salt Hill, Stirring, Versal, The Texas Observer, Devil’s Lake, Four Way Review, among others. Hardwick is the Poetry Editor at The Boiler Journal. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and her first full-length collection Before Isadore was published by Sundress Publications.