One Place to Begin by John Daniel
I don’t know if it’s the dizzying heat or my anxiety, but my head feels extraordinarily heavy. I want to lock myself in a closet and stay huddled there for days in the dark. A card on my desk reads, The answer is yes, and it’s a mantra, and I try to will myself closer to that. I’m not sure if I’m succeeding.
A friend was telling me that he wanted to send give me a book, but he wasn’t sure if I’d like it. Are you kidding, I said. That’s one of the things I love—when someone gives me poetry, whether it’s just the one poem or an entire collection, apart from my own feelings and reactions towards it, I like to think about why you gave it to me, why and how this is important to you. The answer is yes, I tell him. Go ahead.
R. and I were talking about traveling. The places he’s been to. The places I’ve not been to. Yet. I wish I could take you with me, he says. Oh, oh. If only. The answer is yes.
To be honest I don’t think I want to leave now. There are so many things to do. I know that I must do this, because I refuse to stand in my own way. Still I feel like I’m running away from something, too. But. Forward, ever forward, yes?
One Place to Begin
You need a reason, any reason—skiing, a job in movies,
the Golden Gate Bridge.
Take your reason and drive west, past the Rockies.
When you’re bored with bare hills, dry flats, and distance,
Forget where you thought you were going.
Rattle through the beer cans in the ditch.
If there’s a fence, try your luck—they don’t stop cows.
Follow the first hawk you see, and when the sagebrush
trips you, take a good look before you get up.
The desert gets by without government.
Crush juniper berries, breathe the smell, smear your face.
When you wonder why you’re here, yell as loud
as you can and don’t look behind.
Walk. Your feet are learning.
Admit you’re afraid of the dark.
Soak the warmth from scabrock, cheek to lichen.
The wind isn’t talking to you. Listen anyway.
Let the cries of coyotes light a fire in your heart.
Remember the terrible song of stars—you knew it once,
before you were born.
Tell a story about why the sun comes back.
Sit still until the itches give up, lizards ignore you,
a mule deer holds you in her eyes.
Explain yourself over and over. Forget it all
when a scrub jay shrieks.
Imagine sun, sky, and wind the same, over your
scattered white bones.
(from The Writer’s Almanac)