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Anything Can Happen by Seamus Heaney

Almost seventy-two hours with S. in another country. Not a minute that I am not alone, save for the small pocket of time in the bath, and even then, the presence of the Other is full of weight on the other side of the door. Yes, I have been learning how to be by myself for a while now. If I can face the silence. If I can face the absence that the silence reveals. But this week I am also learning how not to be alone. And I find myself surprised.

I am of the belief that I am a difficult person to love. But I didn’t take into the account how persistent the world is. The insistence of beauty, as Stephen Dunn would say.

Patience, too, is a curious thing. It finds you walking side streets for hours in search of a coffee shop you feel you must absolutely visit, for no reason other than to be able to say that you were there. It finds you walking three vast, empty courtyards at past six in the evening, the light falling slowly, towards the temple where incense sticks have curled into ashes. Just to see if it’s open. Just to check if they’ll let you in. Just to see the wonder on someone else’s face and think to yourself, maybe this is all worth it.

Standing at the intersection, waiting for permission to go forward. We know where home is, but we don’t yet know how to get there. Do we walk, get a cab, break down and cry? We are lost, and probably not for the nth time. I am both frustrated and worried, but only because nobody here speaks my language. Are we really so utterly alone at the loss of that? And yet—an hour later, after three wrong turns and a long walk—this city is so alive at night it feels quite alright to be lost.

I think traveling with someone is an exercise in loving and forgiving.

Anything Can Happen
Seamus Heaney

Anything can happen. You know how Jupiter
Will mostly wait for clouds to gather head
Before he hurls the lightning? Well, just now
He galloped his thunder cart and his horses

Across a clear blue sky. It shook the earth
And the clogged underearth, the River Styx,
The winding streams, the Atlantic shore itself.
Anything can happen, the tallest towers

Be overturned, those in high places daunted,
Those overlooked regarded. Stropped-beak Fortune
Swoops, making the air gasp, tearing the crest off one,
Setting it down bleeding on the next.

Ground gives. The heaven’s weight
Lifts up off Atlas like a kettle-lid.
Capstones shift, nothing resettles right.
Telluric ash and fire-spores boil away.


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