for my cousins and for Dana
Waiting to take off,
I text Dana: Can you see the moon?
The airplane window not much wider
than the length of this pen
and I’m thinking about the miracle
that is language, how letters walk together
to make words so we can speak to each other,
but even so, how often do we actually say
what we mean?
It’s true, I saw the moon
and thought of him, how earlier we had sat
in my sunlit living room leaning into each other
and closing our eyes listening to the rise and fall of our breath.
Outside the howl of wind.
No he texts back
and before I can write what I had really wanted to say,
they’re closing the cabin door
with the truth of it on the tip of my tongue,
also preparing for take off.
In Hebrew if you take one letter away from the word for truth
you are left with the word that means death
which is the answer to the question you posed to one of your yoga students:
What is the meaning of breath?
Last year at this time I was flying to Minneapolis to bury my cousin Meredith,
now to celebrate her daughter’s second birthday,
mother and daughter, same day,
birthday, last day and I’m marveling at these subtle
or not so subtle coincidences
between a letter, a sound, a day, or the fact that Meredith,
Julie (who is meeting me at the airport) and I all share
the same Hebrew name, Rizel, which means rose,
after our great-grandmother and how making these connections
satisfies my own need for meaning, the way my great-grandmother quilted,
weaving this and that into something whole.
Below the lights of some Midwestern city
as close and as far away
How do you know the difference between what is
and what you want it to be?
Julie, Elyse and I sorting through 31 years
of Meredith’s life for baby Samantha’s scrapbook.
Earlier we had watched cartoons with Samantha,
the house still full of Meredith.
Everywhere we turn, we find her.
While washing my hands, I think she must have
used this scented soap in the downstairs bathroom,
my hands, her hands.
We come across a photo of Meredith’s first birthday,
how it could be Samantha getting ready to blow out the candles
and I wonder how many times a day Brian wishes Meredith back
(how much we all do) or if each day she fades just a little.
All their adventures held fast or not contained in their frames,
both the story of what was and what is.
We share memories as we mount photos and design the book,
laughing and crying, how easily we slip from one to the other.
I look across the table at Julie and Elyse, both married
and I pray for the family Elyse has and the one Julie
and Reesa are planning, but I know from Meredith
and my friend Liz from yoga school that life offers equal servings
of love and loss and I can feel the truth of my own breath
filling my chest as day slips into night, drawing the sound out
from the singing bowl as I close my yoga class.
Later I tell Liz how much I want to find what they all have,
a partner in love and life, someone to share in the honesty
of our darkest and our dawn. I think about the blossoming
and the breaking, Brian and Samantha, Julie and Reesa, Elyse,
my mother and father, Liz and her family, Dana and everyone else
who has left a snapshot in the album of my heart, acknowledging
how full and blessed despite this lone emptiness.
Outside the plane window, clouds almost,
almost covering the only hint of true,