The Soul Bone
Once I said I didn’t have a spiritual bone
in my body and meant by that
I didn’t want to think of death,
as though any bone in us
could escape it. Maybe
I was afraid of what I couldn’t know
for certain, a thud like the slamming
of a coffin lid, as final and inexplicable
as that. What was the soul anyway,
I wondered, but a homonym for loneliness?
Now, in late middle age, or more, I like to imagine it,
the spirit, the soul bone, as though it were hidden
somewhere inside my body, white as a tooth
that falls from a child’s mouth, a dove,
the cloud it can fly through. Like bones,
it persists. Little knot of self, stubborn
as wildflowers in a Chilmark field in autumn,
the white ones they call boneset, for healing,
or the others, pearly everlasting.
The rabbis of the Midrash believed in the bone
and called it the luz, just like the Spanish word
for light, the size of a chickpea or an almond,
depending on which rabbi was telling the story,
found, they said, at the top of the spine or the base,
depending. No one’s ever seen it, of course,
but sometimes at night I imagine I can feel it,
shining its light through my body, the bone
luminous, glowing in the dark. Sometimes,
if you listen, you might even hear that light
deep inside me, humming its brave little song.
I have clearly been remiss in not having posted for over … possibly a month now? I have not chronicled the thoroughly unremarkable events that marked the passage of 2012 and the barely noticed advent of 2013.
Too many things to write, but as for now, having just found out yesterday that Chinese New Year 2013 is on Feb 10, which is three weeks away, I am succumbing slowly to a very Oriental nostalgia. I always tend to begin missing Asian food sometime around this period of the year; it’s a mild wistfulness that crescendoes to a pathetically desperate craving by summer. Have been scouring 8tracks for Mandarin and Cantonese songs for a few days now, and WH might have gotten me hooked onto a Taiwanese variety song, where Chinese pop singers are invited to play those lyric-guessing games, when she visited this week. Then again, it’s not merely the food or the music but the atmosphere it evokes and the familiarity it intimates. The impending wistfulness is multi-dimensional, of course, for both the elaborate, family feasts my mom labored over for two days and the makeshift, casual feasts put together with the family I found briefly in Canada, the hotpot/steamboat and the gratuitous camera shots and the clack of chopsticks against rice bowls. It strikes me that as CNY nears this time, within the set of people I care about, the subset of people who both understand the emotional and cultural significance of CNY and are in Oxford is almost vanishingly small. (See what I did there with my pseudo-math language!!) While not a … deterrence or a pity or anything of that sort, it is another one of those … oh things, I suppose.
(That said, I don’t really know what other … oh things are.)
I guess here’s another one:
Edna St. Vincent Millay
The railroad track is miles away,
And the day is loud with voices speaking,
Yet there isn’t a train goes by all day
But I hear its whistle shrieking.
All night there isn’t a train goes by,
Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming,
But I see its cinders red on the sky,
And hear its engine steaming.
My heart is warm with the friends I make,
And better friends I’ll not be knowing;
Yet there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take,
No matter where it’s going.