When 4 am dark is narrow, I feel it beforeI leave the bed. I pull the narrow into mythighs, walk out of the house, up the steephill of the Arlington. I am sure to wear myglasses, so I’ll see the sharp, narrow lightsfar above me succeed in breaking throughnight-sky’s dark. I need the narrow, now,in my fingers as I type. I learned itdecades ago, when I started shootingmeth—draw back my thumb at the angleto balance a syringe’s small circular topon my thumbnail as I pull the correctdosage of liquid into the syringe, and thenfeel what I thought was the exactingprecision of a changeless certainty. Itwasn’t. But the skill of narrow precision—all that I’ve taken with me from my yearof shooting meth. I feel it in my thighs onthis early-morning walk. In each foot’simpact on pavement, risking whereverprecision leads—this morning I step intofear. I draw that into the stride, trustingthe rhythm of this instant of walking, nomatter how it might change the nextinstant, change me, change where thismight lead. Last night, I needed to narrowmy eyes as I read the new poem Cassiesent me. So few words on a line. Notforcing a line’s meaning to come anysooner than it might have come to her,come for her, as she typed, come for me,now, as I read for the narrower passagewithin the meaning to take me fartherthan I knew I’d had the courage for. Myleft foot first—this has become anobsession of starting out the door in themorning, a form of reliability, a ritual, thatI allow to be as frighteningly necessary asthe ritual of my childhood, wearing the bitof white lace on my head required for aCatholic girl going into church, even whenmass wasn’t in session, when no otherswere in the pews. Once, the lace slipped,fell to the church floor. My sharp intake ofbreath, so loud that a nun sitting in a pewpraying looked up. Such shock on herface—not because the lace fell, I realized,but for the look she saw on mine. Whathad she seen there? I’m drawing into mythighs that unknowable expression Iwore, which remains mine, as I look to thetop of the hill where the Arlington turns.I’m filling my lungs, my blood, with thatlook, which narrows as it gains force—what has always been fear and, more thanfear, awareness that nothing can protectme from whatever might come. I drawthat in. Langer says, look for anyexpression and, whatever expression youare seeking, you will find. At my frontdoor, I notice and reach down to pick upthe Monday morning New York Timeswhere it rests this morning in its blueplastic wrapper, and I feel everything is asymptom of the expression I am seeking. Ipick up the news and I step inside.
Copyright © 2020 by Rusty Morrison
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Rusty Morrison is co-publisher of Omnidawn (www.omnidawn.com) & her five books include After Urgency (won Tupelo’s Dorset Prize) & the true keeps calm biding its story (won Ahsahta’s Sawtooth Prize, James Laughlin Award, N.California Book Award, & DiCastagnola Award). Her recent Beyond the Chainlink was finalist for the NCIB Award & NCB Award). She is a recipient of a Civitella Ranieri fellowship, and a recipient of other artist retreat fellowships. She’s currently a fellow, awarded by UC Berkeley Art Research Center’s Poetry & the Senses Program. She teaches and she gives writing consultations. Her website: www.rustymorrison.com