our village (38)

You’ve been there. Something happened in the day, and it nags at you, it gnaws at you a little bit – it doesn’t matter what it is, it’s just there in your head, or your gut, and you think you’ve read enough this evening and that your eyes are droopy enough that you’ll just fall right asleep … but you don’t. You know what I mean. Some nights you just toss and turn: rest on your back and think about what’s bothering you; rest on your side and think about what’s bothering you; turn over onto your other side … and think about what’s bothering you. You know what I mean. It just happens, and sometimes I move the pillow out of the way and I sprawl out on my stomach on the whole bed, like a beached whale, no struggle anymore, just lying there waiting, waiting ….

But sometimes sleep doesn’t come. That was the way it was for me last night. Did you have any trouble? I’ll tell you I don’t know if tonight’s going to be any better, because listen to this. I was so sick and tired of lying there in bed and not sleeping, I got up at about 4:30, before there was any light in the sky, but I knew it was coming soon enough, and I wanted to see it, and I had nothing better to do, so I got up, and I got all bundled without worrying too much about which layers were the perfect ones. Who’s up before 5 in the morning, anyway? Who knows what to wear? I was tired of caring, and I just wanted to be outside, for myself, to see the dawn. Make the most of it, I thought.

So I was in an old robe, plus galoshes, and a great long coat, and that blue knit scarf of mine that is way too long but makes me feel all cozy, and I’m walking down into the Cathedral, and I stop. Those deer that have been hanging around … but … it’s not just that I saw the deer early this morning, no, that’s not the least of it. I’m emerging out of the Cathedral feeling all tingly because I’ve just had this, kind of, experience with the deer … I’d tell you about it, but … I don’t need to, because … read this, it’s the poem that Mr. Bellis gave me as I’m stepping out of the Cathedral and on my way back inside.

“Five A.M. in the Pinewoods” by Mary Oliver

“I’d seen
their hoofprints in the deep
needles and knew
they ended the long night

under the pines, walking
like two mute
and beautiful women toward
the deeper woods, so I

got up in the dark and
went there. They came
slowly down the hill
and looked at me sitting under

the blue trees, shyly
they stepped
closer and stared
from under their thick lashes and even

nibbled some damp
tassels of weeds. This
is not a poem about a dream,
though it could be.

This is a poem about the world
that is ours, or could be.
Finally
one of them—I swear it!—

would have come to my arms.
But the other
stamped sharp hoof in the
pine needles like

the tap of sanity,
and they went off together through
the trees. When I woke
I was alone,

I was thinking:
so this is how you swim inward,
so this is how you flow outward,
so this is how you pray.”

So … I was thinking, I tell you, and my head was swimming, I’m going this way and that way, inward, outward, everything is a mess, and no, I haven’t told him my theory about Lilly-Anne yet. I’m a mess, the coincidence is so crazy, so all I can say is the last thing he said.

“Pray,” I tell him. “Pray for me, Mr. Bellis.”

And I’m asking you, too, please pray for me. I’m confused.

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