This Moment: Our Present
by Lylanne Musselman
A stunning summer evening,
so pleasant after the humid horrors
of our heartland’s “feels like” 100° days.
Here I sit, content, on a pier overlooking
Fort Ben’s Duck Pond with my friend,
Mary, who shares with me, her day:
from riding high with her grandson –
his newfound biking skills, to walking
too close to the valley of death
with a loved one. Then, we each quietly
spill our minds onto a fresh page
that absorbs each carefully placed word –
our meditation, while fishermen (and women) fling
their fly rods into the calm water to lure
their own catch of the day, the cattails
bend and swish their gratitude, and
cicadas swell cheers of loud delight.
Tomato at the Park
by Gary Schmitt
From the field,
from the Amish
who know their tomatoes,their heirlooms and looms,
a tomato taken to the park
to be eaten, a lunch in the trees,
in the shelter of a rare, dry summer day,
south of the north wind,
sun invited with a few cotton clouds
to pass the time.
Stray seeds squirted onto a shirt,
the only visible remains
of the red roundness of the tomatocarried home safely inside
from the outside.
Man Eating Tomato at the Park
by Liza Hyatt
He has no knife to cut it,
just bites down,and slurps to keep pulp
and seeds from spilling
onto his Piggly Wiggly tee shirt.
He leans over the grass,
sitting sideways on the picnic table,
and when the liquid interior of the fruit
drips down onto his belly,
despite his effort,
he sucks the seeds from well-worn cotton cloth,
finishes the fruit off with two loud, large bites,
and pours water from a plastic bottle
into his palms to wash
the juice from between his fingers.
Natural Peanut Butter on Sprouted Grain Bread
by Liza Hyatt
Natural peanut butter on sprouted grain bread,
thrifty and unimaginative when eaten in an office,
tastes adventurous when eaten outdoors.
Oh, what Lewis, Clark, and Sakajawea
would have given for such a sandwich!
Missing the shire, struggling toward Mordor,
Frodo and Sam would have wept
over such tastes of home.
The squirrels are salivating in hopes
of stray crumbs left behind.
Millet, spelt, wheat, oats,
and ground legume
are chewy, sweat earth
filling the oven of the mouth
with field, furrow, and granary.
The whole world tastes more alive,
and when a damselfly
visits the picnic table,
the eyes taste flight’s flavor
in its tail tipped in sky blue.
by Liza Hyatt
Seven months old, your first two teeth have come in. Two white sprouts blooming from the ledge of your tender gums, in the same week that the woodland wildflowers with names like toothwort and bloodroot open on the ridge over Fall Creek. I have brought you to see them, brought you out on this bright spring day to show you the world, to show you things you’ve never dreamed of.
I spread a picnic blanket near the trail, plop you down on it, and you lunge toward the woodland carpet at the blanket’s edge. Almost crawling, but not quite, you reach a flower, crunch it in your hand, rip off petals, sit up, and bring them to your mouth. For a long time we play at this. You find flowers, grass, pieces of bark, clumps of dirt, little sticks, an ant, moss. You clutch at the precious riches waiting to be tasted, and I name them for you as I keep you from swallowing them whole. “Oh, you found bark. Yes, that is a stone. Yes, that is dirt. All this, and this, you’re touching her, our mother Earth.”
I open the plastic produce bag full of strawberries. When you see them you say, “Oowuh!” the way you do when you are excited. With both hands wide open you strain toward the berries like someone at a church revival in the midst of an alleluia, like a trapeze acrobat in midair reaching for the next silver swing.
I give you your own strawberry, a fat one you can easily hold. Like the dirt and the stones and the bark and the flowers, this strawberry is the first. You slobber on it, scrape at it with your new teeth, suck it to a pulp, push it whole into your mouth, spit it back out, cry when I take it away. I mush it up and feed it to you in stringy lumps already partially dissolved by your own saliva. We do this with a second berry and a third. Your hands and face and shirt are covered with red pulp and you look as pleased with your meal as a lion on the Serengeti licking wildebeest blood from her fur. When I look at my watch, an hour has passed just eating strawberries.
When the berries are gone and I’ve wiped your face, we blow bubbles from a pink plastic wand dipped in soap. They float toward you, spin and eddy in the breeze, reflecting tree branches just coming into leaf, creek, cloud, earth, flower, our own faces, a sun in rainbow paisley skies. Laughing, you touch your first bubble. It pops immediately. Your face changes in the same moment from smiling to serious. You look at me, confused.
Death, I think, appalled at what I’ve inadvertently shown you.
But you plunge your hands toward the bubble wand, the soap, laughing again, wanting more. I blow another stream toward you. The bubbles waft past. Some burst in mid-flight. Some are speared by grass, snagged by gentle petals. Some land on your head, brush your cheek, reach your hands. They all pop, they all die. You laugh and cry and laugh as this one pops, then this one, then this. Tears in my eyes, I keep the bubbles coming, watching as you learn so quickly, so agreeably, about transience, feeling my heart breaking again and again and again.
“Ephemeral,” I whisper to you between blows. “That’s what they call these flowers. The ephemerals.”
Like you, I was once in love with everything – with life, with the world, and all the little things. But so much of what I’ve loved has been lost. I stopped throwing myself into life like a trapeze artist, stopped falling into love, most of the time trying to find a contented existence in the safety net. As you grow up, you will see my adult stiffness, my fear of thins, my hesitancy and rigidities. You will swear that you will never be like me. You will think I am silly; you will be embarrassed around me. Someday, when you are much older, we will talk about love, loss, heartache. I hope in this life you will be spared, more than I have been, from losing what doesn’t need to be lost. What doesn’t need to be lost is the willingness to open to new moments, new loves, even as the past adds up, even as the compost heap outgrows the garden.
Two bluebirds wing by us. One stops on a branch overhanging the creek, then dives away, following its mate. I blow you more bubbles, watch them float over the flowers like spherical moths, white butterflies stirred up in a cloud from the ground. I try to see the bubbles from your eyes as well as my own. Like the wildflowers, the soap bubbles are ephemerals. Here one moment, gone the next. Ephemeral flowers. Ephemeral bubbles. Ephemeral leaves. Ephemeral wind. Ephemeral birds. Ephemeral clouds. Ephemeral trees. Ephemeral me. Ephemeral you.
I’ve felt an unflagging tug in blood, bone, and nerve from the day you were born. Your father, who is wired differently and will never be a-wash with mom-hormones, commented casually as we drove home from the hospital just after you were born, that you might live to vacation on the moon. “Not in our lifetime,” he said. “But maybe in yours.” I was in the backseat, guarding over you, as you sat curled up in the huge car-seat looking as small as a thimble in a soup tureen. Tears filled my eyes and my throat knotted up. At that moment, it was a total surprise and shock to be told that we wouldn’t spend every moment of forever together.
That is what I see watching the bubbles float over the forest floor’s flowers. The whole ephemeral universe going up in smoke with you and I in it, bubbles inside of bubbles, expanding, living, stretching, until poof! it’s all over except for a brief rain of soap spray, as the shape of life as we know it breaks apart, scatters, evaporates.
From your perspective, the bubbles come and go, come and go, magically. You aren’t thinking about past, future, compost, garden, life, death. You aren’t thinking about the soap bubble universe’s expansion and dissolution. You are in the universe and of the universe and that is all.
Amidst a stream of bubble galaxies, a double bubble – two partial spheres, large and small, attached as one – emerges from the bubble wand. It floats between us, drifts toward the picnic blanket. “There we are, ” I say. The double bubble lands on the blanket, lingers awhile, then silently quivers, folds, and disappears. You see this and forget it as a new bubble floats up to kiss your cheek. You reach for it, wobble, and regain balance.
Watching you, I suddenly feel freed, able to see this very moment as it is, a bubble saying, “This is life. Hello, goodbye! Pop!” and the next moment is already here with its own kiss of hello, goodbye. And pop, pop, pop, pop, the moments keep coming and going and so you and I are here, laughing at how it is all so beautiful and so short, and I want to say to you, “So this is how it is done! Alleluia!” as the next silver moment swings toward us and we catch hold and let go and fall, flying into the next. “This is how to love. Fall into life and out. In and out of love and in and out with each passing second.” But I can see from the bright gleam in your eyes that your body, your whole being, is on fire with such loving. All along it has been you who are showing me the world, showing me things I’ve never dreamed of. You are overflowing with holy spirit and I kneel before you, dragging crutches, safety net behind, having come to this revival to be healed.