the calling

Kiki Smith, Free Fall, 1994

Kiki Smith, Free Fall, 1994


  1. because the dreams of the quarries returned (the unknown of what rests beneath, welcome and wanted, right after crashing into cold water, how it would almost feel like flying more than falling on the way down.) and so too did the late summer peaches.
  2. because a man once walked an unauthorized high wire between the twin towers in new york city on an august morning. to “discard. . .and reinvent my art.”
  3. because the ankle strap on my orange vintage shoe broke that night, and when i asked if she had a safety pin, she said, "here, what size do you wear? you can wear mine."
  4. because in ancient egyptian, celtic, and hindu cultures, the owl was guardian of the underworld and protector of the dead, a seer of souls. and sometimes knowledge is doubled edged: sharp and dark and liberating.
  5. olly-olly oxen free. because in the end, eros was burned by the light. and this was his strange salvation.
  6. because when i was seventeen, i sat in high school english class and wrote out the poems we studied onto my skin, pale flesh of thigh and arm up to elbow, with a ballpoint pen. and somehow this is why i trust.
  7. because my bed makes sense to me now.
  8. because our lady of guadalupe, the dark virgin, is the patroness of the mexican armies during the wars of independence. and also is the mother of maguey.  and wears the colors of the toltec divine couple ometecuhtli and omecihuatl. because she comes from loss and finding a way to speak anyway. because she is willing to be used, to be what is needed, in order to find a way through.
  9. because i am not superstitious. except, i am.
  10. because there was a plant cutting, in a glass jar, sitting there in the shower among soap. and it was beautiful, a thing so hopeful and regenerative. and how else do you explain it except say this was the moment when i knew.
  11. because it was worth waiting for.
  12. because when jacob wrestled with the angel, the wounding was the blessing. and the ladder goes in both directions.
  13. because when i stood outside in the night, looking up at the moon with him, this boy that came from my body and is forever his own, i knew he was the purest and most complicated love i will ever know.
  14. because those moments, she said, they save me.
  15. because some people speak of a calling as clouds clearing, a great voice from the other side of the woods, and a path made clear like seas parted or cornfields after the crop has been harvested and now you can see again to the place where ground meets sky. and i do not have or know this. or if it happens, i have yet to recognize my own name. still, i’m walking in.
  16. because the beating sound the heart makes is the clap of valve cusps opening and closing. which means to stay alive means we most open and close and open. again and again and again.
  17. because the match was lit by your own hand, and the house burned to the ground, and you thought maybe there was no corner left to turn, revealing unexpected doors, gifts. and here you are, the smoke still stained to your skin, evolving up your back. here you are, glowing. incandescent.
  18. because “the moment seizes us.”
  19. because in the dream, she told me the name of trees. and i wondered if they were scarred or marked as chosen, when names were carved into wood, and if they knew or cared or made such a distinction, or if this was only mine.
  20. because timing is everything.
  21. because in those stories, she opens and she eats and she sees.
  22. because, when we had coffee that last time, before he moved back to Iran, he told me, “you are perhaps mistaken. you are not a rebel, going against the rules given you. you may be outlaw here. but it’s more. it is so much more. you are simply your own country.”
  23. because “she survived her past to arrive in the present.” and you can call it whatever you want. survivalism. luck. relentless hard work. whatever name given, i will take back the year that the locusts have eaten. sit out on the back steps in the last cling of heat, her mouth like honey and wine.
  24. because my love is for reality, what is here, and only ever here, once. 
  25. because i do not like the cold, but i am no longer afraid of the coming winter.

because of all of this, these things, i want to say that yes, maybe it is true, i have what i once assumed foreign or unfit for my temperament and terrible stories. a kind of fidelity or conviction in the movement towards light, even as we walk on the dark ground we will return to. a stillness in the unanswerable questions. a choice to create a geography of meaning.