There is so much quiet in a borrowed house,
stepping into a stranger’s collection
of art books and novels in piles
beside the worn soft leather couches.
Stepping into this realm of objects carefully placed,
the owners’ absence so penetrating,
their choices so persistent,
it’s hard to remember my own life.
I start to wonder, how old am I now?
Am I twenty, house-sitting for one of my professors?
I start to forget, what do I know how to do now?
Did I ever figure out what I was going to do in my life?
I enter this young self I always thought I was,
when I was lost and wandering,
spending time in grown-up’s houses,
wondering what my house would be like when I grew up.
I can’t take off my jacket.
There is nothing I am supposed to do.
I have stepped out of my world and all that calls me so urgently,
to step into this quiet where there is no trace of my life.
I begin to read a book of Buddhist quotations for each day of the year.
By the time I get to March,
it seems I have always been sitting in this chair,
looking out into the late October dusk,
the heavy laden gray clouding over the pine-etched islands,
the sea settling into impenetrable vastness.
The anchors of my carefully constructed life vanish.
The outlines of the granite shoreline
disappear into the rising dark,
behind this lamp’s glow of warmth.
When I pause to watch this solitary light,
the darkness snug against the glass,
my old friend loneliness appears,
as if she’s been lying in wait.
Before the old longing can settle in with its familiar ache,
I start wondering into this presence.
Who have I been missing all this time?
What do I mean by loneliness?
The word starts breaking into tiny fragments, scattering
like ash floating off the log as I stoke the fire.
How can I be lonely
when I am here,
sitting in this soft chair beside the dark sea
eating my bowl of steamed kale
picked from my garden this afternoon?
At the edge of my bowl,
there is a minute movement.
A tiny brilliant green inchworm
has followed me here to circumnavigate my plate.
How can I be anything
but smiling gently,
finding myself here?
Go i ng Away t o a Rent ed Summe r Hous e
t he Fi r s t Co l d Ni gh t o f Fa l l
so much quiet
in a borrowed house
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