Moving day

Princes, adorn yourselves!
This earthly house is not our home.
Princes, adorn yourselves! 

A fragment of old poetry, translated from Nahuatl to Spanish to English. I did the Spanish-English translation years ago, but still don’t know what the writer meant by Princes, adorn yourselves! To prepare for the journey? To celebrate it?

Put on me a necklace
Of varied flowers.
They are in my hands,
Garlands flower on me.
We will leave the earth here.
We are loaned to one another.
We go to His house.

That’s another translation. I’m guessing it’s from the same Nahuatl original.

I left my bottle of flowers on a random doorstep, because they would not travel well. Hopefully the person who finds the daffodils in the lemonade bottle will be pleasantly surprised. My garlands are boxes of clothing, a red bicycle, and an unused banjo in need of repair. The Asheville apartment was boxed up, the forecast was rain. A good excuse to linger in town, postpone loading the bike rack until tomorrow… an unexpected urge, given my excitement to leave. But the daffodils and forsythia were out, and the redbuds were fat, and the birds sang. Spring was about to pop. It’s rumored that spring and summer in Asheville are top notch: festivals, music, exuberance, joy. There’s a lot more to see and do here. But maybe another year. I packed boxes into the car between spells of drizzle, grateful for the slight clearing. My week of solitude had been enjoyable, but it was time to go.

Hot beverage
Typical evening fun

I’d reverted, laughably quickly, to a tame spinsterhood in J.’s absence. (He left for Georgia several days before. His paying job was over, and he was drafted as a shuttler of recently repaired family vehicles.) Alone in the apartment, I was like a grandmother in an independent living facility: baby carrots and popcorn and microwaved soup for dinner, washing my singleton dishes to a soundtrack of NPR on a clock radio, in bed by 9:30, wrapped in blankets with a candle on the nightstand, reading my library book until it’s no longer indecently early to fall asleep. Not unfun, really.

I also read Asheville: A History, by Nan Chase. Without the internet, which J. took with him, I actually visited the library in person. After reading a few chapters after work, I’d walk around town, absorbing the living history, comparing notes and impressions with the history I’d learned. The book explained many previously confounding Asheville paradoxes. Despite an SUV’s bumpersticker that proclaimed “Keep Asheville Mediocre,” Asheville is a city of extremes, nothing mediocre about it.  “Asheville: Sweet Cesspool of Sin,” sported by more than a few rundown Toyotas, may be a bit more apt. Because the town contains both the grand Art Deco high school… and the painful and belated racial integration of same. The Grove Park Inn… and crumbling sidewalks. Magnificent public edifices… and apathy masquerading as uniqueness or bohemianism. The liberal “Coexist!” enthusiasm… the persistent segregation of the community. Pride and neglect. Warmth and coolness. Skill at craft and music, skill at boozing and mooching. Even an unenlightened newcomer can sense the legacy of the extreme boom-and-bust cycles of Asheville, which, after the Depression, had the greatest per-capita debt of any city in the United States. It took until 1976 for those debts to be paid: a wonderful time capsule for architecture, but a lousy omen for infrastructure. The effects still reverberate today in overgrown underbrush (is that an oxymoron?), the kudzu choking the flowering trees, nature overtaking blacktop.

Triangle Park Mural
A small part of the Triangle Park Mural

After clocking those last few, historically tinted miles on my labyrinthine MapMyRun of Asheville Ramblings, it was time for goodbyes, or goodbye-for-nows. I did not make fast friends here. I am a slow friendmaker. But I did make a handful of lovely acquaintances with potential. I made cocoa truffles as a gesture of thanks for my coworkers, dusted with red Hawaiian sea salt, toasted coconut, and cayenne pepper. For Carl and Jude, the lovely couple at the Farmacy Juice & Tonic Bar; for Rosanne, kind owner of the Market—the folks who let me paint their windows. For Sumitra, the tea bar woman who soothed J. and my post-move nerves with Pu-erh. And for my workmates, whether stylish, quiet, mysterious, jack-up, depressed, grumpy, kind, and/or deeply good. All containing hidden talents which I did not stay long enough to know. Everyone wrote notes in a card that Nicki gave to me along with that lemonade bottle filled with daffodils. Really touching notes. I was surprised to feel so sad to leave them. Does a part of me like leaving places because leaving makes people show you their affection?

We are loaned to one another.
We go to His house.

It’ll be good to return to the mothership for a few days: J.’s parents’ house. To smell country air and watch bluets, violets, and henbit shade the lawn lavender. To squeeze onto the sofa between family, one old cat, three dogs, maybe a rabbit. Then it is on to the next house, and again and again, until we make our own. Our own bit of earth, until we leave it. Every day is moving day!

Two ways to disappear

Lived clean and tidy, she lived off lists, check check check, interior world scoured and lemon Pledge scented, windows closed. No pets no smoking no loud talking. Shh. First finish the chores, then if there’s time maybe lay face-up beneath the old oak, maybe jump in the river, maybe count junebugs. But first. Tick tick tick. Washing in, washing out, the dirt onto the rags and the rags into the machine. What, no time? To bed then. When she goes she’ll leave a No. A hole.

But what could a mess have done for her? A contrary wind would overturn the false flowers. A mandala of glass shards point back to the point of impact. A shock, a stop, a broken clock. The open window a channel between in and out. The sun pour in, the sounds of the street below, the air exchange. Her glance fly through the opening, swift as a bird.

Forecast at Four

It’s a volatile day in the city

According to our Channel Ten Weathercam

Needy people are rushing from bar to bar

Starting wildfires with their smiling teeth

Generating static with blown-dry hair so take care today

To avoid metal objects such as coins

And knives.

Expect a white hail to fall beneath the pigeon cloud

On 81st Street so cover your convertibles

A delectable southern smog will eclipse Chuck’s Bar B Que

You can brave it but with an allergy index of 172 we recommend ordering in

There will be a cold snap approaching St. Agnes who will respond in kind

And we’ve found a hurricane

So my correspondent in the field can enjoy shouting with painful joy

Or joyous pain over a snaredrum of rain on plastic sheeting

While clinging to a palm tree

Her very favorite way to spend a Friday.

There’s a seventy percent chance of chances.

Beware of drinking straws piercing oranges on your television set during the 4:16 break.

Tonight the moon will be full and so will you

And in approximately an hour I will be far from here

A streak of slick hair flashing from downtown to the suburbs

At approximately 59 miles per hour

A warm front approaching my dogs

A host of tornadoes will spring from their tails and frisk

The area between Interstates 12 and 14

The moondog will chase the sundog but they’ll both stay leashed to their orbits

So hang on to your remote, your brittle perch on this blue marble

And as long as it spins and spins

We’ll be your friends

Here on News Channel Ten.

On this day

On the day that US suspects admit Russian names
The lilies open at last to show their yellow tongues.
On that day when Spaceship fails to dock
A cloud appears and disappears over the city.
On the day that South African court drops Paris Hilton charges
A swarm of mosquitoes hovers around a branch of pinecones.
On the day of the Dolphin superpod seen off Skye
A single duck bobs in our river.
This is the day that Snake bursts after gobbling gator
And an old dog leaks as he is led along Chestnut on a leash.
On this day it says Celebrity burglary five charged
And the smallest roses smell most sweet.
On the day Puppy thrown at German biker gang
A teenage girl sends a postcard to God
Asking why grownups are absurd.
On the day Boy killed in school stab attack
A small black t-shirt is left unfolded in the alley
As if to demonstrate that it is free.

In the dark before dawn

In the dark before dawn when you roll over in bed and discover that you are mostly awake
There is a space inside where you move about, even as you lie still and hope for more sleep
Sometimes you wander through glens of green flowers with yellow stems
Sometimes you follow the sound of crashing water, knowing once you arrive
You’ll dissolve into the falls
But sometimes mind grabs control, and you become instead a dot matrix printer
Grinding out lists and points of contention and important things to remember
And it goes like this, wandering in place, until dawn.

Wherein the bearded lady gives thanks and makes a wish

Coins.
Curtains.
Hydrogen peroxide.
Hot roasted chestnuts from Benji at the gates.
Thirteen years of normal girl memory: a before.
Ramojah’s tiger eye, open even as he dozes.
Novels and other tunnels.
Candles that smell of home.
The payphone ringing home.
Home:
A hearth, a shedding cat, a boyfaced man, and a cupboard full of brushes.