Why do cicadas hum?
Why do chickadees whistle?
Why do coyotes cock their heads and howl
in the vast darkness?
Because words are oxygen.
Because last summer you were playing
in the bathtub with your cars,
I let the faucet run too long —
I was nearby, absorbed in a story —
warm water sloshed higher and higher,
when I looked up, I laughed,
put down my book and asked,
“Honey, do you want to try floating?”
Kneeling on tile, I cradled your head in my hands
told you to “puff up your chest like a starfish,”
couldn’t stop thinking about that stolen summer
all we’d lost
all that needed mending
and then you floated,
fingers grazing the edges of the bathtub,
you beamed, and how else would I remember?
And how else would I remember
the warmth of my grandfather’s voice,
indigo mountains cresting over the horizon,
my first taste of watermelon, juicy-sweet wonder?
I sift words like grains of sand,
craft castles from memory,
some days, shaping it all is like trying to contain the ocean
Hands caked with salt water and sand
I build anyway,
A writer I admire once called writing
“a miserable, awful business”
and also “better than anything
in the world.”
Writing is the cure
and the sickness.
It feeds me
and fills me again.
It’s like confession
and perhaps that’s sacrilegious?
Mostly, I think it’s prayer.
Someone in a church I no longer know,
he said something like,
“Women’s voices don’t belong in the pulpit.”
When I set my pen to the empty page,
I only want to tell the truth:
half of my life I spent running
trying to make myself small.
These days I stand tall
this is how I was created —
with whole symphonies inside
I know what the coyotes know:
my voice is my power.