“other times / I feel tasked only with my own soreness”
Begin with the sound of a needle in cross stitch. Begin with spine arched like
seaweed and feet planted to the ground. Begin with the pattern your hands
make when cupped around disaster. Begin again and again, this time tugging
at the thread that connects your body to what isn’t. If you leave fringes,
don’t be afraid to dye them with winter berries. Begin to read that book about
the Renaissance, or tune the violin you were given back when your fingers
knew only how to grasp. Begin to play a melody you heard in the country where
your mother was born. Where you tied red and white yarn to tree branches on
the first of spring, and where you held yourself tightly as you learned why she
left in the first place. Begin to write a list of all the rituals you’ve witnessed,
starting with the phrase “may you be inscribed in the book of life.” In the morning,
begin to conjugate all the verbs you’ve heard only at a distance. And if the word ‘light
house’ were a verb, take solace in the home you built there. Note the root of
this unwinding—the anchor that stretches far and deep and blue and begins
quietly, in a whisper. Take a chair out to the porch and listen to the lattice
work of bud against branch. Begin to hum the protest song you sang
in the room where everyone wore white and locked arms. Remember
wearing more than this ache—the weft of wool against skin. There is
nowhere to go. Begin with the chorus, and wait for others to join in.
I am shopping for an urn on Etsy. One
that reminds me of wind-weathered rock. Doesn’t
need to be a bestseller, like this one carved from
whiskey and wine
barrels. Not something thrown on a wheel by a
poisoned river, or heart-shaped and worn around
the neck. No butterfly or tie dye or polka dot.
No tree of life.
What is this tender feast, this change in the wea
ther? I want to leave the door open. I want to
pronounce the letter ‘u’ with an aching drawl –
en and torn. Why are the foxes laughing at
night? Why can’t I sleep? I find a copy of
the mourner’s kaddish in a cup holder. I
with the smell of pennies. With words like bless or
kingdom or abundance. I want turquoise in my eyes.
Where is the crowd, and why did they bring peacock
am reading a poem about the dusk-charged
air. The ways we name our flooding. I want to
be a child. Will you drive me to the map
store? You, who always
knows directions. Oh, may we cast our hands in
roasted fruit. May your name be offered to a
lionfish with marbled skin and a weeping eye.
My father is sur-
vived by cherry-blossoms and burnt
orange. By forest branch and trodden
weed. By cicada song and a house
near the ocean. By hot water on the
crown of my head. By stained glass
and fired porcelain. By night and by
noon. And this, too, can exist, with
all the rest.
Joshua Kurtz is a poet, weaver, and fiddle player based in Washington, D.C. He received a B.A. in literary arts and religious studies from Brown University in 2017. In 2016, he won a University & College Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets. He was recently a Fulbright Teaching Assistant in Brasov, Romania where he taught at Transylvania University and conducted research on public memory in postcommunist Romania. When he isn’t writing, he works in the humanitarian aid sector.