Occluded Fronts (Accelerando)
In yoga class on Saturday morning, resting in dead man’s pose, I felt time move through me: not a cobra slithering, not a fish gliding on the bottom of a river. A storm wave, flash flood, catastrophe.
Like it or not, our bodies are clocks: left foot two o’clock, right foot noon.
Now what was the first holy object in the history of the world? asks Abraham Joshua Heschel. Was it a mountain? Was it an altar?
It doesn’t matter how long I lie here, or how I assemble myself into a pigeon or a plough. Later, when my seven-year-old laughs at my rebuke, I feel the cold core rising up. The bees buzzing. The roaring, the sucking, the waterfall din.
Anger is its own weather system. Brief but violent.
I grab his arm, send him outside to the empty goat shed. Where once I stroked the side of a small doe, her mottled moon spots, and believed I could make time disappear.
Through the window, I peek at him in the shed. He is sitting on a little chair, eyes downcast.
Surrounding air flows in, equalizing the pressure.
Last week the mulberries were invisible. Now they are small white knuckles on the branches.
How Clouds Are Formed (Misterioso)
My older son plays Bach on the piano. The inventions: dense veils of altostratus, contrived or discovered by his fingers.
Swirl of cupcake icing. Cumulonimbus muddling the bloodstream.
Rain floods the soccer field. Mulberries larval and terrible rotting in the yard.
Zion is in ruins, Jerusalem lies in the dust.
But the week returns. Loops and revises itself. Knits its delicate cirrus scarf. Brushes my cheek, as though to say, there, there.
Summer is Warmer (Moderato)
Thick with spores, visible, invisible.
I make sauerkraut: chop cabbage. Salt. Pack it into ceramic vessels.
Fermentation is everywhere, always.
In the deep barrels of my mother’s childhood from which she pulls a kosher dill. In the compost, peels and rinds turning sour, then sweet. In the thicket of my underarms, mercurial barometers of dampness and regret.
Relative Humidity (Tempo guisto)
In the language my husband was born to, time and weather are the same. Where one season blurs into the next, almost undetectable, what is time?
Solid, liquid, invisible vapor.
It’s all relative.
The black hats walking to shul in winter, heads down against the cold. Their wives at home, in long skirts and wigs, marriage necessitating, as it does, agreed-upon disguises.
I have begun, to my own surprise, to observe the Sabbath. Every week, I take note, perceive the shift in pressure, a certain ache in the bones.
Sometimes I light the candles. Sometimes I cover my eyes.
Squall Lines (Tempo rubato)
And in my hour of darkness:
My seven-year-old on the drums, keeping time. Let it be.
It’s all relative.
It’s all kith and kin, all moonshine and gin, all children underfoot, and the adults laughing until the past shimmers outside the darkening windows, as though it would sit down at the table, as though it could come in.
Then again, the brushes on the snare: small trap where time hides, beating to get out.
Limitations of the Persistence Method (Furioso)
Today in yoga, I balanced for the first time on my forearms. The earth like a huge upside-down tray I was carrying, offering it up.
Still, the list of shapes I’ll never be able to assume is growing longer. Monkey, full wheel, compass.
Instead, I practice sun and moon, mountain and tree.
Was it a mountain? Was it an altar?
When I couldn’t stand it any longer, when I went to my son in the goat shed and gathered him in my arms, he shyly offered me what he’d been working on: two pipe cleaners entwined. A skinny blue one clinging to a thicker, furry orange one.
I remembered: Morning, evening, the warm udder emptying and magically refilled.
No, Heschel tells us. Not a mountain. Not an altar. Not a bird, a cow, a tree.
The sanctity of time came first.
When I couldn’t stand it any longer—the world inverted—when my muscles buckled, my back bowed, I folded, breathing hard. I laid myself down on my knees in child’s pose.
Eleanor Stanford is the author of two collections of poetry, The Book of Sleep and Bartram’s Garden. Her poems and essays have appeared in The Georgia Review, The Kenyon Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, and many others. She was a 2014/2016 Fulbright fellow to Brazil, where she researched and wrote about traditional midwifery. She lives in the Philadelphia area.
Artwork by Allison Dalton