When I was a schoolgirl, now and then a delicious state would come over me. It was unpredictable, and there was nothing I could do to bring it on, though it visited me more than once when I was plugging my ears to block out the teacher’s reading to us out loud from one of the Little House books, which I loathed for the plodding cadences of their prose. The state cannot be adequately described, but I’ll try. There was a kind of slowing down of everything in me and all things outside of me, a slowing down that helped me hear the earth turning on its axis, or not turning, but grinding, like its gears needed oil, but the sound was pleasing, maybe because it had a correlative within me, in my mind and in my gut, something I related, years later, to Yeats’s phrase “the widening gyre.” I now think of it as pre-sexual, or sexual before sex’s melding to any association with dirtiness, like a metal key, the kind we once used to tighten roller skates, was set into a slot in my body-mind and slowly spun, screwing something tighter, or loosening something, making me deeper, or more shallow. After a time, whatever it was, I couldn’t reclaim it, until today, now that I’m on the other side of life. I was walking the dog down a shaded alley, and had just passed something for which I feel an affinity—a rusty gate, separated now from the fence whose entrances and exits it served—that has been half-consumed by the twisted trunk of an old maple. Then a tractor rumbled by. Nothing extraordinary—just a small lawn tractor, a green two or three notches darker than that of spring grass. The driver, a man with a reddish beard, smiled at us, nothing furtive or lascivious, just one human being to another, I assume because I held the dog off to the side and kept him still, yielding to the tractor’s slow black wheels. It surprised me to feel it after all these years, the turning of that rusty metal key, the tightening or loosening of my spine, the spinning, as the galaxy spins, or so they taught me in Astronomy class, which I eventually failed. The feeling now was not as forceful as it was then—diluted, maybe, by time, or more focused, but smaller, as when looking through the wrong end of a telescope. Still, I felt it, or remembered feeling it, the slowing down, the grinding spin, the clicking increments of a pleasurable turning of rusty gears, tooth by tooth by tooth. Maybe it is less the thing itself than the remembering of the thing, as when I recall the girl I was and spring’s arrival. I was so young I didn’t remember it ever having come before. Its delicacies hit me like the blows of a hammer, or the hammering pleasures of a crowd of sweat bees adorning me with the ministrations of their tiny stingers. I won’t know spring that way again, but I remember knowing it, and someday I will remember the remembering, and then I’ll remember the remembering of the remembering, the dark dreamy wheel of memory’s mechanism, rounding a wide curve.
Diane Seuss’s third book of poems, Four-Legged Girl, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press. Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open received the Juniper Prize for Poetry and was published by the University of Massachusetts Press in 2010. A poem that originally appeared in Blackbird won a Pushcart Prize in 2013. Her brief essays have received prizes from Indiana Review, Wag’s Review and Mid-American Review. Seuss is Writer in Residence at Kalamazoo College in Michigan.