Expecting the Main Things


Poets to come! orators, singers, musicians to come!

Not to-day is to justify me and answer what I am for,But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater than before known,

Arouse! for you must justify me.
I myself but write one or two indicative words for the future,I but advance a moment only to wheel and hurry back in the darkness.

I am a man who, sauntering along without fully stopping, turns a
casual look upon you and then averts his face,
Leaving it to you to prove and define it,
Expecting the main things from you.

—Walt Whitman

If I’m to be a writer, Walt Whitman expects main things from my writing, so I figure I should know what the main things are. Below is an ordered list without explanation. The explanations will be what I write about. Thank you, Walt.

Making the list, especially prioritizing it, was harder than I thought it would be. I welcome additions and reordering suggestions.

  1. Food and water
  2. Shelter and clothing
  3. Health
  4. Safety
  5. Love
  6. Hope
  7. Faith
  8. Kindness
  9. Justice
  10. Forgiveness
  11. Laughter
  12. Freedom

Day the Four: Or The Kissing Moon

The disorienting light of the moon, not to be seen again for another eighteen years, breaks through the fabric of my tent. I wake up, made fully alert by both the brightness of the unexpected light and the abrupt absence of the falling rain. I step naked into the woods, and I am surprised that I am able to do so comfortably, for the sun has been hidden by clouds during the day and few days remain in this month of September.

I look up. Oh my God! Oh my Goddess! I trip over the duality of the words I whisper. She/he laughs with delight: “Silly man! I don’t care what you call me. Look. Look at what I am doing.”

Light from the moon (truly, light from the sun reflected by the moon—duality, indeed) pours so brightly through the leaves of the trees I can read my watch by it. 3:25 am. Never have I seen such a moon. Never have I seen light such as this. Foolishly, I turn away from it and toward the tent to get my phone. I know I won’t be able to capture this moon, this moment, in a picture, but I am compelled to try.

In doing so I learn what I already know: I am, above all, a social being. Alone on this ridge I cannot appreciate the magic of this moment without the possibility of sharing it. I think of my lover who is far away at home. I wonder if my companions from the night are back in their tent, or are they also awake and alert, staring at the mystery of this moon as am I? Do my children know or care that this is happening? How my mother would delight to see this moon!

I look again. Involuntarily, I touch my lips. I desire a kiss. The need for a kiss has nothing to do with a mother’s kiss and everything to do with the abundance of hairy-chested men (and a few of the smooth ones) I have seen these last three days. The need for a kiss coalesces, crystallizes in my mind.

Lustful moon. This moon has many names, blood moon, super moon, magic moon, goddess moon, lunar eclipse, but it’s name for me is kissing moon. Just a kiss—that is all—and that is all.

Reason rears its well-groomed head.
It tells me to go back to bed.
You are a stranger here, alone.
You left too early; your friends are gone.
Forget the moon; ignore the need.
Go lie down; return to sleep.

And yet, lunacy prevails.

I return to the tent, put on my robe and slip on my flip-flops. By the light of the kissing moon I walk the Straight Labrynth toward the knoll. The path leads me to my night companions’ tent where I stop to hear the sound of their sleeping. I do not wake them even though that is what I want to do.

Oh blessed/cursed moon! Why do I let you torment me? Why this ceaseless need for belonging? For touch? For connection? For a kiss? For love?

I continue on the path. I pass others walking in the dark of the bright moon. I could speak plainly of my need. I imagine any one of them would deign fulfill it, as I believe they feel it too. The magic of the kissing moon is strong but not strong enough to overcome my inhibitions. I walk on. I laugh to myself as I begin to hum:

I go out walking
after midnight
out in the moonlight
just like we used to do
I go out walking
after midnight
searching for you

I arrive at the knoll where there are twelve or so others gathered as I knew there would be. They are young—so young—and they are playful. In their hands they hold mirrors, sliver trays and bowls, and they play with the moonlight’s reflection as they capture it, multiply it. A platter of food appears: bread, cheese, apples. Someone hoists a large container of “milk of the goddess”, a heavily sugared mixture of milk laced with cinnamon. Laughter abounds. I search their faces: Is there one among them who is as driven as I by the kissing moon? Perhaps this one; maybe that one? I reach for the goblet of moon milk. As I tilt it to my lips I think of eucharistic wine. I drink, careful not to take too much. The taste is sweet, as sweet as a kiss.

Clouds cover the moon. The time is past. I wander off the knoll and back to the path. As I walk once more the Straight Labrynth I think of my lover, and as if by magic poof! he is here. I think of my night companions and poof! they are with me. I think of my Sisters, gentle Enya, humble Evita, driven Velveeta, they are near me on the land, and I think of others who are far away: wise Freudiansclip, sincere Wendy, Sweet Celia, Right, Athena, Eunice, Emma, Meaner, Sissy, Eva, Faegala, Soami, and poof! they are here. Sisters, family, friends, lovers, the list goes on, too many to name. Poof! they are here.

I am not alone. The kissing moon has worked her magic.

Back in the tent I write as if in a trace until the dawn of a new day overpowers the light of the kissing moon. But no, that is not right. There is no difference. The light of the sun and the light of the moon are one and the same.

And by that light, that same light, the light that illumates everyone and everything both by day and by night, I greet the first person I see with a kiss.

Grow Love

The response is automatic. See. Reach. Unwrap. Taste. Swallow.
What happens when the candy is gone?
Winter is almost over; Spring is coming.
Don’t throw away the cup.
Fill it with dirt.
Plant a seed.
Provide water, and sunlight.
Transplant when the ground is warm.
Watch life grow through Summer and ripen in Fall.

Enjoy a harvest more satisfying than chocolate.

How Much Longer Can I Hold My Breath?

How much longer can I hold my breath?
The average human being lasts for no more than forty seconds.
I have been holding mine for months.

 Every time I exhale to complain, Guilt makes me catch my breath
            and I try not to speak.

“There are so many other people who have real reasons for holding their breaths,” Guilt says.
            “Some of them can barely breathe at all.”
I try to keep the air I would use to whine inside me.
But that air escapes.

That air comes out
            around the corners of my eyes
            in the graying of my hair
            in my gut as my stomach rolls
            when I wake up with a jolt in the early morning hours
                        and I cannot fall back to sleep.

If I had more faith, would all of these symptoms go away?
If I had more faith, would I be less preoccupied with my breathing?
If I had more faith, would I breathe freely
            allowing the Spirit to move in and out of my body
            and to bring with it the ebb and flow of peace?

I do not have the faith to breathe.
How much longer can I hold my breath?