by Jared Povanda
I cry too often. At three in the afternoon, hot and bright as the wrought-iron bench left out in the backyard. Birds mar the metal with their droppings. Deer sniff around the spindles, noses wet. They stretch their necks for the shadow-cool grass beneath. I watch the dandelions rise. I watch geese light upon the surface of the pond. I watch the ripples, the echos, and wonder what the animals can teach me. I wonder what’s left after Mary Oliver’s plundering. The metaphors have become stale in my mouth. Maybe I’ll go walking the dirt paths with my mother, stepping in deep mud, all to feel connected once more to a global grandeur. Gander, the male goose. Grandeur, the magician’s garden. The Tuscans make a red sauce with ganders. Sop the red with poor man’s bread and see how the flavors of life illuminate even the most meager offerings.
I spend my days in sweatpants, reading to escape myself. My shirts are stained darker under the arms. My eyes are weak at dawn, and the dust motes make asymptotes, and no matter how strong my prescription, there’s a kind of blurriness over everything. Like heat on a highway. Those cartoonish lifted squiggles. What would the world come to if we could also elevate ourselves and hover at some new vantage? I once told an optometrist that I specialized in nonfiction in college, and he said he didn’t know you could do that. Write or specialize in a certain kind of writing, I’m not sure, but my eyes got worse again, so I’m in no position to criticize anyone unable to see something right in front of them. I’m a writer even if I don’t write as often as I’d like. Can’t you tell from my obvious neuroses? Normal people aren’t creatives. We’re obsessive and anxious and sick with beauty. When I cough, there are green seeds in the mucous. Or was that image too cute? Too pretentious? Maybe I should be less fanciful. Maybe I should zone into banality and ignore the sky and the stars and the earth. The clichés the doctors of writing warned us about in hushed whispers and meaningful glances. Maybe the only thing that matters is the last dregs of peach wine in the glass. Too sticky to be pleasurable. How I lick the remaining sweet from my lips.
I set my phone down in the last minutes of winter, and I press my thumbs against my eyes, rubbing to ease the tension. If only stress and strain could ameliorate in gradual degrees. Like boiling a frog slowly so it doesn’t spook and jump out of the pot. I cry too often, as I said, and the sight of boiling a frog at any speed (if my vision maintains its strength to see the struggle, that is), would bring me to my knees. Wet tears. Gasping tears. Inarticulate caterwauling. I tremble when I’m nervous. My guts betray me. I am a mess. I don’t become a mess when stress comes, I am already a mess. My messiness multiples, squares itself, divides and conquers. I often ask myself, “Who would love someone such as myself? Who would love my angular beast body?” Again, I’m being haunted by Mary Oliver, but who isn’t? Who hasn’t, at some point, enriched by her quiet poetry, her sublime clarity of vision, stood out amidst the greenery, gnats in a hover, eyes lifted to the gods of the wood, and decided to face the day as they were, as only they can be?
I walk the trails on beautiful days, or the days we draw breath with the pebbles hardly felt under thick orthopedic soles—the wind a gentle sideways tossing—and the sun, I believe, chooses these certain epiphanic moments to dazzle the tears from our eyes, as if laughing in a soft and enormous way, as if to say, “You do cry too often, dear child, and never for the right reasons.”
Jared Povanda is an internationally published writer and freelance editor from upstate New York. His work can be found in Pidgeonholes, Janus Literary, Ellipsis Zine, CHEAP POP, and Hobart, among others. Find him @JaredPovanda and jaredpovandawriting.wordpress.com