My mother always told me that everything is scary the first time you do it. Sometimes, I have to remind myself:
it’s okay to be scared
then, get over it
There are not so many givens anymore.
I just celebrated another Hannukah - the festival of lights. Jack says, the holiday invites us to be lights ourselves:
burning on the edge
flame within flame within flame
The body is a temple I must restore.
Sometimes, I take out the stones from the wall and put them back together again.
I take out the stones and sit there, imagining a new wall, a new way and then I quiet it. I am not an escapologist. I can’t escape. I’ve actually been grounding myself in earth, in trees, in birds and blues. I’ve been returning to nature, to the body and the body of the world. Sometimes, I lose myself in fear, but then I return to rebuild. Sometimes, I take myself out of it all. I take out all the I’s, and then I put them back in.
It’s okay to be scared.
I try to be a good explorer. I explore my breath and my limbs, my logic and my reasoning, my trips and falls and my loves. I know the love story. I explore, I idea, I sun, I moon, but always, it is a way of exploring the inevitable.
I don’t know why there is always a goal.
(Why is there a goal?)
Astrobiologist, Nathalie Cabrol, says “It is not so much what it is, but the journey it took to get here.”
I understand the journey. The walk, the walk-through of the days and how the dream is to get there, but the dream should really be the walk: the steps, the smells, the light. If I hurry, I’ll never relax, and if I never relax, it will be endless.
She continues, “and the sacrifice might be your own life.”
It might be my own life; it might be something I explore; I expunge to reconstruct. A second version of myself within myself: flame within flame.
these things can vanish overnight these things can vanish
they can disappear
a glimpse gone something thrifted
thieved sidled away
I am a bird of one.
Leah Umansky is the author of two full-length collections, The Barbarous Century, and Domestic Uncertainties among others. She earned her MFA in Poetry at Sarah Lawrence College and has curated and hosted The COUPLET Reading Poetry Series in NYC since 2011. Her writing has appeared in such places as The New York Times, USA TODAY’s Pop Candy, POETRY, The Academy of American Poets' Poem-A-Day, Rhino, and Pleiades. More at www.leahumansky.com This poem was inspired by Helen Macdonald’s essay collection, Vesper Flights.