Karen Rivers


Karen Rivers

Sometimes it's easier to feel nothing, but what would the poets say?  Feel something.  Life is short.   Don't be an idiot.


Well, they'd say it beautifully, of course.

If I could be a poet, I would.  All those words, pressed crisply, hung out on a line against the sharp blue of a sky.   Each one a photograph of something moving that happened, taken at such an angle that it looks better than the reality it reflects.   I mean, who wouldn't want to do that?  But it would be a hard job, somewhere between magic and surgery.  In order to be a poet, you have to be so exact.  Plus, you need to feel all the things, so you know.  You have to be present, exposed, letting everything penetrate, until -- bleeding, I suppose, but somehow prettily, rubies in lieu of blood -- you'd be able to find seven precise words that say the thing that you mean in a way that no one would have guessed themselves, using only the pattern of light on your sleeping dogs' fur in the weak winter sunbeam as a way of explaining death or love or (better yet) both.  

It's hard, when you aren't a poet, to find specific ways to communicate big things, that's all I mean.  You have to lumber through the paragraphs bashing big words into place with crude tools hewn out of boulders, hoping that you somehow luck into a shape that looks vaguely like what you meant.


I guess I could try music instead, not that I'm any good at that, either.   

But if you play the piano, you know that those pedals push against the strings that either mute the sound, just so, or draw it out longer than is possible otherwise, your leg vibrating with the most recent chord, freezing it still in time like a held breath.

Music works.  It makes sense, too.  Magical and precise, both.



So a day later, while you drive the kids to school, don't be surprised that something he said still hums right there in your calf, a minor chord being drawn out slowly in the part of you that you thought wasn't interested in that sort of thing anymore, so perfectly that you nearly cry.

Pull over for a minute and just breathe.  Pretend your heart isn't racing.   Notice the way the trees are tentatively reaching up, tiny buds on the end of each grasping branch.  Think of it in terms of photography.  At the right angle, you'd be able to get a brilliant lens flare on that shot.   And look at the way the green of that is so rich against the winter grey sky.   Think about how everything happens when you least expect it, just like everyone says in inspirational quotes posted on Facebook.  Smile, just because, but then start driving again because your kids are late for school.   Again.  Pretend you don't notice how driving stops the vibration, so you can't hear the note quite the same way anymore. 


Anyway, if I was a poet, I'd find some silken metaphor that could protect me from the parts that come next, when the dogs (still lying in the same spot) are in shadows and all that the sun illuminates is the dust hovering in the air; when my leg is humming with nothing but the shivers delivered by the descending chill in the wintery air; when the music stops vibrating on the strings and nothing is left but the silence of me, breathing, alone in a room with sleeping dogs, who are dreaming of places they'd rather be.