Excerpt from Bearing Time

Do I move toward form? Do I use all my fears? —Muriel Rukeyser, “Double Ode”

How do they do it, the ones who bear the hour as if it were fruit? Almost traceless, white ink on white paper, a kiss print on glass, brief voice like a scare of rabbits, hands cupped open. They turn to the window, turn twelve, twenty, forty, turn to their sons who long for the lost Lego man in one moment then, in the next, are seventeen with flat butts against the Camaro talking engines, smoking in turn, so beautiful in time, same as their sisters, and the years wear on, relentless. How do they bear up under the crush of time and age, under the deader days and the longcoming dark? …

These are the gentle fighters, the makers, the givers of things who wake from sleep…

They cut sprigs of sumac and bittersweet for the empty jam jar and pencilsketch the bouquet to filigree then sew sequins to the sketch and glue on beads and all the found feathers as a frame…

In each spare moment—one handstitch in the drunkard’s bright path. And all because at each smudge and stitch, each still point at the end of a poem’s line, all the world pauses, the large meets the small, the universe the pebble the plume, and there—there is the slightest glimpse of timelessness, like a lobe of lightning bug body lit free of the dark. And so they keep making, the things made all offered up in thanks and let go from cupped hands, into the rush of time. These are the ones I ask, But what do I have for an offering? What can I use? And they say, Use your fears, use your failures, your loves, even the errant ones, and use your best ribbon and that turquoise ring, use the very weight of your fading day, the shadow of this very hour. Use your every bead found in the alleyway, your every twig plucked up, use your every feather.©


 Jessie is author of the novels Glorybound and My Radio Radio, and the essay collection The Long Weeping. Her essays have appeared in Best American Spiritual Writing, The Oxford American, and other publications. Jessie directs the low-residency MFA program at West Virginia Wesleyan College.

Contact: www.jessievaneerden.com, www.wvwc.edu/MFA