Here as in not there: A poem

Illustration of forest with nymph and deer
Vivian Du/Staff

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I.

One mile into a trail in the dusty half-light of the setting sun, I stood still. 

To my right at a bend in the path stood a young doe.

Her ears were pointed toward me, big enough to let in the noise of the wild world that was hurtling around us. A softness in her eyes that never wavered. Not once. She wasn’t afraid. 

I took a step closer. So close I could see her gentle wet nose twitch in excitement. Or was it recognition?

Heart beating faster. The monitor above the hospital bed transformed. Maybe both of us were a little frightened. But never afraid. 

I remember all the hairs on my body standing up. When she turned to go, something inside of me caved. Her strong haunches leaped past the sugar pines and disappeared into a thicket of bearclover and goldenrod. I was left feeling like someone had given me the answer to a question that hadn’t yet been asked. 

 

II.

Not too long after, for reasons I can barely remember, I stopped going outside nearly completely. I turned inward. Went to school, went to extracurriculars, went home. Began the day again. A syncopated dance between crow and wire. 

I started growing desperate. But I had no idea what the lingering taste on my tongue was supposed to lead me to.

Woman in doubt. Trying to make herself disappear like the snapping of a finger caught between soundproof walls. 

Woman in flux. Lay down to stop the world from spinning.

 

III.

The wild women I remembered from my childhood, the nymphs and sirens of the woods, were handing me honey, but I was thinking it bile.

They asked me,

“Darling … what are you alive for?”

And I said,

“I don’t know.” 

They told me to search for it in the bands of brambles that cascaded untamed down the banks of raging creeks. In the mustard flowers that smiled in winter. In the sky blue lupine that cradled mountain slopes. 

I found it in sand and sun and water, in the curves of my breasts, in the smell of rain, screaming FUCK, redwoods, running, fresh baked goods, a God I can’t name and things only funny in retrospect. In sex, surrender and coming home.

So I kept searching. I believed in trust and the times that people said, “I love you.” I was confident in healing and found my way here. Here as in right now. Here as in alive. Here as in temporal, uncertain and exhilarating. Here as in not there. Not again. 

 

IV.

Please. Hold this story. It isn’t only mine. It’s the story of a girl who digs her fingers into dirt an inch thick. Maybe deeper. 

A girl who thinks of North Carolina. 

         Of a Northern Hemisphere.

Fiddlenecks and Columbine 

frame this empty yard. 

Native blackberries scramble up the rotting fence post. 

Midsummer, fingers dark with sugar. 

Ripe grapes and berries are the perfume of a wealthy woman.

Summer skin smelling of the sage she runs across her ruddy knees. 

Wild feet like rattler scales that shed at summer’s end. 

Scraping up the bark of black oaks to look down on the black-tailed deer that make trails through the dry grass.

Sometimes she’ll follow them with bare heels. 

Past the fence. Through the sage, monkey flower and meadowfoam. Around the soap plant that washed the elbows of women before her time. 

 

V.

It’s hard to convince yourself you aren’t alone. But remember to feel your pulse. Stand in a grove of redwoods. Look up. Know resilience. Fires come, bark can burn, but still 

I am alive.

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Contact Aliya Haas Blinman at [email protected].

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