Seven Words for Sustenance and Gnawing

By Holly Haworth

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A humble feast, if the rabbits don’t get them first. To say that they humbled me, brought me close to the earth, that they tasted of humility and humus. Gleaming sapphires of the dirt, the bright constellations of peasants. Straw as firmament in which they are nestled or strung. The elegant universe—soft on the teeth, the tongue. I gathered them in my skirt, basket of threads. To say that heaven lowered itself, or that I was lifted up.


I once loved a man who was like a hunger inside me and my belly once was never full. Once I knew distances never closing or you might say I never knew them. Know your own bone, gnaw at it, said Thoreau. Bury it, unearth it, and gnaw at it still. Circle round and round your life—as the earth is circled by its satellite. It is always there, gaping, in some crescent or bulbous or darkened form. Matter could be energy, the motion of a body divided by the speed of light; it could be fire. A wave might be a particle, depending on who’s measuring, or you might say there is always a side of its face we cannot see. I tell you that I have memorized every crater and it is still unearthing me.


There was a barn standing in the moonlight and I thought of all the breaths I have taken, and how much I have never spoken. There was a cicada or a druid at my doorstep and the blueberries were ripening. To mean things are both more and less real at the zenith of green. My mouth was full of cherries or utopia pie and he promised me. I have been thinking of climbing a tall white pine, like Thoreau did, at the heights of which he found tiny fiery blossoms shooting heavenward. The pines have grown their delicate flowers on the highest twigs of the wood, he said, every summer for ages, yet scarcely a farmer or a hunter in the land has seen them. What I’m saying is that though there are so many hours of daylight, one lifetime is not nearly enough.


Don’t try to control it, let it go. I mean, in the long run. The universe is expanding and may be infinite in scope. Because this guy Hubble observed, looking into space, that galaxies are moving away from us, they say that everything has been expanding and growing more distant since the beginning. The beginning being the Bang. Before then it was all jammed together, the size of the tip of my pen. I mean the ink is pouring, you can hear it. The wheat is waist-high, heavy heads of grain, and I have been thinking of scything it. I think there has never been a lack of music but rather a scarcity of dancing. I mean I have been thinking of what I can give rather than what I want. That is a lie, I haven’t been, but it is the month of June, when it seems that summer might go on endlessly.


To soak up sunlight as if your life depended on it. As if to let time pass was to shed past lives, as if to lie there you might grow into new skin. Greeting the high noon with the greatest intensity, slithering up to it as if it would sustain you through even winter’s long torpors. As if stones held all the secrets. Discerning your answers in them, curling up into yourself, keeping your ears, which is to say your whole body, to the ground. You who can hear all the earth’s tremors. Once I was you. I am circling back around. Swallowing my own tail.


Besides this, food and clothing. I wanted to live a simple life, to bathe myself each morning. You can imagine it: offering penance, I would let the spiders take up the corners and the cracks, let the snakes feast on mice in the crawlspaces. Tending to business, I would keep the chimney clean for burning wood, train the vines up lattices of string. There, I might live, I said. Comes a season in a person’s life, Thoreau wrote, when we consider every spot as the possible site of a house. When at last I shall plant.


One might make a shelter here, in the thickets along the bank. Make a study of these leaves of esoteric doctrine. I mean I have been watching how the light weaves them. I am given to house myself in such observations; maybe it is the season of my life. Psychoanalytic texts writ in moss, the transformations of roots and branches. I mean there are æons of exhalations in these trees.



Holly HaworthHolly Haworth’s work appears at the Oxford American, Orion, VQR, and at the OnBeing radio program blog. She is a recipient of the Middlebury Fellowship in Environmental Journalism.

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