August 2010

An Exercise for the End of Summer

“But my heart is always propped up/in a field on its tripod/ready for the next arrow.”

— Billy Collins, “Aimless Love”

Exercise: imagine your heart as a target in a field. Begin by describing the field.
The grass is overgrown; there are crickets that leap out of it, flinging themselves up high and then diving back down as if they left something in the dirt and intend to retrieve it. There is a barbed-wire fence that runs the length of the field. There’s a single cow who stands at the barbed-wire fence, swishing her tail, bored with everything, including you. From a long way away, you can hear the sound of a train. It’s evening in the field, mid-summer. There are fireflies, but not many. The sky is purple. Soon, the stars will appear. And maybe the moon.

Describe the tripod.
Rickety, cobbled together, barely able to hold the heart, my heart.

Describe your heart.
Helpless, waiting. It used to be that almost all the arrows went flying past, singing a tune that went something like this: “not me, not here, someone else.” Now, every arrow finds its mark.

Name the arrows.
The thought of my mother standing at the front door whistling for the dog, bottle rockets exploding above me in early July, cicadas starting to sing, a fourteen year old boy whistling “Autumn Leaves,” the words to “Autumn Leaves,” beetles, their shells shining in the afternoon light, someone’s hand on my shoulder, pulling me back. The words Weeki Wachee. The moon. The word “andiamo,” the sound of my father saying it. My best friend laughing. Those crickets hopping up and down in the field (what are they looking for?), the sad whistle of the train, the purple dusk, the stars appearing, the hope of seeing the moon.

Describe the sound the wind makes as it moves
through all the arrows bristling in your heart
Mournful, joyful, off-tune, slightly ridiculous; the sound, basically, of a cheap, poorly-constructed wind-chime.

Describe, in as few words as possible, how your heart feels.

Ask your heart if it would like to be removed from the tripod. Ask it if it would like to lay face down in the field, in a place where every arrow would simply sail on by. How does your heart answer this question? What does your heart say?
Oh, that’s okay. I think I’ll stay here. I want to see the moon.

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