You are hanging from a branch
by your teeth. No way to save yourself
or others who hang, too. Arms that cannot reach
any branch, legs stretch but
cannot find the smooth safe trunk.
All around, your loved ones, friends, strangers hang–teeth clamp bony twigs
that suspend necessary hopes
It is hopeless. No rescue will arrive. So you relax, taste the clean, unfamiliar
tang of sap, feel the forgiving wind against
your waving arms, arms
that swim through emptiness.
Without hope, life is
focused, fluid, a ledge
of fragile earth suspended
over the ocean of unknowing, the end
of the branch. Life is
the glorious moment
before the fall when all
plans are abandoned, the love you give
as you hang, loving
those who hang with you.
I’ve debated many choices this week, feeling the ripple effects of last week’s trauma which I cannot ignore, yet wanting as always to offer some of the beauty that is inherent in this life. I was intrigued of course by the paradox in this title – when have I ever heard those two concepts paired? Trust a poet to find a way.
As she opens with the image of hanging from a branch by your teeth, I immediately recalled the expression “hanging on by the skin of my teeth”, that tenuous hold on life that we have all experienced at some time. No way to save yourself but look, you are not alone, you are surrounded by loved ones, friends, strangers, hopes and plans suspended together.
Since the situation is hopeless and no rescue available, you relax, stop struggling, feel the forgiving wind against / your waving arms. Here in this place of no hope she tells us life is / focused, fluid, a ledge / of fragile earth suspended / over the ocean of unknowing. It is the glorious moment / before the fall when all / plans are abandoned. What I hear is that we meet that place of uncertainty, unknowing, which is out of our control and in that place what we have is the choice to give our love, to love all those who also hang by their teeth.
And by the end, I can see how there is beauty in hopelessness, room for more compassion and kindness when we stop hoping and wishing for things to be other than they are. May you know beauty in whatever state you find yourself at the start of this never-before year.