They say the closer you come to something, the further away it can seem. As if it’s all a horizon. As if the horizon could ever be your lasso, your tightrope spanning past and future, your thread to sew closed what tore.
I’ve been so near to my father’s death that my eyes blurred with more than tears. I’ve been so far away from my children’s birth that they disappeared like March fog when the sun buckles down and does its work of rising from a line I called my life, a line I could never trace. I’ve traveled so far that nothing has looked familiar—not the white marble statues of gods, the banyan trees, the dancing Lipizzaner, the cobblestoned streets, the cock fights in jungles, the foreign seas.
Now I am home and what is close to me presses against my legs, wraps its arms around my waist. I’ve learned that you can never know what lies behind its mystery—a day lost in the woods, a dream of galloping horses, a fire built with twigs, a funeral, a birth—everything so near it has become their flesh, their journey toward a horizon forever receding.
When he was zooplankton, buried beneath sedimentary rock in Texas and Iraq, he slept like the poor merchant under threadbare sheets next to algae, on bales of straw. He awoke and woke up the bees while he took their honey. He pulled out his own rotten teeth.
Rock has a way of condensing poverty, of solidifying the earth so that it is harder to dig our graves. Rock can press our sight with mountains against the sun, can flatten and skip on water, can crumble when the sea catches it with salt, can sail from the bully’s slingshot, can teach us to be still.
We have always been restless. We’ve burned whale oil, then promised the whales as they sang that we’d take from stone instead. We’ve created drills that bob their heads to a ground where we have kneeled, always begging our gods for a second chance. We’ve knocked down flasks of oil from a shelf when we dreamed of wealth and cursed the son we have yet to have. We’ve awoken to spills that coated the wings of seagulls.
When he was living with us, he promised us planes and cars and oil for our dry faces. He fueled the ships in the seas. The whales were confused about the sound of the motor. They didn’t know how to make it a percussion of their song. You see, here is the paradox of music: to write a symphony you need silence.
There is a little girl. She has a nightlight. It’s a purple fairy with blue wings. Without it she opens her eyes to the dark and feels scared. She needs to see that the shirt draped over the chair is not a killer. She needs to see that the dark is not dark. Outside the motors of cars rumble. She wonders where they are going, why they, too, are not sleeping. She falls asleep and dreams of squirrels. She dreams of lakes. She dreams of ladders reaching so high into the sky even the birds cannot nest there. They are too busy singing.
Kika Dorsey is a poet and fiction writer in Boulder, Colorado, and lives with her two children, husband, and pets. Her books include the chapbook Beside Herself (Flutter Press, 2010) and three full-length collections: Rust, Coming Up for Air (Word Tech Editions, 2016, 2018), and Occupied: Vienna is a Broken Man and Daughter of Hunger (Pinyon Publishing, 2020), which won the Colorado Authors’ League Award for best poetry collection. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times. Currently, she is an instructor of English at Front Range Community College and works as a writing coach and ghostwriter. In her free time she swims miles in pools and runs and hikes in the open space of Colorado’s mountains and plains.