Dark Gifts, Part IV

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It was May before my
attention came
to spring and

my word I said
to the southern slopes
I’ve

missed it, it
came and went before
I got right to see:

don’t worry, said the mountain,
try the later northern slopes
or if

you can climb, climb
into spring: but
said the mountain
it’s not that way
with all things, some
that go are gone
— A.R. Ammons

Some things can’t be fixed.

Although most of the time, I don’t believe that. Most of the time I’m convinced if I try a little harder, make a better plan, commit more fully, I can fix whatever it is that’s broken.

I’ve spent years blindly breaking myself in an attempt to make the healing happen differently this time. But of course, there are endless ways to play the victim. And none of them heal the original wound.

Most of the time, I think its over, done with, gone. I tell myself I’ve grown past the Field I come from, that whatever happened back then doesn’t matter anymore, because I’ve moved on and become someone else.

And then something will trigger and I become collateral damage. I crumple, turn inward, go dark. And I have no idea how to even begin to explain it to anyone.

You can take the girl out of the Bronx, but you can’t take the Bronx out of the girl.

I continue to sift through the memories of my childhood, try to protect the community I come from, determine what’s safe to share, what should remain buried.

Where I come from, there’s a lot we don’t talk about.

So I hide in the spotlight, where costumes are appropriate. I perform the role of teacher, yogi, coach; in community theater. I dance and play dramatic parts that will never see daylight in the narrative of my interior life.

It’s possible to drown in both intimacy and anonymity.

Like comrades in battle, attacking and defending in syncopated rhythm, the Field formed the boundary and bulwark of my body. I will never know anyone the way I knew the my people there, and I will never be known this way, either.

When I was a girl, as I stared down the mountain of adulthood, I knew I had two choices: to dig deeper into the belly of the Field and forge an identity there, or to escape. I chose escape.

Most of the time, this is enough. and I make my mind large enough to contain the ambiguity.

I hold my breath and brace for the blow.

Whatever the cost, the Field taught me the value of hard work, loyalty, perseverance. Sometimes I recognize this and I exhale. The secrets I can’t share carved holes in me like tooth decay, but I have found ways to composite fillings.

Maybe what we weren’t given is what we are most able to give.


Michelle Dowd