When the wind stops playing in the streets

Hitting faces and hurtling brown paper wrappers

Plastic bag flotsam

The odd paper cup

Neglected remainders of someone’s day

Twisting them in spirals

In obscure corners of architecture

In their own absurd logic

Of movement

And music



When movements of water creep beneath cracks of ice

Perforated here and there

By our boots

Clean smell of mud

Windswept tunnels of dust and snow

Wrappers; that odd paper cup

Transform into watery eddies

Urban ecologies

Things dislodged from winter moorings

Collecting reflections of a new blue sky



Vast expanses of sun, sky

Welcome imaginings

Of pink petals, green blades

Populated by the particular

Its effect yet vague

Location of dreams

Sanctuary for hope

Time staged for listening

Its whispering consequence

Bending reverence for light


And today?

Today we taste

The delicious





Who is This I?


Who is this I?

I ask myself from some distant plateau

Beyond the eyes that take you in

Beyond the body that turns toward you

The arms and legs that involve you

Beyond the laughter spilled in your direction

The decisions that bear upon you.


Is it the I who greets strangers on the street?

Inviting community, albeit most fleeting

I honor our differences

Respect the psychic distance between us

Imagine the fullness and distractions in their lives

I roll out a tenuous bridge between us

A transitory passage of relationship

Conditional, risky, open, hopeful.


Or is it the I who, from the confines of my car,

Condescends to let pedestrians pass

Offering the minimal yet obligatory flick of the hand

Signaling their right to safety?

Waiting impatiently hunched over the steering wheel

Fingers with nothing to do except flicker nervously about

Until annoying people move out of my way?


Or is it the I who is presented with a red bean candy or two

And a bamboo calendar listing the Chinese New Year animals?

Who is refused the piece of halibut up front

Because I must have the fresher one from today, out back.

They cut it specially for me. Such a good customer. Bring your dog in, yes, that’s fine.

I buy squid, eel sushi, mussels, lobster,

My kids sample the exotic fare, ask for more.

So I return every week, and we exchange smiles, fish, and money, a little talk.


Or is it the I who panics at the sight of those fine square envelopes,

Address in calligraphy of gold and pretension

Anticipating the mood of the event to which we have been cordially invited?

Why do they bother when my response is always no?

I will not be witness to rites of passage,

Births, coming of age, marriage, deaths

I volunteer myself as black sheep if that ensures mutual abandonment.


Or is it the I whose hand is sought out

Held in pleasure by my children?

Gazing at their sheer beauty, I lose words.

One son tells me he loves me.

The other hates to be away.

Our laughter escalates to heights

Where, as the moment rests and we lie in its light,

Before giving way to yet a higher joy.


Or is it the I shocked at its own violence?

My voice flinging pain and abuse

My hands hitting the table, books, throwing what’s within reach,

My eyes sharpened on cold stone, glare and widen

A specter of fear for those who enter their scope

My words a litany against you

You, at the heart of my troubles, I seek to cut down, apart

Reduce you to an implement against me, or to nothing at all.


Who is this I?

Who dreams of unpopular futures where desires untrammelled by pragmatics of profit

Might flourish like a garden planted with a child’s vision of the important

Who loves and fears separation

The I whose knowledge is proclaimed in some obscure tomes

Who relinquishes a public voice testing my high ideals

An unexplored private voice encased in a timid femininity

Will not take you in, frowns in your direction

My eyes look to your left, my arms reach for nothing

My decisions retreat from you

Like the wind carrying off the leaves at your feet.






Precision is necessary.


What they


(Glen O. Gabbard, M.D. and the American Psychiatric Association)


call Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder


(Chapter 21, Gabbard’s Treatments of Psychiatric Disorders, Fifth Edition, aka Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V,




“characterized by recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges, or images (obsessions) that are experienced, at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive and unwanted, and that in most individuals cause marked anxiety or distress.”


Leading to performance of a compulsion or


“repetitive behaviors or mental acts that the individual feels driven to perform in response to an obsession or according to rules that must be applied rigidly.”


The problem is that


“the obsessions or compulsions are time-consuming or cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.”


I am confident that I have all of the details down absolutely correctly.


So let me just

Clean that spot of dirt on the monitor

Group the pens

Order up the papers

Wash that spoon

Scrub the counter

Arranged the cushions on the sofa, left and right

Vacuum the tight corners

List ebbing foodstuffs

List daily errands

List to-do, short-term and long

Reply to email without pause

File the email into folders

File the folder into folders

Reformat all documents to ensure conformity

Exfoliate body hair

Sponge down the shower

Disassemble the cosmetics

Reassemble the cosmetics

Iron every crease

Remove all cat fur

Sweep the sidewalk

Separate paper, plastic, glass, organics except the bones.


Make a 20-year plan


Moving house last time gave me muscle seizures so bad,

It cost me two weeks of work

Couldn’t set aside the unpacking

Not for a minute

Until every thing was in its place

You see.


Will we call them compulsions?

That I am obsessed with performing?

In the absence of “marked anxiety or distress”

No. They give me


In the absence of “impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning”

No. They give me



No task left undone

Even if it means relinquishing days (or years)

Even if it means vanishing from all else.

Even if it means resenting the children

resenting him

resenting hunger





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