Audio: Read by the author.
Wind moved through the mountain
forest, pushing trees together and
snapping branches. The small hut
that was home to the lonely mystic
was lit by candlelight. “The fates
that you imagine are not your own;
they belong to grief, to slumber,
and to suffering,” she said aloud
to no one but herself. For weeks
she had endured a mild irritation
in her left eye. It wouldn’t bother
her much, except that reading
seemed to make it worse, and so
she had been neglecting her books.
Instead, she would sit many hours
facing a wall, eyes closed, reciting
the verses she composed during
the years since she had left society.
Occasionally, she would indulge
in controlled acts of remembrance,
letting the distant world intrude.
She found this sometimes helpful
to her investigations, but a little
went a long way. Often her family
or friends would appear in these
waking dreams, always arriving
through doors where there weren’t
walls. They usually came in pairs,
their skin gleaming as they talked
but made no sounds. They would
stay until she made them vanish.
She could also recollect the city
where she had spent her youth.
The house where she grew up
stood beside a trash-filled canal,
the image of which once helped
her formulate one of her favorite
phrases: buried water of longing.
Balanced against meditations
and visions were the chores and
preparations necessary for such
a self-reliant existence as hers.
It was usually while gathering
wood that she thought about why
she had chosen this way of life,
in which love was abstracted into
a kind of nobility and language
was free of its greatest burdens.
Joshua Edwards’s books include The Double Lamp of Solitude (forthcoming from Rising Tide Projects), Imperial Nostalgias (Ugly Duckling), and a translation of María Baranda’s Ficticia (Shearsman). He teaches at Pratt Institute and Columbia University.