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Jill Darling

Shiver Parallel, or a Shadow

Behind the Shadow (restudy) by James Gill

Think of this life or a parallel life, a ghost life. I am living this life, or am I, from one moment to the next. Not really sure which is the living or which the ghost. Or on which plane. Can you explain this better? I don’t think I can. How I can’t tell which life I am living. Or how each moment sometimes seems strange. Maybe surreal is a word. Distant. Another word. Disconnected. Something like watching me do these things. There is the smoke haze, fires from Canada. But there is the always haze. Figurative is a word. And a physical sensation like moving in haze. Foggy. Is something people say. But it’s not just focus. It’s like going through motions is something else people say. But many of the motions are fulfilling. Enjoyable. Sometimes it’s like depression, sometimes like a lack of feeling. I can see it but not feel it. Doing this thing, doing that thing. Doing the details of each day, tasks, activities.

Speak ride suck break. Break it. Speak. Like fable, fairy, phoneme. What is the derivation of sound. Listen. Syllable by syllable. Banlieue, from the French, like a suburb, the areas beyond the city center, town walls. Outriders outliers. Subject to bandits bandoliers fable. Stories or ineffable. Today banlieues filled with flight. Safer some think. Move out and away for safety. False sense of security. Speak in phonemes like a prophet. Fecund felicity and hungry weeds in the untended acres. A rose is an oppression, a mainstream narrative, an expectation. Corrupt and lacerate. Break it. Breach and schism. A rupture. Cultivate weeds, butterfly flowers, corrupt the status quo. Grow schism fecund and felicity.

Focus. Slowly. And then time it out. Everything won’t happen today.

Fertile. Fecund means fertile which sounds counterintuitive. It should mean bare, dry, ineffable, lost and without nutrients.

Imagine. In two minutes. Or in one hour. Or in many months or years. A lifetime of minutes of breath. One breath at a time. In. Out. Deep. Shallow. Accumulate to survive. Or to survive means one moment to the next. Continuous single moments of breath. Write it down. Watch it disperse, reform.

It’s like a kind of shaky feeling, sort of like shivering, but I’m not cold and I don’t grab my arms around my torso like giving myself a hug, nearly imperceptible I’m not sure if it’s physical or if it’s in my head. Though maybe it’s in my stomach. Or in my stomach, in addition to the nearly imperceptible shaky feeling, is a turning, a slight discomfort, not like nausea, not like indigestion, it’s like my stomach is floating but in a way that feels disconnected when a stomach should instead feel grounded, stable, firm from the inside, reliable.

A recipe of the intangible. Like a recipe for water. Or water is life. Or for how sitting next to the large lake, Huron or Superior, is a feeling. Physical, emotional. Space, place. Water meets sky. Clouds and light and shifting breeze, wind, or stillness on the water. Watching the clouds, sky. Vast with a line of trees behind, a town, roads and cars and a city beyond that. A beach, sand with views for a mile to either side, miles of water, lake ahead to the horizon. Lake like an ocean like desert but not barren. Primordial. Sustaining.

When do I feel like I am myself experiencing the living, like a primary source vs something reported or witnessed second-hand or from an audience perspective? Directly experiencing myself swimming, one lap after another. Breathing deeply. The muscles in my arms, stomach, legs. Breath infusing me entirely. The sensation that brings me to the core of myself.

Sappho light and shadow gleaning active shadow.

A letter. A word. A space. A feeling. Lean this way or that. In every color of ink. It’s mid-summer and the birds are fighting for the end of the cherries. I picked a last bowl full yesterday. Higher up in the tree, more perfect cherries but within reach. Robins fly to and from, getting the cherries from the tallest branches. Today, doves have joined, sometimes flying, sometimes getting the fruit fallen to the ground. Also today, some small black birds, lots of them, hopping around, competing on the ground for fallen cherries. Awkward birds flying around from tree to porch rail to sidewalk, holding tart cherries in their beaks, setting them down and pecking.

I make a call, walk around the kitchen, my floating stomach not exactly moving in sync with my limbs, body sort of shaky but you can’t see it and I don’t know if it will get worse, vision blur, a headache increasing, realize I should breathe more, deeper, breathe at all, don’t forget. An unreliable stomach could result in any number of catastrophes. Maybe vision becomes a bit blurred but not really, I can see the same as usual which is to say no worse than usual since glasses and vision challenges means to see clearly up close or far away like a game of chance, which is something people say but not one I’ve played.

Trying to recall, reinhabit the feeling of beach, horizon, expanse of summer sky. Back at home, windows open and sun, a blue sky unusual for this summer of smoke haze and heat and humidity. A fresh breeze and quiet on a Sunday. But how on that beach, waves or stillness—the flatness like eternity—horizon rounding earth water dropping down and around how we are held to this circle lakes connected to ocean spreading past countries, continents. Wildfire smoke like ocean currents moves thousands of miles spreads around the globe.

Sometimes reading, strangely both distant and connective. Reading connecting me to others’ stories, feelings. A calming. Reading sometimes like swimming, a total body release, handing over, submission to elements outside of myself to feel most intensely within. A connection outside articulation. These things that keep me surviving, how I survive from one day to the next, and how even when not noticing I am surviving, doing these things to feel myself as me experiencing living, feeling like myself, a person directly living in the world.

Fecund from the French, middle English, Anglo-French, Latin fecundus, related to feminine, fruitful.

Speak this shadow. Butterfly flowers, weeds like daisies, goldenrod, milkweed.

The light shifting into late summer, tomato plants thin saving energy for the last tomatoes to mature. Someone says El Niño means we’ll have winter early, and more snow. Everything fertile going underground, under snow, holding in stasis.

Move more conscientiously, drink some water, more water. Just the thought of this or that, a sort of panic, a dread. Somehow the dread creeping and leaping out of nowhere, or not nowhere, it’s located right inside, within or near my stomach, pushing it off kilter, unanticipated and ordinary.

But what is the recipe, intangible. On that beach, the sky and the lake. A bit of breeze. Something inside my head releases. Kind of like stepping outside and walking around the block after being inside the house, inside my head, the sound inside my head changing, releasing, dispersing like air, like currents. Like I can’t feel or notice the tightness the loudness inside the house inside my head until I am outside and then it goes. Walking and thinking, something like the pressure valve on the instant pot, releases the steam. Even when I’m not steaming, not angry or upset just inside, inside the house, inside my head.

A witnessing. Watching someone who looks like me. She goes here she goes there. Sometimes we mingle. A kind of grounding a coming together. Or meditation. Or having a room of my own, a literal or mental or figurative room.

Words give birth or ideas unfold like waves like water holding to the ground, in stasis and unfolding, fecund, envisage, conjure, forward. Outliers troubling and unexpected flowers bandits of the manicured lawn, cover it with cardboard like the NY Times says, break it. Your banlieue association, dry and without nutrients, ineffable. Share like a prophet, phonemes. On the other hand, if you’ve ever visited a rose garden, so many varieties, shapes, sizes, colors, rebels in their own kingdom.

Like a heaviness but not one that presses down impairing movement, because there’s this shivering that’s not that, and not like being stuck in slime or contained in an invisible field unmoving. The pressing heaviness is something else that comes at other times, in which a stillness so complete, a lack of feeling or sensation, an incapacitation because of, or differently than. As if the physical stasis might hinder time from moving forward, hold everything still, collect seconds and minutes together and hold them fast before setting them free.

On that beach, an openness, like desert. A great lake or southwest landscape. Stretch. Feel it, air on skin. Breeze on my face or stillness, sun warming or fading with the evening. Some sunsets covering the vastness of sky, oranges and yellows from west to north streaking and highlighting the clouds. From north to east pinks and pale orange reflected. Sometimes the deepening blue sky hovering over steel grey water darkening for night. I turn one way and turn another, take it all in. A release and pulling this vision, the intangible, inward.

I can’t sing, close the book, I have no form.

Outlier rebel women poets like prophets, gleaning active shadow, like weeds precious and everywhere. Channeling saints, devils. Venerable radiance a dance a stanza.

I wash my cherries, pit them. Make a galette. Tart mixed with sugar. Like the birds, peck, delight, consume. A breath. A moment. Drink in opulence, regal red cherries an ephemeral harnessing.

But that’s just it, can’t hold on, doesn’t fit in packaging, an experience a feeling like a blanket comforting or like a freeing or slowing of time, witness shifting shades of blue evening sky streaked in pinks and orange. Soft grit of sand I dig my shoes in lose focus so close to the edge, small lapping waves like hypnosis. Immersive, a nervous system settling. Parasympathetic response, respite, a tuning, a calming

Contemplate or conceive.  A visage elegant, angular, an expression. Face this. Smell the roses eat the cliché. An abundance: offspring, new leaves, yield. A woman may be capable of a lush and pregnant garden.

Spreading my arms, I can’t hold it, but it has me held fast. The feeling like time stilled layers of color, shades of nature like a lozenge a lubrication inside my head. Some ointment, supplement, like opening windows for the first time in spring or today, windows open, it’s still August but it’s cooled, a hint of fall in the breeze and the sky is blue. No smoke, there’s a breeze, and the sun is insistent. The air clear I breathe in deep to the lungs.

Alongside, in proximity, of lines of surfaces, inside and outside in tandem or juxtaposed. A costume or performance. A ghost becomes tangible. Slip of the breath. Cold fingers reach a light switch just before. A shuffling in the shadows. Then a nearness melts away like winter.

An equivalent a likeness. Correspondent. A simultaneous routine. Not habit but operational.

Late summer comes in through the window. Dry, clear. A moment imagining. Stretching sand, toward blue, like breeze on the water a breath, a recipe. Like spray on car parts or vinegar soaking in a coffee cup to work away the stains. A dislodging, a clearing. Like windows opening for the first time in the spring, each step outside, around the block, back on that beach, feet firm in sand. Where water meets sky and stretch, imagine it, across, beyond. Vision of feeling.

Outlier syntax, tendencies. Beyond edges correspondences shift. Soil poetic and scented lawns. These syllables build and scatter. Spread across space and connect. Voices from corners shadowed and knowing. Banlieue of plenty or poor, vestige zones, what’s left like mist, floats.

I dive under the water. And dive under again. The noise of the water fills my head, a kind of quiet roar. Or release. The noise and my breath pushing pressing everything else out, the breath exploding toxins. Stretch my jaw feel it loosen let it go, breathe something new.


About the writer:
Jill Darling has published poetry, fiction, and creative and critical essays. Her books include Geographies of Identity: Narrative Forms, Feminist Futures, (re)iterations, a geography of syntax, Solve For, and begin with may: a series of moments as well as two collaborative chapbooks with Laura Wetherington and Hannah Ensor. She’s won awards and residencies from The Academy of American Poets, the Mary Anderson Center for the Arts in Indiana, Spark Box Studio, and the Hambidge Center for the Arts. Darling teaches writing at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. More info and links to work online can be found at.

Image: Behind the Shadow (restudy) by James Gill (1934-). No medium specified. No size specified. 2003. By free license.

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