We went to a museum the other day with no specific purpose in mind and found ourselves in the Chinese art galleries. Jade. Porcelain. Bronze. Ornate vessels for cooking, for ceremonies, for burial. An arched gateway which used to lead to a family’s compound. A room with a low table, ink, brushes, where someone used to practice calligraphy. We peered in through the interwoven black wooden squares of traditional Chinese architecture. At one point a tiny capering man entranced me and I wanted to reach through the glass, and the thousands of years between us, and take him home.
Everything about the two hours in that museum, and the rainy day itself, was slow. We kept wondering how long each vessel, plate, vase, jade carving must have taken the artist to make. A long time, was all we came up with, a long, slow time. A lifetime, maybe.
I’m losing track of what life was like before the existence of this tiny computer that lives in the back pocket of my jeans and feeds me a constant stream of news and images and information and updates. When I take a break –in a yoga class, in a museum, by putting the tiny computer in another room while I lie on the couch and read–everything inside me slows down. This poem below, by Tiana Clark, resonates in my very bones.
My Therapist Wants to Know about My Relationship to Work, by Tiana Clark
I control & panic. Poke
balloons in my chest,
always popping there,
always my thoughts thump,
thump. I snooze — wake & go
boom. All day, like this I short
my breath. I scroll & scroll.
I see what you wrote — I like.
I heart. My thumb, so tired.
My head bent down, but not
in prayer, heavy from the looking.
I see your face, your phone-lit
faces. I tap your food, two times
for more hearts. I retweet.
I email: yes & yes & yes.
Then I cry & need to say: no-no-no.
Why does it take so long to reply?
I FOMO & shout. I read. I never
enough. New book. New post.
New ping. A new tab, then another.
Papers on the floor, scattered & stacked.
So many journals, unbroken white spines,
waiting. Did you hear that new new?
I start to text back. Ellipsis, then I forget.
I balk. I lazy the bed. I wallow when I write.
I truth when I lie. I throw a book
when a poem undoes me. I underline
Clifton: today we are possible. I start
from image. I begin with Phillis Wheatley.
I begin with Phillis Wheatley. I begin
with Phillis Wheatley reaching for coal.
I start with a napkin, receipt, or my hand.
I muscle memory. I stutter the page. I fail.
Hit delete — scratch out one more line. I sonnet,
then break form. I make tea, use two bags.
Rooibos again. I bathe now. Epsom salt.
No books or phone. Just water & the sound
of water filling, glory — be my buoyant body,
bowl of me. Yes, lavender, more bubbles
& bath bomb, of course some candles too.
All alone with Coltrane. My favorite, “Naima,”
for his wife, now for me, inside my own womb.
Again, I child back. I float. I sing. I simple
& humble. Eyes close. I low my voice,
was it a psalm? Don’t know. But I stopped.
For more information about Tiana Clark, please check out her website.