White Flag

for Graham

Picture a garden, circling it, a field on fire, rich with color, but in that color is lack, and at first, you can assume a grander theme; assume a seduction associated with color or vibrancy, but that’s one of the first things you learn in school:  everything is made up of shades.

Black is the absorption of all colors.


Do we really get to choose the woman we want to be? Some women play the triangle. I am a conductor.


I want to know when my next best time is.  I know it’s coming. I know it’s opening like a closed flower in bloom; so much is tilting in my life, towards the sun.

I’m saying yes.

Do you hear me?


Last week, I went to get coffee and was short 31 cents and was about to reload my card, and the barista said not to worry about it. I said thank you to her and that gesture, and as I stood there waiting for my coffee, the song in the shop shifted, and instantly I smiled, humming. It was DIDO’s “White Flag.” An epidemic of nostalgia took me captive, held me under, shipwrecked, hidden in the past, and cached in memory. I stood there hoarding my love for that song somewhere inside me. I was buzzing, dizzy. I returned to the animal hospital for visiting hours.  My cat, Graham, newly blind, post-seizure, hooked up to IVs, deeply sedated, was cage side. I pet him, and kissed his small pink nose, his mouth and his white tuft on his chest, and then quietly – so quietly – sang in his ear, my little love song for him, the one he likes  –  our little routine – and he started to wrap his arms around me. He recognized my voice, and in that moment, I thought about angels; I thought about God, as he forced his body onto my arm, and his strength scared me, and then I felt it, the energy, the connection. I knew in that moment, his love for me, my love for him, was the strongest thing I’ve ever felt. His response; his responding; his responding to me was everything, was more than hurt, was more than pain, it was love and I realized then, the bounty of it.


Natalie tells me to lean into my heart of hearts

I am leaning.

The heart is a kaleidoscope.


So many women’s lives live on the wings of men and I think about my wingspan; I think about my breadth; the soars, the raking of dreams; the wading; I think about the depth of my cache; its bounty and I think about an article I read about ravens and theory of mind; how they are always looking; always burying; always thinking of the other raven’s motives: I’m done thinking like that. I remember what I’ve hid and why and where. I can uncover it in a sweep of wonder, stretching it out, like a sun, in the sky, accordioned


The story will open; the good idea will hint at what is changed, at what is ambitious.

If no one sounded the alarm, if no one sounded the future, the soundless would sit similarly. The tension, that trill, lies in the better days. The thrilling is so close.

I think about what will thrill me then


In Yiddish, verklempt means to be overwhelmed with emotion. In German, it means to be uptight. Maybe feeling escalates us to odds. Maybe it spirits us into our manifesting of what is strict or shrill.


What is in the second wave, other than what is numerical?

What do we rebuild?


A student tells me she hates this and wants to be back at school and we both laugh because that’s a first and we know it. In a poem, she writes that a breath of air outside was like her soul on fire and I meditate on that flare.

There is so much that we miss. There is so much that we take for granted. There is so much good we are waiting for, but who wills the sound of it?  


Did you know that once, lightning hit limestone, which created cement and thereby created ancient cities? It makes me think about the cradle of modern civilization. What does that even mean anymore?

What is modern?

What is civilized?


Another student tells me there’s a new app for people who want pen-pals. The app delivers electronic mail in real time. It simulates the waiting. It simulates our longing and thrill. I love the idea of connecting, but why not write a real letter? Why simulate something that already exists? Slowly, we are remembering what we already remember. It is a renaissance, a doubling, a kickback of feeling.

Leah Umansky
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