Arts & Ideas: Sit alone in a room with 12 walls

Portrait of Laysan Albatross.
(Photo by: H Young)
Portrait of Laysan Albatross. (Photo by: H Young)


Apparently, if I have ever fallen in love I would know it.  

He said I would know it 
like you know someone is standing beside you, 
Even with your eyes closed 
Even before you hear them breathe. 

Or like you know how to distinguish an owl from a hawk at twilight 
without thinking.  

He said I would know it like you know pain: 
you don’t need to see the blood to know what happened. 

But what if I know it like I know the Laysan Albatross?  
Something I know only from the entry in Sibley’s Field Guide:  
Uncommon visitor from nesting grounds in central Pacific 
to cold open ocean waters far offshore; 
most numerous off Alaska.”  
Something I know only when I close my eyes? 


When you discover that Jupiter has 79 moons  
and that the rings of Saturn are three thousand miles apart at the Cassini division— 

then some things don’t matter anymore.  

Big things look small. 
Smaller things aren’t even there.  
And you realize that the whole world is only a comma in the middle  
of a very long and beautiful sentence.  


Oh, and what are you?  

You are just the thing on the end of a telescope.  
You are just an eye 
and a mind 

fixed on the end of a telescope 
seeing the universe that is everything 

and forgetting the you that is nothing.  


Yes, this is the way to kneel.  
This is the way to pray.


Feel the withered apple seed between your teeth.
Sit alone in a room with 12 walls.
Do not speak. 
Maybe this is the essence of wisdom. 

I like to think Solomon would agree. 

I also like to think he sat in the same chair I’m sitting in now,
alone in a room with 12 walls,
to write Ecclesiastes,  
with the same ceiling fan above him whispering one thing, over and over:
vanity, vanity, vanity 
and the same apple seed, sticky between his teeth. 

And maybe it was 9:49 p.m., just like it is now, 
when the revelation hit, 
when he saw himself perched like a dust mote
on the great swinging arm of Messier 74
saying even less than he could before
and spitting that withered apple seed into a black hole, 
beginning to see those twelve walls as twelve gates
the ceiling fan as the secret to redemption.


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