In The Holidays
with an old blanket and a bottle of beer – I rest my head
upon your shoulder and we look for clouds; I steal
cold sips and warm kisses.
the grass is dry and itchy between my toes, there’s been no rain
for weeks. but we make do with old dishwater,
the watering can from the back of the shed: your mum’s roses
are still in full bloom.
hot summer sunsets viewed from the cool
cotton bedsheets, fingers entwined:
you kiss me on my inner thigh as the stars
emerge and the moon lights the room.
We should not worry about these little things. The parallel people do sometimes tease us by moving our belongings around, but their job is to protect us. It is they who give a good feel to a house when we view it for the first time, who let us know that this is the one for us. And they come into their own when we go away on holiday. We think of holidays as a time to recharge our batteries. It is so, but not in the way that most of us imagine. The repair work is being done at home, by the parallel people.
Think about it. You go away for two weeks, but when you come back is the house dusty? It is not. As soon as you walk in and put down your bags you feel an immense relief. You are Home. And how is this? Have the parallel people been going round with the duster and broom? They have not. What they do is something that we cannot see because it is in another dimension, the dimension of care.
You are not convinced. You think that I am talking nonsense, that I am away with the fairies. You do not believe in fairies. That is your choice, and I would not call them fairies anyway, because various writers have given fairies a bad name. I prefer to say parallel people, because it is not an emotive term and so sceptics like you are more likely to pay attention.
So, you are saying, prove it. Ah, you are a rationalist, I am doomed to failure. But I will try. Let us say that you decide to take a holiday at home. You take leave from your job. You declare that you will look at your e-mail no more than once a day. You will put your feet up. Does this work? Are you refreshed? Or do you rather have a nagging feeling that there is something you should be doing? Ah, yes, you should paint the front door. So you do. Then the windows look dirty in comparison. So you clean them. You clean all the windows in the house. And so on. You do not need me to tell you what the consequence of this is. You have not had a proper holiday and you go back to work feeling exhausted and resentful.
What if you had gone away for the week, rented a cottage deep in the blue-green hills where the swallows woke you and nightjars cooed you to sleep? Ah, you say, but the front door remains unpainted. These parallel people, these (you say) imaginary people, have not painted it, have not cleaned the windows. But what I say to you is - do you think about this when you return from your holiday? You do not. And the reason you do not is that the parallel people have been at work, repairing the threads that hold your life together. These threads are not visible to our human eyes, but we know them with our hearts.
You are scoffing, I can hear you. What about the unfortunate people who go away on holiday with their families and do nothing but argue? But I say to you, coming home is their salvation. When they are back from holiday they find that they can continue together. That they know what to do together and what apart. They have realigned the balance. And this is not through anything they have done themselves. It is because of the work of the parallel people. Of course there are exceptions. There are people who have closed their hearts.
If your heart is closed you will perceive the breath on your cheek as a threat, the missing teaspoons as a cause for anxiety. If your heart is closed you will never have a proper holiday. Because, here is the nub of it, life is about care. The parallel people know this. And if you do not believe in the parallel people so be it. Think about care anyway. Think about it on your next holiday. Think about the people you are with. There you are. Now you understand.
Classes disperse, semester
ends. Last details are tended to.
I’m off on summer’s way,
not to Grecian isles, British heaths, or Roman hills.
I stay at home
(or not at home) as you see it.
A canoe I craft for a special cruise
sans waiters, decks, or pool.
Up the Merrimack and Concord too
the canoe cracks and needs repair.
I wind my way through lazy afternoons,
aloof to the time,
aware of Time.
I walk slowly along the Cape,
watching for sunken
wrecks—and quiet squaws.
Will I know how to speak to them?
I spend some seasons at the Pond,
losing my way, some nights, in the dark.
On moonless nights I even crawl.
I visit some old friends: pines, elms, and oaks.
Called to Perth Amboy to survey, I go.
En route by rail I spy newly flowering Cornel trees,
read at the Astor Library awaiting my covered wagon.
Finally, the summer ended,
Fall so near, I, unfinished,
That was my summer, holy days, with Thoreau.