Any Common Desolation

Any Common Desolation

can be enough to make you look up
at the yellowed leaves of the apple tree, the few
that survived the rains and frost, shot
with late afternoon sun. They glow a deep
orange-gold against a blue so sheer, a single bird
would rip it like silk. You may have to break
your heart, but it isn’t nothing
to know even one moment alive. The sound
of an oar in an oarlock or a ruminant
animal tearing grass. The smell of grated ginger.
The ruby neon of the liquor store sign.
Warm socks. You remember your mother,
her precision a ceremony, as she gathered
the white cotton, slipped it over your toes,
drew up the heel, turned the cuff. A breath
can uncoil as you walk across your own muddy yard,
the big dipper pouring night down over you, and everything
you dread, all you can’t bear, dissolves
and, like a needle slipped into your vein—
that sudden rush of the world.

Ellen Bass, from Indigo (Copper Canyon Press, 2020)

As we are already not-quite-sick-of-saying: the garden has never looked lovelier. And we have played a lot of cards. And generally spent much more time around the table, convening for coffee and lunch as if pulled by invisible threads from different points in the house. We are so lucky to have a house. And a garden. I have spent a lot of time drinking from bowls, sometimes not even really drinking, just cradling the coffee as though it may never appear in my life again. The texting and emailing of friends, the re-connection with people over miles and years of separation, habitually and briefly fused at Christmas only for another year to go by with nothing having changed. Well, this is changing us. Slowly, but it is. A neighbour who has steadfastly refused to acknowledge me for years finally gave me a smile yesterday. We are doing a lot of laughing, and crying at orchestras who somehow manage to put on stunning music for free in their separate Toronto rooms just so we can cry and feel something deeply human while we do it (especially the triangle guy). The old battered thing, my diary (it isn’t a diary, really, I just call it that) makes a guest appearance and suddenly becomes a necessity. The poetry of James Schuyler, as if he ever went away. I have never taken such pleasure over hanging out the washing. And hours just looking at the apple tree, pruning it, leafless and now studded with buds, vowing I will never not take notice of it again, vowing I will notice everything in my life with this raw tenderness from now on, I will, I promise. I think she had me at ‘apple tree’.


  1. Thank you for the apt poem, and for sharing your own wonderment and new appreciation of the preciousness and fragility of life. I love to think of the whole world waking up to these truths together at this time, all of our five senses newly aware as if new-born. Maybe we can then learn to be better stewards of the earth, going forward?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I am so, so grateful, Anthony that you can link up again . Like me, I imagine that for you, previous illness had depleted the store of emotional strength only to be punched out again by the new strange world. Do take care. Ann Hammond


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Of all the people I know, I believe you are the one to ‘thrive’ in these times. And your writing just proves it. Lovely. Really lovely.
    G xx

    Sent from my iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

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