By Rebecca Macijeski
I imagine what lifts from us when we die
is something like what a bell keeps
just before it rings
and sound flies out like a bat
all jagged and flapping
toward some distant darkness in the sky.
I imagine the world stores our deaths
in a deep, cool library
with air in it like the air from caves
and what we know keeps filling shelves there,
room after room of volumes that might never speak again,
building a tidiness larger than our lives.
I imagine what stays after us takes new forms each day.
Sometimes we’re uneaten sandwiches.
Sometimes cups of tea holding steam as long as they can.
Maybe it works when we arrive, too.
We come from where we come from
and suddenly we’re fish flexing through streams
or violins sleeping in trees or clouds
clinging to rain until we get where we’re going
and spend our storms over anyone who’ll listen.
Theories of Imagination
It comes unformed, shaping itself
into bright potential animals—each one well-lit
and gathered in an old dinner theater at the edge of town.
That’s a benefit of imagination. It knows how to fracture,
to be both the performer and the thousands of watchers
clapping in their seats dreaming of being larger,
waiting to eat their own meal of salmon and fame.
It wakes up slowly, and only after coaxing. At about 10am
it waits to be massaged out of fleece and molded into new shapes.
Last week was a fountain for throwing pennies. Yesterday
I made a toucan. Today a beef stew so I can I feed my ancestors
and tell them all the surprise of what I’m doing now,
how I’ve married someone remarkable, that despite everything
the poplars are just as exquisite as they remember.
Sometimes it’s a boogeyman. I wait in silence for hours for it to show up.
I’m no longer afraid to say I hope it will bring flowers or cake or a child
so we can sit and talk for a while instead of going out in a world
that tries not to know us. We’ll drink tea and pretend our own way
of being civilized—whatever that means—and the boogeyman’s hands
will make a home around his little cup. After our talking the room will grow quiet
except for sipping, when the heat of our listening makes us wild again.
Other times it’s in my blood first, like a music of flowing and need.
Or like the sound of leaves rustling from inside my limbs.
It’s in this I teach my body to listen, to practice patience as a martial art
so when it’s time to act I’ll know just how
to follow through, just how to hold on.
Rebecca Macijeski holds a PhD from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has attended artist residencies with The Ragdale Foundation, The Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, and Art Farm Nebraska. She has served as poetry editor for the journals, Prairie Schooner and Hunger Mountain. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Conduit, The Missouri Review, Poet Lore, Barrow Street, Sycamore Review, Fairy Tale Review, Puerto del Sol, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Gargoyle, and many others. Rebecca is Creative Writing Program Coordinator and Assistant Professor at Northwestern State University.