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QUINTESSENCE

Risk

FRIGATE
The anesthetist said sometimes this happens. It felt
like forever. We leaned in over your body to see what

your face might reveal. What your eyes were seeing
beneath closed lids, we'll never know and you won't tell.

Since we had urged you into surgery we felt responsible.
The ash pallor of skin, how shallow the breath

that curled from your lips and each fine line of sweat
beading high across your cheeks. Once years ago, when

you spoke, we leaned toward the fire. And they sped over
water in a frigate...
we remember you saying, though

what we heard was "forget." Smoke hung in our sweaters
and hair all the next day and for the week after. Finally

you came to to peer at our stricken faces lining the shore
of your bed; splattered our shoes. I'm back, you said, hello.

- Katrina Roberts

Consider the actual fragility of life, of this precisely patterned web of intention we weave called "living." Now and then the fabric of the self comes unmoored and drifts. I have watched the spider's silken thread surf the sunlight on an unseen breeze, riding the nothing until the gossamer catches, tears, holds fast. To what? A twig, a leaf, a bit of solid organic something that is now a fresh stake, a new attempt at presence.

Not to fall too far into the esoteric or fanciful, but are we not in fact that spider web? Our lives arc through the uncertainties, tiny trapeze artists far in the azure sky. We imagine our safety nets will hold. Our elaborate constructions - legacies, careers, generations, memories, poems in the bottom of scotch glasses - all things that glimmer in the last light. We live within a kind of mental engineering, as though designing sky scrapers in our minds. Towers of ambition and steel accomplishment, shining glass reflections of accumulation and regret. When I read Katrina Robert's poem I hesitated on the reminder of the uncertainty of consciousness. This shore of separation we flirt with as we skim the waters - alive and damaged by life and struggling with life. And back, and gone. The threads break and the web floats. And perhaps it is the awareness of the drift that guides us to the next anchor. I have no answers here, but I do know that it is the risk of that leap from the trapeze bar that begins the roll through space, free. And it is the catch that ends the plunge.

From the open sea we guide in the travelers; rope our crafts back in snug at the dock. Journey's end. Until then, our lives, entwined in our memories as Roberts so eloquently put it, are balanced in the wordplay of "frigate" and "forget." Ships built for journeys. Risk. Hello. I'm back.

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