The Secrets of Imagination

— Richard Jackson

I imagined you said the cicadas, afraid we would overhear
their secrets, stop as we approach. I imagined you said
they are planning, as Plato thought, our future. I was, sorry,
prying, like those doctors in 1822 who examined the insides
of Alexis St Martin through the bullet wound in his stomach
that healed with a permanent opening. We are such mysteries
to ourselves. Tonight a few orphaned stars announce themselves
again. A straggling cloud loses its way behind the trees.
How often our own dreams struggle against gravity. I imagined
the man who’ll clean the park in the morning collecting scraps
of paper out of which he invents the story of his life. He too
looks through the world we know to the world we don’t know.
I imagined the five dimensional world the scientists say cloaks ours
so that we can never really measure what we see. This morning
I surprised two raccoons who turned and disappeared back
towards the mulch pile. A moment later the mother dashed out
from hiding in the bushes when I passed out of range. The air
seemed to hold, and then dissolve, her presence. But tonight
the moon seems reluctant to reveal anything. The usual dusk
light is dismissive. A streetlight flickers. A vapor trail breaks up
on the first stars. I imagine the cicadas say one thing to us,
another to themselves. I can’t imagine how many worlds
lie between what we don’t say and what we do. I don’t know
what happens to all those memories we hold. I imagine they linger
in the places we have been. Where the raccoons disappeared
soldiers fled a battle on the ridge a hundred and fifty years ago
leaving behind not only buttons and buckles for metal detectors
but their spirits that haunt the woods. Or their dreams are fossils.
Now a trellis of sounds hovers over us again. In Sansepolcro
the eyes in Pierro della Francesca’s Resurrection of Christ tracked
us wherever we stood in the gallery. It was as if we were urged
to invent another life than what we knew. From where we stand now
our own lives watch us from the shadows that perch among the trees.
Whatever they say is said in the language of flickering leaves.
Tomorrow the raccoons will know to keep together. It was just
a failure of imagination. The cicadas know everything we failed to love
tells us what we need to love. It is the secret we all share beyond words.
Or this: we carry inside us a hidden life that we hold only to share,
like the dove the man trying to cross the border in Texas kept
in his pocket, saying, when captured, it was for luck, and from love.


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