A Child Banishes the Darkness
The child presides over our lives like the
Blinding presence of tall white pines. In the
Low room she hovers; she is the dark un-
tamed place, like a thicket in a neglect-
ed wood where I fall to after each new
loss, the unforgotten dream buried like
a small toy under layers of frozen
un-raked leaves. She is the hidden secret
we don’t talk about because there is noth-
ing left to say. So much snow on the roofs
of tall buildings, along the cobbled streets,
in the eaves, and on the narrow bridge and
in the quiet palm of the newborn trees.
Nothing left to fear. All the earth is calm.
She did not know when it would happen
or how it would overtake her
or whether she would allow herself.
All I know is that she could not take it anymore
lying day after day underneath the hollow tree, waiting,
consumed by a kind of fire,
wondering if there is a type of love
that saves us or whether there was more
to the world than the familiar paradise
of her mother's complicated and vivid garden.
She smelled nectar in the labored-over
chrysanthemum and amaryllis,
but could not taste it.
I know if it were a flower it would have bloomed
in the cumulus overhead
void of volition and sin,
translucent as the filmy underside of a leaf.
If it were an animal she would have followed it,
but it was amorphous as feeling, weightless as dust,
turbulent as an entire undisclosed universe
radiating from the inner core beneath the earth
and, still, she longed for it.
Restless, she wandered from the elm
to the school-yard to smother an intensity
she could not squelch or simmer.
The wind swooned. Cement cracked. Deep into the underbelly
light traveled, no one in sight but his immense shadow,
and then a figure appeared out of the imagined dream
and matched it. So powerful, not for who he was
but for how her mind had magnified him
like a bug underneath cool glass,
every antenna and tentacle aquiver.
No sign of where she had been
or who she came from. Only knowledge
that it would never be re-created
except by this: putting words down on a page
and that she had forever compromised
the joy of summer for a dismal, endless winter.
And as the field of force gathered,
raping every last silvery bough,
tantalizing each limb,
she forgot even the feel of herself.
When it was over she felt moisture. Rain.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Subterranean by Jill Bialosky. Copyright © 2001 by Jill Bialosky. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.