Christina Fernandez, Lavandaria #8, 2002, Copyright Christina Fernandez, courtesy of Gallery Luisotti.
By Gillian Cummings
Starkness: in the dogwood a robin’s nest
the bottom of which has become unwoven from the top
so that, looking up, you saw a frayed O
and through it the dusk color of sky
before a night when it would snow. It made you think
of the shadowed ceiling of a church and white
candles burning and what it feels like when the body
is trying to teach the mind stillness. There is an O
in Buddhist calligraphy that has the quality of being
finished and unfinished, as if endings and beginnings
only brush each other lightly, or as if a break
runs through perfection making it more
luminous. The dragon swallowing its tail
in alchemical texts is similar but not the same.
Seeing the nest, you paused, then walked down the path
to the laundry room where your clothes had stopped
tumbling in rough circles. You wanted to remember
how your life had come to this point, but you couldn’t
so you folded. The brief heat of dried cloth.
The solace taken, in winter, from something worn,
warmed, freshened. The open space at the center.
The gesture. The open space that surrounds.
Gillian Cummings is a member of the Empty Hand Zen Center, and would like to thank the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Memorial Foundation for their generosity in providing her a grant, with which she was able to write this poem.
Tremendous gratitude is expressed towards Christina Fernandez, whose photograph accompanies Gillian's poem. An exhibition of her work, "residue/residuo," is currently on view at Gallery Luisotti in Los Angeles.