A man says lilacs against white houses, having seen them in the farm country south of Tacoma in April, and can’t find his way to a sentence,….

Robert Hass, “Spring Drawing”

In New Mexico last year, there was a woman I adored who talked in beautiful incomplete sentences, confused poetry, rich with imagery but often empty of discernable meaning. I didn’t miss the meaning; I gave up the need to understand. It took me two days of wilderness solitude and fasting to break the hold of the sentence, to get to where she had been with language all along, where my thoughts only told me what was. Sitting on a mountain the third day, they said only: Fast moving sky. Hawk circling. Coyote prints in fresh mud.

Because all week I had been longing to break my mind open, and because all week it had been steadfastly and resolutely linear and unyielding, I drove yesterday to a favorite hiking spot and climbed the steep ridge overlooking the river. I leaned back on a rock facing and watched vultures circling above, six or seven of them. Because my mind was still in its everyday mode, associations formed instantly, and I thought of last year, in California, when my brother, the Deacon, got married. Out the windows that formed the backdrop of the ceremony, vultures circled and swooped. Later, at the reception, my brother, the Nurse, said that vultures were the animals charged by God to tear away the dead, the old, making room for the new.

I waited there on the rock. It started to rain. The vultures circled above me. Below, a train roared past. I stayed still. I waited.