The Season of Saintly Sorrow

Robert and I are walking and our footfalls are so quiet, we might as well be barefoot. We are walking among a black gallery of trees, which are metamorphic with mystery. The bare, sibilant branches are tuning forks misted by the celestial. We brush hands, pause, brush lips, then bend over rain-tingled twigs cast down by windfall shadow. Before us, two thin trees meet at their darkest points, scaling the woods we walk in quietly, ever so quietly.

“That’s us,” whispers Robert as he points to where the two trees make a tilted crucifix.

“Yes,” I reply, “we do touch each other in deep places, don’t we?”

“Why not?” he answers, “isn’t that why we’re together?”

I nod my head in agreement like a bird intent on where she wants to go, who longs only to nest in the dark appearance of evening air, just now descending.

“I love November most,” continues the man I call my husband, who I wed at sea by the lighthouse I spy on my long strolls each eve, the ones I now take two decades later in too much aloneness.

“When the leaves come down,” he says, “a certain calmness comes. It’s my season,” he says as he draws near me like the flesh and blood female I am, long before I become an abominable snow woman.

“November is the season of saintly sorrow,” I whisper while touching Robert’s earlobe as if it were the pink womb of a lady’s slipper which has long stepped off the edge of earth.

“Here,” he says as he kneels down before me on a plush mat of mulberry-colored leaves, leaves which now keep to deep, luxurious sleep.

I, too, kneel down as though the woods were a confessional in which praise, not sin, is sung.

“It’s all very holy,” I say, under a sky that is a chapel dome.

“Only here, only this,” he whispers, then plants me with his kiss.

I lie down and bring Robert with me. All around I hear the rush and thrum of stellar wings.

“You are my bird of paradise,” he goes on and I wax exotic and erotic at once.

We make love slowly, become unearthed on earth, rise and sigh, rise and sigh. Birds don their sooty jackets in metallic air that falls like smoke rings. Once and only once, I murmur Robert’s name like a mantra. My lips slightly parted with just the dot of a tongue darting within—dark, magic and wet.

“Keep me, my keeper, like a keepsake,” I say while thinking vaguely about the leaves, which do not know how to bleed, or have their blood be let, nor do we, yet.

Robert passes his hand across my face, like the shadow of a wave while I close my eyes, dream in reams of peace. For a moment, we are not those trees scaled like a crucifix, but two trees sharing one mythic trunk. Soon wounds will start to pool, shine like blind eyes. I blink, look up at the canopy which defies time and space.

Somehow we return to ourselves like passengers on a ship that will float across the moon once it rouses itself into a golden globe.

“You know what I want,” I say.

“What?” Robert replies.

“A recipe on how to make tea out of the debris of these leaves.”

“Easy,” he responds, “steep them in this spicy air.”

“And I’ll pour it into my poor kettle which only knows how to sing.”


We get up, continue along the old logging trail, among coral mushrooms, soft as gum, which hold their toxins deep within. I realize that we cannot hope for more, or hope for less because to be means to know all things decease—even the light, I see, is declining. Even so, it manages to leave a hush in its path, palpable as those wings which hummed and thrummed about me.

I cup a snowy tree cricket, green as the delicate morsels which tasseled these branches last spring, and carry it to Robert. He bows before it as the insect leaps earthward with its tiny box of music packed in its miniscule body, that sweet machine. All desire comes from a machine that small, is powered by currents of music, which surge forth from both significant and insignificant creatures, of which we are both.

“To the mountaintop!” declares Robert and I fall into marching order as if in a migratory pattern. We pass by the slender birch I always touch when on this trail, the one I first touched at dawn on our wedding day. I have bonded with this tree in a bond that abides but does not bind and that is just what I want my marriage to be, is a bond that abides without binding over the tides of time. Yet, in time and over time, my aloneness will arc into me like a broken rib.

But not now, because it is the season of saintly sorrow and whatever saintly is beautiful as is what Robert and I share, even in the cold parlors of November. The wounds in trees are but black hearths throwing off, it seems, a little heat, a little passion.

When we reach the mountaintop, there is no vista, but I am visited, albeit briefly, by the long shadows of Chinese mystics long deceased, shadows that dress me with blessings. I see huge limbs that have been snapped like the necks of swans, by dense storms which fell like romance—heavy, mindless, not heedful of the past.

“This is the fountainhead,” I announce to Robert who looks at me in a way that I know needs no explanation.

“You’re my favorite poet,” he replies, an answer I’ve well-schooled him in.

We stand there at the fountainhead from which all things do flow, in air we share with birds, those studious tutors of joy who deliver short sermons on surrender. We stand in the lowering light which falls, like a wild calling, that asks us to trust in God as we must trust till all this gold filigree does rust as will our bond that will bind instead of abide over time.

For now, and it feels like a forevermore now, we are entranced by the moment, which seems to plop like a pebble in a birdbath where the ripples quiver, quake like green haloes. Jarred into awakening, I give half a cry to sky mirage, then surge toward Robert in poem-like reaches, will continue you to do so until we are too far afar for not just human, but even divine intervention.


Filed under: Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose