Varieties of Service

Driving home through the green hills of Vermont, I couldn’t help feeling attacked. Words like wasps circling and stinging my mind. Attacked for my faults, my failures, for how little I made of my life. A little that seems like so much from within. It’s good to be stung, to think of the hive, of the queen, of the servants and their many heads. The bites were tender, sore, and the way I touched them reminded me to be quiet in my thoughts. Gentle in my acts. To touch soft as a stray petal that lands like luck in my glove.

Addie settles into new places quickly. Owns them. Barks at intruders, readies herself to leap over the desk out the window at the skunk. I could call her to heel but what for? She could hurt herself. Oh, let her quiver with the thought of the catch. She deserves it. She’s growing old, slowing down the way wilderness wilts. I am no more her master than I am the master of myself. We serve each other. Our wills are two countries with their own customs but no clearly defined border. In that co-existence, she knows the language of my hands better than I know it myself. And I know her upper lip tucked under her lower canine when curiosity crinkles the tip of her nose and mischief marches towards the knots of her paws.

My wife sees the worry in my face and says I’m too sensitive, softens it and says I’m too kind. This from the woman who fretted over the ant that hitchhiked into her office, the woman who used her lunch hour to return the poor speck to the park. Wishing him reunited with his tribe. I wonder what happens to a lost ant and remind her, though she never believes me, though she often is what she disbelieves, that when it comes to sensitivity, and when it comes to kindness, there is no such thing as enough.

Ricky Ray is a disabled poet, critic and editor who lives in the old green hills with his old brown dog, Addie. He is the author of Fealty (Diode Editions, 2019), Quiet, Grit, Glory (Broken Sleep Books, 2020) and The Sound of the Earth Singing to Herself (Fly on the Wall Press, 2020). He was educated at Columbia University and the Bennington Writing Seminars, and is the founding editor of Rascal: A Journal of Ecology, Literature and Art.

You can see more of his work in 8.4 and 8.4 and 5.3

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