Hula Hooping with Walt Whitman

I see you spinning Gentle Creature at the line where the sky meets the earth, and though we are shadows to each other I spin with you.
I am your smooth-faced brother.
I am your white-bearded father.
I am your sister of rosy cheeks and dewed eyes.
I am your mother, resolute.
I am the hoop you stomped off the ground with dirt encrusted feet.  I am that circle of life dancing all around you.
I am the wish to bathe you clean.
An absolution.

You spin circles, arms outstretched and their tawny beauty glistens from the sweat of your body.
It is an oath.  This fluid that flows from you with grace contains in it yesterday, and tomorrow, and this moment.
And everything possible is there, in a single drop of sweat.
It is a prayer, two hands folded together, chubby little fingers sticky with cake batter and cheeks bulging with the sweetness of a stolen treat.
It is an offering.
It is an invocation of the body calling to the spirit and crying to take this flesh-matter on the tongue, a command.

The sun falls down on us, drapes over us like the nightshirt of a lover before the unveiling.
Little bits of straw we crush and break beneath our feet as we tattoo the flight of our spirits onto the earth stick to us.  A second skin.
We become the earth just as it becomes us.
A tangle of hoops weave one into the other.
The drums pound the air.
A voice wails to the sky.  It is a song of beginnings.  It is a song of endings, too.

Crouching, stamping, bouncing.  Step into the circle. You pass it over you, forceful, shaking it in your clenched fist.  After it orbits you, it is still a circle.
Ever we are dancing closer to each other.  We are contained in our own flesh.  At the same time, we grow.  We expand.  We leak and ooze the essence that is us.  It seeps beyond its boundary, shouts like a rowdy school boy, naked in the lake.  His body gleams white as new snow.

The hoops lock.  They link, two hands holding.
Two become one hundred, and together they form an atom, an eagle spreading one wing, and then the other.
A butterfly slips between the feathers, hovers over the flower.  Forming.  A folding and unfolding, and there is the world.

The dancer hurls a hoop away from him. It speeds across the ground, and then a miracle happens.
It stops, standing still, and then returns, unerring like a homing pigeon full with a message.
It is part of the story, this message.  One crossing of the threads weaving.
I am here.  You are here, too.  Entwined.  Our genes commingle.  They whisper a weaving to each other.

Change is upheaval, the earth spitting up on itself.
There’s fire underfoot.  Ravenous. I want to brush it over the sky, make red-orange cherry blossoms spitting sparks.
Change is the denaturation of protein, it is the recombining of molecules, of genes to create anew.
It is intentionally misplaced, here upon the bedside table next to your glass of water, between some dentures and a love note.
Or else fallen amid a tangle of roots and rock, where the bears scrunch their noses at the strange smell of it.

Crickets sing.  The old man sings.  The drums sing, but the beat has succumbed to a Jupiter metronome.
Our dancing grows slow.  You shed your hoops like skin, like tears.  Like the years it took for us to erode this canyon.  Creation in the taking away.
There is no sadness in it.
Death is to me as the bloom of an autumn leaf, ripe, saturated with the all color of its knowing.  It is to me as a splinter.  An evening meal.  Feeling the world beneath my feet and its subtle undulations.
When it comes, I shall embrace it as a close friend, as a stranger.  At once beloved and reviled.

I am perfect and flawed.
I dig my fingers into the skin over my sternum.
I tear through my flesh.
I crack bone and pry open my ribcage, baring my heart, my blood, my everything to the trees, to the stars.  To you.
Here.  Put your finger here to stop up the hole in my heart.  I will do the same for you.
Lean on me as we weave these circles like sloths, as we make them a ready gift for those other dancers eager to take flight.

My brain is the sky dripping rain.  It makes wet.  Sweet luminosity.  See how the light races over the edge.

Our bodies planetary.  Building, weaving, linking.  Everything is connected.


Author’s Dedication: I realized today I’ve been writing this piece for Ed. My friend, my mentor of sorts, and my father-figure.  I’m pretty sure he’d hate it, except if I did it right the parts that are full of love,  the dichotomy of life, and hope despite (or because of) the absurdity of it.  I’m not sure where his journey will take him next.  I have the feeling it is a place he is meant to go without us.  I hope I’m wrong.

Author’s Note: On the corner of University Avenue and Richmond Street in San Diego is an enormous blackboard.  This text is printed all over the face of it: Before I die ___________________.  Chalk is left out.  You fill in the blank.  One of the wishes was “Hoops with Walt”.  Naturally I thought of hula hooping with Walt Whitman.


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