by Robert Vivian
A "Notable Essay" in The Best American Essays 2016
I can’t keep it in or keep it down, I mean the full-blown brunt of it and the hum and thrum and love of it and I mean the beauty, oh, the drop- dead nectar of flower or shiny doorknob or lace of spider web lashing its way in the corner of a cold dark window as if to brush away a tear—and I’m unable, so, so unable to keep the doors and windows closed and the shirt on my back, the kiss on my lips from finding its bull’s eye pucker, the colors of any rainbow or any soft or numinous surface and I can’t keep it in and I won’t keep it in for it keeps busting out all over and overflowing its banks, I mean the love, the joy and the swing of it, I mean the heft and curly bangs and the hem trailing yon long robes of hereafter in the train of this now, this everywhere and nowhere, this once in a lifetime and this lifelong love of breath and song, for it must be sung or spoken, must be groaned or garbled, must be chockfull of praise for the windmill and the weather vane, the barn door and shaft of sunlight coming into the hayloft in golden motes and so this is an essay full of groaning, the ecstatic kind for today I found myself walking in the woods and whispering to all I saw (groan with me), the micro and the macro and little heart-shaped scuttling leaves, saying you are beautiful, little twig, (groan with me, please groan with me), and you are beautiful, powerful oak, groaning even to the deer stand that you are beautiful also and the kill shot coming for all of us from a high-powered rifle a mile away, and I found myself growing straighter and straighter in my posture (groan with me) and hearing Black Elk’s words to walk in a sacred manner and so I tried to walk in a sacred manner and I couldn’t keep it in, the gaga and squeals of delight like Keith Jarrett at the keyboard and I couldn’t keep it in and I didn’t want to keep it in as even now in this repose I don’t want to stifle it (groan, groan, groan with me!), no, not the nonsense of this praise nor the headlong wonder that drives it for it is not my own electricity but some mysterious voltage and I an imperfect conductor and then I understood or was given to know in blinding recognition like Paul knocked off his ass that I was never supposed to keep it in but let it out when I could (so please, please groan with me), that I’m not waterproof but water permeable, water soaked through and through to keep my body from burning up in ecstatic fever when it comes because I’m hot for the honey and couldn’t stop the sudden surge that rippled through me, oh, hot wired bolts electric (groan, groan, groan with me), and I could tremble and quake without embarrassment in the land of the shining new verb that moved like an antelope leaping across the plains graceful in her parabolas and it was okay, okay, it was beautiful (double g, double g, groan, groan, groan with me!), beautiful even now to be unable to keep the beauty of the world at bay and to let it all in as if this body were just a sieve for holy rushing water and it is and it is and must be, cold rushing water immortal, cold rushing water please groan with me.
Robert Vivian is the author of The Tall Grass Trilogy, Cold Snap As Yearning, The Least Cricket Of Evening, and Water and Abandon. He has two books coming out next year--Mystery My Country (dervish essays) and Traversings, which is co-written with the poet Richard Jackson.