Image by Sara Lautman

Hello from a new part of my journey
I want so badly to call it the beginning

And of course it is the beginning
Just like every moment is
The beginning, the middle, and the end all at once

Time is a circle
We choose a point, hold on
And give it different names

All of my points are called “The Beginning”
Because I, the Fool, am addicted to beginnings
I even turn middles into beginnings
So I don’t have to deal with middles
(They sound boring)
And ends are scary and sad
To say goodbye?

(Me? Never.)

How will this end?
I’m not sure

All I can say is
Today
I will shift my attention

To the next part of the story

Act II. Whoa
(Stay with me)

Last week, my body said fight or flight
The revolution was happening right outside my door after all
And I felt that familiar fear:
Your life is wrong
Shit!

Remember to breathe
I wasn’t
No one was breathing at the time

Before that, as we all began to quarantine
Friends worried about me
Are you ok? they asked
Stuck at home
No place to go

Let me tell you, I said
I’m better than ok
I am amazing

You can’t have FOMO if there’s nothing to miss

Time slowed down until it almost stopped
I developed relationships with the wild animals who lived in my yard
The squirrel who lay on his belly and threw walnuts at us from the roof
The mourning doves who fashioned a frail nest on the hot water heater
And screamed all morning long

Were they getting weirder
Or was I finally paying attention?

Same question for my dreams

I was haunted by a white rat who wanted to cuddle
But his belly was covered in cream
Go away, white rat, I said
I do not wish to cuddle you
Because I do not know about your cream
Did it come from inside your body or did you roll in it?
I was disgusted by the white rat
Though he was otherwise very cute and clean

The days were undefined, meditations of their own
We were all breathing then, long and deep
The earth breathed
The bread rose
I did breathwork on the floor with the blinds drawn

The nights were one big inhale
And the days were one big exhale
I watered the plants and patiently waited for them to dry
So they could be watered again

“Don’t let a good crisis go to waste!”
The new version of me said
Slipping on my yellow booties
Plucking a rose from the bush

I was becoming one with the universe
And it was a piece of cake!

I was just, like,
Quiet the brain
Activate the body
Listen to the heart
Connect with the eternal
And repeat

I did, over and over, throughout all time

But meanwhile I knew something else lived there
As thin as a thread and as strong as a serpent:
The fear that this would end

Act III

What’s the difference between a memory and a feeling?
I’m in my garage, going through boxes and trying to have compassion
For the younger version of myself

But I’m flooded with images and physical sensations
Tied to architecture and temperature
Hospital flooring
Brick and terracotta
Moisture on sidewalks in the shade in the morning
A waiting room with that toy
What’s it called?

I ask Google
And see it immediately
Everywhere on the grid
Squiggles and colored blocks
Different shapes and versions:
“The Bead Maze”

I sit with it all
Hours go by
My hands become dry and gray
But I knew if I stay, there is more to see
If I’m quiet, more will happen
More will be allowed to happen

Look at me, savoring every moment, I thought
(I was very proud of myself)

Enjoying my retreat, my rehab
My island of enlightenment
My friends and family were there too
Everyone waving from their own thatched hut
We’re reconnecting with our essential humanity!

But as we got fat on bread and book clubs
We missed one crucial feature
This wasn’t paradise
It was Omelas
And those guys who showed up with the beer
I mean, what are you going to do?
Are you going to have some beer?

My brain broke
I felt shame and pain
I stopped breathing again

What are you going to do with your attention?
Power through
What are you going to do with your privilege?
Stay with it

I am so new to this
I’m a beginner
For all of time
I mean, I am, but –
Dammit

If you’ve never meditated, don’t start
Because if you start, you must finish
And there’s no such thing as finishing
Go wash your bowl
Go wash your bowl
Go wash your asshole
Get me a stick

I have to tell you something
You are a good person
Listen
You did your best
You did your best
You are doing your best
You are doing your best

Breathe, breathe, breathe

Be gentle
Don’t pull your hair
That’s a good baby
Good baby
It’s ok

Act IV

The other week
The mourning doves laid eggs on the hot water heater
The eggs hatched
One baby fell out and then the other
The parents stared at me with horror, but no shame

New eggs appeared
But they fell out too
Backyard omelets
Oozing on the concrete of the sidewalk
In the summer that never came

I realized something
Before I had even noticed it on Colman’s Fool
The white rat was not a rat at all
It was a dog!
And the cream
I think was just his love
So pure, so hard to take
So hard to trust

Bio:

Deenah Vollmer is a writer and performer with an MFA in Nonfiction Writing from Columbia University. Her writing has been featured in The New Yorker, Interview Magazine, N+1, The Believer, Guernica, VICE, and more. In 2012, she lived in Berlin on a Fulbright for Journalism, and in 2014, she toured the world with a band she co-founded called The Pizza Underground. She is the editor of Hark Audio, studies clowning, hosts a monthly event series called Nervous, and is pursuing a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. A series of three poetry chapbooks is forthcoming from Isolationless Press in 2021.

www.deenahvollmer.com