I write because a full August moon over a barren Missouri field fills my chest with moonshine, burns a sickly sweet aftertaste, remains long after the moon is gone, the field is gone.
Fireflies flash when oxygen mixes with other chemicals to create nitric oxide gas—the same molecule that erects a limp phallus. When I catch a firefly and pinch off its light, it will stay egg-yolk gold, and I can put it on my ring finger and pretend I am married to the firefly king. But I wait, I wait until I see the light.
I write because my Dad spun yarns as fast as he could gut a fish. My Mom stood tall as a sunflower, a thin, knowing smile that said sometimes the story wasn’t the one being told but another one that lived in the spaces between words. I watched, always, reading their faces like the pages of the Farmer’s Almanac.
The human brain boasts billions of neurons, axons and dendrites to make up a mind that registers pain when my heart is pricked or when a charred forest looms, ghostly stems, against the blue dawn. The human heart pumps oxygen faster than the weather changes, across thousands of miles, the distance from Kansas City, Missouri, to Washington, D.C., from where I began to where I am.
I write because people speak without speaking, because words put one way mean one thing and turned another way mean another thing, and when I look at the lone oak tree in the pasture flooded by light, when some ordinary moment is made extraordinary, I remember there is another kind of seeing that involves letting go.
Oxygen combines with other chemicals, sparking a burst of light against the crisp edges of night; the present stretches in front of me, its lanky legs long against a woven chaise lounge, arms crossed behind a sun-warmed head.
When I wrote you a letter and asked what I should do to be a writer, you said to read what you love and write what you love. I still have the envelope, the piece of paper, black ink against beige letterhead with your name on it.
Black holes are anything but empty, full of matter, pulling so strongly not even light can escape. I write because I am a moth to the flame.