He placed a paper-thin, white wrapper on each garlic clove, and then he put more of living gift-wrapping over the whole garlic head in front of him.

“This will keep the sulfurs moist and fresh until they use them,” he said smiling.

“It’s the perfectly exquisite wrapper, bonnet, envelope, sheath for flavonoids!” he added with great warmth and affection.

Yesterday, so long later, I noticed this perfect thin, white wrapper when I used a garlic press to squish the yummy, savory garlic spice into my developing pot of steaming white bean soup.

Gifts, presents, treats — wrapped and placed in containers — just for me?

And thinking on it — so many things are like this — oranges with thick, pungent bright orange rinds, bananas with perfectly peel-able yellow jackets, apples with shiny red edible skins — pouches for essential nutrients — my potassium, my fiber, my folic acid, I thank inside.

In times like these, when fear is high, and uncertainty rules the world, I find it helpful to notice the small, safe, spectacular, protective container-gifts I have been given.

My skin, the bag I live in, all twenty-one square feet of it, holding all my organic machinery, it benefits from the stream of packages sent to me.

And more containment yet — 300 million cells in me containing me.

My leukocytes! My defenders!

And so much more.

My cottons, my silks, my linen, my fabrics! My protectors!

My rafters! My beans! My roof tiles! My safety!

Cars, buses, trains, planes — my many-miled metal skins.

I live covered, enclosed, enfolded, encased, protected.

Oh for those who don’t or won’t or can’t!

I must take great care of them and bring them inside. I must bring covers to them and keep them safe, the lost, homeless, disenfranchised, the refugees, the immigrants.

This is love, to put a coat over another one. This is love! To put a sheath over life.

I look out into earth’s atmosphere, its stratification, layers, exosphere, thermosphere, mesosphere, stratosphere and troposphere — love!

These wonderful sky-wrappings enclose me, keep in my heat, hold in my weather, protect me from space rocks hurtling towards the planet — turn meteors of stony iron, nickel and ice to vapor and dust.

I am protected.

And yet the world reels. And I reel. Don’t you think I’ve noticed? It reels and I shake from the execrable, break-through vitriol, vomit, vengeance, venom, virus, victims, vanity, violence. It penetrates the shields and yet and yet …

Food, body, home and earth yet my covering.

Yes, a large meteor might annihilate my city. Yes, a volcano may obliterate my sky. Yes, a coronavirus may kill me. Yes, one day the sun will vaporize the planet but yes, yes, yes today I experience my wondrous layers of protection and I know where they came from.

“They’re really going to like this!” He said chuckling — bark, dermis, film, membrane, carapace, shell, scale, sheath, skin, hull, capsule, chamber, package, pocket, packet, pouch!”

Steady yourself soul.

Protective layers all around.

I’m sorry if I ever shamed you for your emotions.

Did I, or did I simply say what was true?

The other day you yourself said you cry-laugh, and I’ve seen you do it — snot and not, triggered, then bravely out-riggered. 

Its not that unattractive. In fact it’s actually beautiful  — a kind of moistured sentience, a textured perceiving — an emo-glow right in the pupils. 

People have always vilified the emotional extremes —  or worshiped them: silence, yelling, sulking, telling. 

But with you I don’t think of it like that. 

You fluctuate, beautifully, like a lighthouse, like a human being, being. You experience what we all do  — but compacted, intense — like an espresso machine drooling crema from a double-shot portafilter. 

You are acutely and emotively valid, affectional, certified by the heart, authenticated by the amygdalae, bona fide, good faith, unfaked, affectowoobly, then sure-footed. 

You are for all of us who know you well our own special emotional banquet. 

I think of you as my feeling friend, an affective millionaire, an emotive genius — undone, super fun, on the run, heart flung. 

Please keep doing this — feeling —  and of course you will, and I will too, and everyone else — blushing, gushing, singing, adjusting, anything but stuffing it, and hushing yourself or anyone else up too much. 

Do this — do anything but dodge the central nervous system, or quell it. Do anything but deny, shrivel or flatten your emotions.  

Do this. Do what you do best — rise, summit; dive, plummet; roar, soar. 

And then finally, always remember that I love you, all of you, and in doing so I love myself, and all of us — all living, reacting, trembling, responding things, the earth’s shuddering skin bags of weeping and whooping, all gorgeous fragile, feeling things. 

Who knew?

Ugg!

The lurk, the shirk, the sting, the thing.

Blur, blank, blinder, blink.

There were those super-specific moments — fixed in memory now like old family photographs — the fatigue, the fever, the test, the spike, the biopsy.

Then it was Christmas, and work, questions, and finally — the doctor’s office.

“It’s cancer.”

Sleep walking to the parking lot, the surreal drive to lunch, at home in the evening in a soft chair — the fading sun.

We wake at night.

We ply the web.

We fumble through vocabulary.

We blanch at complications, fear treatments, shrink from side effects. We wipe our eyes through memoirs. We question questions, hang out in online communities, consult consultations, brood, balk, blink, blind and blunt.

The catastrophic complexity of the human cell, the massive, mutating mystery of the human body!

Reactions gather, like the clouds, and we — fight!

Slash the mass; chem the thing!

Damn it; hack it; slam it; whack it!

Math it; thrash it!

Fearful to have; terrible to witness; excruciating to treat; the clonal bout, the charnel house, the backdoor out.

Acceptance?

Got and not — wrought in snot, clot in thought, chemo-bot and bio-rot.

And yet, but yet — just possibly yet — there is the kind of wild, wonky wonder of life in it all — like foreign travel; mountaineering — sundry bitter-sweet relational distillations, supportive social essences, surprising gratitudes — scents of grace.

And too, perhaps finally — in it all and through it all — those surprisingly bright, blasted blinks at blinding beauty.

Cluck — then duck.

And there, in that dark park — shark and spark — mark, their responses.

Oh the powerful, how they bluster, hulk, sulk and skulk when exposed. And if they can’t deny it, they mouth crafty-drafty-daffy apologies.

I hate it!

I asked you, “Why?”

“Why do you think that even after you complained, he or she or they or Ray — his supervisor or even, say HR — did nothing?”

You weren’t sure why; I wasn’t either.

Systemic evil, personal stupidity, good-old-boy culture, a bark beetle, a comet, tormented egos, black holes, massive incompetence, weakness of character, fleas — money?

We couldn’t sort it out.

Think about it, all the complaints lodged all over the world — then dodged. It’s maddening!

You do the same job as he does and get paid less? Really?

You are assigned work that isn’t even in your job description? Are you kidding me?

He said, what?

Smut!

He touched you inappropriately?

My God!

He sexually assaulted you?

Ugg!

The thug!

The sick creep!

Hell!

Go tell — in order to get well!

Yes, I can see that, and I’m so sorry!

It is horribly and terrifyingly humiliating! But to not tell — that’s devastating!

Prepare yourself. Do it. Of course there will be the denial. the revile, in the aisle, the social media pretrial, the counter attack and threat to sack.

But, keep this clearly in front of you:

Secrets perpetuate sicknesses.

For there within the sinister silence of relational violence oozes the foul psychic puss of false shame and self-blame, a suppurating sepsis of misapplied guilt and a fetid, festering biotoxin of furious fear mingled with ferocious anger.

My God girl!

The organizationally administered inflammagens are virtually dripping out of the open crack at the base of your skull, running off the tip of one of your shoulder blades and bio-trailing you along the office floor.

This cannot continue.

I want you well.

I want you healed.

I want you empowered.

I want you vindicated!

Therefore, fill the hall, and tell it all!

Make the complaint, lodge the grievance, file the paperwork, notify the press, call a conference, sue their asses off! Trap the fly, smack down the lie, out the tie, exposify — him, and hem and them!

This much is certain. We must not go on without you speaking up.

I’m standing with you.

Pellmell, raise hell, go tell!

When we spoke on the phone yesterday I loved your honesty — and you.

You told me you have some shame.

You too?

You gorgeous bouquet of cut flowers in a fine, crystal vase. We’re all the same — did you know that? — although we won’t say it, but you did, bravely, to me.

And yet it breaks my heart to see shame bend and crack your lovely looking glass like this.

And there you go again, down the Rabbit hole and across the watery horizon, leaking strength and beauty.

Soul funk junk,

Heart-hate drunk,

Ache-cry,

Sad eye.

Ugg!

This is dangerous smack!

This is street grade emo-crack!

Listen to me.

The cure is not in doing the enough that will never be enough.

It is not in trying to be more attractive or smarter or more accomplished. That won’t do it for thee, or me, or them or even him.

The emotion that eats itself cannot be eaten.

I know.

I’ve eaten it.

You can only be held, heard and healed by you — with the rest of us making sure you keep your arms wrapped around yourself.

The cure is love, for yourself — straight up — and the shame-eraser of a massive rain storm of total grace.

Do this: Go get a good night’s sleep, you shattered-smattered beauty thing.

Really! I’m serious. Sleep matters in this — as in all things.

And tomorrow morning, get up, and first thing go into the bathroom, and look in the mirror, and say softly to your self,

“You’re a good girl,” and say your name.

And then say, “I love you”

Say it again.

Mean it.

Paris!

You magical line of lambency!
Sparkled Champs,
Eiffel glow,
Musée d’Orsay.
San Chapelle rose.

Where have you cradled all of your people tonight?

My God, big city,
What have you done with the poor?
We don’t see them too much in Le Bon Marché.

Yum, tum, rum d’rum,
We love your seats,
Love, love your treats,
Love the repeats!

Your fine baguettes,
And thinest crepes.
The chocolatier?
Sip some liqueur?
Get an éclaire?

I don’t know where the man we saw begging for Euros on Rue Renne is sleeping tonight.

Avenue Montaigne?
Seine-Saint-Denis?
Svelte or slummed?
Head off or free?

Is it zinc or is it pink?
Or is it tin-bin-din-twin thin?

They tell me Paris is dangerous and I believe them.
I’ve seen the men with their fingers near the triggers of their automatic weapons.
They have bullet proof vests and watchful eyes.

They tell me Paris is safe, and I believe them.
I gave Euros to the woman begging on Rue Renne.
She was grateful and stayed on the ground.
No one grabbed my iPhone at Sacré-Cœur.

Money making
Career breaking.
Heart aching.
Muckraking.
Decor staking.

Royal shattered,
Revolution battered,
Art-splattered.

And yet still visited.
Still occupied.

Life-waker.
Vacation Maker
Reputation staker.

You are a floral print dress crossing the street.
The cool zippered leather jacket at the cafe.

Fashion rocket,
Pick-pocket,
Sight socket,
Destination docket.

Train-tracked,
People-packed,
Wine-racked
History-smacked.
Money-backed
Terrorist-cracked —

And yet …

Still ours …

Still the big bright-light-site for the whole world.

I am shell-shocked by the sheer hit and hellish hack of human hurt.

Our poor fragile bodies —

These gorgonized, agonized and amplified mélanges of terrified imperfection.

They break, they ache, they bake.

And yet …

To even have a body.

To even move through space and time.

To think and feel, to be alive,

To eat and laugh and love, to lose and gain again.

This, just this,

This contextualized semi-fixity of bodily permanence.

This gorgeous dire-defended-dangling sentience.

This good-sick, savory-bland, sensuous-torturous, bright-dark vivacity.

This brief, brilliant, barreling, biting dash through the thin air of our spinning, sun-smacked, rain-dashed, poxed and rashed blue planet,

This living this of this and this and this.

Ahhhhh, I love this gift of zing and zap and zest.

To lean and tilt and rise and soar.

To breathe, to see, to weigh, to choose.

To be completely and severally existable within the grace-filled, love-packed, picked and wrapped resistible.

Ah and ah and ah,

I love this life paced out within the imperfect-wonderful, immediate-possible of the material miracle.