Title: Harnessing Light
Author: S.B. Goncarova
Genre: Poetry/Travel Memoir
Can one create a love so bright, that it crosses distance and time? In this enduring love story, Harnessing Light is the journey of one woman trekking across the world in a search to find home, peace, purpose and love. In a quest that transcends physical limitations, Harnessing Light beckons us to our own, to discover what the true search really is.
I DON’T EVEN know where you are, or how your days are filled. Are you again caught in the rat race of Singapore, as you called it once, as we rode home after our first long conversation together, Beverly Hillbilly-ing it over bumpy roads through fields of mango trees, each mango hanging, for some reason, in its own brown paper bag.
I would have continued our talk, but I didn’t dare. I watched you, so dare-devilishly perched, precariously balanced on the edge of the back of the truck, something I had never seen anyone do before I saw you do it. Your chin held up and your eyes closed, the last of the afternoon sunlight casting a halo behind your head. You knew this was your last week here in this wild place we both called home, maybe even the last time we would go up and down this mountain together. All I was thinking was that I felt cheated by fate because you were leaving just as I was starting to get to know you. So I sat behind you, watching you drink up the December sun, searing the sight of this vast jungle landscape into memory.
The red dust of the roads billowed and dangled and danced with the plumes of carbon monoxide shooting out the truck's rear end. The finest of the red dust hovered still, suspended in the last of the afternoon light and we breathed it in and out and in and out.
How do I paint the sound of the wind that
floods my ears as I fly by on the motorbike
through rice fields still flooded
from last week’s downpour?
A murmuration of swallows chasing me
as I in turn, chase the sun behind the mountains,
the colors of the sky too radiant for paint.
But perhaps a dye would do?
Dropped on paper left out in the rain
colors too subtle for names
spread across the page like root systems.
And with a piece of bamboo carved into a pen
and the rich-black tattoo ink
that the monks on the mountain use
made from char of back-burned rice fields
I write out my prayers across the horizon
prayers for grace; for guidance
And with a big-fat dry brush
I pull the ink down
Down down to reveal lost landscapes
as rainfall reveals the mountain’s crumbling shape
and becomes rich-black soil of the valley floor.
The prayers are washed away
and float up like lanterns into the all-knowing night
and I forget what I called you
and what you called me,
how the back of your neck smelled when I’d kiss it,
how wrapping your arms around me
made the world fall away.
All I do remember
Is that I gave my heart fully and shouldn’t have.
And then, the harvest moon floats over from your house
the same size as that quartz stone I once found in the lining of my coat
that matches the negative space of my hand
when I put it in my pocket.
And on the moon is tied a string
and on the string a scroll
and it says:
EVERY MORNING AT dawn I hear clipping noises outside my window. The secateurs of a man a little older than me, with skin like leather from years of exposure to the sun and wind. I sense a purity of energy that can only come from a lifetime of service. The backyards of all the houses on this block are arranged together to create a communal garden, a nursery of kumquat trees that supply the whole city of Hoi An. Kumquats of all different ages and states of health, in the same-size terra-cotta pot, lined up in rows and columns. They are grouped by season planted, so that caretaking is ingenuously systematic.
In the weeks approaching Tet, the streets of Hoi An are abuzz with kumquat trees by the thousands, being transported one at a time by motorbike to all corners of the city. Each home and business have one outside their entrance to usher in good fortune and abundance for the new lunar year.
The tree whisperer is out every morning, out among the ranks and files of his proud kumquats, dutifully tending them. He dons a hat now that it’s coming on mid-morning. He looks at each kumquat like an artist does his sculpture, stepping in to make a cut, and then stepping back to consider his next move. Locals on bicycles stop to briefly chat. Perhaps they went to school together or perhaps they just know him from being a fixture of this garden for so long. He is a bringer of beauty to this world, and people are magnetized towards him, asking him questions, asking for guidance. But he only gives them a minute of his time at most, quickly answering their questions before turning back to his pruning, for it takes immense focus of concentration to sculpt a kumquat tree, and he has tens of thousands under his care.
Amazon: Harnessing Light
What’s your favorite way to combat stress?
I’ve been cooking dinner with my four-year-old niece over video chat. When she was a toddler, I cared for her during the day, and we used to bake bread together as part of our morning routine. Even though now she is 1100 miles away, it still feels like we are in the kitchen together.
Why is your featured book a stress busting read?
Harnessing Light offers an escape to other parts of the world from the comfort of your own home. When we are confined to the house, enduring the constant onslaught of bad news as we all are these days, escapist literature is a must-have in your sanity toolkit!
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Runs May 1 – June 3.
Drawing will be held on June 4.
S.B. Goncarova is a writer and visual artist based out of Montréal. She has been the grant recipient of the Puffin Foundation and Barbara Deming Memorial Fund. Her visual work can be found in the Archive of Digital Art, Danube University, Austria, PS1 MoMA Contemporary Art Center Digital Archive, The Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Art Library, and Rutgers University Special Collections.
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