By: Karen Greenbaum-Maya
As though this needed to be said. Even if reincarnated, we are vivid this way only this
time. I fill feeders for the birds to eat now, to carry them through this season. Now is the
time of nest-building and egg-making and fledge-feeding, and the finches know better
than anyone that the moment is now, that those beaks will open as wide as beaks can
open, only again if you get them through this moment. Such small scraps, Nature’s
ridiculous solution to fever-quick bird life. Food and food again, every two hours, or there
are no more moments.
You only live once: an excuse for living as if you would die but only instantly, as though
you would never be alive any more moments, a moment with nothing afterwards but
bitterness that you were alive only that once. People told me I was a desperate fool for
setting upon a life with my husband, 23 years older and much more married, but we lived
35 full years, and those knowing people divorced, one after the other. We had 35 years of
once, each point of no velocity, when gravity says, just for a moment, Oh, what the hey. If
you only live once, how do instants become dancing?
Goldfinches squandering, how many bird calories? each time they streak away. A world of
dangers, cats and crows and me showing up to refill the feeders. They empty the feeders
so fast the seed level sinks like a water clock. This year’s new birds so bright and sleek,
before living has frayed their feathers and glazed their eyes. Always some slacker fledgling
who sits on the feeder rim and flutters to the parents to be fed, though seeds are right
there. It's living its once, holding on to the moment hard with every claw.
You only live once so live like there’s no tomorrow, and when tomorrow comes you won’t
be even a little ready. You’ll be late and out of date, unready for the tomorrow that you
can never protect yourself from anyhow. I was caught up in seeing my husband through
his last minutes right up to death’s dulled silence and all the moments after. Soothing
him as he heaved to suck air into his tumor-filled lungs, I begged him to forget me and let
go, to go on to do what he needed to do, knowing that once this was over there would be
minutes and more minutes, taking me only ever farther away from our living, now forever
Karen Greenbaum-Maya, retired clinical psychologist, former German major and restaurant reviewer, and, two-time Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, no longer lives for Art but still thinks about it a lot. Her first full sentence was, "Look at the moon!" Kattywompus Press publishes her three chapbooks, Burrowing Song, Eggs Satori, and, Kafka’s Cat. Kelsay Books publishes The Book of Knots and their Untying. She co-curates Fourth Sundays, a poetry series in Claremont, California.