By purest chance I was out in our street when the kindergarten Bus mumbled past going slow and I looked up just as all seven Kids on my side of the bus looked at me and I grinned and they Lit up and all this crap about God being dead and where is God And who owns God and who hears God better than whom is the Most egregiously stupid crap imaginable because if you want to See God and have God see you and have this mutual perception Be completely untrammeled by blather and greed and comment, Go stand in the street as the kindergarten bus murmurs past. I’m Not kidding and this is not a metaphor. I am completely serious. Everyone babbles about God but I saw God this morning just as The bus slowed down for the stop on Maple Street. God was six Girls and one boy with a bright green and purple stegosaurus hat. Of course God would wear a brilliantly colored tall dinosaur hat! If you were the Imagination that dreamed up everything that ever Was in this blistering perfect terrible world, wouldn’t you wear a Hat celebrating some of the wildest most amazing developments?
I ran away from home once to the nearby Bell Theatre, where I often viewed musicals and comedies with my family. I wanted to escape from quarrels, to find in the dark a life as shimmering as the stars.
The Sound and the Fury with Yul Brynner and Joanne Woodward was playing that night. Before long, my father came to take me home. I was eleven, too young to flee my family. He rescued me, as he would later, while away in school, sending me cash folded into his letters.
My father resisted my mother as well: Thanksgiving he refused to eat her green peas and mushrooms, dubbed them buckshot and devil umbrellas— word play an antidote to bickering.
Years on, I taught Faulkner’s novel, remembered the night my father took me home, his small notes on the underside of silver paper lining his cigarette packs.
My neighbor scrapes old paint from the fence around his pasture, an annual chore he attends to, for he knows the white he applies revives each slat. I think of his recent essay, peeling back the layers, as he said, of online education, revealing a barren base devoid of the body’s subtle gestures— how a screen cannot replicate confusion written on a brow, engagement flashing in the eyes, or a hand touching a shoulder. How a cursor cannot translate the voice’s inflections, nuanced as the nod of his head, greeting me, while he lays down his tool to rub my dog’s ears, while he motions toward the remaining wood, tells how he’ll finish the job before winter.
The feel of awl and augur in his hardened hands, the rough hull rimed with salt, a whittled plug he made himself, so tight he set his teeth! His handiwork behind him, Norway a miniature carved in the distance, he watched the gray Atlantic like a ravenous whale devour everything between.
The story ends, and yet begins again. Here in a foreign port, his touch begins to read each sign, the curves and swellings, splintered keel and patchwork. How his heart quickens when he finds his father’s fishing boat, familiar as his name, the family build, their house nailed fast above the rocky harbor.
And yet begins again. How the found word both fits and startles, an oracle recovered just in time, just when it’s needed, just before faith slips away like my great-grandfather’s wedding coat, ruined in a flooded basement with old books and portraits, speckled sepia like a gull’s egg, water-marked and too far gone to keep.
I praise the necklace so long it drapes, loops, and circles the neck of a grieving dowager back to her girlhood play.
Yet, I praise the darkening urine of amber beads and the fears engendered by bloodstone;
I praise red coral—millions of gifts piled by sea creatures’ lives. Under the hard western sky, I praise grimy hands, fashioning turquoise squash blossoms for the necks of tourists. I praise the poor woman’s subterfuge, Zircon, and the queen’s throngs of golden chains.
I praise Nancy Pelosi’s pearls,
the sound-taste of chrysoprase, citrine’s juiciness, opal’s sparks, amethyst’s rumored temperance.
I praise the jeweler’s loupe, peeking down from its glass copula into jasper’s chocolate smear purloined from Heaven’s walls.