Just spent four days with my mom and dad, Who together are hundred and eighty-four Years old, and there are so many wry funny Things to report, and some saddening things Also, like fragility, and the ravines that pain Cuts in faces after years of wincing. But I’ll Tell you just one: my dad at one point tosses A bag of bread from his seat at the oak table Onto the thin counter to his right. Maybe six Feet of air, and he didn’t glance at the target. A little flick of the wrist, and the bread lands Exactly right. This nailed me, but Pop didn’t Look up from the crossword puzzle. It could Easily be explained: former excellent tennis Player, knows the spatial music of the house In his bones, probably made that throw sixty Times, but still . . . the silent casual easy grace, The deft of it! He’s all bones now, he weighs Less than he did when he was a reed of a kid Away to the war they thought would kill him For sure, but when I hug him he’s still all tall Though some of the tall is bent. Look, I get it That someday he won’t be sitting at the table. I get it. Believe me, I have examined the idea. But that his deft won’t be there, his sideways Smile when I gawp at something he says; I’m Not quite getting that. He says he’d like to be Buried in a military cemetery in a deep forest About an hour away. There’s oak and cypress And pine. This will happen, I guess, and then He’ll be a thin kid again somehow or the most Deft of the falcon chicks or the willow branch That finally figures out how to sip from a lake All easy and casual, like it didn’t take practice.
There’s no such thing as heartfelt praise too wild. Yes, wide-eyed, as child but not bashful, mild. The thing at hymn sing to boldly hold in mind, God sings us, His universe, in fervent observant verse. We are His hymns. Amen! But then, conversely, might not we be “Her” shouting forth forte sopranos?
There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world could contain the books that would be written. —John 21:24–25
He cried when he slid out, a slippery fish, his mortal lungs unready for the rush. He took his mother’s breast like a starved kid. He craved meat young, forced his fist in the dish. He tottered to his feet when he was one, and brought his father to his eager knees. He learned to walk, but never learned to run. He napped, read books, talked to the trees. When he turned twelve, he fell in love with fire. He’d light his torches underneath the stars, heave them towards the lights in the night sky mapping the distance, counting the hours. He studied the sun as it rose and fell. He envied it, but did not tell.
Back a week from the grave. He pecks at the food his sisters set before him. He is afraid to sleep. He imagines the eyes of everyone upon him but they are careful not to stare, a meaningless courtesy: the midday sun consumes both sight and soul. His funeral shroud is unburnt—he won’t allow it—but his sisters refuse to permit its being brought into the house. Sometimes they catch him holding it to his face and weeping into it. It smells so foully that not even the crows will approach it. He rarely speaks but sometimes talks of going away. It is almost, to their shame, to be wished for.