This is the last outrage, what women do in secret, slipping their fingers under bras or nightgowns on wild, moon-driven nights, needing to true the circle of their breasts, wanting to lunge below desire, beneath arousal and beyond the sweet milk-happiness of feeding children to find the nuclear godawful contraband their bodies might be hiding—the refrain danger, danger, singing in their minds.
At dusk I slip into a pew, enthralled, alert, combing through the week to find what might destroy me, to send it away. Lawyer, accused, bent to root out scandal, my hands judging. And also, maybe guilty.
no bicep, no bone, no lung and no cheek, so lean, not even breath not even earth— humus, placental—nothing but dust nothing but ash burnt up consumed— not the predominant water no song and no sound no taste and no touch no hunger not even age-lame or deaf not even tomb-bound and rotting no pain yes but also no feeling no hope and no hunger the end of I and I think not I hurt or even am nothing no cross on the forehead no forehead no thing at all.
He assumes his still posture two feet from the table. He is not grabby, his tongue is not hanging out, he is quiet.
He wants to leap, he wants to snap up meat and blood. You can tell. But what he does is sit as the gods his masters and mistresses fork steak and potatoes into their mouths.
He is expectant but not presumptuous. He can wait. He can live with disappointment. He can abide frustration and suffer suspense.
He watches for signals, he listens for calls of his name from above.
At hints that he may be gifted with a morsel, he intensifies his already rapt concentration, he looks his god in the eye, but humbly, sure of his innocence in his need, if his need only.
On the (often rare) occasions when gifts are laid on his tongue, he takes them whole, then instantly resumes the posture of attention, beseeching, listening, alert, the posture of hard-won faith that will take no for an answer, yet ever and again hopefully return to the questioning.
Can you tell me what to want now? I can’t go on, no turning back. We’d sing, “Jesus on the main line, tell him what you want. Just call him up, tell him what you want, what you want.” But these six months, they came to me, I tell you— tire tracks and footsteps flattened the grass ’round the green tent—my words made such sound toward the crowd—they bent, repented. But I knew I was nothing, I just stalled in the river’s flow. I waited for you, tensed as a dog’s hind leg crouching before bread crusts and melon rinds. Miz Black yowls “Call him up, call him up now!” But you’re here, and I’m blown, a cattail’s sag, I am birds dispersed—pepper in the wind.
Thank you, Morgan, preschool prodigy of likenesses. I hadn’t considered my propane heater so closely, its hot imagery, how, as you declared that winter evening in my kitchen, munching a chip two-handed like a squirrel, the heater’s line of flames looks like people. And as your younger sister Ella whirled in pink britches around the kitchen singing flames like people, people dancing, and as you grinned at your own brilliance and the brilliant line of half-blue half-orange folk you culled up with spark of thought and vapor of breath, I saw them too, figures swinging hips with whippy fervor to the beat of ignition.
Born seeking likenesses, each of us. We secure a simile, like the wild Ella scooped and wrapped in her father’s arms, let it burn to purer metaphor, let it cool as we celebrate, as we praise our precocity. Really, we praise the world, we delight in its many wrought likenesses.