You will be blessed if you ever catch a glimpse of their plain feathers, the gray of slate shingles in the rain, and their bright black eyes shining with every good secret they will never tell. They preferred the thickest brush along our creek bed and what was overgrown around the abandoned shed. My grandfather as he lay dying recalled the hidden catbirds from his childhood, how they sang in the thicket of an empty house every morning as if their hearts would break, as if they knew the treasures of heaven lay in every clear note they tendered to the world.
In Religious Ed a nun once told us, “You should always make the sign of the cross before and after you pray. The first gesture opens God’s wavelength; the second shuts it off.”
I wonder if the sister knew how many nights I would lie in bed, panicked, wide awake unable to remember if I had signaled “Roger and out.” Odds or evens—heaven or hell. I crossed myself without stopping, hoping to land on evens or at least to interrupt the feed before memories of Linda Ursoni’s blouse and her fully developed fifth grade breasts bubbled forth from the back of my pubescent mind.
Even as an adult, I find myself playing the same game, while hoping that someday I might cross myself one last time and be done with it, but the deep need to hide always follows— in the name of the Father, and of the Son . . .