Wasn’t it Augustine who said, evil is matter out of place? He kisses his love as he pivots from the brothel gate, his ardent heart already gritty with guilt. I imagine the big A trying to shake sin from himself as I haul our red rug out and shake it. Dear God, what we track in, how sin sifts like fine silt into our deepest grooves! And once inside, the dirt forgets that it’s our backyard. We keep tracking the outside in, sweeping it out again.
Or that’s what I get from The Confessions. How love, like soil, is out of place for, maybe, half its orbit. How sinning and repentance follow one another like all the circles on this fickle earth, rain taken up by clouds, then falling on us again. Maples spinning whiffs that grow to seedlings. Children begetting children. And every insult you bestow whirring like graying underwear in some dryer of regret.
Way back in Christianity’s kindergarten, Augustine had it figured out. He guessed our remorse and longing as he closed the brothel door, seeing a woman gaze at the sooty outline on her white sheet of a tall blacksmith the morning after.
Suppose I scooped the whole sky in my hand, I couldn’t hold it. Yet hearing a goldfinch, I feel, well, yes, that tiny song might clench the whole primordial rumpus of the wind.
I wonder if she felt the fearful flame fly into her womb? What did she hear? Or maybe when God enters time, he’s quiet. Is the child in the manger meek so He, who fills all place, won’t scare us? After my mother’s death, I stood in darkness, bereft and tiny on an ocean pier, a spent coin. Night opened its purse and flung me up, expanding toward the stars.