We say grace before we start to eat good things together, as if our thin voices could somehow divine it. We call it table grace, as if it were the elegance of furniture. We say a woman has it in the way she moves. We equate it with luck sometimes, modify it with sheer as if we could shave it to size.
Our gesture is not the real thing, we know that, that’s wholly Your deal. This is mere posture— or should we say sheer posture— a way to halt moving limbs, to cease together here, to allow a tilt toward gratitude
After so much darkness, the field’s excess of light, the day floating on itself as in a dream. But it isn’t a dream, the small wound songs of the house finch, the sun hammering the grasses’ bronze tips. We had gathered about your bed
like a boat we tried to push off stony ground. We wanted to help: we believed in the buoyancy of that water. You held onto the ruins instead of our hands. What did we know of how it is to look back at one’s life?
A bee swings from the nightshade. Ants carry their burden up the post of the shed unmoved by song.The grasses bend under the weight of so much light. And the balm of the wind: from the woods the singing of leaves. Or is it the sound of water flowing?
See, it’s not sweet youth that touts a wildness, but crazy old age. Beauty shifts. Plump pink petals fall away, or stay, curling every which way, like stiff, unruly hair, dried to a deep blood-red.
The once-upright congregation- in-a-vase flops over, losing their heads, but that’s all right. They find another life in unconventional gesture, extravagant dance: this still troupe, ecstatic, with nothing left to lose.
All winter the fish lounge at the bottom of the pond squinting up now and then toward the cloudy light beyond the ice, but mostly skulking behind cold wet shadows like teenage guys down in the basement hanging out, waiting for life to happen dreaming elongated nursery rhymes feeling the submerged sluggish vibrations of the earth a faint quiver of the moon’s pull on the tides.
After Easter, though, they dopily drift toward the surface where I am waiting patiently with something like civilization in mind. Sooner or later they’ll make the connection: they get their daily bread from me. And in return I get a glimpse of their elusive grace, their perfect freedom organized into evening ritual.
The Austrian picture The Counterfeiters, which won this year’s Academy Award for best foreign film, dramatizes yet another little-known story of the Holocaust. In “Operation Bernhard” the Nazis assembled a select band of prisoners at Sachsenhausen concentration camp and put them to work producing counterfeit versions of the English pound note and the American dollar bill.
“I have been even as a man that hath no strength, free among the dead . . . Shall thy loving-kindness be showed in the grave?” —Psalm 88
Some days I feel as old as father Abraham, doddering father of a teen-aged daughter who last week attended her first “real” concert, at the crowded Aragon Ballroom in Uptown. When will my own days feel real again, the frozen clock hands begin to turn again? When will this chemical burning in the veins stop, and hope, perhaps, be recompensed? I wear this long wool coat against the cold that hurts me, covered with two scarves, my face covered to avoid any feeling of cobwebs, with their every thread feeling like a tiny razor blade slicing the skin. There is no ounce of benignity in this feeling. Maybe that is why the winter mask, last week found at Target, most accurately resembles a terrorist accessory, all black- hooded with eye slits. Were I to wear it, I would appear on campus like an ISIS recruit, no doubt a proud servant in his mind, clouded by the violence of the mission and sentence he honors. O the necessary horrors, those airstrikes occurring in the body’s battleground, leveled at the cells. If I were to wear the black hood, guise of a hangman (not the one hanged), I fear that campus security would target me, bucolic space locked down in emergency protocol. That’s all I would be: self-terrorist, strapped with the various wires of my sickness.
On the day the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal, Iowans Bob Vander Plaats and Donna Red Wing had a chance meeting and hugged one another—even though they are culture warriors on opposite sides of the same-sex marriage debate. Vander Plaats heads Family Leader, which supports traditional marriage; he believes Red Wing’s lesbian marriage is unnatural. Red Wing, head of One Iowa, an LGBT rights group, has called Vander Plaats “bigoted” and “cruel.” But a few years ago, at Red Wing’s initiative, the two met for coffee and struck up a friendship. Since then they have been trying to soften the rhetoric of their organizations while still sticking to their principles (Washington Post, July 4).