Maggie, her grandparents’ dog, can’t come with us to the zoo, we say she’s not feeling well and try to leave it at that, bring up tigers and polar bears, offer Twizzlers and juice, but all she wants is the dog, asks if we gave her medicine, when will she come back so we can fix her with a screwdriver, today’s new word, so many new sounds, so much new these days we can’t keep track of all the people and places she knows, and the names of things, reminding us we cannot save her from the word, or save ourselves from having to explain what dead means, as if we’ve waded through all we were taught and emerged on one side or the other, unable to dismiss or believe there’s one true voice that could reveal a pattern we’ve never picked up on in the sunlight and trees, some force behind why that could lead us beyond our parents’ loving euphemisms, beyond we simply don’t know.
One took the colony by the heels, slapping its flank until it issued a broad cry of rage. Tall and forbidding, she waxed both sharp and sweet, flying in the angry face of magistrates, chafing the tender hearts of the unregenerate gently with her tireless voice. She coaxed as women labored in their cramped beds of pain.
The other fashioned quills and parsed her poems in clean white sheets. Still, her clumsy child shamed her, walking on stumbling feet, as real a “monstrous birth” as the first Anne’s tissue of stubborn clots. What was it she tried to say, poet in a wife’s starched linen, submitting to her tasks and thanking God without conviction for each bitter loss? Sarah, Hagar in exile, she too never went back; the stormy Atlantic roiled, keeping her margins, her heart rising within her and rising, rising again.
It was the holy part of the day, my loved ones asleep in other countries, me with no duties and rooms full of quiet. I ate my dark bread with brie and jam, pressed out two cups of dark coffee. And that must be the sun, skulking like a grown-up boy who knows it’s been too long since he visited his mother. He has no excuse but all is forgiven, she will open the curtains, haul up the shades, crack the windows though it’s far too cold for that. We will ring all the bells in the quiet church across the street, unscrew the doors from the jambs, dismantle all the borders, forgive the Russians whether they like it or not. And mercy will pour down like sunshine in the grand photographs in the vast inscrutable book I bought for ten euros at the bookstore downtown, a store full of books translated out of the language I know so that I could read only the authors’ names. Truth must be personal, said Kierkegaard, home from another of his long, brooding walks. And yet not merely private. You shall love the neighbor, he insisted. Outside my window the church is solid and pale, three stories and a squat round tower, in the tower three narrow windows that reveal nothing. Winter sun warms the green roof, but the entrance is still in shadow.
Ten refugees have been selected to compete in the Summer Olympics in Brazil this year. Five of them are runners from South Sudan who have been living in Kakuma, a refugee camp in Kenya. The Sudanese will be joined by two Congolese judo fighters, two Syrian swimmers, and an Ethiopian marathoner. Anjelina Nadai, one of the Sudanese runners, said she first started running while tending her family’s cows. She discovered she could get to the cows in half the time by running instead of walking. These athletes will compete under the Olympic flag, not that of any nation. If any of them should win a medal, the Olympic theme song will be played (The Christian Science Monitor, June 3).