Winter dawn pinks even this dirty air, here where the currents of the world stall between mountain ranges. We awaken inhaling fumes and dust, the calls of crows, breath and prayers from around the globe.
A child in church, I knelt with the congregation, leaned into the wails of women around me pleading for the son lost to Chicago, for Hiroshimo’s victims, the girl with the iron lung. They would begin on a pitch around middle C and slowly rise with arched phrases into a high tremolo toward the amen, as though reaching to heaven.
Now the sun tears the gray veil, and doves repeat their soft, low moaning, for heaven is nearer than we think—in the undersides of leaves and in their shine, warmth on my shoulder, scent of bread. Even in that sick, black night when a man stood in the center of the lane, his arms out, pleading for the headlights to come in, as we stood beside him, now in a silent heap, his boots flung off, as we breathed “mercy,” as we breathed “help.”
Sometimes, at end of day, but not of care, Mozart or Beethoven our aural food, Her hand reaches into empty air, A tactile search for something understood; This is a nurse’s hand, a hand that heals, And yet, the reaching gives no hint of sense, No hint revealing what it is she feels, But still, incarnate eloquence. Perhaps it is within these vacancies That meaning lies. Or in the mystery Surrounding us in health, and in disease. Perhaps Alzheimer’s gives epiphany. She reaches her hand into the empty air; Who dares to say that there was nothing there?
Did the blessed mother note the measure of the moon? Ancient church tradition says they came on the same day— that Gabriel’s whispered “hail” shared Golgotha’s dark noon, that her pain embraced perfection and who are we to say?
It was exquisite sorrow to have her melody become counterpoint to her son’s words arduously spoken that afternoon of agony; below she stood mute, numb, to watch his body slowly punctured, torn and broken.
How did she ponder and how could her heart sustain a moment of astonishment, an anniversary gloss, now—forlorn as vinegar; bitter balm for pain. But she would hold to his wine, hard-won from torture, loss,
his new wine of forgiveness, now soaking into sod; trusting it could endow her to forgive even her God.
Indigenous women in Bolivia are hand-weaving a small device used to seal holes in the hearts of infants. The simple, inexpensive device, called an occluder, is made of a single strand of superelastic metal. It takes several hours to fashion. Designed by a Bolivian cardiologist, the device has saved the lives of thousands of children born with this condition. The incidence of this birth defect in La Paz, Bolivia, is ten times higher than in other places due to the high altitude. The occluder is also made for export (BBC News, March 29).