“This illusion trips him. . . . He runs. Ah: runs. Runs.” John Updike, Rabbit, Run
This step-after-step chase-to-the-afterlife invites detours—dust: the afterthought kicked up by heels leaving the scene: I run, you run, he runs, she runs, they run away, beyond, the body dragging the last of its soul by a shoelace.
Over deserts, over cliffs, over lakes—frozen and un— over hotel Gideons and attic King James, over Good News for Modern Man and Book of Common Prayer, the feet punctuate their ellipses, pivot to prodigal or penitent; you can’t tell by the flesh blistered with persistence. It’s the finish line that knows, the aching tendons that remember.
knew flight over waters when all there was was wet, the ark lost behind the smooth arch of wings, only a thin line of air between green sea and grey sky, then forever and forever washed up with the slap of wave against wave. What weariness to circle the same expanse, the echo of rain, even the wind unable to land, looking, looking.
pale shadow tracing the raven's soar above an earth-turned-sea, sought for seven days any inch of dry, found only its owner's chapped hand.
The second week, its flight fingered the tops of waves that fingered the tops of trees, releasing, finally, twigs of green ready for the dove's sleek beak.
Its last journey knew no U-turns, just a straight flight to elsewhere brimming with bushes, drenched orchards hungry for song, hallelujahs hanging from every waiting bough.
Without your words, my breath cracks, dust on sand; without your words, my limbs break, bones on graves. Oh, my father, me too. without Can even this be stolen? your words No syllables of blessing left? No mouthed morsel of hope? Oh, my father, I alone am the hunted, your words, trapped and slain, me, too the spoils stolen again, me, too, that fair enemy, without, without
At first—a leering mob circling the house, jeering, dancing naked, taunting the guests with their sex— the daughters thought their father brave to step outside, lock the door behind him, stretch his arms out in protection.
But then, even he offered them up, a sacrifice to protect strangers. Their father. The only “righteous man” in a city destined for flames, “Do with them what you like. But don’t do anything to these men.”
Then their eyes were like Isaac’s below the knife, the ram not yet in the bush, the blade gleaming.
What dread dug in the daughters’ betrayed hearts before the rioters, struck blind, stumbled, fell down, unable to find the door, Lot tugged back safely to the house?
And later, when they left that life behind, eyes straight toward Zoar, did they hear their mother turning, her stories sliced off mid-sentence?
What kept their gaze fixed? Their father’s almost-sacrifice or the intervention?
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