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.
Down in the basement folding the laundry, towels first to trim the pile, I realize that I have lived in this house now precisely as long as I lived On Gregory Avenue, seventeen years! and that warm little house leaps Into my memory: the ping-pong table where dad laid out the Catholic Journalist, and the hammering of his typewriter in his ostensible study; The bright yellow kitchen even the radio painted yellow who did that?; The gargantuan fan upstairs; the raft of small boys; the alpine staircase; The rocks and stones in the yard stolen from national parks everywhere; The maple tree that rocketed up next to the garage and is tipping it over; The sweetgums that provided so many thousands of tiny prickly bullets; The massive pipe by the furnace that has brained many an unsuspecting Soul, many of them more than once; the workbench, with another radio, And the lean white pantry for hurricane supplies; a grandmother's room Where once there was a grandmother, stern and sweet and then returned To the Mercy. The days after grandma died, our mom must have paused Down in the basement, standing by the dryer, holding her mom's towels Against her face, hauling in the fading elegant holy redolence before she Dries her eyes and plunges into the alps of kids' stuff. Maybe our house Is always our house even after we leave and someone else is memorizing The splay of the kitchen so you can get a sandwich at two in the morning Without waking up the baby. Maybe if your home is always in your head You can always live there. Maybe that is one of the ways we live forever.
And who is this young stripling beside you, Uncle George bellows from his hospital bed in Chicago, untamed city of wind and soot. His white hair in a tousle, he sits up, surveys us, this man who terrified me as a child with his fiery preaching.
Young marrieds in the '50s, we stand beside his rumpled bed above the traffic on Michigan Avenue, sirens echoing. In this city my husband is studying the body's diseases while I read Hamlet and King Lear, both of us seeking cures.
Lear cries "Howl, howl, howl!" Surgeon enters with his sharpest knife, pours medicine that kills before it heals. No rescue without nakedness, Shakespeare writes, Lear fumbling the button at Cordelia's throat, all of us leaning into the final word, mercy.