Leaving the warm light of the apartment, I drive through the cold and gray city – past the empty storefronts littered with trash. I stop near a huddled group smoking cigarettes and I wonder for the first time “Will my daughter smoke? Will her friends?” I keep driving.
I want to leave this part of the city, or perhaps whitewash the stained concrete and soften the harsh edges. I want to hug and forgive the broken, destitute people — but really I want them to go away – cease to exist – or at least keep far far away from my child. I tell myself “This is not the world I wanted for you, sweet child” and I start to cry because I know the pain and brokenness of the world exists not only “out there” but in me and even in the warmth of our apartment.
But this is the world we all live in, little one. This is the world – it’s going to hurt sometimes.
I know sounds that no one else knows.
The car turning into the driveway.
Who is coming up the front stairs by the sound of their steps.
The side door opening on a cold day over the sounds of NPR echoing off the kitchen’s linoleum floors.
There are also sounds that I don’t know:
the lamp clicking off from hallways,
the radio turned down low under the covers
boys whispering and laughing to themselves after bedtime.
I’m thinking about the unique sounds that are part of my childhood and that are uniquely locked away in my memory. I’m trying to connect these memories with the feelings they invoke – maybe comfort, maybe fear, maybe just nostalgia.
I’m also thinking that, likewise, my parents know sounds unique to there experience of that time and place. And that while I listened intently for warnings or indications, they experienced something else and – in cases – the opposite. My listening to the sound of footsteps on the stairs was perhaps matched with their listening for the sound of the lamp to click off or the radio to be silenced.
I’m thinking about these listenings with a melachony sadness – that these sounds will never be experienced again – the place has changed and the actors have changed. I’m also thinking about them wondering what it will be like to hear them from the other side of things.
Perhaps when I head home my parents will wait for the light to click off in the new “guest room” when I’m up with a crying baby of my own.
I can hardly imagine it
as I walk to the lighthouse, feeling the ancient
prayer of my arms swinging
in counterpoint to my feet.
Here I am, suspended
between the sidewalk and twilight,
the sky dimming so fast it seems alive.
What if you felt the invisible
tug between you and everything?
A boy on a bicycle rides by,
his white shirt open, flaring
behind him like wings.
It’s a hard time to be human. We know too much
and too little. Does the breeze need us?
The cliffs? The gulls?
If you’ve managed to do one good thing,
the ocean doesn’t care.
But when Newton’s apple fell toward the earth,
the earth, ever so slightly, fell
toward the apple.
“The World Has Need of You” by Ellen Bass from Like a Beggar. © Copper Canyon Press, 2014.
There is a country to cross you will
find in the corner of your eye, in
the quick slip of your foot—air far
down, a snap that might have caught.
And maybe for you, for me, a high, passing
voice that finds its way by being
afraid. That country is there, for us,
carried as it is crossed. What you fear
will not go away: it will take you into
yourself and bless you and keep you.
That’s the world, and we all live there.
Watched a short video today while taking a break from studying.
They reference this poem that I thought would be worth tracking down. Here it is:
silently if, out of not knowable
night’s utmost nothing, wanders a little guess
(only which is this world) more of my life does
not leap than with the mystery your smile
sings or if (spiraling as luminous
they climb oblivion)voices who are dreams,
less into heaven certainly earth swims
than each my deeper death becomes your kiss
losing through you what seemed myself;i find
selves unimaginably mine;beyond
sorrow’s own joys and hoping’s very fears
yours is the light by which my spirit’s born:
yours is the darkness of my soul’s return
–you are my sun,my moon,and all my stars
(- e.e cummings)
I’m interested in the line:
losing through you what seemed myself;i find
selves unimaginably mine
What a marvelous line. I think in wondering about my past and my future these lines really spoke to me and said something new and insightful. More later – just wanted to clip and catalog this thought.
This was a day when nothing happened,
the children went off to school
remembering their books, lunches, gloves.
All morning, the baby and I built block stacks
in the squares of light on the floor.
And lunch blended into naptime,
I cleaned out kitchen cupboards,
one of those jobs that never gets done,
then sat in a circle of sunlight
and drank ginger tea,
watched the birds at the feeder
jostle over lunch’s little scraps.
A pheasant strutted from the hedgerow,
preened and flashed his jeweled head.
Now a chicken roasts in the pan,
and the children return,
the murmur of their stories dappling the air.
I peel carrots and potatoes without paring my thumb.
We listen together for your wheels on the drive.
Grace before bread.
And at the table, actual conversation,
no bickering or pokes.
And then, the drift into homework.
The baby goes to his cars, drives them
along the sofa’s ridges and hills.
Leaning by the counter, we steal a long slow kiss,
tasting of coffee and cream.
The chicken’s diminished to skin and skeleton,
the moon to a comma, a sliver of white,
but this has been a day of grace
in the dead of winter,
the hard cold knuckle of the year,
a day that unwrapped itself
like an unexpected gift,
and the stars turn on,
into the winter night.
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Why do we bother with the rest of the day,
the swale of the afternoon,
the sudden dip into evening,
then night with his notorious perfumes,
his many-pointed stars?
This is the best—
throwing off the light covers,
feet on the cold floor,
and buzzing around the house on espresso—
maybe a splash of water on the face,
a palmful of vitamins—
but mostly buzzing around the house on espresso,
dictionary and atlas open on the rug,
the typewriter waiting for the key of the head,
a cello on the radio,
and, if necessary, the windows—
trees fifty, a hundred years old
heavy clouds on the way
and the lawn steaming like a horse
in the early morning.
Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.
I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.
It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of
the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection…
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.