Wednesday, February 25, 2015

tearing down our golden calves

Masons, when they start upon a building, 
Are careful to test out the scaffolding; 

Make sure that planks won't slip at busy points, 
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints. 

And yet all this comes down when the job's done 
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone. 

So if, my dear, there sometimes seems to be 
Old bridges breaking between you and me 

Never fear. 

We may let the scaffolds fall 
Confident that we have built our wall. 

--Seamus Heaney

Praying in the Lady chapel of St. Patrick's Cathedral in a different lifetime ago, I saw a little sparrow fly towards the altar.
Birds in the city are in so much more danger than girls in the country. They are always flying into buildings and getting caught in places. There are two many edifices blocking out the sky.

And then, the poor little lost sparrow landed on the golden tabernacle, as I was praying for the dying woman. Just as easily and gently as this little puppet bird landed on the house of our Lord, so none of us, I thought, are abandoned.

But it is scary when the scaffolding fall away from you; when you are forced to step where only your words had ventured before.

This cannot, I think, hold up. A lifetime ago, I thought that there was no way that the wall would stand. Because I cannot picture the wall, I can only see the scaffolding; and I think that the scaffolding is the wall. But the wall is hidden somewhere inside the scaffolding. And if I never tear it down, if it never breaks and folds of its own accord, then the wall will never see the light of day.

I imagined the scaffolding crumbling as I stood on the sunlight grass of May.
I smelled the lilacs waving in the lazy air. I felt the warmth of piss on my leg.
I felt the stiff wind ripple through the cool air, I heard the buzz of humans all around me.
The scene was so different from how I had imagined it, with the scaffolding torn away.
I was inundated by sun, and overwhelmed by nausea, and I sat on the bench, speechless.

And the woman I had prayed for wandered into the scene.
She stared at me, curiously.
She did not believe in coincidences, so she clasped me in her arms:
I'll pray for you, she said.

This is what the world looks like from on top of the wall, I thought, as all around me the scaffolding tumbled to the ground.

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