Friday, May 5, 2017

the nuptial life of ducks

The duck couple are roosted (is that word right?) on the concrete embankment of the riverwalk, side-by-dappled-side: drake's green mallard feathers shining in the sun, hen's blue wing-decal glistening like a shadow in his wake.

They notice my approach with the anxiety of creatures who possess too lowly a station on the food chain to afford Disinterest (n.: an expensive luxury for prey).

Following my departing form with beady, suspiciously shifting eyes, they turn slowly back to pondering the rushing current of the canal water as it slows down from the hurdy-gurdy of the churning man-made rapids of the locks and dams back into the slow drag of the St. Joseph river, flowing, mysteriously North, some drab Midwestern Nile falling upwards to the delta of Lake Michigan.
They are rare ducks who can afford leisure hours of simply watching the water run from their public front-porch-perch.

I think they may be stuck in rut. They sit next to each other, a silence looming between them like partners whose bodies glue together two stranger souls. Perhaps their connection has lost its spark like over-used tinder strips on matchboxes from East Village bars. Perhaps the mating has lost its verve this spring. The hen is hesitant to mention it, doesn't want to hurt his feelings; but the drake knows it in his gut, feeling its clammy lump sticking in his gullet like a live minnow, flopping, squirming discomfort refusing to be choked down.

They've lost something -- the spark just isn't there-- she said this morning to her friends upstream; but they ignore it for now, and watch the river in heavy silence, pretending for a few running passers-by longer that nothing has changed. Not this spring.



Sunday, April 30, 2017

transequivocation

today, like each day,
I bring to you gift of
tawdry myrrh:
my shabby, pride-
ful hungry heart--
broken, poured out
anoints your soon-
wounded feet with
no genuine nard--
false, fickle frankincense:
shallow alabaster soul.

in return,
returning and returning,
repayment for my nothing-gift--
nothing but your Joy,
her fragrance seeping
into garlic-scotch-soaked
blood and breath,
overwhelming
stench of ego-tinted
memories,
which,

recurring, each week,
returning, I offer
same shitty gift of self,

which you bound towards,
munificence incarnate,
unceasing love,
endless grace,
returning to me,
turning me to some-stance
more fitting for a being
wearing last night's shirt
and scent of hangover
in church,
translated
to a joy more pure-
ly natural to a creature.
Astounding love that
creates and recreates,
turns me and returns,
direction implied in my very name
as creature,
towards you, creator.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

stars that do not give a damn

There are no events but thoughts and the heart's hard turning, the heart's slow learning where to love and whom. The rest is merely gossip, and tales for other times.
--Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.
--W.H. Auden, The More Loving One

I wonder if, perhaps, our experiences of unrequited love, our all-too-frequent relationships of imbalanced affection, one-way intimacy, disproportionate vulnerability exist to give us just the slightestoh just the slimmest glimmerinto the mystery of Divine love.

How can we fathom the infinite slights Infinite Love receives from an endless stream of souls?

We cannot. Indeed, to grasp that we have crucified Love, we have nailed him to a cross, he bleeds from wounds inflicted by our selves is to begin to understand Him as victim. He stands not in solidarity with our wounds, inflicted by our own egos, a comfortable medic to salve our own pain; rather, our wounds give us an entryway into his. His cross does not transfigure our cross, our crosses allow us to experience the transfiguration of His.

The cross, as Rowan Williams imagines it, stands over and against us. It calls us to understand ourselves as oppressors, and all those who we hurt throughout our lives as Christ crucified. Our victims (and oh they are many) are the Crucified One, we the crucifiers, the deserters, the deniers. Who are we but Peter, whose reconciliation with the Risen Lord takes place in deep, intimate quiet of extra-canonical silence. Resurrection calls to us, the guiltyguilty of all before allbut forgiven. Christ crucified returns to us, Resurrected, and does not expunge the wounds we scarred into his side does not imagine them erasedbut incorporates them into His new life. Our guilt is not denied, but is forgiven.

I do not know what forgiveness looks like, it baffles my imagination. How can I comprehend it when it is rendered in such a mighty image? Forgiveness is ugly marks of torture still stamped on Risen Body, not erased, but glorified. Such victory tramples my weak understanding.

This God, this being of pure love who extends into the world, the God who has bound the divine self so intimately into creation, has experienced, since the beginning of creation, nothing but rejection. Even with those who love God more than I could ever dream of love with a love that is far from mutual. Our love is always lagging behind, our gift of self is always less than God's, our generosity in time, self, love, heart is miserly compared to the Divine's. Our love is response, not initiation, it is remuneration, not altruism, our love is a gift given, needy, dependent on the giver to provide the gift.

Perhaps even our own broken, selfish loves tawdry, typical, and patheticcan teach us something about the love that burns and moves the sun and stars. Our self-absorption, crucified, frees us to shout at the indifferent stars the credo of Beatrice love on, we will requite thee.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Buzzcut, USA

I stayed awake on this leg of the journey, because the flight from San Francisco to Las Vegas is only forty-five minutes in the air. The sun was setting behind us, and the sawed mountains cut through the earth up towards us. The clouds, shaded fluffy blue with pink highlights danced across the endless aerial sea, puffs of marine foam riding the crests of wind that sped us East. A silver stream of jet sped past us, miles across the sea-foam-clouds, an ocean away from us, a fish leaping sunward, into the yawning radiance behind us.

The mountains cut from desert earth, their stone sides raw cuts of steak bleeding from the green-brown earth. Flying across country is not the same as driving: one misses the feel of that great distance. You don't get the magic of the land's expanse while flying. You miss out on the magic of the West's sheer impossible vastness. But you watch it all stitch together underneath the shadows of the plump clouds, and that's another kind of magic.

I saw the pinked clear blue skies spotted by clouds reveal the sunset-stroked mountains of the Nevada landscape bleed into a dozen miles of clear farmland on the shoulders of the hills, bleed into the suburbs, bleed into the realization that Las Vegas is just a reg'lar old American City, with on strip of infamous down the middle.

We flew over the whole city, and only turned around when we'd crossed across the teeth of the mountains. Our plane banked and re-turned over the cornucopia of baseball fields. A quintessential slice of American wholesomeness in a city that plays loose and fast.

I'd always imagined Las Vegas as a sprawling, claustrophobic crowd of skyscrapers and neon--uncontainable, morally rotten metropolis. But Las Vegas just looked like Minneapolis: a series of home and laundromats that make up 90% of American cities, but dotted with a few more casinos. I glued my nose to the window and stared at the MGM Grand, the Big Shot, the pyramid and miniature Eiffel tower.

I was fascinated by this city of decadence I have so long derided. It was an informal introduction, certainly not an intimate encounter; but it transformed my image of this city: corrected it, in some ways. It contracted it into a panorama viewed through the lens of an airplane window; a comprehensive view of the city which can't be seen from the ground.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

sonder: September 27, 2013

This is what it is to love an artist: The moon is always rising above your house. 
The houses of your neighbors look dull and lacking in moonlight. 
But he is always going away from you. 
Inside his head there is always something more beautiful.
Sarah Ruhl, Eurydice


He became a concept. An abstraction. An idea.
He had been reduced, boiled down, to a face and a name;
a loosely strung together association of personality traits and enigmatic habits.
He was resigned to a contact card in her Rolodex of past romances.
He became a ghost--represented by ten digits and stale half-remembered conversations, punctuated by dropped calls.

She had forgotten what it meant to sip coffee with him and eat the burnt banana bread he baked.
He had forgotten how to say her name. It sounded foreign to his tongue.
She couldn't remember what his eyes looked like.
Her memory was lost in vast caverns between the axons and dendrites of his brain.
She felt his numinous presence, in the yawning chasms of her synapses.
His face was now an ephemeral scintilla that glimmered in the space between memories.
His heart no longer leaped at the sight of that visage.

She became a muse which is a fancy word for wraith.
There he found her, just another rip-tide swirling through River Lethe.
One day, he sunk into the river and felt himself in the clammy clasp of her now strange and soggy arms.
Her memories flooded into his inner ears.
She inundated him, filled him, pulled him to the riverbed of Lethe, which the locals call Mnemosyne.
She was just a ripple of water, caught behind his eardrum.
Her aquatic voice echoed in his ears for years after that.

He went home and made a chocolate cake, and burnt that too.
She found a french press on the bottom of the riverbed and brewed a fragrant cup of coffee out of Lethe-water.
He sighed.
She burnt her tongue.
And already, his face was lost in the echoes that floated through her synapses.
He threw out his Rolodex-- the river water ruined it.

But for them, it really was an ending.
--Sun Slower, Sun Faster

Sometimes the end is really the end.
But sometimes it is just the chance to begin again.
Beginnings and endings baffle us, for eternity is written in our soul, and beginnings and endings aren't part of eternity.
Or maybe is eternity a seamless flow of myriad beginnings and perpetual endings.
We are creatures of movement, and stillness is something altogether foreign to us.
Even as we sit "still" we are surrounded by movement.
Our bodies are propelled forward by movement.
A heart beats, muscles tense, blood flows, pools, clots.
Our very stillness is movement, our forgetting is a part of our memories, our endings lead to new beginnings. For creatures of eternity "stopping" is a foreign concept.


What we call the end is also a beginning. The end is where we start from.
-T.S. Eliot

Monday, April 10, 2017

glasses and curls

The children born in the time of your 
bereavement
will yet say in your ears:
'The place is too narrow for me;
make room for me to dwell in.'
Then you will say in your heart:
'Who has borne me these?
I was bereaved and barren,
exiled and put away,
but who has brought up these?
Behold I was left alone; 
from where then have these come?'
-Isaiah 49:20-21

Today, the weather has been indicative of what's happening inside hearts: there's been something building. It's something incoherent, yet defined. Something solid and tangible that we are grasping for in the Indiana humidity. There's some shape clearly on the horizon that we can barely discern through the fog.

Today, the sun shone brightly above the ugly granite of Fisher hall. The sun touched the leafless tree tops in the courtyard-alley-yard. The early morning rays sliced through the blue cloud banks that crowded the sky.

The air felt heavy: perfect thinking air. The atmosphere was full of thoughts ruminating, minds stewing. It was the sort of weather that's almost neutral, but the currents of oncoming storms belie the seeming calm. I walked across the quad and, as the wind pushed against me, I noted that the early morning sun had quickly disappeared behind a gray that was not dull but dynamic. A gray sky full of mounting electricity, building up a charge.

I remembered that last night the full moon was clear in the sky.

A single drop of water appeared on the clean page of my book.
I noticed that spots started to speckle the sidewalk, dappling the dry concrete. I put away the book and began to speedwalk as the clouds started to crack open. In a whoosh, rain came pissing down. The wind was so strong in blew it mostly away from me as I pulled open the door and ran inside.

I remembered that last night the full moon had gathered a halo of fuzzy cloud surrounding it.

We walked to the dining hall, and felt the wind shift and small drops of rain begin to fall.
Something was going to go down.
There's a story here the weather is trying to work out. A story that's so clear, if you're on the other side of the clouds. There's a mystery in the ordinary events of the meteorological patterns. I can't quite make out what's happening, but all the fronts clashing will produce something. And I will look back and understand the weather patterns previously obscured. I have no doubt of this.

Tonight, the sunset gilded the ugly granite of Fisher Hall. It looked like the Chrysler building at dawn. The sun was perfectly rose gold and the sky was a pure, dark, angry blue. Storms were brewing. My apartment was a cozy haven in the eye of it. So many storms raging around us and inside of us, but here is place we can pop some popcorn and eat it together in the lamplight.

Dark sets in completely as we sit and laugh. The lightning flashes, through the trees in the courtyard. A veil of rain makes the lamplight shimmer. The gentle music about gentile love in a rough city clips along cheerfully as the rain beats against my window screens. The music tells a story of time moving quickly: a coffee shop meet-cute turns into rent-sharing romance which turns into a TV show sharing permanent love.

Time doesn't move that quickly here. Not in the heavy humidity of the Indiana air. But I believe, as the rain washes the day's inertia from the atmosphere, that the story is moving like the storm front on the local news' radar. It seems sometimes to be a 3 hour radar timelapse on a loop, circling over on itself ad infinitum.  But it moves, and takes us with it: to a broken tale rebuilt, to a new Jerusalem, to a fresh, blank page.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

time comma compressed

Intimate something,
lingering in the space
between my question and
your answer.

Intimate nothing,
underneath the granite
headstone
graveyard grass

Intimate someone,
hidden in a birdsong,
in wild wind whipping
across South Quad,
sunlight on my quiet book
in a loud dining hall.

Leaning on the slick
wood podium
in the dark apse of the chapel
a private altar of my own.

Robins egg blue fingernails
tap-tap-tap on the polished
surface. I lean,
some sort of prayer mixing
with the darkness and wind.

I am the sacrifice--

slaughter me,
here on this table.
Break open something soft and strong
underneath the vulnerable.
Slice away impurities,
refine me into woman,
who am but girl.

Hercules, you answer.
Small dots of significance
connect our stars into
one sweet constellation.

Monday, April 3, 2017

daydream to-morrow's judgment

--
Having confessed he feels
That he should go down on his knees and pray
For forgiveness for his pride, for having
Dared to view his soul from the outside.
Lie at the heart of the emotion, time
Has its own work to do. We must not anticipate
Or awaken for a moment. God cannot catch us
Unless we stay in the unconscious room
Of our hearts. We must be nothing,
Nothing that God may make us something.
We must not touch the immortal material
We must not daydream to-morrow's judgment—
God must be allowed to surprise us.
We have sinned, sinned like Lucifer
By this anticipation. Let us lie down again
Deep in anonymous humility and God
May find us worthy material for His hand. 
--Patrick Kavanagh, "Having Confessed"

--

I imagine Purgatory as all the hurt we've ever caused another, inflicted back on to us.

--

Churches at night have a golden glow that swells in a stark contrast with the dark outside. The stained glass windows do not refract the sun into glorious colors, dousing the congregation in the nave with the light of the communion of saints. We are always soaked in the holiness of the lives who have gone before us. As we stand to pray, we are showered in the radiance of the saints. Our prayer is part of a grand and beautiful landscape of grace, distilled into light. 

--

I imagine Purgatory as all the hurt we've ever caused another, inflicted back on to us. Our hearts are so small, our empathy so lacking, and Purgatory, I imagine, is a school of love that demands we expand our hearts so that they can encompass the pain of the other. I imagine Purgatory as an exercise in empathy. A practice in unity. A way of being together that we feel the hurts and pains of those we've harmed as clearly as if they were inflicted upon ourselves. Heaven is something we become, the priest said. And, in order for us to become heaven, the body of Christ must become healed together. Each member must feel the wounds that burn the others. In order for us to dwell in that radical unity, in order that Christ really can be all-in-all, we must suffer all for all. 

--

Churches at night have a golden glow that swells in a stark contrast with the dark outside. The stained glass windows at night do not radiate color through the church. Their rainbow prisms do not dance on the pews. The high glass arches become portals into divine dark mystery. God is ineffable utterance, something utterly beyond. Our intellect falls into night as we try to comprehend our God. As we approach him to pray, we find ourselves lost in what he is, enveloping the golden church in the warm, dark mystery of love.

--

We are guilty for all before all, cries Dostoevsky, over and over again. Perhaps Purgatory is time--Only through time time is conquered--spent in the cleansing cold of that guilt, of the burning fires of love that kindles our lukewarm sparks. Heaven is something we become. How do we become it, if not by learning to love our neighbor, to suffer whatever is lacking in the sufferings of Christ together? We are so stiff-necked, so small-minded, so naively blundering through the world, causing small hurts, tiny cuts, bitter slights each day to so many neighbors. In Purgatory, we will learn to see. We will be able to pay attention to our sisters and brothers with the radical attentiveness of Simone Weil. We will understand just how much our careless words stung and how much victim we made each lamb.
--

The high glass arches become portals into divine dark mystery. In a church like this, golden light, dark night beyond, the orchestra plays Camille Sans-Sean's Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, Opus 78. It is music that is full of charitas, sad, sweet philia and grand agape. I think this is the sound of a body that is wounded, but whole. This is the sound of Heaven. It is the sound of time--she protects mankind from heaven and damnation
Which flesh cannot endure--this is time being played in a symphonic rhythm, time tuned into a glorious noise, which builds us, shapes us, molds us into one body corporate. This is the sound of bright, dancing flames licking at our thighs. This is the sound of love of neighbor unspooled across the cosmos. This sound is the sound of love unfettered. 

--
This church at night is Purgatory. A school of love, a school of sound, a burst of beauty that shows us, in one radiant flash that Heaven, that something we will become.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

private tabernacle

A slight tremor
from caffeine--
or fear--runs through your
nail-bitten hands.
It gives me strength.

A slight murmur,
like silk curtains moving
from the wind of
gold doors opening.

Hands reach into
endless depth of
tabernacle,
space where Limitless Eternal
dwells.

Kneeling, she
reaches her hands into
our holy of holies.

Trembling fingers--
like coffee in styrofoam--
reach through vast,
unbridgeable gap,
brush the ciborium's gold,
lightly,
fascinated by their own daring.

Hands grab tightly,
cling dearly.
Heaven and earth
kiss here--
cosmos and creation distilled
into one private,
intimate moment.

Birds sing through stained glass--
Lenten Hallelujah for your trembling hands.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Mozart at the Easter Vigil

Oh truly blessed night,
the Exultet's strains disperse candelit dark-mas
the child Wolfgang sings with Nannerl
an ancient hymn that chills his spine,
and sends goose flesh across his
God-fearing arms,
God-loving soul.
The Nannerl Nocbuch is already filled with Ks
but he would trade them all,
turn them all in
to whatever cosmic bank
would accept the bounced check of
his renounced child genius
and
Never again
will I play a note or
tune on harpsichord,
if I could claim authorship to this--
melody pulled from ancient rocks--
music shakes, quakes, fills his delicate fingertips with wonder
these ancient words of grace
and glory
dazzling is the night and full of
gut-clutching melody of gladness

Friday, March 24, 2017

Grushenka at the trial

Face pale, wrinkle showing
underneath our flowing
chestnut locks,
pinned up, away,
heart pinned down,
turned to rock,
steeling self,
feeling nothing,
except a burning
licking our insides.

We'd follow to
Siberia,
America,
to viper's pit
or iron mine.
Adamantine will
not iron out
the line between our eyes,
soldering wound between our hearts.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

an idea 100% stolen from Jenna

But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)

What Luke didn't write (because he didn't have to) is how a person ponders before the prophecies are fulfilled.

You think the nutso lady in the back of Church just told you your son was special? Is she talking about your son? Is she sure? That old man that's always pestering people in the narthex started singing about how your little Yeshua fulfilled all the promises of God to the nation? Is he out of the mind? Or is this the voice of God? Can both be true at the same time?

These shepherds show up (so much dirt under their fingernails and like leaves? in their hair. That one is definitely the guy that harassed your cousin Leah the other day.) and are bowing before your little baby, his umbilical cord just cut. This is not normal. Your mother did not prepare you for this. In spite of yourself, you believe their story about the angels. So does Joseph. Joseph has become very trusting about all these angels showing up recently. Is he crazy? Are you crazy?

You just lost your son in Jerusalem. Oh my gosh, you are a terrible parent. How could you do that? This son was entrusted to you by a flippin' angel (right? that happened, right? that wasn't a dream. Right?) saying that he's the Son of the Most High; get. it. together.woman. How the actual gehenna did you lose him?

Oh my gosh. He's here. Thank God. Oh my gosh, Joseph, there he is. We found him.

How did you know that he would be here?
You knew all along. You had a sense that he was. You weren't really that scared. You were at peace. You knew he was in his
Was that an angel talking to you or
Why do you keep reading meaning into these things?
But you knew. You did know.

Lord have mercy. Thank God. This is so embarrassing. Everyone must think I'm a trash mother who can't even keep track of her own son. They probably think he runs off and hangs out with the drug dealers on the edge of town. Oh mercy. What did he say: this is his father's house?

Chills up your spine.

What did he mean by that?
What does he know?
Oh my. Oh my.
What does he know I know? What do I know I know? What do I know?

These are all very normal things, that I'm probably just reading too much into. Rachel will tell me I'm just imagining all these things. I should talk to Rachel. She'll talk me out of this. She'll show me how I'm just rendering a narrative from my worked up emotions that isn't even there. She's very sensible. This is all probably my overactive imagination.


I don't think I'll talk to Rachel.

--

And so you ponder, over and over in your heart, all the things you trust that you've seen, but you can never be sure until one day you are. And your heart that has been tentatively holding onto all these things, with such tenacious trust, that has been storing up little signs, small signals, tiny words that weigh like prophecies, bursts with all of them, as you gather up these lost puzzle pieces and put the picture together.

Until then, hold onto these small moments, slowly connecting the dots, quietly, doggedly hoping that one day they will fall together into something coherent, pure, and lovely.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

clambering home

St. Joseph's is the oldest Catholic church in Manhattan, low and square, with fieldstone walls, high white pillars, and a portico topped by a cross that stands out starkly against the sky. It is a kind of house blend of old and new, of city and country, of Catholic Europe and leatherstocking America.
--Paul Elie,  The Life You Save May Be Your Own


Do not be scared, Joey, that I love New York so much still. Do not be dismayed that it has seeped into my dreams, under my skin, leaving crisp, tarred lines on my back, and bright, bold dreams of subways in my head. This is how I love a place.

My two sycamoresor, more accurately, I am theirswaved gently in the snowstorm this morning and swayed gently in the light of the full moon, to no wind but their own. I thought of their brilliant green leaves in August, and their fluttering foliage in autumn. I love the way the sun bounces off the green of the trees into my living room. And I hoped that this moody weather would cooperate to allow me to see once again the thrust and scatter of light across my kitchen table on a sunny morning.  I already mourned leaving these trees behind, and losing their friendly light and color outside my window.

Isn't that silly?

But that is how I love places.

I already remember (even though it's not the past) with great fondness, reading in the mornings, the shapes of trees against the morning sun. Thinking, praying in the light of those trees in bright early fall-light. I wasn't even particularly happy then.

But I remember, with an unquenchable nostalgia, falling asleep in my little nook of a New York bed, staring up into the moonlight above the city and the apartment windows across the train tracks. I remember the sky-view from my little vantage nook. And I certainly wasn't happy then, new to the city, trembling and exposed like the brick of my bedroom. But those unhappinesses don't seem to dim my fondness for the places.

My mother cried: what will you do! Get every place you go tattooed upon your skin?! I think they already are, at least, upon my heart, if not my skin.

That is how I love places.


I passed the fence and the little grove of trees and I marveled that I pass that little glen so often now, which, for so long was one singular memory of kissing a fisherman under stars and blankets.
But the little grove became a playground; and it became ordinaryall these places become ordinary.
That is their magic.

The YMCA where O'Connor lived; Columbia where Merton was baptized, Perry Street, the Cloisters where they all walked, St. Joseph's in the Village, all these places are pilgrimage destinations, which become ordinary. Holy in their ordinariness. Ordinary in their holiness.

I love them for all the footprints that have walked over them. I love them for my past footprints, covered up by fresh footprints each day. I tread all over them, leaving behind the dust of the present.

I opened the window, and there were robins singing in the sycamores I love. They mark that spring will come, even though there are no buds on the branchesyet.

I will cry when I have to leave the sycamores behind. For the rest of my life, I will remember how happy I was living next to them. And the memories will be a little sad, because there's no going back to them or then. Nostalgia is a tribute to past beauty witnessed.

So do not be afraid, Joey. This is how I love places.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

two bubers

Your copy of I and Thou
is covered in swirls of ink
tornadoing over cream-like pages.
The spiral contortions
of your brain-workings
spill into the double-helix
prose of Martin's pen.

All life is meeting.
I, meet Thou.
Thou, meet my bed
room bookshelf.
Slipped between Shaw and Stein,
forgotten in the mess of
moving, spiral-like
towards old beginnings.

A new copy of I and Thou
was on an over-crowded shelf
in the basement of a cat-crewed
bookstore.

I was in a book-buying frenzy,
fueled by grandmother
birthday bucks,
I plucked it off the shelf--
a clean copy, unmarked by
coffee-weed-fueled runes
scribbled between your sheets.

Reader, I bought him,
thinking I had returned
thy I and Thou to Thou.
Several months pass, 'til

shock!--

a quick intake,
a double take,
a lung gasp --
a pocket of cold air in the breeze of spring,
Past reaching bony finger into Present,
hooking it,
crooking it,
dragging her back into his fold--

your Buber is still held hostage,
his scribbles un-erased,
hard-bound, clean cover jacket,
unreturned, untoward, unintended,
on my bedroom bookshelf.

Monday, March 6, 2017

light of miriam

Things are meant.
Death grips the meaning,
loses trees in seas of forest.
Bernadette is praying there.
There is someone
one beam of light
tender mercy-ed,
gentle iron-eyed
beaming in the
dusty dark rock shadow.

Smeared black ink,
lipstick stains smear crimson
writing their own sonnets
on clean white page.

Her sweet smile celebrates
love which breaks our
inward-turning,
stifling, self-sated sight.

One abandoned man,
hanging in shadow,
a shape of horror, pain,
twisted by torquing force of
torture we profess as love.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Something Stings/Transformation

You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. 
Though you may have to reprove him,
do not incur sin because of him. 
Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
--Leviticus 19:17-18

Be careful, the mother never said to her daughter, men will package you up and try to consume you.


They’ll suck away your soul like succubi. They will take what you are and tear it apart trying to find themselves in it. Their phallus pulls all their energy away from the lush life inside them and into you. It draws their mind away from their soul, leaving their insides bare and dry. Inside of you, they’ll try to find a salve for their aching loneliness, their insecurity, their inadequacy. Instead of trying to stand on their own two feet, they’ll lean on you until you are crushed under the weight of bearing two people, unable to move, and sunk into the ground. They won’t notice that. (Her silence spoke volumes.)

They’ll blame you for their failures, passions, problems, misgivings, mis-steps, and inquietude. They’ll take all the pain in their own heart and pin it onto you. They’ll deflect whatever compunction pierces through their thick skull to their gnawing conscience, back to you. All human beings are guilty of denial, projecting their problems onto others, making others do their crying for them. Those men, (she didn’t say), do it with a lack of self-awareness that is utterly unknown to we woman who critique our every thought about a potential action in our mind half the day, and spend the other half diagnosing how it went.

They take up your space, spread their legs wide in the subway while the old lady stands, encroach into the private sphere of air you call your own with their hands on your knees, touching you and never even thinking twice about it. Touching you because they need to feel a solid body outside their empty souls. They’ll overcompensate with bluster, harshness, inane prattle. Anything that will prevent them from that terrifying silence called listening. Listening that will force them to acknowledge that insistent, vociferous presence known as you.

Don’t let them package you away. They’ll want to parcel you off to a man who will manage you for the rest of them. Keep side-stepping their hugs, peeling their hands off your knee, back, thigh, arm, breast. Smile, listen, learn. Speak when there is anyone interesting worth saying something to, and know you can suffer fools, but don’t owe them precious time. Listen kindly, but disagree, even about mundanities. They aren’t used to anyone voicing an opposing opinion just because there are other opinions in the world besides their own. They’ll take your disagreement as a personal attack, because they’re right, and people are supposed to agree with them on all things, and a disagreement cannot be a quotidian occurrence, it can only come in the appropriately dramatic tone of a coup or revolt. For them, to have someone question their innate view of the world is tantamount to revolution. They are not used to the world pushing back at them. They have never been pushed by the world. They are the ones being lifted as the world pushes us down, and we push back.

They don’t have a right to your time, your heart, or your body. They place no claim on you. Declare your space, your independence, your freedom. Push them out of the inner chambers. Pluck out the thorns they spear inside your heart, and watch the surface scar and close.

Deep inside you, cultivate you. Cultivate the light that shines in the quiet of your heart, that radiates from your closed face. The light that hides behind your not-smiled smile. Do not let them dictate how you approach the world. Swat away the suffocation like so many gnats. Fill your bedroom with pictures of your loved ones and the beautiful spots of the world where your feet have and will walk, and stuff your heart and mind with poetry.



Her mother said all this in silence. An object lesson in its absence. Speech, subtracted; noise negated; negative presence.



The little girl ran to her grandfather. She asked him to show her the world. He did. He provided a globe for her to explore. He opened up the doors of the world, a stairway to the sky. He showed her birdsong, he caught her carpentry. He read her all the stories of the earth, of the world that existed far before her, around her, behind her, inside of her, before her.

Hurt people hurt people he said, looking not at all the other men, but into her eyes. And eyes that see the world through anger, bitterness, or fear are missing more than half the picture. To see without the eyes of love is to be blind. And the world is too beautiful to be blinded to it.

He wrapped her in his arms in a hug so safe and tender, no deer ticks, rattlesnakes, death, loss of memory, love, or home could reach her there.

He taught her to stand. To sweep up the hurt of the world in one giant motion of hands clasped, fingers stretched with kindness towards the smallest hurting thing: a rabbit, a spider, a man. To live generously, looking not his sins, but on the faith of most people.

Friday, March 3, 2017

chiefly visual attractions

Our unconscious is so honest with us about what is filling up our hearts. We can trick our waking minds into pushing something away, into covering up a hurt or ignoring a pain. But our dreams will not obey our commands. Our unconscious is so brutally honest with us about what’s on our hearts and what is occupying that vast underbelly of iceberg mind we can never really see.

Old pains we thought we outgrew, past loves we thought we left behind all pop up there, in that strange playground of our minds known as dreaming. Fears we have not conquered turn into nightmares, desires we haven't even awoken turn into flash portraits of passion.

The cast of characters changes so swiftly, based on whose images are in our waking minds. Our dreamscape is always adding new characters, as we live, work, fight, and love with new people. But old characters are never really gone. They'll always be recycled in an unexpected storyline, pop up in some surprising dream B-story. I find that interesting. Our world are always expanding, but our dreams never abandon anyone permanently to oblivion. They reach deep into our well of memory to pull out a forgotten face just when you least expect it.

I don't know what else our dreams are except perhaps a way for our selves to demand our attention without our pre-frontal cortex in the way. Perhaps they are sometimes other spirits demanding our attention. Sometimes, I feel I'm in a dream that is the other person's there with me. It seems impossible that this is a reality only I am experiencing, that only my brain has cooked up. Perhaps dreams are prophecies from our intuition; sometimes, perhaps, love letters from our darker self we'd rather not receive. Perhaps dreams are the truths we glean silently from operating in a world whose truths are all connected. Perhaps we know things in dreams that we have learned in waking life, but of which our reason demands ignorance.

Dreams are sleep's great gift of honesty to us. Stripping us of our waking exterior, so that our imagination's eye can roam freely in the vast expanse of synapse-neuron images that fill up the endless ocean of our mind.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

your wedding will be in Jerusalem

The whole point of the New Testament rewrite of Christ's life is to make it speak to this new awareness: that the new age was to be not a quick end but a new holy history. —Robert Taft, SJ

I think one of the most marvelous images of early Christianity is the early Church awaiting Christ's return any second now.

When I was younger, it was simply another example of the stupidity of past ages. Silly ancients, the eschaton can’t come yet, because Benedict, the medievals, Christopher Columbus, and Napoleon haven’t happened yet, you see. There’s so much history in the history books between you and me. And all of it seems to push the historical event of Christ into a watershed of history—a  vital crux, of course—but one watershed among a whole village of them.

But now it seems so natural, dynamic, and miraculous—a relic of that first electric force of resurrection pulsing through the air.

Of course if someone you knew and loved rose from the dead and told you: i’m leaving, but I’ll be back, without specifying when exactly of course you’d think: well, he’ll be back soon. He’ll be back within our lifetimes. We can’t imagine someone returning to a world where we are not. That’s just not how human minds instinctively imagine things. Our first instinct is to imagine a reality that we will witness.

What a mysterious but significant footprint of the Resurrection, stamped into the theology of the earliest Christians, pressed into their history.

And what a thrilling liturgy has been born of that crisp, pure longing for what-will-be. The Christian life is not a celebration of the past. The liturgy—the life-blood of the church—is not an endeavor of nostalgia. Christianity began with the advent of something new, a new event entirely, and it continually celebrates the newness. It celebrates the new, unseen, that is here-with-us. The future we long for that is already among us.

The tension of this faith, inherited from the first faithful, is the tension between historical and the eschatological, between the past and the future, between “m memory and hope” as our liturgical theology professor says.

Of course these first followers were imbued in an eschatology that was immediate, sudden, and piercing. They awaited the return of Christ as we await the return of those we love most dearly. They await the person who has been here, who has walked with them, we have seen him, touched with our hands, and he has assured us he will return. There is no reason not to think that he will come back tomorrow, a kingdom without end will be established, and that our wedding will be in Jerusalem next year.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The ENTP’s Prayer

For the LORD is one who always repays,
and he will give back to you sevenfold.
But offer no bribes, these he does not accept!
Trust not in sacrifice of the fruits of extortion.
For he is a God of justice,
who knows no favorites.
—Sirach 35: 1-12

An ENTP knows how to play the system, as someone who knows how to play people like harps, pluck their strings to get what they want. An ENTP uses their intuition to feel out the cosmic design woven around them. In an ENTP’s eyes, the entire world is a Rube Goldberg machine for those who can feel out the strings, maneuver them gently, and watch the entire mechanism waterfall into motion.

An ENTP categorizes people, labels them in order to understand them. Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple is the perfect literary example of an ENTP. She cracks whodunits by cracking the mysterious code of personalities. She solves mysteries by solving people. She’ll notice: Oh that sweet old lady next door is exactly like my maiden aunt’s murderous maid. Or that kind grocer exhibits the same personality quirks as my erstwhile criminal gardener. She intuits patterns and similarities between persons, and treats them accordingly.

Much like Dante, an ENTP is simply just trying to order the chaotic world into a system that appeals to their natural logic. We put the nymphomaniacs in the 2nd ring of hell and the simonizes in the 8th ring, and thus we have turned this surprising universe into something our small minds can wrap around.

Much like Dante, an ENTP’s spiritual journey is moving from our attempts to grasp the universe into simply an embrace of the mystery. We have this instinct that the universe is logical and ordered, we catch glimpses of the mechanics, we gain flashes of insight into her workings, but, ultimately, the cosmic order is a far more surprisingly complexity than we can understand.

The eschatological bent of Sirach and the Gospel from Mark today impress upon us that God is not to be approached as someone we can box in our own order of the universe. God’s ordering of the universe breaks open our systems, our maneuverings, our manipulations, and welcomes us into a reality of gift and generosity that we cannot control or even fully understand.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

spring cleaning

This morning, as I was preparing my room to be cleaned by the Walsh Hall cleaning staff, I thought of our cleaning service last year, which made us, I'm sure, the only communal volunteer program in the history of ever who employed help. It was embarrassing. I felt like a fraud each time an FJV would reminisce about the challenges of "Simple Living," but we suffered through it, while murmuring vague sympathetic noises. ("mmm yess hmmm oh yes yes oh yes such a good challenge. yeah oh uh yeah...we use a grocery delivery service?") We self-deprecatingly called it "Princess Service," shrugged helplessly, and poured ourselves another glass of bodega wine to drown our gnawing guilt over being privileged and guilt about our guilt about our ingratitude for our privilege.

The maid marines left our wood floors and our irreparably grody carpet spotless. They tucked in our beds and cleaned our showers (kind of). But they never cleaned (as I'm sure it wasn't their job) the terrifying cabinet underneath the sink, or the mice droppings that littered the floor of our pantry. They never vacuumed the horror movie wasteland underneath the couch cushions, nor did they touch the mind-numbingly dusty basement. Like I said, not their problem.

I remember one day, in a therapeutic cleaning frenzy, Joe had cleaned out all the kitchen cabinets, scrubbed them down, and organized them. They were spotless. This, I thought, is exactly the sort of cleaning this place does need. We're all adults capable of making up our beds and scrubbing our own toilets, it's this deep clean that this house needs. And once it's done, it's so much easier to maintain. Why is it so terrifying to do?

--

It's so easy to get caught up in my own system of how grace and sin work. In part, this is due to the fact that a great deal of (necessary) time is taken to learn how to see our own sins. Which is silly, isn't it? It seems that sin dogs my footsteps; I can hardly escape my incessant proclivity towards bad behavior. But the flagrantly terrible sins are not the really vicious ones. It's the deep, hidden, underlying systems of sin in my heart that manifest themselves in slight quivers of selfishness that take attentiveness to identify.

But once identified, what then? Once we have discovered our sin, now what? If we live in a constant state of scrubbing, it seems to me that something is lacking. Awareness of sin, without grace, becomes simply a psychotic paranoia.

We pray: Lord, help me to know my sins.

And we pry underneath the surface to clean underneath the cabinets, scrub below the sink. It is this cleaning that will finally vacuum up all the hidden crumbs. We will make the kitchen finally clean.

Once clean, each spot and speck becomes more obvious, each displaced and blemishing molecule will irk us. And we must, of course, scrub, sweep, and mop them up before the dirt accumulates again.

But the cleanliness that washes us, that cleans us is not a once-for-all, but a once-and-always. It was there before the dirt came, it was there, even in the midst of the mess, and it awaits us, unfailingly. Grace is not the climax, denouement, or reward. Grace is not the achievement of the hero of the story. Grace infiltrates the dirt. She preceded it, no dirt ever came to be before grace was. And she is staunchly unfailingly present, even there.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

who knows her subtleties

And with him it remains forever, and is before all time
The sand of the seashore, the drops of rain,
the days of eternity: who can number these?
--Book of Sirach

We went on a detour in class to try to understand what time the day started: sunrise? sunset? midnight? For Greco-Romans and we pagans, the day begins at midnight, but, really, our day doesn't begin until sunrise. In Judaic thought, the sunset is the start of the new day. The more you discuss time the more like a Lewis Carroll novel it means. The more you try to identify what "time of day" "3AM" counts for, the more you realize how arbitrary and capricious such a time as "3AM" is.

Time, you realize, is a particularly human construct. We set up time to perhaps fill our lives with an order that has no claim on us, but it is reflective of a time that already exists in the pattern of the day. No matter how we count time, the sun always rises and sets in an order. Time is our attempt to order and understand the inbred patterns of nature. We put the rising and setting of the sun into measured rhythms we understand. They allow us to dwell in the utter mystery of creation on autopilot. Someone has calculated the times and seasons for us, thus, we can wander through the world without wondering at it.

Our week is divided into days, our days are divided into hours, our hours into minutes, and our minutes into breathable seconds. We can grasp a second each moment and understand time only in the passing of these seconds streaming through and past us.

Our weeks build up into months, we repeat the same months each year, but we number the years differently. The years build up on each other. Our months repeat each other each year: March, May, June, they all march along, unvarying and constant (February the odd outlier who form fluctuates every four years). But we have this sense that time builds up. That we are two thousand and seventeen years older than Mariam of Nazareth was when she knelt to read her book one sunny day in a warm Galilean March. Our time cycles repeat themselves, as we see natures time continue without fail. Yet, time seems to be building up, and we call this accrued temporal weight "age."

But there isn't a goalpost or ending point. Age builds up, but to what end? We feel our lives lead towards a climax, but whatever dramatic tension builds to a breaking point is generally followed by extensive and dull anti-climax. The climax of time has its footprints in the past, but we celebrate it each Sunday, as the climax of time has washed over the endless accretion of years. Time itself has been altered by the event of Christ. Although we no longer call the years "Anno Domini" the Common Era's years still tick of the years since Incarnation. Time has been transformed.

Accordingly, we must transform time. And the liturgy of the church--the Liturgy of the Hours: matins, nones, vespers, all of them, make an instinctual, visceral sense. Each hour of the day becomes an hour to sanctify. We are living in time transformed by Resurrection, the dreary succession of moments that the world marks away in calendars and schedules and strictly ticking atomic clocks are not the time in which we are forced to live. Time, touched by the Christ event, has become a new mode of union with God. We live to turn time into a ceaseless liturgy of praise.

Monday, February 20, 2017

the saltiness of bread

Pain sits heavy in the room,
quietly, unspoken sorrow seeps into the
cushions of the chairs,
vague potential tragedy
filling out the spaces between our words.
Sadness spills through the window with
the dying sunlight, still leaking
in slatted shine through the blinds.
Just then's when I notice it's 5:58
and the sun hasn't set yet.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

in its reflected view content

Heaven is found not only in my eyes
the wonder of the universe
is stopped in the tree
in the flying plastic bag
watching in the dark library
basement American Beauty
images unclear
desires all confounded
a presence so sweet it causes no pain or confusion,
but a new vision
a totally remade view of some
cosmos, gasping, our eyes grasp
for, squinting, making out in the distance
a form of elegance and order
our bodies do not keep apace
the snow falls, but I
crumble, voice faltering
unable to live into
this vision of swirling leaves
my eye is scratched by some small smell
of sandwich, meat, or other
nauseated by elation
sick on saccharine-sweet springtime sun-soaked atmosphere.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

sweet hail for you

Keep singing, sister said,
like an abbas giving little brother monk
his cherished word.
Keep singing, she winked,
her eyes twinkled
underneath the strip of sky
that lined her sari
and lifted our eyes
far beyond the sea
green walls of the courtyard--
above Tangra,
above Kolkata,
above the JetAir-ruled
skies
to loud empyrean,
stung with star-songs
of Shanti Dan voices

Keep singing, sister said.
So I did
--wondering why--
wondering what
grand imperial,
majestic magic place
the song would lead.

It lead nowhere.

But the words kept pounding,
so I kept singing.

It lead, Virgil-like,
through dark nights,
inescapable rings
of lonely desert self
It lead to Beatrice-pink skies
enclosed in one pure chapel
of delight,
shimmering with all the radiance
of dawn, alien to Indiana February
yet knit into its shining flesh.

It lead to joy. It lead to self-doffed
harmonies, shy symphonies of gift
--loud but trembling.
It lead to prayer when other words ran dry.
It lead to healing, peace, and Ireland.
It lead to home-heart hearth burning in my breast once more
It lead me back to unadulterated child,
too full of life for inhibition,
too full of wet world wonder to be scared

Keep singing, sister said.

Sometimes you must live stories before you can write them,
so we sing,
song writing story as its sung.

Friday, February 10, 2017

8am Mass at Stinson-Remick

Baby face in front of me
mirrors our hosannas
singing on the lips of
mothers, cradling her child,
suspended by nothing more
than love from her thin
post-partum frame.
The face of the father,
so young in class,
is gaunt and old with that foggy
tired of the mornings,
exhaustion rendering
him a new majesty.

Fr. Heppen tells stories about his sister,
who became a mother,
not bearing babies
like she who smiles back at me,
but carrying souls like himself,
holy sister for priest souls,
like himself,
who walks with a cane,
his voice a rasp-worn
wraith of smoke and lung,
choking slightly,
on the memory of a holy sister,
rendered in incense and homily.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

morning storms

Thunder quickly follows pink snake-snap of lightning
sharp electric swords cut from rose dawn
shirring clouds of grey morning gloom
rain drops pound into showers, beating down each
cutout bank of smog pea soup fog.
Lightning rills again, thunder booms--
closer this time,
nearly on the lightning's heels.
the lines fork just above my head
I run, past trees, through lush succession of shower drops
I hunch, crouched, crunched by the electric force
huddled by the fence, rabbit-like,
cowering in the vast maw of field and sky
by pine tree, electric line, improv lightning rods,
counting Aves between lighting lash and thunder crash
as rain soaks through my shirt, hair, and eyes.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

talitha cumi

The would-be believers who sometimes ask me for help with prayer often say it seems hypocritical to turn to God only now during whatever crisis is forcing them toward it. But no one I know has ever turned to God any other way. ... Maybe saints turn to God to exalt him, from innate righteousness. The rest of us tend to show up holding a tin cup.
--Mary Karr, "Facing Altars"

On the rocky shore, the crowds crush in around Jesus, alighting from the boat. As he faces the sea of faces on the shoreline, the man of sorrows is already bearing the burdens of them all. He steps off the boat, into the throng of smelly, sweating humans, into their lives, into the hopes shining in their eyes, the curiosity lurking around the corners of their smiles, the suspicion, consternation, doubts, and fears creasing between their eyelids. The pains that wrack their limbs and weary their hearts. He senses the weight of all these lives, and bears them on his young shoulders, like so many lambs.

A man is elbowing his way frantically through the crowd. He is clearly a wealthy man, a fellow who ranks. Normally, perhaps, the crowd would part before him, but there are too many people, too unconcerned with others' problems to make room. The man bursts through a mother holding her son's hand, collides with a disciple, and falls to the ground. Is he injured? Is he mad? Jesus reaches towards the crumpled figure as the disciples lift him off the ground. Rabboni, he cries, catching his breath between words, as a man who is not accustomed to running does after a long sprint. My little daughter is at the point of death. Tears threaten to spill out of his eyes. One escapes. It trickles down a gully on his face, a route clearly blazed by many sister tears before her. Come and lay your hands on her, I beg you, he grabs Jesus' sandals, so he cannot walk away. Come and lay your hands on her, master, he looks right up into the face of God, Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.

Jesus considers Jairus, clinging to his feet, pleading with his panicked eyes. He is Jairus' last resort. That much is clear. This is a man who is grasping at a last chance, reaching for a miracle, even though he is a skeptic. He has no where else to turn. Jesus sees he is the last resort, and does not resent that status. The Alpha and Omega is accustomed to serving as the final recourse for those who prefer to stand on their own two feet, forgetting from whom those feet came. It is to be the final hope for the hopeless that he has come into the world. He lifts Jairus to his feet. Take me to your home, he says. Jairus crumbles at his feet again, to kiss them in a wordless thanks. Quickly, says the Master, as the disciples lift Jairus to his feet, kindly, with a reverential compassion. Jairus turns, and barks instructions to his servant, as he shares directions with Peter. Jesus follows, surrounded by a swarm of souls, swallowing him up in their crush of life, their interest now doubly piqued. 

A woman is in this crowd. This woman is unclean. She wraps her skin around her frame tightly, careful not to touch the righteous ones around her. She wraps her cloak around her, as blood leaks from her body underneath her dress. She has sought for healing everywhere, and has alway departed with empty hands. She has sought for something to fill this emptiness inside of her, for something to staunch this eternal flow of blood. She has held so many men on so many dark nights, feeling emptier than loneliness. Her empty arms are less lonely than their embraces. None of these doctors have remedied her ailing heart. Each walks away, carrying a bit of her away with them. She has been depleted. Each new love tearing new holes, leaving new cavities of emptiness crying for something--or one--to fill them. They have taken all that she has. There is nothing left.

And still the blood flows. 

She has darted and bobbed and ducked through the crowd. She is--her breath catches in her throat--she is right behind him. She should call out. This man can heal her. Right? Surely he must be able to. She should call to him Rabboni. Master. Sir. Make me well. She cannot dare. What will this crowd say, knowing such a putrid woman is in their midst? He will send her away. He is a righteous man; he cannot touch her.

He has stopped, stooped down to speak to an elderly cripple with a gammy leg. She is right behind him. She cannot speak. With a flicker as quick as serpent's tongue, her fingers dart forth and clutch the rough wool of his cloak. A flash of something runs through her body. What is this? Some lighting has charged her blood with life, has rinsed through her sore and broken body and touched the vital spirits of her heart. What is this new feeling?

Who touched me?

The question is gentle, curious. A power has left him. He did not will it to do so. Not, at least, consciously. Most of the crowd does not hear his question, as the man has simply addressed it to his disciples. They are peeved with the ubiquitous crowds. They did not sign up for this. You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say "Who touched me?" says the man who looks like the Master. This man has his hand on Jesus' shoulder. The Master removes his brother's hand. Who touched me? he says to the crowd around him. 

Does she dare to come forward?

Who touched me? 

She cannot hide now.

She steps forward, trembling. Trembling in fear. What will this man do? He is a righteous man. Her touch has made him unclean. 

mysterium tremendum et fascinans
Trembling in fear of this new life inside of her. What has happened inside her blood? What holy mystery has miracled inside her?

Sir, I touched you. 

The crowd parts around her.
She falls to the ground. He is opposite of her. Looking into her face.

She cannot meet his gaze. But she knows he already knows the story. He knows about the men. He knows about the emptiness. He knows about how cracked and dry her heart is, empty. No doctor can heal me. Nothing heals me. I am desert. Desert, irrigated by blood.
He demands the truth, although he knows it all already.
She tells him.

I am unclean.  I thought, 'If I touch his garments, even, I will be made clean.'

He kneels down. He is squatting in front of her, and lifts up her chin, looking into her face. He is, again, the last resort. And he is not bitter at being so, he does not begrudge her this one last recourse.

Daughter: your faith has made you well: go in peace, and be healed of your disease.

Now that she has seen his eyes she cannot look away. She takes his hands and kisses them, burying her face in them in gratitude. He rests his hand upon her hair in blessing. No doctor can heal as this man, no embrace has felt as sweet as the blessing that flows through her blood.

Here is what she has been seeking all her life.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

take that and eat it

To kneel and pray in this sate is almost physically painful. At best, it's like talking into a bucket. At worst, you feel like a chump, some heartsick fool still pasting up valentines for a long-gone cad.
--Mary Karr, "Facing Altars'

In the sun-soaked wooden ordinary chapel, it seems hard to believe that this is all quite real. The rainbow prisms of light refracted from the stained glass windows dance across the warm wood floor--are we not just these?--prisms of light that dance for a while here on the floor, and then fade as the dance disappears in the shadows of sunset.

I think my mind is pushing too much to the boundaries of the world. The world feels like an elastic cage, which can only bear so much expansion before it snaps. Do my fellow mass-goers in the chapel feel this dread?--the dread of being just a puff of light on an unknown floor, which can be snapped, blown away, flicked into oblivion with nary a finger. Or do they keep their minds in check and keep the horror and the angst at bay? Are all our minds careening towards the outer limits of our worlds, flinging themselves towards the cosmos' peripheries as quickly as they expand, reaching to the fringe, where all that reality fades into empty void?

It is quite difficult to make peace with reality, particularly when there exists this sun-soaked world of eschatos in the midst of war and suffering. Which one is real? How can both be?

My mind is spinning into dark inside my body of prismatic light. What are the visions of our eyes but so many molecules, light, shadow, movement, deceptive in its stillness? What are our memories but records of these pathetically piecemeal past impressions? None can be trusted.

The anchor in this world of dark seems to be the Eschatos Himself, hanging, dark wooden corpse in the midst of this light chapel. He seems quite real. But is He? I see myself, a small, quivering beam of light clinging to that dark wood, praying He is the one solid anchor in a world of fleeting forms.

Friday, January 20, 2017

kiss of peace

In our heart of hearts, there is nothing we know better than that our knowledge ordinarily so-called, is only a tiny island in the immense ocean of the unexplored.
--Karl Rahner

Walking towards the library, in the brightly-lit snowy morning, the nutty flavor of the espresso rolling over my tongue, tasting of Italy's blue sky, Mediterranean sun, coffee shops in Trastevere. This is the sort of coffee you can get behind. It has a lush body, thick legs, and it walks all over your papillae with hot confidence.

The snow is falling down in thick, fluffy flakes stuck together is small clusters that melt on your eyelashes and ice your coat in crystals. This is the sort of snow you can get behind. Gentle, it falls with delicate sensitivity. It sticks lightly to the ground, and builds upon itself, until it has knitted itself into a tight tea cozy covering the earth. You kick the snow on the sidewalk, and it flies up in a sparkle of frozen fireworks.

The permacloud has descended over South Bend, after a brief respite of glorious sun. But the permacloud made it possible for trees to grow here, south of Lake Michigan. Trees can grow even here, in the midst of the Indiana plains. And though it makes us feel like we live for five months underneath a blanket, it gives us the beautiful sycamore outside my window, the birch and pine trees that line the lakes, the glorious, craggy arboreal monoliths on God quad.

It is easy to write off the permacloud as annoying. It is easy to write off another human as discovered. But we cannot love what we are not constantly rediscovering. It takes away my breath to find that each new day the earth looks just as beautiful as she did yesterday, but in a glorious new way. The monotony of nature is not monotonous. It is divine. Even the people that we see each morning bring surprises. We discover that his eyes are blue. How could I never notice that before? I am constantly in awe at how the world grows past us, beyond us. The limits of the universe are expanding past our knowledge even as we speak, we can never outgrow her.

We know better than anything else that the essential question facing us in knowledge is whether we love the little island of our so-called knowledge better than the ocean of the infinite mystery.
--Karl Rahner

Thursday, January 19, 2017

a brief and no doubt illusory

I just watched a squirrel fall from a tree, heard his bones crack against the pavement as he let out a small squeak of terror and protest. That small but vicious crack struck a chord of pathos magnified by its tiny nature. It was not the sound of giant knuckles cracking, but of delicate structures smashed against the hard cruelty of manufactured concrete.

Where was the soft, absorbent earth of mother nature, that could have rushed to meet her little child and ushered him to safety with a gentle roll and tilt?

Squirrels are those invincible little pests that we allow ourselves to grow annoyed with, because they have an unflappable air of invincibility. Canada geese are avians of the same ilk. Nothing about squirrels (particularly of the Midwestern variety) appears to be vulnerable or fragile. They rummage through garbage bins with disgusting nonchalance, they approach us to beg for our food with eerie boldness. They saunter about with the insouciance of an animal who possesses a much higher rank on the food chain. It is easy to laugh at an arrogant creature, but watching the world deal a blow to the pert little rodent calls for tears.

I watched with dismay this morning as a goose, capsized in the turgid St. Joseph river, paddled her small webbed feet desperately in the air, attempting to right herself. Her wing had caught on something submerged below the frigid water, and her attempts to pull it free were fraught with the desperation of an individual surrounded by a complacent collective. Finally, she wrestled her wing free, and paddled quickly away, her companions barely registering the scene.

The squirrel who fell was chased out of the tree by a vicious and territorial little rascal. I watched the squirrel's descent, and marveled to see that he leapt gingerly away, nothing broken enough to handicap him. He hopped quickly away towards a neighboring grove of trees a secure several feet away. The bully chased another squirrel down out of the tree, scampering around the knotted knobs of the pine tree, shrieking loudly.

The injured squirrel scampered off, running over the shoes of a graduate student walking towards the parking lot. The graduate student seemed unconcerned, the squirrel seemed to have larger concerns than the possible threat of this human.

My first instinct was an image: of lifting up that fallen squirrel and rocking him gently in my arms. Consoling him in his pain. It's an anthropomorphic instinct: to attribute to the squirrel human-like pain, and to wish to give him a humanly antidote. In chapter 9 of The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis meditates on animal pain, and begins by invoking the utter mystery of the animal world: we know neither the ultimate reason why animals were made nor do we fully understand who these creatures are. All thought about them must be, to some extent, a projection (which human beings have been doing, in mistaken but not misfiring empathetic instinct, since the beginning of time) of ourselves and our experience of the world upon them, and stutters and stumblings in the dark.

Pain, it would seem, occurs in them, but perhaps it is incorrect to say they feel it, particularly the mental anguish that accompanies human pain. I wonder what sort of pain the squirrel felt as his bones cracked on the pavement. But I thought then that I would never want to greet that pain--whatever its appearance, in the smallest or largest creature--with theorizing or indifference. The world is full of too much human pain, it seems like that would exhaust our empathy. But I hope I greet all pain--human and animal, pain I have caused, and pain through natural causes--with that instinct to rush towards it and sweep it up in my arms.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

some thoughts on feminism

Praying the Litany of the Saints with friends this evening, I thought of what a beautiful prayer the litany is to begin the year. There, we pray with all those holy scholars, hermits, simple folk who have gone before us. We begin the new year in a community, reminding ourselves that we always are in community, and our community transcends the one gathered in the wooden chapel at twilight.

Yet I found myself taken aback, as I sat in Malloy chapel, praying along with my friends, that there were so few women named in this list of the blessed. Given that fifty percent (roughly?) of all humans created are women, I would assume that fifty percent of those enjoying the beatific vision are also women. I would presume, in a topic that does not bear presumption, that there are equal numbers of holy women as men.

Yet in the litany, the women were tacked onto the end, just a small fraction of women amidst a large list of men. I am not advocating for the removal or diminution of any of those men. But I thought of how our lack of female saintly figures is going to impact our image of sainthood. Saints are not just virgins and widows. I thought of the saints I have seen in my own life: my mother, Simone Weil, Flannery O'Connor, Annie Dillard, Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, so many sisters, daughters, mothers, single women, women who make art, women who teach, women who care for corporations, women who carve out the Kingdom in this filthy world, women I have been privileged to witness living out holiness. Perhaps they will quietly go into the darkness, their witness never being recorded. But it is not they who will be hurt if they are not remembered: it is the Church who will be weakened for forgetting the brilliant lives of half her members.

It is not the Church's fault she has lived in a world that has tended to forget the lives of women, a history that is focused mostly on the feats of men. But it is something to be conscious of. And perhaps the Church can (does, and has) lead the charge in being a keeper of women's stories.

Just a thought.
--

Speaking of stories, I recently watched Hell or High Water, which is an excellent contemporary Western cowboy movie, set in the sticks of West Texas. My grandmother hails from West Texas, and she had just been telling me how paradisiacal she thought it was in her youth, when I encountered the less-than-Eden-like world presented in David Mackenzie's 21st century Western. It's a beautiful film: about brotherly love, about the tension of modernity and tradition, about honor, sacrifice, and love. It's the quintessential American bandit movie: the outlaw as the quintessential Individual who stands up to The Man.

It's a beautiful film. As is Lion. As is Manchester by the Sea. As are, I'm sure Moonlight and Hacksaw Ridge. As I made my way through the Golden Globe Best Picture nominees, I was struck by how all these movies are all about men. The ones I have seen so far are all beautiful pieces of art: deeply felt, elegant, meditations on filial and familial relations, on pain, on moving on, on the simple and catastrophic tragedies that shape our lives, and how we mold ourselves around them. But they are stories about brothers, not sisters; they are stories of fathers, not mothers; stories of men finding themselves and women as their guideposts along the way.

These are true stories. They are beautiful stories. They are stories worth telling.

But if we never see the inverse, again, it is we who suffer.
If we never see stories of women finding their way home, of mothers healing from deep tragedies, of sisters sacrificing for each other, of women coping with change, and the men they encounter along the way, then our picture of the human race will only be half-developed. Rich stories will be left un-explored.

--

This week, the Women's March encountered their own drama, as they removed the pro-life group New Wave Feminists from their list of event sponsors. I had so desperately want to go to Washington to march, and seeing this news, and the backlash against this pro-life feminist group from fellow feminists filled me with great frustration and sadness.

I thought of a passage from Rowan Williams' book on the Resurrection which speaks of Christ the victim. God is ultimately identified with our victim. No matter what, God is always on the side of the person we have oppressed. "God is with the powerless, the excluded," writes Williams. We must see the face of Christ in ALL victims or none at all, argues Williams. We must not simply see God in those it is fashionable to stand in solidarity with. We must see "Christ as criminal, Christ as madman, Christ as alcoholic vagrant: all this and more is implied in the unconditional identification of God with the victim." (Resurrection, p. 19)

The moment we begin to oppress someone, the moment we inflict violence upon someone, Christ is always identified with the person we have hurt: our mother, when we speak sharp words, the cat-caller on the street we spurn, the unborn child. Oppression and violence are not wrong because our victim is innocent or guilty. Oppression and violence are wrong because our victim is human. A human who is Christ's image, even perhaps a morally culpable human, should never be violated or victimized. Christ, the scorned man, the man despised by others, is always identified with the victim.

Feminism is a position of non-violence. Therefore, violence towards the unborn is entirely unacceptable. Of course, it is a woman's right to choose what to do with her body. That is entirely undeniable. But, there are, of course, limits to every right. There are correct things to do and not do with our bodies, which are not dictated to us by men, but spoken to us by our hearts. I completely understand why women are pro-choice, why many women see this as a necessary option in a world that is mostly against them. As much as I disagree, I would be proud to march alongside them, knowing that we have a common goal of working for a more equal world for women, even if there is division between us. But I really cannot understand why fellow feminists would reject marching alongside a woman who believed that women can achieve liberation and equality through non-violent means. In fact, non-violence is the only way any group of humans will ever achieve true liberation and equality. Violence enslaves. And violating our sacred bodies, and the rights of our sacred offspring to live is never a path to liberation.

Also, in the sexist world we live in, it would strike me as a fairly obvious assumption to make that more young female children are killed than young male children. Women seem to be the victims of abortions on both end--from a society that forces them into this option, and those infant women who are killed. And Williams reminds us that God is with the victim--the invisible victim, the victim that is uncomfortable for us to acknowledge--and woe to us who perpetrate the harm against them.

Just a thought.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

in the sea's lips

Emptying the sensual with deprivation
Cleansing affection from the temporal
--T.S. Eliot, "Burnt Norton"

In the middle of a busy morning, which had already been dusty from much traveling and from busy thoughts, I read a bit of Thomas Merton. Merton's clear, clean words, infused with the fresh air of monasteries, the taste of the medieval lingering in his modern phrases, washed my day in light, leaving me with a new, clean slate of peace.

I have taken for granted the power of good words to touch our heart and refresh our minds. Beauty, it seems, is necessary for our imaginations. If we don't expose our imaginations to beauty each day, how will we make it? How will we be trained in it, if we do not seek it out, exposing ourselves to its rays, letting our skin be burnt in its warmth?

Similarly, I was at mass with my friend in the warm Jesuit church in Ann Arbor, with Christmas decorations garlanding the rafters, and I felt my entire soul scrubbed clean again. No wonder we are enjoined to weekly mass attendance, we are being chiseled into images, and the liturgy is a sharp refining tool.

She was the ultimate and necessary source of the lover's good, a 'shock of beauty' that reoriented his mind to a new life and outlook.
--Andrew Frisardi, Introduction to Dante's Vita Nova

Poetry and prayer must be daily rituals, because the power of poetry and prayer is the transfiguring force they exert on our imaginations, our minds, and our hearts. They transfigure our desires into things more transcendent, they transform our minds into open receptacles for the divine. They influence the way we live each day. They bring our minds to a higher awareness.

They mold our lives into models of themselves. They push us to find the beauty in the mundane, the smoldering presence of the divine in all our daily lives: the woman sniffling into her tissue, the men laughing together in Burberry scarves, the man sleeping in the airport chair, the sparrows frantically flying through the terminal, and the little boy dancing with his mother. All such marvelous creations we learn to reverence by the practice of seeing. Poetry and prayer push us to see the world beyond just our own small vision.

We had the experience but missed the meaning,
And approach to the meaning restores the experience
In a different form, beyond any meaning.
--T.S. Eliot, "The Dry Salvages"

Friday, January 13, 2017

a simple grace

We praise you, Father, for your gifts
of sun and water on the rocks,
for doughnuts, fried to taste like
butter,
smothered in maple-bacon-chocolate-raspberry.

A small thanks, growing into heart-bursts of praise,
for the sitting together in the warm summer sun,
and watch the sunlight glisten on the lazy waterfall,
follow the small avian dramas of the mallards and the ungainly goose with
blotchy red patches on his beak try to win a mallard lady.

Sitting in Denise's Greenville park, on the damp stone wall, under the quiet trees,
sharing together the words and stillness that make up a a friendship,
my soul relaxes into silence as my tongue sings in her native tongue.

All these moments, I trust, will fade one day into an eternal moment.
Watching the squirrels scamper along the stream's banks,
it seems impossible that the end of all our movement is darkness and nothing.
The impossible, incessant march of existence must lead yet another rhythm,
a motion that encompasses our silence, the way our quiet speaks volumes.

In the sunlight of the park, I think I have a foretaste of that end,
as I turn my soul into a sponge to soak up each moment,
to drink the happiness from each ray of sunlight in the park.

We thank you, Father, for your gifts
of light and laughter in our speech,
for beers shared,
for pains bridged,
for sorrows borne,
for boys lost,
for boys to come,
for kittens mewing at our doors,
for love that leads to endless day

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Rancho days

Rolling up, through the slender columns of the Carolina forest, the little red car crunches over the untouched snow, which completely blankets the winding gravel driveway. Slowly, she creaks towards the house, tucked back behind the trees--it's a chalet dropped in the middle of the woods. The house rambles around on the inside, but looks compact and cozy on the outside--the Rancho.

They say that monks are called not just to the monastic community of brothers, but to the monastery itself: the trees, the mountain, the soil. Their vocation is to the place: to ponder forever the light of that sunrise, or wash forever in the sunsets of that latitude. They say a monk knows he's found his monastery when God calls him through the soil.

The Rancho calls to me that way, could pull me into a vow of stability. A vow to wake up each day and watch the world from the light of those coordinates' sun.

I wake up and the blue birds are singing outside my bathroom window. The woods are covered in days-old snow: it snowed on Friday and hasn't thawed out yet, though the sun begins to shine now. As I roll out of bed, I see the chickadee fluttering past the window, behind a droplet curtain of snowmelt dripping from the roof.

I watch the chickadee, some titmice, and the bluebirds gather 'round the bowl of birdseed on the small back porch. The blue bird bullies away the titmouse, the titmouse retreats to the balcony's edge, then both of them scatter, flapping off into the woods, as a black shadow swoops over the deck and onto the roof. After a moment, the shadow flies to the pole of the bird feeder directly across from me, and reveals itself as a hawk, slate-winged, with a black band across his tail feathers. He sits eyeing his backyard domain, which is eerily still, silent, no trace of bird to be seen.

I could sit on the sunporch for hours in the wicker love seat for hours, staring back at the cocky hawk. He flies off--no easy targets to prey on visible--and I pull out the birdwatching binoculars, to gaze at the thawing world of the woods, each round picture through the glass interrupted by drips of melting snow. I zoom the lenses in on the toasty golden leaves still clinging to a singular tree, then on the ridged bark of the tree trunk right behind it--cut to a snow-trimmed fallen log. Back-and-forth, back-and-forth, exerting the magic power of bent glass upon my eyes, back-and-forth, back-and-forth, guiding my eyes unconsciously between two sides of the same scene.

Each corner of the backyard is filled with endless beauty etched into it, that I could examine all day, hawk-like, through these binoculars. Sunlight dapples the backyard, the trees that border the clearing ripple with all the hidden life in the shadows of the woods. I sink back into the cushions of the love seat, watching the sunlight, the tress, the shadows moving between them, the water dripping off the roof.

Slowly, three tawny, elegant shapes emerge from the shadows between the trees, the largest leads the way, accompanied by two fawn-colored shadows in her wake. Ears twitching, the deer leads her charges to the hawk's bird feeder. The backyard is frozen, even the two tadpole ponds sunk into the hill are frozen blocks of ice.  I stand, and the deer, sensing my movement in the sun porch, stiffen, staring at the sunporch's window which hides the presence of danger.

The snow slides off the roof of the sunporch, miniature avalanches, melting off into tiny curtains of beaded water.

--

Fog descends on the Rancho the next morning. At breakfast, I look outside the windows of the sunporch, and see that the backyard clearing is covered in a heavy, dour mist. Not even the hawk's bird-feeder is visible. The trees poke up out of the grey clouds like teeth.

We drive the car down the winding gravel trail, and we sink into the mist, just our headlights cutting through the fog, our eyes blocked by the skulking clouds. We reach the bottom, to find that the slight wind by the house has cleared the air. The snow melt is dripping into the rainwater bucket, making a racket like a miniature Niagara.

It is so dark, with only the full moon (hidden behind some higher fog) to light the driveway. It is rather eerie, to be exposed to the woods in the dark. I turn on the porch light as soon as we are inside.

--

The Rancho is that blessed place that is chock full of Pulitzer prize-bedazzled novels, heavy books on the dressers, magical realism and Gabriel García Márquez, anthologies of Almodóvar, and the Coen brothers film collections spilling off the shelves. I find a 1990 New York Times editorial by Anna Quindlen about her daughter inspiring her to fight for a better world for women. It sticks with me all day. I read Doerr's novel late at night in bed. That is the Rancho.

Texas blood flows in the big-boned house, and its reina is my grandmother, a woman from whom I can understand myself descending. If looking at her is a glimpse into my future, I am content, but she is most certainly not a crystal ball. She is her own story, entirely, and I am happy to be etched into her epilogue.

--

Late at night, I finish Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See. I imagine the inscription I will write for a friend in the front cover. I fall asleep, dreaming of Saint-Malo, snails that bob on rafts of bubbles, feeling the heartbeat of the story underneath my skin, and wallowing in the iridescent writing of the novel. I come down in the morning to discover a puzzle box on the sunporch. I laugh: what a strange coincidence. This house is never not surprising. I am not much for puzzles, but after reading of Marie-Laure's fondness for them, and remembering when Kyle first brought one to rehearsal in June, am intrigued by this one.

I stand in the sunlight and fiddle with the smooth wood box. I put it down and leave it for a bit. I will return to it later, shake it a little to listen to its secrets, and then sit down at the kitchen table to solve it. There is no diamond inside. Which is just as well. It is a new year, no need to dig up old curses.

I watch the cardinals gather at the corner of the house, chattering in a cluster. The squirrels scamper across the clearing of the backyard. I remember how green everything is in the summer, how it smells of growing things, and the woods teem with movement. Life is so abundant, no creature is cautious. I think of the hummingbirds that feed by the porch.

Winter is more still. The creatures are more conservative with their precious commodity of survival.
--

I walk downstairs to the breakfast table. There is a "Modern Love" essay printed out from the Times and sitting at my place. I read it. I look out the window: the world is bright and golden, and all the snow is melted. It looks like a regular autumn or winter at the Rancho, the ground thick with limp, dying leaves. The grey-green grass, jaundiced and bright peeks out from the decaying rug of leaves.

The squirrels sniff at the corn left out for the deer, gobbling up the golden nuggets before the hawk returns. The chickadees fly off into the branches of the toast-leaved tree. The creatures movements have thawed slightly with the snow.
And I sit, in the love-seat, in the sunlight, watching them all, soaking in the stability of my monastery.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

I'm just thinking...

...of riding the subway up from downtown (maybe Astor Place or 14th Street?) from some awful play I've gone to with Charlie, or from a small movie theatre with Joey, up to the 103rd street stop, where I would alight, along with several tired looking mothers with their children, a playful couple laughing together and holding hands, and some assorted men with flat-brimmed hats and fur-lined, hooded sweatshirts swinging plastic take-out bags, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU stamped in red.

I would perhaps help an abeulita with her grocery cart or a mother with her stroller up the subway stairs. As I reach the top of the stairs, a woman would be asking for a subway swipe at the turn-style, her eyebrows knit up in a plea, so I would swipe her through. If you have an unlimited, why wouldn't you? A drunk couple would be shouting at each other, their slurred words drowned in the din of the departing train below, the subway officer at the ticket booth shouting over them as she gave directions to two sisters and their crying children. 

I would lope up the stairs into the cool dark of the East Harlem after midnight, the stars and streetlights shining brightly in the chilly velvet sky. The taqueria right across the block would be bumping with urban youth seeking late-night snacks. Several taxis would scream by, slowing down hopefully as they approached me, but I would ignore them as I shoved my hands into my pockets, and started up the Lexington Avenue Hill. The tallest hill in Manhattan south of 125th street, it seemed, was right at my doorstep. 

I would speed-walk to the top, and jaywalk across 102nd street. I would hurry by the sketchy gas station (read: drug front) and the neat white houses with the lights always on and the decorative door wreaths we are sure are brothels. Lexington Pizza on the corner of 101st and Lexington is dark, all the curling black metal chairs stacked on the tables. I like it best when I come home, and the corner is still full of lights, and couples laughing over pizza together behind the shining windows. When I come home and Lexington Pizza is dark, it feels late. The street feels more deserted then. 

I would cut across the street--I live on the south side of 101st--and walk down the middle of the pavement, looking over my shoulder for the always-feared phantom rapist I'm positive is close on my heels. I cross up onto the sidewalk, once I'm passed the vacant house, and there's a rustling in the trashcan. My heart is in my throat. A rat pops out and looks at me. I pause a second, but he scurries back into the garbage. A man and his dog walk ahead of me on the sidewalk, and then they round the corner onto Park Avenue. I am past the stoop with the toucan mosaic decorating the front, I am almost to my front door. I bound up the white-washed stone steps, reaching into my pocket for my keys. I race to open the door before the phantoms of the night get to me. I push open the first of our doors, and pause in the foyer, pushing the door behind me and catching my breath. Safe. I open up the thick oak door that is our interior front door, peeping through the window to see if anyone is awake, looking for the lumps of roommates on the sofas and the blue glow of the television, and then I push open the warm oak wood, step in the door, and I am home, enveloped in the high ceilings, the dark corners, the peeling paint, and the hissing radiators of CasaBlanca.

I would automatically drop my keys and purse on the dining room table, check my mail pile, and head to the kitchen--perhaps Sean has made cookies. I make sure the kitchen door to the backyard is locked (a roommate is prone to states of inebriation, and, in such, leaving the backdoor wide open), raid the refrigerator briefly to examine my late plate, and then bound up the steps to bed. My room is on the third floor (the second, if we're counting European style), and it is bright, warm, and beautiful. It is haphazard, put together with old volunteer castoffs left in the house, lots of postcards and unframed photos, and a lot of command strips. But it is a cozy little nest. I can see (and faintly hear) the elevated train tracks right across the avenue from me from my window. I throw myself onto my giant, fluffy bed, and stare up at the ceiling, letting all the adrenaline of the journey back home course out of my blood, as my heart slows from a pounding to lighter beat, and my muscles relax into the covers.

This is home. This is New York. 

My heart is aches for it so hard I feel it twist my chest into a million knots. My friend accuses me of wishing for the past. I know that these happy habits of being are now memory. But can't I have them back again? If I go back to New York, will the city feel the same? Will it feel warm and comfortable, in a way that I can wrap around me like a blanket? Will it feel metallic, bright, hard to the touch, exciting friction forming as we push against each other? Cannot I not simply return, and find all these beloved moments again in a new way? Will the city be a the same old partner, a comfortable relationship to slip back into, or a new partner, a new lover to push against, pull at, with whom to dance the back-and-forth of relationship?

Is this longing for a past that is now wrapped away in rosy hues, or is it a longing for some future way of being I can find again?

I cannot stamp out this longing for the city: for late nights and quiet mornings, loud with the presence of God before the noise of the city drowns us, for subways roaring by us as we lean against the subway walls and talk until our train comes, for late nights waiting for the E train, my head throbbing from exhaustion, for cursing at the scaffolding creating bottlenecks in sidewalk traffic, for Brooklyn Bridge and 7th street, and picnics in Tompkins Square Park.

It feels not like the past, but like the present--other and distant--calling.