Thursday, June 25, 2009
Department store windows light
inscrutably lipped manikins holding
Nicollet Mall is nearly
bright as Grafton Street. Both too
bulbed and sequined.
I like old things.
Stuttering limestone fences, doorways that open
to waves. Dun Aengus and
the Seven Churches.
Old things, your Ghost of the Holy Spook shirt,
misproportioned, sleeves hanging, gap-waisted.
Things worn soft,
things like us.
I just read that in Iraq, pilgrims making the hajj to Mecca were open fired upon. Sectarian violence. I feel sick.
I just want to wake up and have it all be over.
I remember the first time we invaded Iraq. I was 10 and my father was away working in Indiana. My mother, sister, and I stood in our living room listening to the television. Night vision images blared into the room. Targets hit. But who were they killing, really?
Collateral damage. That's the way you say that people got in the way.
I felt sick, 10, even then.
I had dreams where soliders marched endlessly. Over and over again, lines and lines of faceless men who went everywhere and nowhere. I woke up and it was all over.
Maybe I should just consider myself lucky: I can sit and sip tea in the quiet of a cheap apartment. Feed myself, work, plan a trip to Ireland, go to graduate school at a private university. I'm not scared of 24th Street, of Lyndale Avenue. I don't worry about random acts of violence or about my family's atoms being scattered by a car bomb.
And isn't that what we're fighting for?
Well, then I guess I owe "W" a big goddamn thank you. I hadn't realized that Iraq was such a threat to my ability to sip Lemon Zinger and listen to Leonard Cohen.
I think this freedom has become a liability.
"America when will we end the human war? / Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb." (--"America" by Allen Ginsberg)
We float through second day fog, through the holy music of helicopter blades.
"Someone must be moving arms," St. Francis says, "The lacerations have healed, but there are battle scars."
He leads us into the candle lit trench. We watch arms moving, palms penitent in prayer.
For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch. And palm to palm is a holy palmer's kiss.
"I have made peace with Muslims," he says, "I have made peace with Muslims, and yet I couldn't stop
St. Francis settles behind us as we sink into the wooden pew. In the golden light, people come and go. We begin to cry.
Everything is a deal. We are all ambassadors carrying suitcases. I bring nothing but insomnia, a dry mouth. Clean fingernails and red-painted toenails. I am alone. I am silent. And as I am, the house, too, is silent. This is the deal we have made.
And so in this house, whose silence is signed, dated, the world is beginning to feel impossible. For how can I possibly navigate it when so much depends on variables whose identities invariably lie in eyes of the beholder?
As light after light turns out across the city, people in their apartments or their houses pad softly wearing bathrobes and socks from kitchens to bathrooms to bedrooms where they sleep alone or next to someone else. And for those who sleep next to someone, deals are made as breathing becomes measured duet. Alone, moving from darkness into light, I break the deal with my house and turn on some music because so much depends on words, on sound, on a melodic distraction to pull me from the tangle of my thoughts, which race faster as the break of day nears.
I heard on the radio once that people in the 18-24 age group (or thereabouts) generally have the strongest desire to leave their mark on the world. This is why young people—especially the disadvantaged—are often seduced by terrorist groups. It could also be why young people might join the military or the Peace Corps or try to become artists or writers. They turn to terror or service or creation to say simply: “I exist.” But I can’t think of that; I can only wonder at point that desire subsides. When does one accept her condition—her place in the universal problem of life, which is that humans are all just small, brief lives?
I talked with a dear friend who recently lost her husband. She started to cry because something happened and she thought, “I have to tell ___ that when I get home.” Her next thought was the reality of his death. I hugged her as she wept; I asked her if she tried writing him a letter. She said, “I talk to him every night.” It led me to wonder if perhaps our real relevance is in the context of those we love, the world we influence composed of little more than that, which is both infinitely more frightening and more reassuring.