Friday, May 30, 2008

Memorial Day

I remember pasting glitter onto cardboard cones-- Christmas trees were the result once a dowel was inserted into the wide, open end. Not the fragrant living cut-from-the-earth trees that we would water and drape with tinsel and shiny, colored balls, but some abstract interpre-
tation of these. White blankets everywhere warmed us all winter in those days. And Jackie Gleason could be both fat and famous and my father would still be awake most nights yet still far from us. How can a man sitting in the same room be so far? Behind those eyelashes, eyes, and behind those eyes, a brain, fueling a heart and soul. But I wouldn't really touch these until he'd slipped entirely past them--
just past them: heart, brain, eyes, breath, lashes. It was over but just beginning and then completed, all in the same series of...how many minutes, two? three? five? seven? Not long, I can tell you that. And I can tell you too that lives change in such moments, in a matter of minutes, just like that, the world can turn.

He was a dark presence in the other room looming. Or he was forcing olives on us or stinky cheese or horseradish. Or he was squeezing lighter fluid from a can onto pillows of black charcoal to ignite them, preparing chickens to rotisserie over their heat summer Sundays. Or he was fashioning long-handled, two-pronged aluminum toasting sticks for our marshmallows, for after the meal when the coals had gone gray but still glowered with their internal heat, that which remained. And I think now: that's how it was. The gray, the heat, the rising, the transformation from solid to nothing.

But not nothing really. No, not nothing at all.

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