Lent — day eight

Buechner once talked about a character that he wrote
as if the man were a friend, born of a chance encounter;
which, in some ways, I suppose he was. Buechner spoke
of the way the man stuck with him – a shadow,
an unasked for cat – and how he couldn’t help
but to write him, again and again.

My brother, who is twelve next Monday, is a writer.
He prefers doing anything that involves sweaty skill,
to writing; and I wonder sometimes that he’s afraid
he can’t love both, that he’s afraid he is not created
to live in all kinds of paradox, though he doesn’t know
that word yet. He is a paradoxical thing – we all are –
so, he writes. Mostly for school. Still, he writes.
And his words remind me how words can play,
and look like one thing, but mean another.

I wonder, sometimes, what it was like to worship
Jesus wrapped in swaddling cloths, still a small bit
purple and slimy. I wonder what it was like to
celebrate Love itself, the one who came to rewrite
every ill-spoken, misguided, wrong word; the one
who came to look at you with visible eyes.
What it was like to look at him and see only
the promise of a story still to unfold.

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Chuck Norris

Ten-to-elevenish-year-old boys are possibly the strangest specimens I have ever encountered. My brother and his friends are currently standing in his room (all of them completely adorable in their “I’m too cool to be cold even though it’s freezing outside, but mom made me wear this hat anyway” clothes) debating about something. That something, I believe, is what they are going to put in their “in case the neighborhood’s invaded” fort. Before this debate, my brother stood on the deck with his new, fancy CO2 airsoft pistol and shot his friend who stood resolute 20ish feet away and barely flinched when the hard, round pellets reeked their havoc on his back. After this small, stupid, endeavor, the boys all crowded around the one that had been shot as he showed off the dime-sized welts in his skin. They all gave the equivalent of a cheer and came in here to have this all-important debate, which has, someway, somehow, made its way to Chuck Norris and how exactly to get said legend into their “in case the neighborhood’s invaded” fort. I, being a girl, and a bookish girl at that, do not, by any stretch of the imagination, understand shooting my friend in the back and then applauding his stupidity for volunteering to be shot in the back and acknowledging the painful marks on his back as some sort of measurement of his awesomeness. I also don’t understand Chuck Norris, but I’m pretty sure that just comes with being me and has nothing to do with my lack of testosterone or surplus of bookishness.

A Kingdom

There are simply too many things about which to write. I had an entry all planned out about stories and heroes and heroines – its an unfinished memoir/something-of-a-revelation that I began a while ago and merely had to finish and post. But, here I sit in a large, smelly warehouse full of wooden ramps and skateboarders with my books of poetry and fiction and the weight of a failed test impeding on my mental function and millions of other stories and thoughts mill about and make my fingers itch to write them. So, the other post will be stowed away for a day less full of eager words and I will release these ones to meander about spaces much larger than the tangled, wide-open web that is my mind.

There is an odd infusion of life happening now – a strange convergence of a great many unrelated, yet intertwined things that are nearly enemies, yet exist now in contented peace. Even the air in this large, simple space is contradictory. It’s crisp, clean – the kind of air easily breathed – the kind that is cold, but doesn’t necessarily beg to be somehow different, warm. This is my favorite kind of air. It’s the air that fills large, old houses in the winter, the air that whisks above the ground on early autumn mornings before the sun has come to bring change. It’s waking air, clean air, new and wise air, it is writing air. Still, I don’t like the air here because it carries the unwanted stowaway that is mildew and sweat. It is as if this lovely, treasured air accidentally slipped through a boys’ locker room on its way here and the locker room air clung on and would not be shaken – as if the glittering, golden thing that is my favorite air had unintentionally brought onto itself a grey, grimy swirl.

There is music carried on the same air, thought it is only a somewhat more melodic din and clatter added to the quiet roar of skateboards and their riders gliding over every wooden surface available. It sounds almost as if I’m siting above a den of lions, roaring and rattling the chain-link fence around them. There is a rhythm to the skaters – a silent, invisible conductor stands and moves his arms, now you, now you, now you, so the sound fades in an out like waves, so the lions roar like the ocean and not in unrestrained chaos.

My mother and I sit on two metal chairs that are situated on the edge of a balcony, a few feet away from a heavy metal fence, they are a shade of something-like-tan-only-worse and as beat up as the floor they weigh down. We sit there surrounded by journals and books of poetry and fiction and memoirs and beauty. It’s as if we were queen and princesses, looking down on the rest of the warehouse as if it were our kingdom, searching now and then, for a small boy dressed in black who is trying very mightily to tell the story that he is worth watching, worth being around – and he is. He is my brother, hypothetical prince of this odd kingdom; and it is an odd kingdom. It is a kingdom whose supposed rulers are nearly the opposite of it. She reads aloud to me, the queen, and I can almost hear the graffitied walls around us curiously proclaiming this does not belong here, but it is not unwelcome. As if they are unsure of what to do with us, yet they want something of what we bring, something of what we are. We are a stroke of golden and warmth and lavender in the muddled, sweat-smelling air. There is nothing more or less glorious about us than the rest of the kingdom.

The skateboarders fly – I swear it’s true. They fly on the ground. I didn’t think it possible until I saw it, but they do. Their clothes whip about them, their arms rise and fall, they look weightless and free – they fly, and that’s glorious. Even the ragged, scarred walls, the rancid air – they are glorious – longing to burst forth with life. It reminds me of another kingdom, an infinitely more glorious one – things that are contradictions just in their being, existing purposefully, peacefully, beautifully together; a silent, invisible conductor ushering rhythm into the chaos, orchestrating an extravagant, simple, breath-taking song; people who fly, free, on the ground; people who just by their living awake something long still inside of people on the fringes, call the unwanted, unloved to curiously proclaim this does not belong here, but it is not unwelcome.

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