Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Another Kind of Brother II

He is the only man I have ever wanted to be plainer for.
Beauty can be a show, and he knows it. And a golden heart glows honest through a homely face.
He is the first man I have ever wanted to sing with.
I long to know if our voices blend, but I cannot, yet.

He always seems to be a step ahead of me, crying words my soul will cry when I step forward.

He may never be mine, may never want me. But he awakened in me an earnestness that I have not lost, and for which I will always be grateful.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sweet, Nice, Cute

There is a part of me that cringes at being called "sweet" or "nice" or "cute." The latter two, especially, communicate an aggravating smallness, a paltry pleasant manner, that grates on me. I would rather not be cute. I would rather not be nice. Make me ugly or beautiful. But an honest ugly or a truly beautiful. Make me hard and unsociable or deeply kind. But none of this dull nice that makes neither a safe spoon nor a sharp knife.
But make me, above all, good. A good that rumbles richly in the belly, that softly springs upon the mind with time, that shows itself best, and truest. Make me a satisfying yet longing-bringing good, sweet in the way my Mother meant it when she found me helpful, a "sweet girl." Not a candy one. Sweet like ripe fruit, fresh milk, or honey on bread. Like the texture of wood under the hand. Like a genuine smile that changes nothing, but changes everything.
There is a part of me that knows I will not be this good alone. Nor will it come without pain. There is no joy apart from suffering. There is no growth without rain. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Second Night at Third Home

It was strange to wake childless
Because, though she was not a child, the closest thing I can come to is that I was a mother for two months.
I was a mother for two months.
Now I wake later, wonder what I am to do, feel as if the day is a plate I fill, not a plate served me.
And so I ran campus errands, met friends, found trash and picked it up, decorated, unpacked, beautified. In continuing last spring's tale to two children, I touched delight at the thought that I was a story-weaver, and later tucked away their grandmother's words that I had made her want to stay and pluck grass with us. Later we played snow-eagles, and the foxes learned to lie and then love mushrooms. Their great-grandchildren were weaned of cunning and became the birds' friends.
My idea of resting on the rocky outcrop was foiled by mosquitos, but I added one more stone to the mound, the story, the reminder of the Man-God who brought me through water on dry ground.
The tree that I likened to Larisa had dropped its dead-limb burden, and I wondered if the limb slipped lightly down or broke the arms it lay on. She carried a broken branch, and on the day I understood, I knew that I must carry the tree.
And so now, I am free.
But I will keep my hands open, and wait for leaves.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Boerne, August 9

I came back inside to a shriveling marmalade scorpion in the bedroom, tangled in hair and dust. He was dead until I touched him, and then he died under a shard of carved flint.

Imitation is a form of flattery. If you will make this your life, you may have a master for your advocate. If I’m not painting, I feel less alive.

I can’t leave you tied to the chair without coming and speaking and stroking your knee. But I can’t take you with me. I need to puncture my soul and draw out cords to air out in this room, to hang from kitchen cabinet doors and drape over high-backed chairs. I don’t know what all, yet: I will not know until it is finished. And I cannot carry you as I do it. And I cannot carry you as I do, and live. But in leaving you I feel ashamed to worship. Which way is slavery? Which way is beauty?

Love hits you harder when you run toward it.

The Alamo, San Antonio, August 9

I like talking to hotel room cleaners. Especially this kind: friendly, helpful, and humorous. It’s like instant accommodation when you wheel about a sweet lady in a chair. You can squat your car anywhere, use “out of order” bathrooms, kneel in parking lots to administer cold blended soup. People open doors, give up seats, smile. Or look surprised.
But I leave her for a while with her husband and walk off alone down the block, past Bonham Street to the spreading trees and clustered people around the church-turned-fort-turned-shrine. Lookers shuffle around glass-covered knives and a coonskin hat. Leathery men sweat on the scaffolding, repairing dusty, bone-colored walls.
Strangers walk the pavement where a battle took place. On the concrete path a skittering catches my eye, and I turn in time to see a green anole, subdued to brown, crossing to a bench’s shadow. Recognition cheers me in this strange and sweltering place. A friend from my old home. I can almost feel his white puffy mouth, fine rows of teeth, on my finger. A drop of blood. Like my grandmother’s cat, anoles drew me inexorably, and left scars.
A century old live oak bends and sags and beckons. One bold youth in red clings on a branch. I am not impressed.
And for all that, John had no last name. A freedman, remembered, but stamped in history with little but the color of his skin.
We drove home and he used my father’s word to describe the way I did my father’s work. An excellent job as navigator.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bandera, August 8

I am given thirty minutes, fifty dollars, to walk the shops and find a souvenir. Strange to feel like an outsider, to greet shopkeepers with “hello” and be recognized for a northerner as soon as I speak. 
Boots, trinkets, blouses, plaques, all lie about as if they know they are practically useless. I cross streets, duck in and out, merely crack the door in one shop before closing it. In another, I only glance through the window. I am one of few shoppers, feel conspicuous but adventurous, somehow braver for looking older, chic but dignified, wearing clothes edging dowdy on a twenty-year-old: my grandmother’s linen pants and a well-made shirt and scarf. I feel safely unexciting until a car passes and two young men whoop.
I awkwardly cross the street, smile at the police officer who has been watching my inexperience on display, and smile broadly as I cross the parking lot to the cobalt-blue rental car. My five-dollar-and-forty-one cent souvenir bumps against my legs, and I think how strange I must be for buying a stainless steel mixing bowl in an antiques shop in Bandera. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Boerne, August 7

Lemon verbena in the bathroom, dry Saint Augustine grass outside. My feet have not felt it in six years, have not stood beneath the night sky for days.
Thirty-one days without rain.
A rugged plain, a whistling wind that blows without burning, strangely. Love rattles through dry leaves, takes moments to reach you, can be heard before it is felt.
Sweet Gulf shrimp, sopaipilla, laughing and jelly beans and a need for affirmation.
Now, all dishevely, dance on the still-warm pavement, dance beautiful, dance foolish and grin at your shadow. Laugh to the sky above, finally lie down in the driveway and drink the tipping-glass moon. Sing until you have no more to sing, and then be still.
His wings, His refuge, are warmer than you thought, can be wide open spaces behind bars. After tears come quiet and a smile of,
“You have given me hope, and hope was all I needed.”
This is the land my heart wanted to feel home in. 

Near Austin, August 7

Open arms, open arms.
Your foster child is blessed, her room is hallowed, the great-grandmother has entered it.
Eighty-four years separate two women who will never remember each other. Both rejoice in the other, light up like clouds aflame in sunlight.
Here is a home, a home, a home,
Liberal and loving.
Open arms invite entrance to the heart
Can I trust vulnerability?
A warmth like a kiss in the corner of the mouth. A twitch, a smile, a gentle southern twang,
And the little one’s soft head and tender body passed from embrace to embrace. Conversation of fishing and of fishing. Caught fish must be cleaned, may wound you in the cleaning.
Peacemaking, our mother joins two hands across the table. Like a sign, the others cover them with their own.
Don’t Shave Dogs Past Easter becomes Don’t Say Pure Desire Ever Abandons those who lift up their hands…or spread them wide.
She will not remember you, but she will know red hair for kisses for the rest of her life.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Dallas, August 5

It's like a rich old mansion turned greenhouse,
Thick maroon carpets, heavy crystal chandeliers, dark wood furniture, gilded edges, mirrors everywhere. The elevator is one of those stare-at-the-floor-or-be-staring-at-the-reflection-of-your-neighbor kinds. It's small and shaky, but it works. Just don't let it close on the wheelchair.
Rich foliage of snaky-armed trees shade the lace-curtained windows, shelter lounging squirrels outside, look old and grand like a southern plantation. There is a continual dew of sweat on the neck unless you manage to run fast enough from the tepid shower to the air-conditioned room without working up another one. There are salads with every meal except breakfast. Succulent plums if you want them. Pink Keifer.

And you feel like a part of a story. But you hope you are not a part that passes, not a character with a trivial role, not a sales clerk or a washerwoman. You want to be the cousin, the best friend. You want to leave stirrings in the heart like the pounding of stars into dust dissolved in wine.