moses

Oh, one day you will go
  away from this.
Oh, one day you will know
  we’re men of snow.

    — Ingrid Michaelson

………………………………………………..

My grandfather woke slowly
from a recliner dream
and asked if someone had left
a case of liquor by his table.
He told us he had been playing
the role of Moses on a stage.
I imagined him graceful
in a flowing white robe
a wavy costumed beard.
He looked us in the eyes
his eyes that hadn’t changed
despite other changes
and said that it was deep.

I make him a cup
of snowy chopped ice cubes
loudly in the kitchen blender
as he is thirsty
but can’t drink.
He eats it spoonful by spoonful
the cup balanced on a pillow
an adagio of rests
between each curved scoop.

On rainy October Saturdays
we would go unearthing the past.
A visit to my grandfather
just out of the hospital
energetically opening the door to his hothouse
and telling us about dating my grandmother
when they were sixteen (“and a half”)
and so poor an evening
was a slow walk
around the block.

I was a driving a borrowed car
to meet a friend for lunch
when my dad called to tell me.
I went to light a candle;
the daylit church was full of students
slowly dusting the pews.
I tightly folded my donation twice
slipped it into the thin brass slot
lit a new candle from another in the top row
and knelt in the shadowy corner.
The children’s mumblings
and caregivers’ directions
and the sharp citrus smell
made it difficult to focus
on Fortuna in all her glory.

The night before we left
I slept in the room
above my grandfather’s recliner.
His world had become an ellipse
from that chair to the bathroom
and back, traced by the wheels
of his featherlight walker.
I said Hail Marys
and tried not to think
about leaving in the morning
surrounded by an awareness
and the air forced to move
by the white ceiling fan
circling impatiently above me.
In the morning we would leave.
In the morning.
We would have to leave.

Months before, traveling, I woke early
and crisscrossed the damp streets
of San Francisco to Notre Dame des Victoires.
I balanced my coffee
on the stone steps and eased inside
three minutes late.
The priest’s accent reached me
undecipherable.
Thirty minutes later
my coffee was cold but still waiting.
Through the overcast streets I walked
with the crowds past the stores
and a window of sewing machines
stacked to the ceiling.

A call from my grandmother
after the long drive home
the wipers keeping metronomic time,
full of regret for words
left unsaid to my mother
now seven years removed from us.

In the corner of the living
room the house is dark
and quiet and the rain types
sporadically on the windows
pausing for inspiration
then coming on again with fury
and passion.

I could not live without October.
The leaves hold out against the rain.
The furnace thrums on again.
My eyes will hold
at least until November.
My son naps on the couch
oblivious to the days
he may remember as his best.

He taught me
to say Holy Mackerel! when impressed
to swear primarily in the men’s room
to love your wife like a bride
forever
to shell clenched pistachio nuts
without shooting them across the room
to go to the 6am mass
as there is no singing
and you are shaking the priest’s hand
in twenty-five minutes
(and then you go out
for eggs and potatoes and coffee
and cigarettes — his favorite breakfast)
that morning is the best time of the day
before life crushes out the quiet
to baste the Thanksgiving turkey loudly
that a string of Hail Marys
is the safest way to fall asleep
that you should take bowling and crosswords
fairly seriously
that an uninhibited laugh
is a key ingredient
of a well-lived life.

In the end he left us
nothing tangible
only an echoing laugh
an easy way that turned
only when pushed to extremes
a faint image in the mirror
that you can only recognize
in the soft anxious light of early early morning.

          about “moses” | carillon >

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One response to “moses

  1. Pingback: About “Moses” | another american childhood

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