“. . . it is the going we remember
it is the way that comes along with us”
W. S. Merwin, “Only Now”
In time, we only recall what has been waiting for us in the early dark of 4:00 a.m., coffee brewed, a square of dark chocolate, having leashed Lucy and walked with her the backyard’s seemingly capricious path to pee and slather her water bowl, the fur–a muff–around her neck dipping into the water, the north wind clutching my face inside the hoodie–Get To Work.
A daily reminder this cold will return, but not now, freeze my stare past the trees to the west corner of the fence, the alley beyond, creatures come from the creek at the end of our neighborhood, what Lucy sees, tugs at the leash, still puzzled I will not, cannot, not yet, accommodate her herding dog instinct and vision to route whatever Evil (this I know, and see in cohering shadows) articulates a future, only what can be recalled, and savored, recorded in my Moleskine notebook, a kind of joy touching down each lightly printed letter from the throwback Blackwing 602 pencil–“Half The Pressure, Twice The Speed,” but God knows I’m in no hurry, like Robert Frost’s line in “Birches”: “Earth’s the right place for love: / I don’t know where it’s likely to go better” (108), even though I believe Jesus’s intended words to his apostles–“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14: 2, KJV)–words preachers understand to mean Heaven, but maybe heaven, lower case, on earth.
After all, consider the swaddled baby, a feed trough of hay fluffed comfy by his mother and her husband and sheepherders and magi gathered to the scene–the beginning, and if this couldn’t be heaven, then why baseball and Trina, Australian shepherd dogs, and all those cast out lepers and publicans and sensuous women tucked at the grownup Jesus’s feet, and a woman caught in adultery and rescued, adoring her savior with costly oil of anointment, her long, dark hair let down to bathe his feet, tears of gratitude for the only man ever to desire her only with his eyes, the touch of his palm upon her cheek.
And yes, the blind from birth granted to see this world, and the crippled commanded to rise and walk–dirt path, fallow field, desert and dark woods day by day, no consideration for streets of gold, pearly gates swung shut against weather remembered, how it feels against skin. And my friends gathered around the tables, City Light Community Mission, filling their bellies, even heaping seconds, and Wednesdays a sack of selected groceries, know here is the right place for respite and raucous laughter and teasing–“So, Bob, you think you’re Jesus with those sandals?” What I think, what I know, is here, now, this huddle of pals cast out, displaced together, what we know Jesus knew, know he’s sitting at each table breaking bread, sharing that cup–his broken body, his blood poured out–dust to dust, blood soaking into the sand for us, for us to sift through our fingers, lift, be healed.
And listen, you know I have no credentials as a preacher, biblical scholar, but . . . didn’t Jesus bring Lazarus back to our tangible world, and also those “sleeping” children, their wailing parents, Jesus now understanding what it means human, this love, not abstract, and Jesus given the choice to leave the earth, came back.
Frost, Robert. “Birches.” The Road Not Taken: A Selection of Robert Frost’s Poems, Henry Holt and Company, 1977, pp. 107-08.
Merwin, W. S. “Only Now.” Garden Time: Poems, Copper Canyon Press, 2016, p. 52.