Tuesday, June 8, 2010

15. Untitled except for the Word “Untitled” and the Words That Come after It

Too lovely for woods, too lovely
for woulds we are, so we consent
to use words instead. In that way, we move back
and forth, and if you could have a set of words
ready for any occasion you might
be prepared for life. That
is how the story goes, but it is an old one,
burdened with myth, and the third
little pig, by that time a bit
on the heavy side anyway, never
made it either and followed his brothers
into death. The odds were
against him. How did we ever think
the wolf would settle for nothing but
blowing for so long? All he needed to do
was wait.

We have waited out our lives,
so far, for this instant, a wedding
that wasn’t for any of us, but for those
who follow. We are here for only
a short while, and then we make space
for more, and it is in this time
when maybe four generations can live
among each other that life seems abundant,
and infinite, that we believe ourselves
immortal because we see the outlines of it
in those we will leave behind. We are
too happy to weep for
our minds gone perforated, then blank,
our senses dull, bones giving way,
for our inevitable deaths.

The train has stopped
in the middle of the tracks, the Hudson
maybe twenty yards to the west, the sun
still high but falling, and filling the river with light,
two Canada geese wandering the water
eating floating weeds, and a voice
whispering the explanation to us. Apparently,
we don’t need to know too much. We live
on a need-to-know basis, and there is little
we need to. The rest, mysteries. A short train
speeds by us, with one track between, so
I can see it as less of a blur. Our train now moves
forward, or it seems forward, because
it moves in the direction we expect it to. We could
be moving backwards. We’d never know
the difference. Maybe I’ve seen this anchored
flotilla of boats before, sails stowed, slightly
rocking on the stippled water. Maybe
this is only yesterday.

It seems a want
to wait for everything to happen, for this future
we cannot imagine, for the surprises to
all be revealed in some prescribed order. We don’t
know who will flourish, who will flounder,
what death will overtake whose life at what
particular moment, what great achievement
will remain undone. And
there might even be successes inserted
into the chinks of those lives,
little amulets that protect them
from further harm.

I visited the city clerk today
in lower Manhattan, on an almost summer’s
day in what we still call the spring,
entering a building I’d never much
noticed before even though Erin once lived only
a couple of blocks from there. Inside,
giant orangish bowls of light hung
from the ceiling down a long bright hallway
that was a great room reaching up to sky,
the whole of it lined by tall windows
spilling light to splash against the floor,
and everywhere there was marble and
rigid but organic metal ornaments,
art deco. What I noticed most
were the people, how happy they were, and beautiful,
so full of hope, most in pairs, there for marriage,
to bring themselves together, to buy a license or
create a certificate, to become a new family. I saw
no sense that theirs was not enough of a ceremony
for those marrying that day, and such a rich
variety of people, Asians speaking languages
I could not identify, one couple so tall and lithe,
each gentle in manner and beautiful, the woman
white, her husband black, and speaking
Portuguese, Hispanics, everyone mingling
in that space but centered on their own
ceremonial beginnings. It seemed to me
a place of joy, almost gave me hope
for humans to run the planet or
their own tiny lives themselves.

I thought of our weddings, Nancy’s and mine,
and yours and Jim’s, and I remembered
how young we really were, almost
children when we’d started these lives,
and what friends we were before we moved
from that place that centered us,
that brought us together. Think of this:
none of the four of us knew any other
of us before we were there.

Since I had kept a postcard advertising the place
where you were married, I wrote a tiny note on it
and mailed it to Erin when I was traveling once.
She was a baby for your wedding and wasn’t
there, so I wanted her to have some tiny
memento of her godmother. The other weekend,
I noticed she was using the card as a bookmark,
making it creased and worn smooth
at the corners. Maybe the better memento is one
remembered so heavily by use.

At Erin’s wedding this October, we
will begin the next generation of couples,
the next generation, and it seems to me
that will mean our lives have
finally begun. For that reason, for
this reason, I’m sending you this
note, though I’ve not written you
for years. It’ll be something for you to keep
Or throw away. It doesn’t matter.
It’s still here.

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