Friday, October 12, 2007

heaven, here it is again

If I had to die tomorrow, I'd hope it'd rain like it rains today. The sound of rain is the only thing that cleans off the mental slateno mistakes in Darfur, Afghanistan, Iraq, no neglect in East Oakland, no unhappy people, no suffering, nothing undone, no failures, no letdowns, no better thing to be doing, no love I've lost crowding my mind. It's just fleeting, momentary entitlementclear, crisp solitude, a perfected reading day with coffee, a blanket, and a window.

As a kid, I sat at the sliding glass doors overlooking the stretched green of my childhood yard in Waldwick, New Jersey. My mother sat with me. I remember it being quiet, rare for me in those days. I was a talker, a rambler, a shameless liar, always inventing what I now see were unbelievable stories. We waited for the lightning, just scanned the sky past the trees, and at the strike's instant, we counted as loudly as we could until the thunder came. The thunder always arrived eventually. I knew I could count on it.

Ah, heaven. Here it is again, a pattern I can count on.

... Hmm. An amendment to this post. Writing about revelry despite all the devastation reminded me of one of Jack Gilbert's greatest poems, its wry treatment of God and the fallen, how evenly he manages to present life as Lethe and Elysium in one:

A Brief for the Defense

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafes and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.