"The stars are threshed, and the souls are threshed from their husks."

Monday, July 10, 2006

Ask, and Ye Shall Receive

I am a forgetfulness engine, and women, when they become mine, discover new depths to their sleep. I carry a perfume of oblivion about me; it is not surprising how regularly I forget swallows. And then there they are, as unlooked for as waking.

As Steve taught me how to fish for black bass in the Sacramento River Delta, along a dike made of discarded concrete upon which a feral fig tree, of dubious bird-dropt origin, towered over us, swallows performed their inexplicable acrobatics, combining the prolificacy and activity of insects with the soft-bodied vigor of the higher, heavier creatures. Their movement is grace and form without delicacy. Speed and sharpness are their sole commandments, and their piety never flags. Watching the swallows tie intricate, nautical knots in the air around our boat, I recalled my first meeting with them, as a child, in Mentor, Kansas. I was the fastest, highest jumping, and most agile child on earth, (it was a burden, but I think I carried it well) but all I had to do was look skyward to know the peace of humility. There existed something higher, animals that lived in a universe of agility and power barely even perceptible to me. In the evening the swallows were most active, and I would stand in the empty playground of the abandoned school my mother, aunts and uncle had attended, and watch them until dark, when they were not shamed by the appearance of their sisters, the stars. They wear tailed blue tuxedos, and they are my favorite birds.

I began to imagine a pair of swallows making a mud-cobbled nest in our nearly unused barn at the farm, and then I began to imagine two pairs. Swallows have a morality as progressive as their flight. They fall in and out of love as they fall in and out of the air, but they marry for life, and males often raise broods sired by another--though just as often they don’t. Widows may remarry. Widowers die alone.

I forgot my wish soon after it was conceived, until one evening last week, I happened to take my book outside and found myself reading on a bench facing the corral and barn. There they were, two pair of swallows, terrorizing the insects and in great spirits. Setting my book down, I hopped the fence and stepped into the barn. Hugging the rafter nearest the hatch leading to the loft, a neat little mud nest.

Other wishes are being fulfilled. Two days after lamenting with my mother an absence of toads, I was called upon to rescue one from a pair of feral kittens hypnotized by her pleasant, hopping gait. Later that day, the smallest box turtle I have ever seen was found toiling under the peonies--a wish anticipated.

I asked for visions, and was sent the white weasel, that lives in the pile of bricks near the vineyard--all that remains of the pillared white house that burned down a year before my birth. When I explore the country-side, I see ghosts in overalls carrying water or sacks of seed along weed conquered sandstone walls towards a house that hasn’t had a roof in fifty years.

How else can I be blessed? How many other gifts can I carry? But then, this weekend when my sister visited, she changed the stereo from my standard classical station, (they seem to have lost the announcer whose pronunciation I was in love with anyway-the one who never gave her name and played Shostakovich with obsessive regularity) switched to A.M. and suddenly a station out of Wichita came through, carrying bags and bags of static and loud brrs and pops, that plays only old country music. I’m listening to it now. When I began this, Loretta Lynn was singing “Don’t Come Home from Drinkin’ (with Lovin’ on Your Mind)” and now Johnny Cash is singing “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town.” I always wanted a reason to listen to A.M. On commercial breaks an announcer updates me on wheat, beef, porkbelly, and soybean futures.

My wish for a pretty waitress in Salina? Still rather grotesquely unfulfilled.

"Could be holdin' you tonight... could stop doin wrong and start doin' right. You don't care what I think. Think I'll just stay here and drink...."


At 9:33 PM, Blogger kim said...

i adore your taste in music.

At 8:21 AM, Blogger Galen said...

There is a new Johnny Cash American Recordings out. It is, aparently one of two sets of recordings left over after the first four albums and the expansive boxed set. (The other will be out near the end of the year or beginning of next.) It is a very different Cash recording. He sounds different, ending. Beautiful, if not easy to listen to. It is hard to see an icon pass, but.... But nothing, it is just hard.


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