I wear my heart on my sleeve, he said, so you know what I’m feeling at any given moment and I am an open book so you can read my thoughts whenever you wish to do so.
His smile said he was proud of this state, and he did say it set him apart from most people.
She laughed and said to him, “But you know by being so transparent no one needs to spend any time with you, they know your story. And, he added, “If I ever have a heart attack, they won’t ruin a good shirt when they apply the defibrilator.”
Grace settles into the chair, less an act of sitting than of floating down onto the seat. She has borrowed my grandmother’s smile, kind, gentle, inviting. She pulls a book from her bag, its pages or most of them dog eared, and I glimpse some annotations in the margins. We sit around her like children awaiting presents on a holiday, as acolytes seeking knowledge from a font of poetic and prosaic wisdom, or so we think. She reads in a voice that is at once soft and loud enough to reach the back of the room, opening the book to a random page and diving in, then after what seems like a minute and an hour, she stops and asks for questions. We sit dumbstruck for a moment then fire at her like machine gunners on the range. She answers each, claims she is a simple grandmother who writes but we know better, know we are in the presence of a true master.
When did we decide we needed a manual for everything, a field guide to living, tour books piled high before we leave on a trip, having meant to read them and dragging one or two along to study when we get there?
Ask yourself what you might have seen in some foreign city with the time you spent head buried in a tour guide learning what someone else thought was important for you to see or do, what you might have stumbled across just wandering the streets.
I picked up a book off the shelf this morning one hundred haiku
it was like sitting down a word starved man, tired of searching for an always denied sustenance, and here laid out before me, a repast of the sweetest grapes, bits of sugar caressing a tongue grown used to the often bitterness of ill-considered prose.
As midday approached I knew that this was a meal to which I’d return.
What are words of wisdom from the mouth of the ancient ones. I tell you these are such words. You may accept or reject them as you will. Better still, tear this page from its binding crumple it and cast it to the four winds. Let it be carried off in ten directions.
The old man peers at the yellowing book
then places it on the arm of the chair.
He gives the walker a sad, angry look,
and still struggling, looks up in mocking prayer.
Clutching the book, he limps to the table
and sinks onto the chair, risking a fall
that could reshatter his hip. Unable
to hear, he shouts to his wife, down the hall,
who brings the hearing aid and his glasses.
His eyes glow as the ancient words bring fire
to his voice, arms dance as though his class is
full of young minds that are his to inspire.
He settles into the chair, bent by age
and curses his body, now more a cage.
First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008)
It is incredibly frustrating that no matter how long I spend in discussion with the egret, he will tell me nothing of his life, of what it is like to be able to perch on long legs, and then take glorious flight. The limpkin will speak endlessly on this topic, but he really has nothing to say of any importance. Still, I’m not giving up hope, for a friend said that he had it on good authority from a passing wood stork that the egret is planning to write a tell all book, once he figures out how to use a computer.