This is what I would tell my sons: “You came from an ancient people, a heritage of poets and tailors, or thieves and blasphemers, of callous men and slaughtered children. I would give you these books, written by God, some have said, although I am doubtful but driven by Erato, without doubt.”
This is what I would tell my sons: “I didn’t go to war — there were so many options and I chose one where my feet would touch only Texas mud, where the only bullets were quickly fired on the rifle range. I wasn’t one of the 56,000. I didn’t come home in a body bag. But I do stop at the Wall each time I visit D.C. and say farewell to those who did.”
This is what I would tell my sons: “You have never known the hunger for a scrap of bread pulled from a dumpster, you have never spent a night on a steam grate hiding under yesterday’s newspapers from the rapidly falling snow. You never stood nervously at the waiting room of a dingy clinic waiting for a young, uncaring doctor to announce that antibiotics would likely clear up the infection but you should avoid any form of sex for a couple of weeks.”
This is what I would tell my sons: “You come from a heritage of poets.”
First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press 2008
When they asked him what did you do during the war he said “I just stood guard.” When they asked him where he said “A station, just a station, like most others, I just stood guard.” When they asked him did you see the trains carrying the bodies crammed into cattle cars he said “I saw many trains, it was just a station, but mostly I looked at the sky, wishing for the sun, but mostly it was gray and there was smoke from the chimneys.” When they asked him why did you wear the lightening bolts he said “I was a ski instructor but I broke my leg so I stood at the station, just a station like most others.” When they asked him did he know of the ovens he said “They made bread which we ate each night when there were no potatoes.” When they asked him about the Jews he said “I knew no Jews; there were none in the town where I stood guard at a station, just a station like most others.” When they asked him what he did after the war he said “I prayed, just prayed for my sins, sins like those of so many others.”
There are two keys to it, really the first, and easier, is to make a well with your hands, that would need be not all that deep, just enough to hold your thoughts as you work. The second is to add just the right amount, too little and it is dry and doesn’t hold together, too much and it will refuse to obey your command. Dust it well, and constantly as you work, that is the third key, but we don’t call it a key, for there should only be two keys to everything. And finally, no matter how long you think it will take, it will never take that long, always longer or shorter, never that long, but when you are done, you must savor it while looking for those thoughts you left in the now transmuted well of the making of your hands.
He says we are getting to the point where we can see almost to the edge of the universe, see the moment when all that we know was created, see gravitational waves cast off by the collision of neutron stars. She says that is all well and good, but why can’t he see that he was supposed to pick up milk and bread on the way home, and that they have to be at the school this night at seven to meet the teachers. And, she adds, you do realize that you neutron stars collided when the first flowering plants were appearing on Earth, so in all likelihood, you can’t even blame the snake for it all.