Saturday, March 12, 2011

The First Time I Stepped into this Country

I wanted hungry fiddle, banjo's loose teeth.  I wanted the hair on the back of the land to stand up when called.  I wanted steel string fingers and a calling heart.  I wanted a book with pages so thin I could breathe through them.  I wanted an answer, an answer, an answer.

The scandal of my great-grandmother sitting proper, hands finger-caged to her lap on my great grandfather's bed as he drove the team round.  She'd be warmer there, he said, and it was practical advice lifted rational above the gossip.  She stayed there in the single room that served as kitchen, dreaming bed, and study, and she saw herself moving there through his spaces in a sudden instant.  Her hands flew to her face in that future recognition, birds freed and new to the wing landing on the red blushing cheek.

I heard the robin warm her lungs as she sang the sun song and the worm, dirt-drunk and dazed, met that song when it died there as the two met for the last time.

That he'd been hassled for his last name, an Irish one that no one in my family knows but in some deep blood memory that won't tell on him.  He'd changed it to Smith after fighting a few good fights, a few bad ones, and realizing after fighting himself over his thinking on courage, that some new name would stand stronger:  Smith means "one who makes" and their great granddaughter's three names mean "One who makes a joyous song consecrated to God."

Listen here, Birds.  There were never any accidents.

And the last time I stepped out of this country, I was holding the air in my lungs until it no longer mattered because the song was as invisible as hands flying to their home clasped around the careful choice made by the two strong people who came before her.


  1. So good I can feel it. The robin and the dirt-drunk worm? Are you kidding me??? The name not known, the hands finger-caged to her lap! Love it, love it, love it. More please.