When Lucifer forgot
his line, it was white-
haired Eve who whispered
it to him: she, his
sister, blessed with
foresight, impatient to fall.
When Lucifer forgot
his line, it was white-
haired Eve who whispered
it to him: she, his
sister, blessed with
foresight, impatient to fall.
First, in goes the coat
and her oldest’s failure to get a job.
With the black shoes go
her husband’s sarcasm this morning;
with her scarf goes her own.
The blouse carries the lesson
she hasn’t prepared,
the dirty bathroom tile,
and the dying tree in the backyard.
Her teenager’s refusal to get up
and all of those tardies
hang from her skirt like tassels.
gathered in the folds of her half-slip
with tentacles like clammy drier lint:
all the ways she is a terrible mother.
Her white stockings, hope
that there is another page,
another day, a horizon somewhere,
stay on her calves, enduring.
She stands a moment, shivering.
silky slip washing down her
like good enough.
Dress of standing straight
and facing forward.
Slippers of small things,
little graces, daily manna
that can’t be hoarded
but can be found
just in time.
She takes up her packet of
and steps out into the light.
by César Augusto Medina Fortes
Eu desde sempre gostei de cães. Em 1983, meu tio João Miranda chegou em casa com um cão da raça “Dogue Alemão”. Um cão alto, forte, bonito mas muito desajeitado. Era preciso arranjá-lo um nome. Foi aí que o tio Miranda, um grande adepto do Benfica, se lembrou de colocá-lo o nome de “Stromberg” em homenagem ao grande jogador sueco, o Glenn Stromberg, que tinha acabado de chegar ao Benfica F.C. e que tinha dado muitas alegrias ao clube naquela época. Stromberg, o jogador, também era forte, loiro e alto, daí o nome cair como uma luva ao cão. O cão, Stromberg, também dava muita alegria para mim e para o meu primo Sílvio, filho de tio Miranda e da minha tia Rosa.
Lembro-me que o tio Miranda certo dia nos disse:
– “Stromberg só fica aqui em casa se vocês se comprometerem a cuidar dele, de dá-lo de comer, de beber e limpar o terraço, quando ele fizer as suas necessidades.”
É claro que ele ouviu um duplo “sim” da nossa parte. Até acrescentamos mais:
– “Comprometemos em dá-lo banho na praia da Laginha todos os domingos, não se preocupe”. E isso, já na nossa esperteza de irmos para o mar a cada domingo sem ser fiscalizados pelos adultos.
Íamos com o cão para todos os sítios. Stromberg era o nosso fiel companheiro e guarda. Ninguém ousava meter-se connosco porque estalávamos o cão para cima dele. Sentíamos seguros ao lado do Stromberg. Quem via o cão grande e forte a ladrar, fugia logo de medo. Só não sabiam, que por trás daquele cão enorme e forte, existia uma alma doce, gentil e brincalhão. Não me lembro se alguma vez, o Stromberg tenha mordido alguém. E assim Stromberg foi crescendo connosco.
Mas os anos foram passando e o Stromberg envelheceu. E num triste dia, o tio Miranda deu-nos uma notícia que não queríamos ouvir. Ele nos comunicou que iria mandar abater o Stromberg porque já não queria vê-lo a sofrer até a morte, e se ele tivesse que morrer que fosse longe de casa. Além do mais ele andava a comer algumas galinhas que ele criava no terraço. Nós imploramos, choramos muito para que ele não fizesse tamanha maldade ao Stromberg, mas ele foi irredutível. Numa sexta-feira de manhã, ele mandou chamar o Leandro, que era um senhor, que quando alguém tinha um serviço sujo para fazer, ele estava sempre disposto á fazê-lo em troca de 50$00 ou de um copo de “grogue”. Ele era conhecido como “Leandro matá-cahorro”.
O nome já dizia para o que ele vinha. E assim foi. Meu tio pagou-lhe antecipadamente e ele lá levou o Stromberg, com uma corda ao pescoço, arrastando o coitado do cão para o corredor da morte.
Ele saiu e nós as crianças chorando, fomos atrás dele, pedindo que por favor não matasse o cão, mas ele não nos deu ouvidos. Ficamos nos degraus junto ao portão, vendo o Stromberg sendo levado pelo Leandro que iria enforcá-lo, lá pelos lados da Ribeira de Julião, certamente numa acácia espinheira.
Quando dobraram a última esquina de Ilha de Madeira em direção á ribeira, desconsolados, entramos para casa. Nós, as crianças, ainda com um nó na garganta dissemos para o tio Miranda:
– “Bossê é mau!” E fugimos para o terraço para chorar o nosso cão.
Naquela tarde, eu e o Sílvio fomos para a escola tristes.
A noite, quando cheguei em casa, jantei e fui dormir cedo. Durante a noite eu tive um sonho. No meu sonho, vi Stromberg a caminhar sem energia, vindo na mesma rua que o vimos pela última vez, só que desta vez, ele estava voltando para casa. Parecia cansado, fraco, com fome e com sede e ainda com uma corda ao pescoço. Quando acordei de manhã, contei o sonho para o meu fiel amigo e primo, Sílvio.
No sábado de manhã, ficamos a ver para o fim da rua de “Nhá Tanha d’aga doce”(uma senhora que tinha uma fonte e vendia água), na esperança que o meu sonho se concretizasse mas, nada de Stromberg. No domingo, levantamos bem cedo e mais uma vez, antes de irmos á igreja, fomos para a porta, esperando ver o Stromberg. Nós tínhamos esta esperança porque sabíamos que o Stromberg era forte o suficiente para fazer aquilo. Estava um lindo dia e o sol começou a lançar os seus primeiros raios.
Um domingo ideal para ir à praia da Laginha mas, sem o nosso cão, já não seria a mesma coisa. Mas tal foi o nosso espanto, quando vimos o Stromberg aparecendo exatamente na esquina que o vi, no meu sonho. Vinha cansado, sujo, magro e com a corda com que o Leandro o tinha enforcado. Certamente, o Leandro o içou numa árvore, mas não o esperou morrer. Stromberg mordeu a corda e fugiu. Corremos ao encontro do nosso querido cão que tinha escapado da morte. Ele já sem forças, perto de nós, lambeu-nos a face e caiu de cansaço e de felicidade. Carreguei-o no colo até ao terraço da casa da minha tia Rosa. Demos-lhe comida e água e ele foi dormir como um guerreiro que depois de ter lutado pela vida, durante três dias de caminhada, desde da Ribeira de Julião, conseguiu chegar ao seu castelo, em Ribeira Bote, rua 10, onde nós, os seus queridos amigos, o recebemos com muita pompa, pois ele merecia.
A nossa alegria maior, foi quando o tio Miranda chegou em casa e viu o Stromberg e logo disse:
-“ Caramba pá, o Leandro não serve nem para matar um cão. Mas já que ele conseguiu escapar da morte e andar durante três dias até encontrar o caminho de casa, é um sinal de Deus, portanto, o stromberg fica aqui até o fim dos seus dias.” Nós explodimos de alegria, gritando: “Stromberg, Stromberg, Stromberg”. E assim, Stromberg continuou connosco por muitos e felizes anos de vida.
O cão sem dúvida, é um dos melhores amigos das crianças.
Read the original Portuguese version here.
by César Augusto Medina Fortes
translated by Katherine Cowley
I have always loved dogs. In 1983, my uncle João Miranda came home with a Great Dane. He was a tall dog, strong and handsome, but very clumsy. For this reason Uncle Miranda, who was a big fan of the football team Benfica, gave the dog the name “Stromberg” in memory of one of the great Swedish players, Glenn Stromberg, who had come to play for S.L. Benfica and brought much happiness to the club at that time. Stromberg, the player, was also strong, blond, and tall, and thus his name fit the dog like a glove. The dog, Stromberg, also gave much happiness to me and to my cousin Sílvio, who was the son of Uncle Miranda and my aunt Rosa.
I remember one day that my uncle Miranda told us, “Stromberg can only stay here in the house if you promise to care for him, feed him, give him water, and clean the terrace whenever he relieves himself.”
Of course, he heard a double “yes” from us. And then we committed to even more: “We promise to bathe him at Laginha Beach every single Sunday, don’t you worry.” This was a rather clever way for us to go to the sea every Sunday without adult supervision.
We went everywhere with our dog. Stromberg was our faithful companion and guard. No one dared to mess with us because we could set our dog on them. We always felt safe with Stromberg at our side. Whenever someone saw our big, strong dog barking, they ran away in fear. What they didn’t know was that inside our enormous, strong dog was a sweet soul, gentle and playful. I can’t remember a single time that Stromberg actually bit someone. And in this manner Stromberg grew up with us.
But the years went by and Stromberg grew old. It was a mournful day when Uncle Miranda gave us the news we didn’t wish to hear. He told us that it was time to have Stromberg put down, because he did not want to see him suffer until he died, and if he had to die, it was better if it were far from home. Besides, Stromberg kept eating the chickens that were kept on the terrace. We implored him, we cried endlessly that he could not do such a cruel thing to our dog Stromberg, but he was immovable. That Friday morning he called a gentleman named Leandro; if someone had a dirty job to do, he would do it for 50 escudos or a cup of “grogue,” an alcohol made from sugar cane. He was known as “Leandro the Dog Killer.”
The name itself said what he came to do. And so it was. My uncle paid him in advance and he took Stromberg, a rope tied round his neck, dragging the poor dog to death row.
He left and we children were crying, running after him and begging that he would not kill our dog, but he would not give us his ears. We stood on the steps by the gate, watching as Stromberg was taken by Leandro to be hung on the banks of the Ribeira de Julião—the Julião River—on a large, thorny acacia, a tree that can be blown with fierce winds and bend without breaking.
When they turned the last corner of our neighborhood, the Ilha de Madeira, and headed toward the river, we returned, disconsolate, to the house. We children still had lumps in our throats when we said to Uncle Miranda, “Sir, you are mean!” And we fled to the terrace to weep for our dog.
That afternoon, Sílvio and I went to school, sadly.
That night when I returned home, I ate and went to bed early. During the night I had a dream. In my dream I saw Stromberg walking with no strength, on the same road where we had seen him for the last time, only this time, he was returning to the house. He appeared tired, weak, consumed by hunger and thirst, and still wore the rope around his neck. When I woke in the morning, I told the dream to my faithful friend and cousin, Sílvio.
We spent that Saturday morning watching the road that we called “Missus Tanha of Sweet Water” (named after a lady with a fountain who sold water), full of hope that my dream would be realized, but we saw nothing of Stromberg. On Sunday, we woke very early and one more time, before going to church, we went to the gate, hoping to see Stromberg. We held onto this hope because we knew that Stromberg was strong enough to do this. It was a beautiful day and the sun had begun to cast its first rays.
It was the ideal sort of Sunday to go to Laginha Beach, but without our dog, it wouldn’t be the same. To our great astonishment, we saw Stromberg appear at the exactly the same corner where I had seen him in my dream. He was tired, dirty, thin, and the rope with which Leandro had hung him was still around his neck. Leandro had clearly hoisted him up on a tree, but he hadn’t waited for him to die. Stromberg had chewed through the rope and fled. We ran to meet our beloved dog who had escaped death. He had no strength left, and when we reached him, he licked our faces and then fell to the ground from fatigue and happiness. I carried him in my arms to the terrace of my aunt Rosa’s house. We nursed him with food and water and he slept like a warrior after the fight of his life: three days of walking, all the way from the Julião River until he reached his castle, in Ribeira Bote, 10th Street, where we, his dear friends, received him with much pomp, because he deserved it.
Our greatest joy was when Uncle Miranda arrived home and saw Stromberg and said, “Caramba! Leandro couldn’t even kill a dog. But since he managed to escape death and walk for three days until he found his way home, this is a sign of God. Stromberg can stay here until the end of his days.”
We burst with joy and shouted, “Stromberg! Stromberg! Stromberg!” And so it was that Stromberg stayed with us for many happy years.
Without a doubt, the dog was the best friend that children could have.
Divinity flows through my fingertips,
practiced precepts slip from my lips,
I lean back into my mother’s grip
let heaven part my hair
feel the sun’s glare—
A hot comb separates dawn and dusk
seven days before another change to the husk…
Divine wrath smells like chemical straighteners—
stings like compliments from strangers.
Hands placed upon a head.
Blessings prayed for the dead.
Remember the many that bled
for styles reborn for the future
God is a mother’s hand turning my head this way
and that way to braid my future so it frames my face right.
Emily pushed against the cool surface of her mother’s full-length mirror. The surface remained solid, as it had for months. It wasn’t fair. The portal to the Magic Wood was supposed remain open until she turned twelve in December. But last year, President Nelson had announced that youth would graduate from Primary on January 1, not on their birthdays. Ever since her first Beehive meeting, the portal had sealed shut.
Sure, the other Beehives were nice, but they weren’t friends. Not like those from the Magic Wood. The adventures she’d had with them made the real world dull in comparison.
Then this morning, President Ballard had introduced the Children and Youth program and the four areas for goal setting. For social growth, Mom had suggested she find someone to sit with at lunch, but Emily liked the example of serving others. And who better to serve than those who had assisted with her adventures in the Magic Wood? The thought wouldn’t leave her mind. Was that revelation?
Emily rested her forehead against the glass. “Please, let me serve.”
The glass warmed and gave way. She fell through, onto a dirt path strewn with red and yellow leaves. She stood, dusting off her pink dress. The trees of the Magic Wood stood bright with fall colors. Grinning, she raced down the path. “I’m baaaack!”
She ran straight to the small cabin of Ms. Crippen, the satyr. When Ms. Crippen opened the door, she wrapped Emily in her familiar, grandmotherly hug. “Oh, dear, it’s so good to see you again. Won’t you come in and have some cocoa?”
“Actually, I’m here to serve you!” Emily smiled. “Can I do your dishes? Or sweep the floor?”
Ms. Crippen glanced back at her kitchen. The floor was spotless, and only a single plate and cup sat by the sink. “I suppose you could wash the dishes, if you really want to.”
“No problem!” Emily skipped to the sink, telling Ms. Crippen everything that had happened since the portal closed. She had to start over multiple times as news spread of her presence — the talking squirrels, the fairies, and the river nymph all wanted to see her. Emily ached from the constant smiling, and the tight hugs. It was everything she had imagined while eating lunch alone at school.
Emily could no longer see the door through the crowded kitchen, but she recognized the soft grumble of the next visitor instantly. “Is Emily here?”
Emily dropped the cup into the now cold water and dried her hands on her dress. “Mother Tanrica.”
The creatures parted as Mother Tanrica, the Lioness, stepped into the kitchen. Her voice was soft with sadness. “You are too old to be here.”
Emily pouted. “I’m not even twelve yet!”
“But you are no longer a child.”
Really? Primary decided whether or not she was a child? “The mirror let me through!”
“I told it to, because we never said goodbye.”
It wasn’t because it liked her desire to serve? Emily glared at the wooden floor, blinking back tears. Why did growing up mean losing this place she loved?
“Come here,” Mother Tanrica said gently.
Emily trudged forward until she was in front of the Lioness. Mother Tanrica reached out a paw and pulled her against her chest. “It is time for you to make new friends and find new people to serve.”
“Why can’t I make new friends and keep my old ones?”
“It always hurts to leave those we love behind. But those on Earth need you more than we do. Take this.” Mother Tanrica breathed on Emily’s wrist. Green, brown, and gold cords appeared, braiding themselves into a bracelet. A silver heart charm tied itself to the middle. “That you may remember our love and faith in you.”
Tears spilled over Emily’s cheeks. She didn’t want a bracelet. But Mother Tanrica wasn’t going to give her what she wanted. She buried her face into Mother Tanrica’s neck.
When the sobs subsided, Mother Tanrica directed her to say good-bye to everyone, and then escorted her back to the portal. She took one last look at the Magic Wood, then stepped through to home. Tears blurred her vision again. She ran to her room, throwing the Children and Youth booklet under her bed. So much for revelation.
On Monday, Emily sulked in her chair in math class when Kamala sat down next to her, smiling in her hijab. “I like your bracelet,” Kamala said.
“You didn’t happen to get it from Mother Tanrica, did you?”
Emily sat up straight. She hadn’t ever told anyone about Mother Tanrica or the portal. “How did you know?”
Kamala held out her wrist. An identical braided cord bracelet wrapped around her wrist, but instead of a heart charm, she had a silver crescent moon. “I always wanted to meet someone else who had found a portal.”
Emily’s eyes widened. There were so many questions she wanted to ask, but the teacher was calling for attention. “Want to have lunch together?” Maybe they could become friends.
Final Report of the Foreordination Committee of the Grand Council of Heaven, presented by Gabriel, presiding committee chair, to the Executive Council of the Heavenly Parents
The following typewritten manuscript was discovered in the archives of the Heavenly City:
With the Savior and Adversary already selected, and our prior reports having recommended spirits for foreordination as prophets for all the dispensations prior to the personal ministry of the Redeemer, the purpose of this report is to suggest names to usher in the dispensation of the fullness of times in the last days of the earth. For convenience, all candidates suggested here are identified by the name by which they will be known throughout their mortal lives:
1. Mansur al-Hallaj
Mansur has distinguished himself here in the premortal existence for his total devotion to knowing the will of God, and doing it, no matter what opposition he may face or what doubts others express. Should Mansur be chosen to lead the Restoration, he will bring to the fore that absolute submission to divine will, in similitude of our Redeemer, and will help many in the last days experience unity with the divine even while in mortality, preparing them for greater joy at the day when the veil is removed and we all once again see eye to eye.
2. Hildegard of Bingen
While the Priesthood Committee has announced its preference for male prophets to open each dispensation, we still feel compelled to recommend Hildegard. Of all the spirits considered, she is most able to recognize divinity in material existence, and excels in attaining the glory of God through observation and study. The church, if restored by Hildegard, would excel in combining study and faith. Such a Restoration would glorify the Creation we are now undertaking.
3. Francesco d’Assissi
Francesco has demonstrated a profound humility and compassion, even in comparison to the other noble and great souls under consideration for this mighty burden. Should he be chosen, the Church he restores will certainly become renowned for its charity and good works. Of all those we list here, we believe that Francesco is the most likely to succeed in the task of implementing practical communal consecration. Our one concern is that his dislike of contention will make it difficult for Francesco to make the break with tradition that the Restoration will require of its initial prophet.
Among spirits here, Nanak is known for his friendliness to all. He is also a natural mediator, who has resolved many disputes by seeing clearly the fundamental good driving differing parties, and helping them recognize their common goal. Should he be chosen, he will be able to separate truth and error without generating feuds or rancor among his disciples, and he will be particularly suited to drawing together the good from whatever traditions he encounters during his mortal journey. A Church led by Nanak will be both gentle to all and fierce in defense of the divine name and the oppressed people of the earth, in whom we are taught that name will be made manifest.
5. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin
As he will be born among the children of Lehi and Sariah after the arrival of the Gentile nations as a scourge among them, Juan Diego, more than any other on this list, will be among those poor and destitute who suffer under the depredations of the proud. Like Francesco, he has already developed a humility far beyond that which is possessed by most spirits, and he is especially sensitive to the guidance of Our Mother. Any Church led by him will be deeply shaped by her Presence, which we know will be essential in the last days. Also, as the restoration of Lehi’s seed to a memory of the covenant is a crucial purpose of this final dispensation, who better to lead that work than one of their own number?
6. Israel ben Eliezer
Israel shares more than a passing resemblance of character to the first noble and great soul who will be given that name. While Jacob’s gift will be to recognize heaven’s gates in the world around him, Israel Ben Eliezer will be able to recognize heaven’s gate in every human soul. Even now, in the presence of our parents, many souls despair of the possibility of ever attaining the Glory which our Father has set before us, because of the great chasm between our own appearance and Theirs, but Israel is able to see the divine spark within himself and each spirit he encounters, and has encouraged many to hope by helping them recognize those seeds within them.
Like Juan Diego, Tenskwatawa will be born among the seed of Lehi and Sariah during the days of their subjugation to the Gentiles. But the nature of a Restoration brought about by him would differ dramatically from the one that could be led by Juan Diego, because of his deep devotion to personal purification. Even now, he is given to deep introspection and recognition of his own faults, and he would be a profound influence in leading his disciples to seek redemption and to purge their lives of all the influences of their great Adversary.
8. Joseph Smith, Jr.
Of all those listed here, he is the furthest from the refinement of those sacred virtues which we must all develop to become like our Parents. He is still quick to anger, and given to jesting and playfulness that many not befit this heavy calling. Yet we still must recommend him, for Joseph has within himself a profound restlessness which may be the most important virtue for the completion of this task. While others we have listed may eventually find themselves satisfied with the amount of truth they are able to share and the community they are able to establish, we are confident that Joseph will never rest. He will continue to seek, to test, to dig, until the end of the time he is given. Should others imitate this restlessness, the Restoration will surely achieve its purpose.
The following handwritten note was found at the bottom of this document:
Looks good. Try them all.
While we did the best we could to recreate this finalist on our webpage, we lost some layout choices. We recommend downloading the original pdf for optimal viewing–or to print off and color!
Lehi learned from God that the plane he was in was going to crash if they didn’t change the way they were flying, but the other passengers tried to kill him.
(1 Nephi 1:13-20)
Who else was on the plane?
So Lehi and his family took their parachutes and jumped out.
(1 Nephi 2:2-4)
King Noah took over from his father Zeniff, and was not a good pilot. He decided that making the cockpit comfortable was more important than keeping the plane from crashing.
Who got to sit in the comfy seats?
Abinadi tried to warn the people that the plane was going to crash, but they threw him out of the plane.
The Jaredite pilots and copilots fought with each other a lot, and so their plane crashed.
Where did they start?
Who were the pilots?
After the crash, some explorers from Zeniff & Co. found the metal “black box” that recorded the Jaredites’ flight path and the reason they crashed.
Because Noah was such a bad pilot, Mosiah decided they should have a new airplane with one head pilot and many lower pilots that could override the pilot if the plane was going to crash. It flew for a while, but eventually it also crashed.
How did people decide where the plane went?
What’s in the cargo bay?
Then Jesus came.
When Jesus came, he set up Zion Air, which operated without money and without price. Everyone shared what they had, and everyone had enough. There was no first class section.
(4 Nephi 1:17)
After a while, people wanted money and prices again. They wanted a first class section. They didn’t want to share. They crashed the plane.
(4 Nephi 1:24-26)
What airplane are you riding in?
Where is it going?
Who gets to be the pilot?
Does everyone have snacks and meals?
Jane – 1959
We rented a small basement apartment next to the University, so John could come home for lunch if he wanted to. But he often didn’t, which left us alone for ten, twelve, even sixteen hours on some days. And although we hadn’t planned on having another child while he was in school—I didn’t think I could handle a third—Linda was born the year after we moved in, small and screaming.
She was louder than our other children, but more delicate, and when I first saw her, I wondered if she had sensed that she was coming to a mother who felt as small and helpless as she looked. Life was a busy mess with three small children at home. Every day I woke up to cries from the next room. Then I fed, clothed, carried, played with, taught, cleaned, entertained, conversed with, and kept alive three small children until bedtime—when I climbed into a hole underneath my quilts and listened to John snore, waiting for morning.
Time passed. When Linda was over a year old my melancholy began to lift. My husband kept going to school, my kids kept crying and making messes, but my soul started to open up to moments of joy. The kids splashing in the bathtub or bringing me bouquets of dandelions. Classical music on the radio. Chocolate. Rain. Creating the perfect Baked Alaska.
And then—in what I expected to be a completely ordinary moment—shortly before her second birthday, during a weekday lunch hour, Linda grabbed my face between her two little hands and pulled it close to hers. She had strawberry jam on her fingers, and I wanted to pull away, but I could tell she had something important to say. She was born of me, but was more than just an extension of her mother. She was a real person, with desires and opinions of her own.
“Jam!” she screamed excitedly. Then she let go, and I wiped my smiling face, while she took a bite of her sandwich.
Linda – 1968
I don’t understand exactly why it hit me at that time. I remember thinking that my life, and the world around me were both falling apart. My parents had decided to get divorced, my uncle had just returned—injured—from Vietnam, my older siblings were pushing forcefully against every boundary, trying to find out what they could get away with.
And I—nine years old—felt like I was beginning to vanish, like I was evaporating into an atmosphere of violence and contention, slowly floating away, alone.
Then, although I neither expected nor sought to be, I was enlightened. I remember the very moment.
It was during primary. I was sitting next to the window, looking out at the parking lot, watching the wind and rain come down in sheets. It swirled around in the gutters and disappeared into large grates near the sidewalk. I was feeling sorry for myself, almost crying, and I noticed the other children laughing all around me. The teacher was telling a story.
I turned back to the window. Outside, a woman got out of her car and headed into the building. She didn’t have a jacket, just a dress that flipped around her legs with the wind. She raised her hands to protect her face and ran to the building.
I was warm and dry. And then I did start crying, to myself, as I turned back to class to listen.
Jessica – 1996
I was fifteen. Mom was driving to the grocery store. I was sitting in the passenger seat listening to “Piano Man” on the radio for the first time.
“I thought this was a happy song,” I said. “It’s called ‘Piano Man.’ I thought it was about, like, a happy man that played the piano for kids or something.”
She didn’t look at me because her eyes were on the road, but she responded by singing along with the music.
I always liked mom’s voice, even though I would have been so embarrassed if she sang like that in front of my friends. I probably should like her voice though, she was the person who sang me to sleep at night when I was a baby, not that I had any memory of it. Today she sang louder than usual, her alto fit right in with the voice on the radio, and it seemed like she had been waiting for a chance to sing this song for years. She knew it really well, and I wondered why I had never heard it before.
“He’s happy.” She said during a harmonica solo, “and he’s playing the piano for people, even if they’re not kids.”
I rolled my eyes at her, thinking she probably just liked the song because it was as old as she was. “Yeah, but they’re all sad. This song is depressing.”
I turned it down as we hit the corner of University and Fourth, next to the Walmart. Mom tapped the steering wheel as the next song came on, whatever it was. I just looked out the window at the cars—then at the people in the cars. It seemed like every car had one person in it. They were all waiting at the light, looking bored. Some of them played with their hands. One lady looked at herself in the mirror and picked at her teeth. A teenage boy was either singing or monologuing. A college student, probably only a few years older than me, crouched low over the steering wheel. She looked tired, and I wondered what kind of day she was going through.
“I’m not the center of the universe.” I thought. “All of these people have places to go and things to do and none of them have anything to do with me.”
… I will liken thee,
O house of Israel,
like unto a tame olive tree …
I don’t remember
how we started,
who was grafted into whom,
who first strengthened roots
and tamed bitter thoughts
But I believe the Master
planted us together,
left us alone a while
not to make us desperate,
but to give time for turning
toward each other
to nourish away weakness
before we wither.
He waits at the gate,
midway between grief