May 1, 2020
On Saturdays, I go to help with Mass,
To lector and recite the intercessions.
On Sundays, in the kitchen, all the children
Will watch the video broadcast of me there,
Which plays, while I fry pancakes on the griddle.
You wonder why one curious miracle
In many of the saints’ lives is the act
Of bilocation (Why, of all things, that?),
Until a day like this when it is mimicked.
And then, you realize that we all want
To be both fully present in the flesh
And yet give some clue that our spirits can
Stretch out beyond themselves, can penetrate
The lives of others in a real communion.
We see it in those lots overgrown with weeds,
Ringed by a span of rusted cyclone fencing,
That not so long ago were drive-in theaters.
They are once more. Their hulking, weathered screens
Kindled with light, the cars drawn slowly in,
Their tires following half-hidden ruts,
The long grass stroking their warm underbellies,
Until each comes to rest and windows lower,
The inward darkness opened to night air.
And now, all stare, perhaps alone together,
Or, maybe, joined, their interwoven gaze
Converging on the smirk of Jimmy Stewart
As only celluloid can bring him to us.
Our souls indeed slip freely through the world
And touch on everything with their attentions,
As nothing that has being is a stranger,
But rather gives itself to sense or mind.
So, Livia, when we take our walks together,
Wrenches the stroller from my grip and runs,
Her body almost floating down that sweep
Of hillside road unwinding like a ribbon,
Her legs a flash of energy and spirit
That sprint as swiftly back to where I follow.
I catch the baby cheering out his “wee,”
Which floats right up to me upon the wind.
It was supposed to be track season, now,
And I, supposed to watch her from the stands;
But this is better for us both, I think.
What we most often call the need for freedom,
To manifest one’s self without constraint,
Is rather this, it seems; the need to enter
By means of our ungated, bashful spirits
Into some kind of commerce or communion.
We share by nature in the life of things,
And meet the world as face encounters face.
But, how that need, misunderstood, miscarries.
The tour guide in Antalya, freed from lockdown,
Who scaled a cliff to view the Düden Falls,
And stretched out from the ledge to snap a picture
For sending to her mother and her friends.
She clicked, her smile haloed by the mist
That rose from plunging torrents toward the sun.
A family saw her, out, beyond the guardrails.
The crash of water being what it is,
It took three days to find her body, where
It lay, indifferent, pinned against the rocks.
Now, May Day comes, memorial of the march
And bomb that shook the market in Chicago,
Where uniformed police and strikers met.
It takes its place in every calendar,
As if all union were by force and violence,
Achieved against the grain of our own growth,
And fated for our sad commemoration.
We do so poorly what is natural
That we suspect that nature is a liar;
Feel rattled by such names as love and justice;
Fear we shall be destroyed by what we need;
We, who know well we’re called to be together.
-James Matthew Wilson