Reunion in Eden

We left school a long time ago. After a decade it already seemed a long time had passed. We had become parents. Ten years further on a score of years separated us from those embarrassing teenage selves and, perhaps as a result, from each other. Now, it is half a century. A few of us have been meeting every few weeks to plan the Reunion.

I entered the most recent meeting and found I was the only male. Not unhappily. There was Leah, the hot blooded fish who brought me to a quick boil on my first day, still gorgeous. There was Virginia, brown skinned Virginia, flashing that smile that subverted my every chaste thought. Not that I had many. That tanned skin, that exposure of teeth in that open mouth, how her name seemed an impossible lie, a taunt. There was Bee, an artist now, an artisan in precious metals, in lapis, buxom Bee smiling broadly, Bee whom I never approached, never touched, too shy. Shy? Shocking, unforgiveable callous neglect!

Carmel was there and Carol, whom I have seen oftener and often, whom the years have kept real, who developed beyond the hot fancies and shapes of my adolescent mind.

And one was there, smiling. I didn’t know her at first, couldn’t place her. But her smile – of greeting, of welcome, of recognition – Howard, it’s me. It’s us – such a smile, so pregnant of shared knowing, of secret pleasure, of more, of something never reached. The smile waited upon dawning but the sun rose slowly. Meanwhile, what to do? I kissed her, a nice, slight, chaste kiss, that social gesture so easy now, so charged then. She spoke, her gaze, her smile unwavering, “Hello, Howard.”

Carmel’s voice broke the mystery: “Lilith has brought photos.”

Lilith! More quickly than for all the others I would fall for Lilith. More rapidly and more often. And equally quick in dissolution. The sun never set on our love. Falling in on the school bus, falling out by morning recess, burned by the abrasion, by the intensity, of Lilith’s mercurial moods.

“We’re all fucked,” she would tell me half a century later, “All of us, our parents, ourselves, our generations…”

I sat down at table with the ladies to plan the Reunion. Seated on the sole vacant seat, which happened to be at Lilith’s side, I didn’t contribute much. Neither did Lilith. Instead we whispered like two Grade Five kids, just like the two who met and fell in 1956, the country boy from Leeton, the tiny blonde from Bratislava, fresh from the embers of the Shoah.

 

 

 

At Prayer

The pale wintry sun descends and I recite my everyday afternoon prayer. Watching me, my eight year old grandson moves to sit on my knee. “What are you praying for, Saba?”
The enquiry jolts me to consciousness. If he’s asking, what’s your purpose in praying? – it’s a good question.
I fancy he’s asking, what are you praying for – in particular?
Still a good question.

He sits on my knee, this fleaweight who holds me captive. He forces me to interrogate the ritualized murmurings that issue half-bid, half-conscious. I translate for him:
The eyes of all look to You for good news,
And You give them their bread in good time.
You open up Your hand – here I open my closed hand, enacting the gifting of food –
And You satisfy the want of all that lives

I want the child to share my sense of wonder, of providence, however unevenly it might fall.
Grandson takes my face in his hands, brings his face close. Closer. His lips touch mine. He holds my face a little longer.
I contemplate Dickenson’s telegrammatic:
Prayer is the little implement
Through which Men reach
Where Presence—is denied them.
They fling their Speech
By means of it—in God’s Ear—

Grandson is in no rush to return to Lego and the other urgencies of his life. He sits while I entertain Tennyson:
More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.

What does Saba pray for? He prays because he can, because he needs to.
Another kiss and grandson descends. Thank you Saba.

I am left to wonder whether a grandchild might be the answer to the prayer I sent to God’s Ear and never knew it.

City of the Slow Kiss

Auguste Rodin's The Kiss, at the National Muse...

Auguste Rodin’s The Kiss, at the National Museum of Fine Arts, Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Buenos Aires in the silver land
Dreaming couples hand in hand
On the sidewalk, dreaming stand
Face sucking face,
They race no race.

Body in body
Folded entwined –
Lip lipping lip,
Hip hard on hip,
Two in one embrace combined,
Passers-by pass –
Are given no mind.

In the land of silver there’s little to spare:
Lovers up early going nowhere –
Nowhere to go,
No privacy, so
They kiss, on their feet.
They kiss, bees that suck
This sip of oblivion,
This slow sweet nectar
Of loving attenuated,
This tango of tongues,
This kiss without end
This slow loving
Helps transcend
Hard living.

O La Boca, warm mouth
Swallow up
Regret and sorrow,
Forget tomorrow,
Tomorrow too will pass:

Look, that’s dew
Silvering the grass!