The good-looking one, the one in need, the one that almost was
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David Brendan Hopes is the author of A Childhood in the Milky Way (Akron University Press), which was nominated for both a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award. His latest volume of poetry, A Dream of Adonis, is forthcoming from Pecan Grove Press. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.
In winter they would board the train to Vienna: Little Max, his parents, and his grandmother. They always traveled at night, and they always left on the same day, just past the middle of December. Little Max knew that it was the same day, year after year, and it confused him when he looked up one year and saw the moon was almost full.
Prince Siddhartha Gautama had seen the cat many times, though it was cunningly concealed under the overhanging leaves at the edge of the palace-garden pool. The cat was white, and so not quite as well hidden as it probably thought it was, despite the long shadows of morning.
Dad always gave elaborate instructions on how to use things. Most of Dad’s instructions were negative, as though the right way to do things would occur to one eventually if all the ways to do it wrong could be enumerated and cautioned against.
Two days ago, I reduced myself to a sturdy hobble by learning to jump rope. Never in my youth did I jump rope. Where I come from, males did not even consider it, except behind the walls of gymnasiums, and then only with the ultimate goal of pummeling an opponent in mind. But I’m a long way from youth now, and, having become convinced of rope-jumping’s merits as exercise, I strode boldly into a toy store, bought a candy-striped, red-and-wheat-colored rope, and went home to use it.
We are seduced by the beauty of the veils never to look further. This is God’s camouflage. We must not let Him get away with it.
We are immortal until the hour death first seizes our imagination. This goes for species as well as individuals. To die you must once consider death and think of it as beautiful. All spiritual advances are advances in aesthetics.
It was the first time events made a difference, the first time I recognized an involvement in what happened beyond the few back yards and playmates that were my universe, the first time anyone said, “You will remember this day forever,” and I believed it.