The kind you’re born with, the kind you choose, the kind that teach Catholic school
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But then I accidentally bite into one of the sour, acrid parts of quarantine. It’s easy to forget, when you live four hundred miles away, that your mother’s temper can be sparked by something as benign as family movie night or a run-in with the Hertz rental-car dealership.
After this friend left, I excused myself to go to the bathroom, where I shut the door and fell to my knees, shaking and crying. I wished that my brother had been different. And I wished that I had been more forgiving and compassionate. I wished that everything between us had been different. I was on that floor for a while.
Watching my wife, I have finally found the key to the map. I understand why men have spent millennia constructing systems to strip the power from this body: Look how she pulls her spine up to the sky. Look how effortlessly she strings herself between the ordinary and the divine.
When I need to think, I clean. I sort and organize. I give away scores of possessions. In my mind I repeat the word away, away, away. I need clear, open space before I can even begin to understand the latest problem I’ve conjured for myself.
What happened next I shoveled into that dark ditch of my psyche, and then I covered it with heavy stones, and it wasn’t until more than twelve years had passed that I remembered what I’d made myself forget.
In a bus, bumping elbows with messy humanity, I create memories that will bolster me for life. Our lives, as the author of Job reminds us, are short and full of trouble. The best we can do is connect, share a smile over this gift of existence.
When I was young, I lived for what I thought of as “lyrical moments,” when the details of life were suddenly heightened and approached the transcendent. . . . Of course, if you live long enough, you start thinking more and more not about the lyrical but rather about time. . . . I am living to stay alive.
I would like to give you a metaphor that describes what it’s like to potentially pass on to one’s children a pathogenic variant that will possibly go on to kill them, but everything I am coming up with is histrionic.
In the video he is an energetic storyteller relating episodes of great violence in a can-you-believe-it tone better suited to recounting a kooky incident out running errands. There is also the Yiddish tide of his syntax, which deposits nouns in unexpected places, like a rocking chair found sitting on the roof of a toolshed after a flood.
At the end of our weekly sessions, as I’m about to walk out the door, I hand The Lovely Harry a manila envelope of poems I’ve written that week. Some weeks it’s a thin envelope; other weeks the pages inside push against the seams with their folded energy.